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Audio Streaming of music- REGA APOLLO

REGA Research has never been known to follow trends, at least not when it was fashionable to do so. It was the last of the true-blue British hi-fi manufacturers to embrace the digital realm Rega delivered its first Audio Streaming CD player, the Planet, only in 1996 – but head honcho Roy Gandy’s eccentric approach has resulted in a number of enduring products.

The classic Planar turntables and RB tonearms, in their latest incarnations, continue to draw the faithful, and there is a wider range of Rega hi-fi gear these days to tempt the enthusiast. Last year, Rega finally replaced the Planet with the Apollo, a Audio Streaming CD player that has been lavished with great acclaim both sides of the Atlantic.

REGA APOLLO is a A Audio Streaming CD player with lust factor, very musical, and excellent with all sorts of material. The Audio Streaming CD player to beat, even above its class. So what is so special about the Apollo, apart from its top-loading feature and USS Enterprise -like lid?

The Rega website provides some information on the development of the Apollo, which took three years. We learn that Rega sourced its Audio Streaming CD transport chipsets and operating software from a mysterious British company, instead of the Far East. This new disc operating system allows for data retrieval conforming to the Red Book standard, and comes with a powerful 20MB of memory and 32-bit digital processing power, far outstripping what has been conventionally available.

The Apollo comes with a new remote handset, and as a concession to the times, the player accommodates MP3 CDs. The Apollo has four levels of error correction. Slip in the Audio Streaming CD, shut the lid, and the player “initialises” the information and then selects the optimal level of correction to avoid “over-correction”, which can be detrimental to Audio Streaming sound quality. It takes about eight seconds to optimise a Audio Streaming CD for playback. This is coupled to a high-performance, digital-to-analogue converter from Wolfson, the WM8740 Sigma Delta 24-bit DAC with differential outputs. The output amp is also new, a discreet design with high quality audio components operating in Class A mode.

The transport (from Sanyo, I’m told) incorporates a “three-point mounting ball chuck” that Rega claims is superior to the previous magnetic puck design. Less mass means less stress on the mechanism, resulting in more accurate retrieval of information from the Audio Streaming CD.

The fascia is typically minimalist, with the barest of features, and the satin-finished aluminium casework won’t really catch the eye – until you observe the top-loading feature. The Apollo is pretty light, and the casework isn’t spectacular – but then, as with other Rega products over the decades, you’re paying for what’s inside, not how it looks.
The hills are alive...

At the rear, a pair of analogue RCA outputs and two sets of digital outputs coaxial and optical round up the features on the Apollo. The detachable power cord is good news for tweakers, although Rega eschews the use of fancy bits of wire, saying the provided cable and interconnects should be sufficient for optimal performance.

The Apollo had the opportunity to try it in a variety of systems amplification included, Quicksilver Line preamp/Mesa Baron power amp set-up, and a range of integrated amps, including a NAD C 352, Primare i30, Creek Evo and Malaysian-made Stranwood Artemis.

Speakers were Xavian XN 125 II and PSB Alpha B1, and cables and interconnects included a range from QED, Chord Co and Black Rhodium. This is a very musical player, with excellent detail retrieval capabilities, and spot-on timing and pace. In the right system , the Apollo will sound more expensive than its real-world price.

The results aren’t your typical high end stuff, the “refined” or “cultured” and “suited to Audio Streaming vocals and jazz only” approach. Rega, like Naim and Roksan, has always beat its own distinctive path to the ultimate goal of music reproduction, and the Apollo, in the digital realm, makes Audio Streaming musical enjoyment as tactile and satisfying as the older Planars and new “P” range turntables do in the analogue domain.

It has very good Audio Streaming bass, which is taut, considerably well extended and musical; a midrange that projects cleanly and with clarity, even with rock mixes; and a treble that leans on the right side of sweet. There’s no significant coloration to distract the purist, and yet, no one will accuse the Apollo of being sterile.

The Rega Apollo stands out as a class leader, no argument about this – it is a mighty fine Audio Streaming player that gets better the more resolving the rest of the system is ... in fact, whether you have a budget or mid-to-high-end system, this one deserves a serious audition.

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