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Digital to Analog Converter
Rega DAC

Price in Poland: 2700 zł

Manufacturer: Rega Research Limited

Rega Research Limited | 6 Coopers Way
Temple Farm Industrial Estate | Southend on Sea | ESSEX

WWW: Rega

Country of origin: UK

Distribution in Poland: Audio

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Pictures: Rega | Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

Rega (Tony RElph, Roy GAndy) is a company almost solely associated with turntables. Founded in 1973 it started with the model Planet, which is available even today, in many different versions and improvements, as the P series. But it is enough to have a short look at the catalog of this manufacturer, to have the “turntable” label get off a bit. To be clear: the roots of Rega and its hart are on the side of the black disc. However Roy Gandy understood long time ago, that it is better to have more than less, and the turntable, the source, is only one of the elements of the system, and it is the system, that needs to have intrinsic synergy. This is the reason that Roy offers also amplifiers, CD players and loudspeakers. And now we have the first DAC in the company’s history. And yet it cannot be denied, that Rega approaches the digital with reserve. The company (actually Roy) thought that the CD is a bad idea, exactly like Ivor Tiefenbrunn from Linn. Rega presented their first CD player at the beginning of 1997, so at the time when others thought about DVD-Audio. The first player, called Planet, had an unusual way of loading the disc. It stood out.

So the DAC is maybe a new beginning for the company, a way of circumventing the CD format and going directly to the hi-res file world. Those are of course speculations, but the specification of the device would back that up, as it can handle signals up to 24 bits and 192kHz. Except… for the USB input, which has an old Burr-Brown receiver, which limits the signal received from the computer to 16 bits and 44.1/48kHz. This is odd, but Rega goes its own way. Well, the most important information was already said – this is a 24/192 DAC. It is equally important, that it was equipped in a battery of five digital filters, which can be used to subtly, yet importantly, shape its sound. And those are not some run of the mill filters included in the DAC chip, but licensed or self written ones, with the lately popular “apodising” filter, created by Meridian, who showed it first in its flag player CD 808.2. In short this is a filter which should prepare the signal in such a way, that the impulse should have no ringing (oscillations) before it. This is done in various way, but it seems that the Meridian filter is really good at that.

Let us just add, that there is a lot of buzz around that filter, and many things were said about it. Robert Harley from “The Absolute Sound” that the idea of this filter came from dr. Peter Craven, who described it in the materials of the Audio Engineering Society titled Anti-Alias Filters and System Transient Response at High-Sample Rates and Controlled Pre-Response Anti-Alias Filters for Use at 96kHz and 192kHz. The name “apodising” is owned by Meridian (please look here:, last logging – 1.06.2001). But companies tend to use that name for all filters of the “minimum-phase” type, which remove the oscillations before the impulse, but the Meridian filter does not only take care of the signal it processes, but also each oscillation up the recording chain, also in the studio. Because it works not only on the current signal, but it also improves the recorded one. And this is quite unique.

To date we tested:

  • CD Player Rega ISIS VALVE, test HERE
  • Rega APOLLO/BRIO3/RS3/P3-24/RB301/EXACT, test HERE


Recordings used in the test (selection):

  • Audio Accessory - T-TOC Records High Quality Data Master Comparison, TDVD-0002, DVD-R, ripy 16/44,1, 24/96, 24/192 FLAC.
  • Stereo Sound Reference Record. Jazz&Vocal, Stereo Sound, SSRR4, SACD/CD.
  • Stereo Sound Reference Record. Popular Selection, Stereo Sound, SSRR5, SACD/CD.
  • Bill Evans, Everybody Digs Bill Evans, Riverside/JVC, JVCXR-0020-2, XRCD.
  • Brian Eno, Craft On A Milk Sea, Warp Records, FLAC 24/44,1.
  • Carol Sloane, Hush-A-Bye, Sinatra Society of Japan/Muzak, XQAM-1031, CD.
  • Charlie Haden & Antonio Forcione, Heartplay, Naim Label, 24/96 FLAC.
  • David Munion, Pretty Blue, Stockfisch Records, SFR 357.6072.2, CD.
  • Diorama, The art of creating confusing Spirits, Accession Records, EFA 23450-2, CD
  • Frank Sinatra, Sinatra At The Sands, Sinatra Society of Japan, UICY-94366, SHM-CD.
  • J. S. Bach, Solo Suites Nos 1,3&5, Mischa Maisky, Deutsche Grammophon/ Universal Music Company [Japan], UCG-50085, SHM-CD.
  • Metallica, Master of Puppets, Vertigo/ Universal Music Company [Japan], UICY-94664, SHM-CD.
  • Norah Jones, …featuring, Blue Note, 09868 2, 16/44,1 FLAC.
  • Phil Collins, Face Value, Warner Bros/Audio Fidelity, AFZ 027, gold-CD, FLAC.

Japan versions of CD, SHM-CD, XQCD, SHM-SACD etc. CD Japan.

I think, that I understand better and better those, who claim that the differences between the digital sources are negligible, usually imaginary and every good CD players sounds exactly the same as other good CD player. I have a completely different opinion, I think it is exactly the opposite, but – I see it now – in each story, also from the people (music lovers and audiophiles) negating the importance of the source (especially a digital one), there is a grain of truth. I think, that in this case this bit bends the truth, or it even invalidates it. And despite that, for a moment Rega allowed me to be in the place of the people I talk about.
Switching between my CD player and the Rega I could not formulate the conclusions from that comparison. There were differences, quite clear ones, but they were not so important at that time, not enough to talk about class differences. And this could even make sense, taking into account the accelerated development of digital technology and better understanding of the problems related to it. And Rega is one of most recent projects.
But the case is that – in my opinion – more and more DACs are tonally unified, I mean that most of them sound in a similar way, as if the DAC chips and output circuits were very similar to each other, or at lease produced similar results.

Because the Rega sounds a bit like a better rDAC from Arcam, in terms of timbre and dynamics or size of the sound sources. The resolution seems very good, already with 16/44.1 material from a CD disc and only longer listening sessions, listening to a few discs shows, that Lektor Air, and the Kuzma turntable (Stabi S + PS + Stogi S 12 VTA) sound with a deeper sound, with clear signs of three dimensionality in terms of the whole sound stage and the individual shapes. Those are undoubtedly better.
But at first sight the Rega is the fulfillment of the dreams of an audiophile. Like I say, the truth surfaces quickly. But when we are on the other side of that understanding, when we look at the sound from that other side, when we know what is going on, the more we appreciate what the Rega engineers could achieve for the given money.
The sound of the DAC is very dynamic. Usually this is the shortcoming of such devices, and this is the first thing that makes them fail compared with the Air or any turntable. Similar to the rDAC before, also this DAC did not have that problem. Every disc played through it, be it Everybody Digs Bill Evans, Sinatra At The Sands, or Hush-A-Bye Carol Sloan sounded in a dynamic, if not explosive (Sinatra and Evans) way, while, when needed, it could also be a romantic one (Sloan, Evans). Yes, shading of the dynamics, discerning the internal pace, internal “spring”, which unwinds quickly sometimes (like in Master of Puppets Metallica), and sometimes we can feel its pulse, but the unwinding in time is splendidly handled by the Rega. This is something, that until recently was only reserved for the high-end.

Yes, I see it like this, that the gravity point shifted to the category that could be named “presence” and “shape”. You could even assume, that it is the same thing. This is an element, where the analog and high class CD player crush each and every DAC from that price range. And this was also the case with Rega.
Switching to the DAC from the Kuzma or the Ancient Audio resulted immediately in shortening the perspective, bringing closer the further planes, including vocals, especially if those were placed further away from the first plane. I do not say that this was an error, because the Rega DAC handles this really well, but I want to show, that this is a fundamental – because I see it like that – difference between an inexpensive DAC and a high-end device.
But there are more differences between the reference system and the Rega. The upper part of the sound spectrum is quite strong in the British DAC. In general I perceived that sound as being vivid and carrying, very open. I do not know, if this can be seen in the choice of the disc, but this sound was best with jazz disc, well recorded jazz discs. With newer, stronger material, like with the mentioned Metallica, or the Diorama disc, the treble was too strong for my taste.
Partially the loudspeakers were responsible for this effect. Those were the new loudspeakers from Avalon, model Transcendent, very different to the older Ascendant. Its timbre is set quite high, and this is not such a creamy sound as before. This timbre fares splendidly with nice, slightly warm tube amplifiers and a turntable. Those loudspeakers are quite easy to power, so I think, that this was the idea of their constructor. But with a linear system the pleasure of listening gets lost.

The Rega is such a linear element, in addition with lots of energy in the upper octaves. And it turned out not to be the best partner for the Avalon. Because it should sound mostly with loudspeakers like Spendor, or Harbeth (but in this case also rather with loudspeakers from the “classical” part of their catalog, like the Monitor 30 Domestic). Also Sonus Faber or Chario will be good. And probably Rega’s own loudspeakers, with which – I presume – the DAC was tested will show it from the best side. This cannot be a bright system. As you know, the electronics of this manufacturer is quite creamy, slightly warm, and probably the DAC was listened to using it. And this is what should be taken into account.

On the other hand, the little DAC will deliver all that, what is usually missing in digital recordings – drive and rhythm. This can be appreciated when listening to Diorama, based on a precise, marching rhythm, and then to Metallica, being almost trance. Rega does not wash out the edges, does not soften them. The attach is unanimous and punctual. And you do not need any rock recording for that, because also a cello solo from Misha Maisky sounded with a splendidly paced tempo and well placed accents.
The device handles showing the different things happening at the bottom of the sound spectrum splendidly. Instruments playing there are big, clear and not too edgy, meaning they are not overdrawn. On the utter lower end everything disappears, but this is outside the range of any loudspeaker up to a price level of 5000zł and more. And most of the more expensive loudspeakers, even if they reach that low, sound with a lesser bass than the DAC, so the Rega will not be the limiting factor.
I mentioned the attack and the treble. In some way, maybe not so spectacular, but in longer perspective significant, are the changes in the digital filters. It turned out, that with CD listening I use two filters. With rock material I used the filter no. 3, the “minimum phase half-band filter”, and with jazz and classical no. 5, “minimum phase apodising filter”. The latter is the best one in terms of the general quality of the sound. Combining the apodising with minimal phase filters is brilliant, and I confirm the observations of the reviewers from “Stereophile”, who were enthusiastic about that filter when testing the player from Meridian (this company is the father of this solution) and PS Audio. The problem here and now is, that this filter accents the attack, and recognizes the start and stop even better, and extracts the shape of the instruments even nicer. And the DAC sounds quite strong on its own, and even when in general everything is better with the filter no. 5, the whole sounds too bright, too strong. But it does not matter with jazz, and only with a material that has too much treble we need to switch to another filter.

I perceived it slightly differently with high resolution material. I will go to that topic in a moment, but first about some changes that happened compared to recordings from CD discs. With 24 bit files, and most of all with the sampling frequency of 88.2kHz and more, the spaciousness of the recordings increased significantly and the, slightly fatiguing, presence of the treble diminishes. The latter can be, as I said, leveled by a careful choice of the rest of the system, but only now you can hear, that it was no error, and maybe the unit was mostly used with hi-res recordings during listening tests. Because with them everything locks in its place, and most of all, the virtual sources occupy more space. And everything sounds “easier”, as if would get rid of a restraint. This is still not the quality of the best CD players around, but the changes going on with the high resolution files are exactly the ones needed. I will just add, that I made all the listening with the filter no. 4, the “minimum phase apodising filter” (with 44.1 and 48kHz material it corresponds to filter no. 5).

The Rega DAC surprised me with the unusual ability to create a dynamic, vivid and full of energy event. This is the most interesting DAC, beside the rDAC, from the inexpensive price range. Both DAC surpassed the abilities of the DACMagic Cambridge Audiolong ago – that company has a few new converters, which they will introduce shortly. I hope they have learned their lessons from the meeting with the rDAC. The latter with a TeddyPardo PSU goes more in the direction of the depth of the sound, of the shape. But the Rega discerns the tempo better, keeps the drive of the music. And it handles the hi-res material brilliantly. And what about USB? You have to forgive me, but I resign from reviewing it – limiting the computer input to 16/48 is intelligible for me. And although in dedicated devices of that kind (like KingRex UD-1 Pro) I can take that for granted and understand (as well as appreciate the results!), yet in a device designed to be used with high resolution files this is absolutely unacceptable for me. This is the reason, that for using it with a computer you have to buy an appropriate USB/SPDIF converter (24/96 or 14/192) and we get all the people from Rega should be proud about.


Rega DAC is a medium sized unit with a front panel 218mm wide, so it has a width of almost half of the standard 440mm. This is the first Rega device in this form factor, followed shortly with the amplifier Brio-R, which has the same dimensions. The front already signals a new series, which should compete with the products of Musical Fidelity – this is a black, acrylic panel, under which a red lit Rega logo was hidden and a set of LEDs. Also red ones. The power switch is mechanical and has a rectangular shape. The two other buttons are similar in shape and size – one is used to change the digital filter applied just before the converter chip, and the second one selects the active input. We have five filters and five inputs. This should be enough for almost every possible system. In addition all inputs, with the exception of the USB, accept signals up to 24 bits and 192kHz. The LEDs indicate the sampling frequency. Unfortunately the indicators for 44.1 and 48kHz as well as 88.2 and 96kHz are the same. There is also no indicator for the word length.

Like I said we can choose from five digital filters:
1. Linear chase half-band filter.
2. Minimal phase soft-knee filter.
3. Minimum phase half-band filter.
4. Linear phase apodising filter.
5. Minimum phase apodising filter.

This is all for the 44.1 and 48kHz sampling frequency. For the higher sampling frequencies the order of the filters is changed. Everything is explained in a nicely written, very comprehensive manual – this should be a reference point for other companies.
On the back we have a lot of inputs and outputs. There are five digital inputs – USB type B, two RCAs and two optical (TOSLINK). There are also two outputs – RCA and optical. There is also a pair of analog RCA outputs. Unfortunately those are quite mediocre and close together, so that I could not attach my Acrolink cable and had to use the Oyaide, also a splendid cable - Tunami Terzo, which just came from Japan for testing. And there is also a power socket, also a bit problematic. The cable is detachable – this is good. But why there is no IEC socket, but a socket commonly used for computers, with three pins in a triangular shape – I do not know.

The enclosure is made from aluminum plates and a steel “floor”. We can read in the manual, that the signal from the electric inputs is separated in a transformer and then goes to a new Wolfson receiver WM8802 with a stable, low jitter clock, clocking the PLL loop. The loop has its own power supply. The signal then goes to two Wolfson DACs WM8742. Those are 24/192 chips. Their stereophonic outputs are switched in parallel. The signals goes there, but not directly, there is first a special buffer, where there is something like an integration of the digital signal. Probably the signal is re-clocked there, etc. Also phase correction happens there. I have seen a similar solution in the DAC-04 from Mr. Stelmach (HERE) and in the player … Rega Isis Valve.

On the output there is a differential filter with a feedback loop and low pass filter, which is used with a high sampling frequency signal. The company points out, that a frequency converter was not used to leave the signal in a form, that was used in the source and make the processing of the signal as simple as possible. Minimization of jitter, provided by the SRS, was done through precise synchronization of its clock with the PLL loop on the input. All capacitors in the sound path are Nichicon FG bypassed by polypropylene capacitors MMK by EVOX. On the USB input we have an old chip from Burr-Brown, the PCM2707, which requires the computer to change the signals to 16 bits and 44.1 or 48kHz. The output circuit, analog, buffered and amplified in transistors is made in SMD. The output is keyed with a relay. All sockets are soldered directly to the PCB and not gold plated. You can nicely see, that much attention was given to the lead the ground traces – ground goes to each section and is soldered to only one point near the sockets. Interestingly I found a marking on the PCB that states “Best used with EL84 Valves” – I wonder what it means. The power supply uses a toroidal transformer and quick Shottky diodes. Separate windings are available for the microprocessor, digital and analog sections. The capacitors in the power supply are the splendid Nichicon Fine Gold.

Distribution in Poland: Audio

02-012 Warszawa, Atelier Residence
ul. Bagno 2/21 (III piętro)
tel. +48 78 4 50 50 55



WWW: Rega

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System odniesienia

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  • przedwzmacniacz: Polaris III + zasilacz AC Regenerator, (wersja z klasycznym zasilaczem, test TUTAJ)
  • końcówka mocy: Soulution 710
  • wzmacniacz zintegrowany: Leben CS300XS Custom Version (recenzja TUTAJ)
  • kolumny: German Physiks HRS 120 Carbon (test TUTAJ), Chario Academy Sonnet (test TUTAJ) + oryginalne podstawki, Ascendo System ZF3 SE + platformy Acoustic Revive RST-38
  • słuchawki: HiFiMan HE-6, Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, wersja 600 Ω - (recenzje TUTAJ, TUTAJ i TUTAJ)
  • interkonekty: CD-przedwzmacniacz: Mexcel 7N-DA6300, artykuł TUTAJ, przedwzmacniacz-końcówka mocy: Wireworld Platinum Eclipse.
  • kable głośnikowe: Tara Labs Omega Onyx
  • kable zasilające: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300 (wszystkie elementy, recenzja TUTAJ) i Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC7100 (Leben CS-300XS (SP); recenzja TUTAJ)
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  • kondycjoner sieciowy: Gigawatt PC-3SE
  • stolik SolidBase IV Custom; opis TUTAJ
  • pod odtwarzaczem podkładki Ceraball (artykuł TUTAJ)
  • gramofon: Avid Acutus Reference (test TUTAJ)
  • wkładki gramofonowe: Air Tight PC-1 Supreme (test TUTAJ), Miyajima Laboratory Shibata (test TUTAJ), Denon DL-103SA (test TUTAJ)