My impressions of the Rega Elex-R

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

  1. maglorine

    maglorine Well-Known Member 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.
     
  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 Well-Known Member 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 Infinitely Baffled

    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 Well-Known Member 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?".
     
    bhazen likes this.
  7. bhazen

    bhazen Infinitely Baffled

    Location:
    Newcastle, WA
    :D
     
  8. bhazen

    bhazen Infinitely Baffled

    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.
     
  9. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    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:
    Indiana
    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!!
     
  11. maglorine

    maglorine Well-Known Member 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.
     
    bhazen, dbsea and maglorine like this.
  14. Kristofferabild

    Kristofferabild Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denmark
    Great review, thanks!
     
  15. maglorine

    maglorine Well-Known Member 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.
     
  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 Well-Known Member 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.
     
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