Rega DAC-R Review
If you mention the brand name Rega to audiophiles and music lovers around the world, most will immediately recognise it. Nearly everyone has owned, heard or at least seen a Rega Planar turntable at some point in time. With a history of manufacturing quality stereo equipment for over 40 years now, Rega Research Ltd should be known for far more than just turntables. With a range that includes amplifiers, speakers, tonearms, cartridges, phono stages, accessories, CD players and DACs, Rega has the heritage to produce truly world class equipment. The newest and probably most anticipated item is the new DAC-R digital to analogue converter, replacing the ageing Rega DAC.
The Rega DAC-R is now available in Australia at $1199 RRP and offers many enhancements and meaningful upgrades over the previous generation Rega DAC ($999 RRP). If you are familiar with the older DAC, you will also be familiar with the DAC-R because it looks virtually the same, with only the front facia as the clue that they are indeed different units. Physically, it’s half the size of a standard component at 21.5 cm in width, 32 cm deep and 8 cm high finished in a black custom aluminium and steel case with a shiny plastic front and silver push buttons. It weighs 4kg and has a high standard of fit and finish with a particularly clear and understandable front panel. The panel indicates the filter selection (there are three user selectable filters,) the frequency of the incoming sample rate for conversion and the input selected. The Rega logo glows red when switched on and there is an indicator that lights up when the input is locked.
Input wise, it has facility for 2 x Optical/Toslink, 2 x 75Ω Co-axial and a single USB input, all of them with a maximum resolution of 24-bit/192kHz. The output has a pair of standard analogue RCA connectors, but will also output digitally (SPDIF) via either a single Optical/Toslink or a Co-axial connector. The digital output uses the incoming signal but also cleans it up and re-clocks it, ready for use in auxiliary equipment.
In fact all of the inputs received special attention from Rega, with care taken to negate and fully isolate the incoming noise associated with transports, computers, power supplies and airborne RFI/EMF.
The optical and coaxial input stage comprises a Wolfson digital receiver with a high stability, low jitter clock driving the receiver PLL. The receiver and PLL have their own dedicated power supplies. The USB input stage is comprised of a bit perfect XMOS USB Audio 2.0 with asynchronous clocking. The USB input stage feeds the Optical and Coaxial input stage via an isolating transformer giving total isolation from the host computer.
The DAC stage comprises a pair of parallel-connected Wolfson WM8742 DAC’s, via a buffer stage, similar to the arrangement used in the mega-buck Rega Isis reference CD player. There is no sample rate conversion utilised, keeping the signal processing down to a minimum. That is often an advantage, as less processing can translate to better sound quality. In the DAC-R, Rega has found and updated areas of the circuit that have an impact on the way it sounds and made a serious effort to better the original DAC.
Starting his first audio consultancy business in the early ’80s whilst also working professionally in the electronics industry, Mark now splits his time between professional reviewing and AV consultancy.