Rega’s sonic signature in a very affordable package
Simple, but no less satisfying for it; another Rega amplifier with outstanding sound
-Detailed, rhythmic, fun sound
-MM phono preamp
-Good headphone output
-No digital connections
Although Rega used to make a high-end DAC called the “io”, the name of this new amplifier is almost certainly a nod to the family connection with its older brother, the excellent Rega Brio. It’s not far from half its price or performance, so it seems reasonable that it also carries half its name.
This entry-level io with its 30W per channel, can be purchased individually or as part of an all-in-one system with the Planar 1 turntable and Kyte speakers (€1,200.00). It adopts the power stage and phono preamp of its award-winning older brother, which helps explain the pleasing sonic resemblance between the two.
The discrepancies between these two Rega half-width boxes in physical size and decorative elegance are more or less reflected in their sonic differences.
The Brio (€799.00) is a component with a larger sound and a more polished presentation; it weaves more space between the musical threads and gives them noticeably greater detail and dynamic precision. It does what is necessary to justify its higher cost than the io, maintaining its importance in Rega’s product line, between the io and the Elex-R.
But Rega’s consistency with its components and implementation makes the io easily recognized as the descendant of the Brio. In fact, we could repeat what we said in the article about the Brio, including “incredible sense of rhythm, striking dynamics; agility, detail and fun.”
Play Drake’s Money In The Grave ft. Rick Ross: The true nature of the io will come to light, its natural sense of dynamics will bring out the dominant bass line. The two rappers’ contributions have the transparency, richness and clarity that makes them count, while the innate musicality of the amplifier captures the rhythmic chime that unifies it all.
The similarly priced Marantz PM6006 UK Edition offers more vocal space and overall maturity, but its softer, more relaxed approach doesn’t quite capture the track’s energy.
Likewise, with Aparat’s violin-led 44, the Marantz (and Brio) add a welcome dose of elegance and extra space over the io. But while the io is a little rougher, it does take advantage of the abrasive texture of the strings and captures the apprehensive emotion, also reading its dynamic movement. He may not have the sonic sophistication of his rival and his older brother, but his directness and strength make him worth listening to.
The io should be paired with like-minded speakers, such as the Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 or Bowers & Wilkins 606. Also to take into account is the quality and consistency of character of its headphone output.
Ultimately, with the arrival of the io, Rega’s unmistakable and undeniably fun sound is now more accessible than ever. And, thinking back to when we found out about the Rega io, it’s really all we could have hoped for.
Construction and features
In order to incorporate all its performance into this price, Rega has had to content itself here – as with all its amplifiers – with purely analog connections. Despite Marantz’s love for digital, analog exclusivity is common at this level of the market. The io features two line-level inputs (two fewer than the Brio) and an MM phono input, so you can connect a turntable and a couple more components (a CD player and a network player, for example) .
A 3.5mm headphone jack completes the io’s modest connection list. It is located on the front panel along with the volume control and a small plastic button that allows you to select the input. The io’s plastic front panel gives it a nice but unremarkable aesthetic. Rega doesn’t try to hide the fact that most of his effort goes into performance.
This compact, half-size aluminum chassis seems well built and the same can be said for its satisfyingly simple remote control; This low-profile design should please some hi-fi traditionalists.
Therefore, what will win the Rega io more fans is its performance, at the level of a class leader. Although it may not be as versatile as the more complete Marantz PM6006 UK-Edition, those who are content with a simple, purely analog amplifier and who prioritize entertainment should consider the io as their first choice.