Friday, June 20, 2017, Jason Kennedy
Having tripled the size of its range in recent times, Rega has clearly put its focus on the production of its MC line. The Ania model is the most recent and least expensive moving coil model it has manufactured, but it has a lot in common with its more expensive range companions. There are more similarities than differences between the Ania models and the outstanding Apheta 2 and Aphelion: the body shape is the same and it contains the same tiny coil and iron cross assembly. Where it does differ is in the material used for the body; While the two “large” models have an aluminum frame, the Ania is made with PPS (polyphenylene sulfide), a very rigid molded plastic that helps keep the price down, to half that of the Apheta 2 model. The other The difference is in the needle, which is elliptical instead of Vital Nude like the other Rega MCs. Elliptical needles are cheaper than the Nude type and, strangely enough, easier to align.
Ania, which apparently means elegance in Polish, maintains Rega’s favorite three-point attachment system, a system that not only ensures a remarkably firm hold on the headstock, but also allows automatic alignment on Rega turntables. This fixation consists of threaded stainless steel inserts that reach Rega’s recommendation for metal body capsules in a torque of 0.4nM. It has a transparent cover to protect the thin wires from the coil to the output pins and those pins are clearly colour-coded, matching the four connections at the end of an arm.
The nominal output is on average 350μV, so you need a good MC phono preamp or a transformer and an MM preamp to have an adequate output level. And this is where the Fono MC comes in, which has been introduced to primarily be associated with the Ania model, as the next phono preamp in Rega’s range is the Aria, for £798. The latter is a very good preamp, but a little expensive to get started with an MC cartridge.
The Fono MC inhabits a new line chassis that was unveiled at the beginning of the year with the Brio and now includes the Apollo CD player, the TT-PSU power supply and a Fono MM. The Fono MC uses a low noise FET input stage that has been chosen for its high input impedance, which for laymen means that any capsule can drive it without difficulty. You can adjust the impedance with DIP switches, just as the gain can be adjusted to suit different capsules. Although it is tempting to always go straight to maximum gain, you must maintain enough headroom for the capsule to function optimally. Turn up the gain and a high output capsule will quickly exhaust the dynamic range, which is easily heard and not a good thing. Try to find the gain that gives you power, but not to the point of compression; you’ll want to have a dynamic open presentation. There are four load levels ranging from 70 to 400 ohms, two gain settings and two capacitance options – very generous for a preamp at this price, as many have fixed gain and impedances.
With the Ania placed on the Rega RP8 turntable and connected to the Fono MC, it had a very similar character to the Apheta 2, which is the cartridge that generally occupies that place. It has enough dynamic impact, good speed and the intrinsic musicality that Rega products consistently achieve. It’s not as fast as the Apheta 2 nor does it have as much detail, but it’s not lazy; in fact, its bass lines have texture and shape: the double bass on Patricia Barber’s “Company” sounds particularly elastic, but precise. The grooves are propulsive, but not in a compelling way, and the tonal balance accurately reflects the nature of each piece of vinyl you choose; my recent reprint of Astral Weeks sounds as dead as ever…
I compared the Ania to a Dynavector DV20X2L (£729) on a Planar 6 and the Rega MC showed tighter bass, more accurate tempo and better resolution on instruments such as the hi-hat and snare drum. The instrumental interplay is also resolved very well, the way in which two musicians work together to intertwine the notes they produce is particularly strong. Again we return to the musicality mentioned above, placing the emphasis on the execution and not the sound. The Ania has the advantage of being on an arm and turntable designed for it, but it is still a surprising result; the Dynavector is a pretty decent MC.
I don’t have another £250 phono preamp, so I’m comparing the Fono MC to another Dynavector product, the P75 mk3 (£649). With this I verified that, doubling the price you pay, you get a better device, who would have thought! It has more gain and beats the Rega in terms of pace and immediacy, but it wasn’t obviously better in terms of image, but this is where I’m sure a Dynavector capsule could make it stand out.
Again with the Ania capsule and the Fono MC preamp, things were getting livelier or so I thought, but then I started thinking about the capacitance adjustment option, which I had not paid attention to before because it was adjusted at the factory. The capsule specs don’t mention what to do…does it really matter? In musical reproduction everything matters and this is no exception. Going from 1000pF to 4300pF improved synchronization to a fairly pronounced degree, the rhythm sections were starting to make sense, and Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark” went from being an intellectual experience to an emotional one. It made me think that something had changed and the only possibility was the warm-up period, but when I went back to the 1000pF option, the timing suffered noticeably. Rega engineer Terry Bateman thinks this is due to a spike in response, skewing the tonal balance that emphasizes the extremes, but who knows for what reason. As always with capsules, it’s best to experiment with load and support force, the latter ending up at the top of the recommended 1.75 to 2 gram range when I adjusted the Ania. Two grams gives the best tonal balance and greater solidity in the image.
The Ania cartridge and the Rega Fono MC preamp are a pretty good package, but you need a decent turntable and arm to get the most out of them, an RP6 at the very least, but with this in mind, the result is pretty close to the musical power that They offer much more expensive combinations. In fact, I can’t remember any more inspiring turntable now than the RP8 with the Ania and the Fono MC for £2,500. But be careful, it can become a chronic case of vinyl addiction.
Support force: 1.75 – 2g
Input load impedance: 100 ohms
Output impedance: 10 ohms
Rated output voltage: 350 μV
Balance between channels: >20 μV
Separation: > -29 dB
Mass: 6 gm
Type: Solid-state MC phono preamp
Phono inputs: RCA
Analog outputs: RCA
Input sensitivity: 67, 133μV
Input impedance: 70, 100, 150, 400 Ohms
Input capacitance: 1000, 4300pF
Output impedance: 200 Ohms
Output level: 200mV
RIAA Accuracy: (50KΩ output load) = better than +/-0.2dB 100Hz to 100KHz
Dimensions (HxWxD): 45 x 178 x 150mm