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My impressions of the Rega Elex-R

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by maglorine, Oct 3, 2019.

  1. maglorine

    maglorine Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fairport,NY
    My story is that I’m a long time audiophile who took a mid-life break away from the hobby from about 2001-2018 coinciding with the years my children were growing up and in school. I sold off most of my other components at that time although I kept my Rega P25 turntable and all my CD’s and Vinyl.

    I’ve been a solid state amplification guy over the years with gear from Krell, PS Audio, Aragon, and YBA in the past. However, when I returned to the hobby, a friend recommended I try an entry level Chinese tube integrated amp, the Yaqin MC-13S. Entry point into tube sound and all that. I bought one about 18 months ago and used it up until last week. I found this inexpensive amp to be solidly built and pleasant sounding overall, for a minimal cost. Over time I brought in other components ending up with the system described below and in my profile.

    Which brings me to last week. I sold off the Yaqin and bought a Rega Elex-R. There have been a number of posts on Rega integrated amps on this forum recently. I’ll come right out and say I haven’t heard the Brio-R or Elicit-R. So, I have no opinion on whether the Elex-R is based on one or the other or both or sounds like itself alone. In fact, I bought the Elex-R sight unseen and unheard, as there are no dealers in my area. I also don't have any opinion on a Rega “house sound” including whether such a thing exists.

    I took a chance based on positive comments from reviews read online, my familiarity with Rega products as an owner and a desire to try out an all Rega set of components together in one system to see if and how well they might work together.

    My current system consists of the following in addition to the Elex-R:

    Rega P25 Turntable with 24V Motor and various Groovetracer upgrades.

    Rega Exact Cartridge

    Rega Apollo-R CD Player

    Rega RS1 Speakers

    Martin Logan Grotto subwoofer

    Blue Jeans LC-1 Interconnect and BJC 10 Speaker Cables.

    10.5'x20' Finished Basement sound room with wall to wall carpet over concrete slab and some ATS Acoustic Panels at reflection points.

    I’ve had the Rega Elex-R for a few days now so these are just initial impressions. If I have more to add I'll do so in a few weeks/months. My main point of reference is my own system when I had the Yaqin in place but I’ve also heard other systems in recent years for demos and listening with friends and of course a lifetime of listening to live and recorded music.

    Appearance:

    Solidly made full width case in Black with Red illumination is no-nonsense and handsome if you appreciate austere simplicity and understated design like I do. Switchwork and connectors are simple, solid, functional, and sturdy.

    Operation:

    Remote operation is also simple, straightforward and direct. This is a theme with Rega and one which I’ve come to appreciate. Their products are largely unadorned, without unnecessary decoration or fancy finishes, and eschew complexity. It’s all very orderly and intuitive to operate. I have simple two channel needs and appreciate not paying for more functionality than I plan to use. The remote is plastic and flimsy, but I have 2 and since I'm the only one using it they should last many many years.

    Sonics:

    The Elex-R displays a very solid grip on the bass and reaches deeper into the bass than I've had recently. Deep bass notes I didn't hear before are clearly present. I used to discuss with a friend of mine what we called “invisible bass”, which were notes you could feel but not really hear or localize. That memory popped to mind just yesterday as I was listening to a recording that had some deep bass notes, I'm guessing well below 30hz. It's not rolled off.

    In addition to the obvious increase in amplifier power, macrodynamics are now very apparent, even on popular music where previously they were hardly noticeable. The swing from soft to loud can be almost shocking. The same goes for microdynamics, be it vocals or instruments. Guitar strings and percussion strikes have a nice snap to them. The wide variation in strength of plucked guitar string for example is on display.

    My recordings sound more markedly different from each other. The tube amp rendered playback in a pleasant sounding way but also imparted a sound signature to everything that reduced the natural variation of recording quality and atmosphere. Recordings are both brighter and darker depending on material. It's mostly leaner than the EL34 based Yaqin but the variability again is wider. Some material is rich and sumptuous. Other material is more spartan. A layer of excess upper bass seems to have been removed.

    Soundstage is definitely wider and instrument placement in space is very well defined, and totally stable. There's space between the instruments, where previously they seemed shoulder to shoulder or overlapping.

    Resolution of detail is probably the largest and most obvious improvement. Instrumental textures, things buried deeper in the mix, are evident and add to the presentation without being overshadowed. Interesting details I never knew were in the recording are right there to enjoy. I've noticed this on literally every recording tried so far. I know it's cliché but I keep noticing things that were covered up or unresolved before.

    The overall character is a leaner than the tube presentation though it's not bright or tipped up. Going back to my previous comment, I'm used to a playback in recent years with a warm character that wasn't necessarily accurate in the mid/upper bass. There's no treble peakiness, it's just there. To me the treble is spot on and not strident in any way. I do notice more treble extension on some recordings if the content is there, some high pitched chimes for example are noticeable where they were rolled off before. I wouldn't use the adjective warm or cool but rather neutral. To me neutral applies when you find out that recordings are warm and/or lean and/or neither and/or both. Transients are definitely quick and punchy with my associated equipment, there's nothing “slow” about this delivery at all. The deep bass is there simultaneous to a fast responsive sound on transients.

    Summary:

    I'm really enjoying this.

    Is it the right integrated for everyone? Of course not.

    Is it a well designed and executed integrated that can deliver a highly enjoyable listening experience? Absolutely.

    Was it worth buying for me? Definitely.
     
    On_the_dunes, I-OD, Alan2 and 33 others like this.
  2. Thanks for the thoughtful review. I too had an extended break from good audio & have enjoyed the relearning, relistening, & reacquiring newer gear.
     
  3. bruce2

    bruce2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Connecticut, USA
    Thanks for the review. I was wondering if the Elex emits a popping noise through the speakers when turning it on or off, as my old Brio3 did when turning it on. Also my Brio used to make a faint humming noise through one channel, and I have read that the BrioR hummed as well. Just wondering if the Elex has these issues as well? Thanks.
     
  4. maglorine

    maglorine Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fairport,NY
    No hum whatsoever but it does make a faint pop sound when turning on. Not when turning off.
     
    bruce2 likes this.
  5. bhazen

    bhazen Apple Bonker

    Location:
    Newcastle, WA
    Elex-R is a wonderful amp. But what I really want to congratulate you on are your RS1's. Fast, revealing, punchy, delightful speakers; a bit of an 'undiscovered classic'. And of course, having the synergy of an all-Rega means maximum enjoyment, IMO.
     
    maglorine likes this.
  6. maglorine

    maglorine Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fairport,NY
    Yeah, for sure. If someone walked up to me right now and offered twice what I paid for them the immediate answer would be "Not a chance, and how'd you get into my kitchen?".
     
    I-OD, audiolistener, timind and 2 others like this.
  7. bhazen

    bhazen Apple Bonker

    Location:
    Newcastle, WA
    :D
     
  8. bhazen

    bhazen Apple Bonker

    Location:
    Newcastle, WA
    Why not just leave it on? That's what I do, it's less stress on the circuitry. I only turn it off before going on holiday, and if a thunderstorm is imminent.
     
    Noel Patterson likes this.
  9. Helom

    Helom Forum member

    Location:
    U.S.
    I heard the Elex-R recently and I think it's one if the best integrateds available at that price.
     
  10. Pythonman

    Pythonman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Florida
    Excellent review. Makes me miss having my Brio-R setup where I can enjoy it somewhere in the house. So glad I didn't sell it off when I got other components in because for 4yrs it was the center of my audiophile universe. A job it did excellently. I swore no matter what I'd never let it go because it's such a sweet compact gem of a piece. You'll feel the same after some time with your new integrated!
    Now where's that Rega box? I want to put the amp back to where I can at least see it once in awhile!!
     
    timind likes this.
  11. maglorine

    maglorine Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fairport,NY
    You make a fair point. I turned mine off the first couple of days I owned it but have left it on since. After it was on all day I put my hand on the top cover and it was barely warmer than room temperature.
     
    bhazen likes this.
  12. bruce2

    bruce2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Connecticut, USA
    I did used to leave it on quite a bit, but not always. I liked the sound of the Brio3 but always wondered if the loud pop when turning it on was bad for my speakers, as it actually caused the woofers to noticeably move. I am just glad my current Creek amp is dead quiet with no humming or popping noises coming through my speakers!
     
  13. Morbius

    Morbius Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brookline, MA
    Rega speakers have a certain something about them. My RX3s are especially adept with drum sounds, they convey the tightness of the skins stretched over the shell and the contact of the of the tip of the stick on skin and the metallic rasp of ride cymbal or high hat quite effectively. I love the crunchy, rosiny sound of a bow on cello strings or the sinuous lower registers of a grand piano. They're also wonderful in the midrange breathing life into male and female vocals, acoustic guitars and violins and when you need them to they get down and boogie delivering taught and dynamic bass. Day after day they are a joy to listen to and mate perfectly to the rest of my system.
     
  14. Kristofferabild

    Kristofferabild Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denmark
    Great review, thanks!
     
  15. maglorine

    maglorine Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fairport,NY
    The soft turn on thump I got a couple of times initially seems to have disappeared. The last 3 times I turned it on I got silence. I’ve been keeping it turned on mostly but occasionally turn it off if I’m changing cables or moving stuff around.

    It continues to grow on me as I’ve gotten deeper into my music collection.
     
    bhazen likes this.
  16. Echoes Myron

    Echoes Myron Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Congrats on the Amp!

    I have the Elicit-R and love it. For about a year I ran an Exact cart into the onboard phono stage (which I believe is the same as the one in the Elex) and it was an excellent match. Very detailed but smooth with a touch of warmth. Really nice.
     
    Morbius likes this.
  17. maglorine

    maglorine Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fairport,NY
    I’ve been very pleased with the Elex-R onboard phono stage with my Exact as well. Nice combo from a sound quality standpoint just as you described and satisfyingly minimalist.
     
    Morbius and Echoes Myron like this.
  18. maglorine

    maglorine Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fairport,NY
    Question about adding a headphone amp to my setup. Do I connect the record out to the headphone amp input and is it fixed volume? So I can turn the Elex-R volume down and listen to headphones at night?
     
  19. Morbius

    Morbius Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brookline, MA
    Record out looks about right as far as I can tell from the instruction sheet that comes with the amp.
     
    WapatoWolf likes this.
  20. maglorine

    maglorine Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fairport,NY
    Record Out works great for headphone amp output. I paired the Cavelli Liquid Spark with AKG K240 Studios and they are a nice pairing.

    Update: Onboard MM phono is fine but I eventually decided to stick with my Ray Samuels F117 Nighthawk. It’s a $795 stand alone unit so it should be an improvement over an onboard stage. It’s enough of a difference that I can’t go back but the onboard phono was surprisingly good and probably better than most budget outboard stages in the $200-300 range.

    The Elex is also a great match with my new Wharfedale Denton 80th speakers. Good midrange presence, nice heft, control, and weight through the bass range, smooth delicate highs. Very enjoyable with both digital and vinyl

    I’m quite happy with the current arrangement and am settling in to focus on just listening to music!
     
    HappyCycler, ls35a, GyroT and 5 others like this.
  21. PhotoMax

    PhotoMax Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orcas Island
    New kid in class and very first post for me...

    Wow, a very solid well written review by the OP. I have been a lurker here for some time, but this thread made me sign up.

    I am a Rega fan. Over the decades I have drifted in and out with being focused on audio gear. Bought a few things and sold a few things. I think the Elex-R is a great integrated amp in a very competitive price range. I have owned one for years. I have also listed to four different Rega amps at dealerships. I find the Elex-R to be the sweet spot between the Brio and Elicit-R with the performance gap between the Elex over the Brio greater than the Elicit over the Elex.

    I have auditioned several Rega speakers, like the RS1, RS3, RS7, R7, Rx3. I own the large RS7s. My turntable is a Rega P6 with Ania MC and external power supply. I opted for the awesome Rega Aria phono stage. Playing vinyl with this kit is very rewarding. Love the sound. There is a slight warmth without any slowness or mushiness.

    Last year I moved all this kit into a cabin with difficult acoustics: large square shaped room with sloping wood ceilings. I still enjoyed vinyl but streaming digital created some difficulty with fatigue while hunting for a specific volume. In this setting I just found the Elex-R was somewhat under powered for this space. In the end I upgraded my source (Sonos Connect and Rega DAC) for a Linn DSM. I also replaced the Elex with a Pass Labs XP-20 preamp and a Bryston 4BSST2 power amp, plus upgraded interconnects. Overall this was a solid improvement.

    I loaned the Elex-R to a friend who has a pretty solid system pushing Wharfdale speakers. He has fallen in love with the Rega sound. His living room is perfect for this amp, so a great match.

    I am just not sure if I want to sell my Elex-R though? Our long relationship has been so good...
     
  22. Noel Patterson

    Noel Patterson Six pack of stout, and a stick of sensi

    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I love my little Brio-R. I'm sure theres better out there, but I just don't find it does anything wrong! Eventually I'll move up the Rega amp line, and add a Rega DAC. Would like an Apollo, but have read a ton of horror stories on its reliability. I leave my Brio on 24/7, sounds so much better fully warmed up.
     
  23. PhotoMax

    PhotoMax Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orcas Island
    The Rega DAC (both versions) perform well with these amps. A friend and I recently tested the Rega DAC with an older Proceed AVP2, which was a VERY high end and expensive DAC/processor in its day. Both sounded quite good when playing Tidal files streamed via Roon on a solid system. The Rega was a little brighter and cleaner sounding while the Proceed AVP2 sounded a decibel louder and a little softer. Which was better? Depends on your style of music I think...
     
  24. Helom

    Helom Forum member

    Location:
    U.S.
    If you're not in need of the cash, it's not a bad idea to keep your Elex-R as a backup. I upgraded to separates but I'm glad I kept my Yamaha integrated because I recently had to ship my preamp off for potential warranty work.

    Besides, the Elex-R is good enough that if you ever landed on tough times, you could sell the separates and you probably wouldn't miss them too much. It's one of those pieces that only has sins of omission.
     
    maglorine likes this.
  25. NB1

    NB1 New Member

    Location:
    UK
    Does anyone have insight into comparison with old Rega Mira 3?
    Interested in the comments about leaving the Elex-R permanently switched on - my Mira 3 gets super hot, so much so that over the years the plastic facia became brittle and broke. Doesn't seem to affect the sound, but now looking to replace.
    Thanks.
     

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