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Integrated amplifier


Price (when reviewed): 6599 PLN

6 Coopers Way, Temple Farm Industrial Estate



Provided for test by: ONE AUDIO


images „High Fidelity”

No 225

February 1, 2023

REGA was founded in 1973. Its name honors its two founders: Roy Gandy and Tony Relph (RElph & GAndy); Roy is currently the owner and managing director of the company. Rega specializes in the production of turntables and they made it popular. However, it has been offering electronics and loudspeakers for years. We test its latest integrated amplifier ELEX Mk 4. This is its WORLD PREMIERE.


RESENTED IN NOVEMBER last year, the Elex Mk 4 amplifier is Rega's latest product. Not only its newest, but also the most awaited one. Changes in the lineup of this English manufacturer happen relatively rarely, and certainly less often than in the case of other competitors from the UK. And an integrated amplifier in this price range is always a very interesting proposition.

And although you could get used to the fact that this company is somehow self-sufficient, offering complete audio systems, from a cartridge and a laser reader to loudspeakers, plus accessories, it is still primarily a "turntable manufacturer". Even though its first amplifiers were developed in March 1991. These were the Elicit, Brio and Elex models, which in various incarnations and subsequent versions can be found in Rega's offer to this day.


THE TESTED MODEL IS ALREADY THE FOURTH VERSION of the Elex amplifier. So this project is thirty-one years old. Which in such a rapidly changing world is something unique and worth emphasizing. It also means that the first version was successful. It is an integrated amplifier with high output power, equipped with an MM phono preamplifier, a digital-to-analog converter and a headphone output.

From the earlier version of the Elex-R model from June 2014 it also differs with its revised front panel. It was changed to match the more expensive amplifiers of this manufacturer. Also new are the digital inputs, and thus the presence of the aforementioned digital-to-analog converter. In turn, the output power remained unchanged. Terry Bateman, Rega's chief design engineer, talks about the amplifier design especially for you.


| A few simple words…

chief designer

WOJCIECH PACUŁA What was the main goal when designing this new amplifier?
TERRY BATEMAN In general, the main goal with the Elex amplifier is to offer a high-performance middle tier amplifier with a price tag not that that far above the the Brio amplifier, however below that of the Elicit and Aethos amplifiers. The Elex offers sonic improvements over that of the IO and Brio with an increase in output power. The Elex [and the IO, Brio, Elex and Elicit amplifiers] all have high performance two stage phono amplifier with relay input switching.

⸜ The phonostage utilizes integrated circuits and high quality capacitors

WP Which older model was a „source” of technologies used in the new amplifier?
TB The best way of answering this is to give a basic timeline for all the Elex amplifiers outlining the source of the technology and the design process used in the Elex Mk4:

» Mk1 Elex was in the Clamshell case and based on the original 1990 Mk1 Elicit circuitry,

» Mk2 Elex is the same as the Mk1 Elex with a face lift and improvements to the construction and circuitry,

» Mk3 Elex was a completely new design in the four-part case with a single extruded front panel. This used an improved version of the A – AB amplifier (see A – AB amplifier circuit description below) as used in the 2010 Brio-r. The Elex Mk3 used a new preamplifier and active volume control circuit. It uses the two-stage phono amplifier. The output power of the Mk3 Elex is 72watts,

Mk4 Elex  is in the new '2020' four-part case with a single extruded front panel. This has the same [analogue] amplification circuitry as the Mk3 Elex, however Rega has added digital circuitry and inputs to the Mk4 Elex. The digital inputs use the same basic circuit topology as used in the Rega Saturn CD/DAC. The Elex Mk4 is also fitted with a headphone output.

Rega A – AB amplifier circuit – The Rega Elex Mk3 & 4 [also the IO, Brio-r and Elicit Mk4 & 5] use an innovative power amplifier circuit which was designed by Rega in the late noughties and first used in the 2010 Brio-r.

What follows is basic description of the 2010 Brio A – AB amplifier circuit... The output stage comprises of a single Class A emitter follower, which drives a pair of complementary Class AB Darlington output transistors. This forms a cascaded emitter follower output stage with a pair of complementary Darlington output transistors (running in Class AB) driving the speakers. Although the amplifier is operated as a complementary class AB circuit, the output transistor arrangement can be seen as a single emitter follower output which can drive a speaker with class A sonic performance with the heat of a class AB amplifier.

WP What new technologies or solutions have you used for Mk 4?
TB Basically, we have kept with the same analogue technology as used in the Elex Mk3 with addition of the digital DAC circuit technology as used in the Saturn digital inputs and Apollo-r DAC/Output filter and amplifier. The Digital DAC circuitry was originally designed for the Rega DAC-r and was also used in the Saturn and latterly the Elex Mk4 [also the Elicit Mk5]. This is based around the Wolfson Digital Interface Receiver and Digital to Analogue IC's. The post DAC amplifier and filter use discrete [operational amplifier] circuitry.

WP What is Rega working on currently?
TB We can't say too much, but we've always got something exciting brewing and are currently hard at work on several projects. More to come soon…


THE FRONT PANEL OF THE ELEX Mk 4 is mostly occupied by an acrylic plate used to display numbers and letters for active input, a crossed speaker logo for "mute" mode, and a company logo. Although its color used in company materials is green, Rega has chosen red for its electronics. It would be similar to what Accuphase does - it uses an orange logotype in materials, and it is displayed in green on devices.

Volume level is adjusted in a classic way, with a knob coupled with a potentiometer. The input selection is performed in the relays and we do it with the button. Next to it there is a headphone output and a mechanical on/off switch. The device does not have a standby mode, which is the most "green" solution. The amplifier is heavy, because the chassis is made of thick plates - steel at the top and bottom, and aluminum sides, front and back. In this way, we get a rigid, low-vibration chassis.

The Elex-R model was advertised as a combination of the cheaper Brio-R and the more expensive Elicit-R amplifier circuits. It is still an Class AB amplifier in push-pull mode, offering 72 W at 8 Ω and 90 W at 6 Ω (I did not find the value at 4 Ω). As the manufacturer says, its layout has been redesigned, although it is not known how. The new devices is described by the manufacturer without referring to other products as following:

The Elex MK4 is capable of driving difficult loudspeakers with ease and will integrate perfectly into any audio system by offering a wider range of connectivity options. In addition to the line level, digital inputs and a high quality moving magnet phono stage,  you will also find Pre-out and Record Out functionality alongside a headphone output. Special attention has been paid to the selection of key audio components. Discrete circuitry, high quality relays, polypropylene capacitors and Sanken output transistors are used throughout the design.

Elex MK4, →, accessed: 19.12.2022.

We can learn more about the D/A converter. It is based closely on the stand-alone DAC-R from this company. It offers two inputs - RCA and Toslink. There is no USB input here and it seems that this manufacturer is not a particular fan of files. The inputs are galvanically and optically isolated, and the S/PDIF converter and receiver were purchased from Wolfson. It is important that this circuit has been designed in such a way as to influence the operation of analog circuits as little as possible.

An important element of the Elex Mk 4 equipment is the phono preamplifier. Its layout has been divided into two sections, with separate equalization of the top and bottom of the RIAA curve. The manufacturer says that thanks to this solution, they minimized interactions between the two. They used polyester capacitors in the preamplifier path, and polypropylene capacitors in the equalization circuits.

The headphone output works in such a way that after plugging in a ø 6.3 mm TRS plug (large "jack"), the relays disconnect the loudspeaker outputs. So it seems that the signal for the headphones is taken from the output of the power amplifier. The device is protected against short circuit, overheating and the presence of DC voltage at the input.

The amplifier can be operated not only with the manipulators on the front panel, but also with the remote control, which we have already seen in the io model test. This is a multifunctional remote control, designed not only for the amplifier, but also for the company's CD player, which is why it features a lot of buttons. I would prefer the ones for the volume to be larger and separated from the others.


⸜ HOW WE LISTENED The Rega ELEX Mk 4 amplifier was tested in the HIGH FIDELITY reference system and was compared to a system, consisting of the Ayon Audio Spheris 3 tube preamplifier and Soulution 710 transistor power amplifier, and to the Mark Levinson № 5206 + № 5302.

The Rega was placed on the Finite Elemente Pagode Edition Mk II audio rack, on the middle shelf, on the Acoustic Rev4e RAF-48H anti-vibration platform. It was connected to the Ayon Audio CD-35 HF SACD player using RCA Crystal Cable Absolute Dream interconnects, to the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge file player using Acoustic Rev4e Absolute interconnects, and to the Harbeth M40.1 loudspeakers with NOS Western Electric cables. The amplifier was powered using the Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version cable.

The Elicit Mk 4 DAC was tested with the transport section of the Ayon Audio player, and the headphone output with the HiFiMAN HE-1000 v2 and Lime Ears Anima headphones.

⸜ Recordings used in the test | a selection

⸜ CHARLIE HADEN, MICHAEL BRECKER, American Dream, Verve Records 440 064 096-2, CD (2002).
⸜ DEPECHE MODE, Dream On, Mute CDBONG30, SP CD (2001).
⸜ JOHN COLTRANE, Blue Train, Blue Note/Un4ersal Classics & Jazz UCGQ-9031, SHM-SACD (1957/2022).
⸜ TOTO, Toto 4, Columbia/Sony Music Labels SICP 10139~40, „Deluxe Edition. 40th Ann4ersary”, SACD/CD (1982/2022).
Wege zu Hildegard von Bingen, wyk. Ensemble für Frühe Musik Augsburg, Christophorus CHR 7762, 5 x CD (2022).
⸜ ART PEPPER, Intensity, Contemporary/Un4ersal Music [Japan] UCCO-5114, „Jazz The Best. Legendary 140| No. 114”, CD (1963/2007).


NOT KNOWING WHAT I'M LISTENING TO, I could swear that the Rega Elicit 4 came from the same designing team as the Mark Levinson № 5206 + № 5302 two-piece amplifier, costing almost PLN 100,000. I know that this is not the case, that this is an independent creation of the engineers of this English company. And yet, that was my first impression. Which shows that a certain type of sound is appreciated in different geographical zones. The thing is a strong saturation of the midrange and, at the same time, presentation of sounds in a direct way.

I know this style from amplifiers working in class A, and - historically - the Pass Aleph 0 power amplifier. So it is a sound based on the lower midrange. MICHAEL BRECKER's saxophone from the American Dream, recorded together with CHARLIE HADEN, had a deep filling and "bloat". The higher harmonics were developed smoothly and coherently, it was a really organic sound. The cymbals from the title track opening this album were strong and unambiguous.

They were characterized by a certain tonal restraint. Rega plays dynamically and keeps the rhythm well, which does not change the fact that the treble is warmed up. For some time now, in the sound of audio devices, something like a slowdown in the pursuit of maximum transparency and selectivity can be noticed. For a long time it was driven by new formats, for which the partner "had to be" clean and transparent electronics with an extended range from the top. It made no sense, and yet the manufacturers insisted on it.

Rega with the Elicit 4 model proves that it was a mistake. And also that it can be done differently, better, and that nothing of this transparency will escape us. Because the cymbals I am talking about, played by Brian Blade with brushes, were unambiguous and had a good "dr4e". However, they were quite warm. Because it is such an amplifier. Anyway, the bass sounds similar. Although it seems warm, it is very well controlled and kept in check.

Unlike other amplifiers that we would describe as "warm", the Rega is exceptionally selective. Maintaining a dense timbre, it does not forget about the details. And it doesn't matter what kind of music we listen to. After all, not only the sophisticated jazz of the Haden & Brecker duo played this way, but also a great, really very good, instrumental piece Easy Tiger by the DEPECHE MODE.

Already the first seconds, with the climatic synthesizer, and then with very low bass, showed that the Elex 4 builds big images and that it has mastered the art of creating moods. This song, on the Exciter album it comes from is presented in a short version, while on the Dream On single, from which I played it, it was delivered in its entirety. And there is a cool, funky bass and electric guitar played with a wah-wah effect. Rega played it wonderfully, which made me listen to the piece from beginning to end, even though I know it by heart.

| Our albums


Mute CDBONG30, SP Compact Disc ⸜ 2001

The Dream On SINGLE COMES FROM the Depeche Mode’s Exciter album, released on May 14th 2011. It was the second album after Ultra (1997) recorded as a trio, with David Gahan on vocals, Martin Gore on guitar and keyboards, and Andrew Fletcher, who passed away last year, on keyboards. The album was supported by the Exciter Tour, one of the best-selling tours in the band's history; as part of it, Depeche Mode also played in Poland, in Warsaw's Służewiec. Yours truly attended said concert.

The album was produced by MARK BELL, a British DJ, producer and member of the LFO group, pioneers of the techno scene. In addition to producing the DM album, he is also known for being responsible for almost all Björk albums, until Biophilia from 2011. The album was recorded from June 2000 to January 2001 and was quite successful: already during the first week of sales in the US, 115,000 copies were sold, and in 2006, when numbers reached almost 500,000, it was awarded a Gold Album.

Dream On was the first single from the album. It was released on April 17th 2001, in several versions at once, on LP and CD. There are two digital versions - a single with three tracks and a maxi-single with four. The former contained the full version of the instrumental Easy Tiger that was used in a shorter version on the album. All singles, apart from the DVD Free Love, were released in a nice form - as mini LPs with paper inserts. ANTON CORBIJN was responsible for the graphic design of the whole.

EXCITER WAS RECORDED quite dark and low, and you can hear a lot of compression on it. Therefore, it's quite a calm-sounding album. In turn, TOTO, on the fourth release in their career Toto 4, is a band with an open, live sound. No exaggeration, because the tonal balance was very well preserved here by Albert Harry Schmitt, known as Al Schmitt. There is also a strong drumming and great work of the brass - the set of instruments favored by this producer - and a clear piano.

And yet there was something in this sound, the sound of both discs, that gave a similar "taste" on the palate, as with the jazz duo at the beginning and the rock playing of Depeche Mode a moment ago. Africa sounded interesting with its deep synthesizer sound. On the other hand, drums and percussion instruments, always present, although positioned slightly underneath, were a bit set back on the stage. And yet it was really well balanced, I never had the feeling of lacking anything.

On the contrary. Such a sound gives a chance to sustain phase of sounds that get lost in bright and aggressive playing. Like the flute-like synthesizer sounds entering at 1:50, or the hi-hat’s decay. It was all legible. And at the same time thick and warm. And I think it's not a coincidence, but a deeply thought-out strategy. The tactic might be to lighten the sound a bit. It would then be more effective in a quick comparison in an audio salon.

Rega’s team, however, prefers a different approach. They are in no hurry, and they do not want to force us to do anything using some tricks. They know that music is time. And over time, such a sound as the one proposed by the Elex Mk 4 amplifier turns out to be the right one. It is thanks to it that you can listen to any album without clenching your teeth with lesser quality releases and disappointment with the lack of progress with better ones. Because both the lesser and the better ones will show what is best in them.

Contrary to clearly "warm" amplifiers, this one doesn't push the foreground in front of the speakers. The presentation is large, the instruments have a good volume, so you can call it: a "big sound". However, because the foreground stays on the line connecting the loudspeakers, there will be no problem with "imposing" the presentation on us. We will get good proportions between the foreground and everything behind it, and the stage will be saturated, with the edges spread quite wide. Let's not expect a specially exaggerated space, because the Rega’s sounds is quite focused, without pretending that there is more "air" in the recordings than there really is.

⸜ D/A CONVERTER The digital-to-analog converter used in the tested amplifier has its "own" sound. It also focuses our attention on the midrange, but it does it similarly to turntables. So slightly undercutting the bass and extinguishing the upper midrange a bit.

Interesting, but it's still a lively and quite open sound. The drum beats of Frank Butler from the ART PEPPER’S Intensity, wonderfully recorded for Contemporary Records by Roy Du Nann, were incredibly dynamic and "tangible". So in general, it's a nice, if a bit withdrawn sound. Perhaps it was to stem the aggression of digital recordings.

⸜ HEADPHONES I'm not a fan of driving headphones from the power amp outputs. I find adding a gain stage to the preamp section a much better soution. However, there are exceptions to this rule, for example all Leben amplifiers.

Rega's headphone output, however, turned out to be prepared in an exceptionally competent way. The sound is closer to us than through the loudspeakers, and the instruments are more tangible. The excellent dynamics of the device have been preserved, which is why it is a fast and lively presentation. This is helped by a stronger presence of treble than with loudspeakers. Both the HiFiMAN HE-1000 v2 planar headphones and the Lime Ears Anima in-ear monitors, however, sounded in a balanced, nice way. And these are very resolving designs.

So you can think about an external headphone amplifier, but only if it will offer an equivalent sound source with loudspeakers and if you have expensive headphones. In any other case, the TRS socket in the Rega will be perfectly sufficient. And even more - you'll really like it.


REGA ELEX Mk 4 has its own sound. For many it will seem warm, although I would say that it is natural, you can also say - organic. It is also very dynamic and rhythmic. The treble and bass do not have clear edges, and yet they sound in a selective way. This is the Rega's secret. So it is an amplifier that sounds a bit like a tube one, and yet it is completely different from this stereotype. A very nice device for long listening sessions that won’t put you to sleep, but rather deliver very enjoyable experience.


⸜ FRONT AND REAR Rega Elicit Mk 4 has a simple, almost utilitarian form. The designers clearly wanted to avoid kitsch. I think they succeeded. The device has its own style and charm, it is also well-made. As we have already said, the rigid housing is made of steel and aluminum elements. There are no heat sinks to be seen anywhere, and that's because the entire chassis acts as a heat sink. The amplifier stands on four rubber feet, so there is room for improvement.

⸜ INSIDE The electronic circuit of the Rega amplifier has been assembled on a single printed circuit board occupying the entire bottom. The signal from sources is delivered to non-gold plated, medium quality RCA sockets and is selected in nice, hermetic relays. An active preamplifier is placed right next to it. It employs miniature, discrete transistors and nice capacitors - polyester and polypropylene ones from Evox. On this board, the engineers wrote: "The EL84 - do we really need 17 Watts", suggesting that we really need a lot more of it.

The same capacitors can be found in the phono preamplifier section. It was placed directly next to the input sockets and is based on two integrated circuits: Unisonic Techkondenologies MC4580 and Semiconductor Technologies 072C. By the way - more and more often you can see operating circuits from less known companies in audio devices, which is due to their general availability issues on the market. The volume is regulated in a classic way, with a black Alps potentiometer.

The D/A converter is based on Wolfson Microelectronics chips, that Rega has many years of experience with. In the input there is a WM8805, 24/192 receiver. The conversion is carried out by WM8742. This is an old circuit, but appreciated in audio circles, also by DIY fans. Press materials referred to it as "Ultra High Performance Multi-bit Sigma-Delta Architecture". It features an integrated I/U conversion, which reduces the influence of designers on its sound. Thanks to this solution, however, it is possible to use a simple circuit in the output stage - here it was designed using discrete transistors.

The power amplifiers are placed on both sides of the amplifier. They use single complementary pairs of Darlington circuits by Sanken. These are circuits with two transistors and a correction diode in one housing. The transistors are screwed directly to the housing, which - let's repeat - acts as a heat sink. The side walls are thick, which contributes to the considerable weight of the device, and at the same time perfectly dampens vibrations.

A simple, well-thought-out layout with a short gain path. Higher quality RCA jacks would be welcome. The selection of a discrete circuit and good components, including a custom-made toroidal transformer and capacitors in the power supply, are another plus.

Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer)

Output: 72 W/8 Ω | 90 W/6 Ω
Frequency range: 10 Hz - 65 kHz (-1 dB/-3 dB)
THD: 0.005% (1 kHz)
Input sensitivity: 164 mV (10 kΩ)
Inputs: 1 x MM, 4 x line, 2 x digital
Output sensitivity (at rated inputs):
⸜ Record Output: 164 mV
⸜ Pre Out: 625 mV
Supported sampling rates: 32-192 kHz | 16-24 bits
Power consumption: 250 W (at 1dB below clip into 8Ω)
Dimensions (W x H x D): 432 x 82 x 340 mm
Weight: 11 kg


Reference system 2023

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

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Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC