Review: Rega Planar 3 Turntable

Category: Analog

This review will deal with the current Rega P3 turntable with Rega RB 300 tone arm and some of the updates that are
available for this venerable performer.

There is not much sense in going into a lengthy review of this table. It has been reviewed many times in the past years and in the Planar 3 or the current P 3 it has remained a bedrock of analog playback for well over 30 years and was updated by Rega to P3 in 2000.

However over the years some after market companies have offered several upgrades for the P 3. This will deal with the J.A. Michell Techno Weight for the RB 300 Tone Arm,the Deep Groove sub platter and the Iron Audio Acrylic Platter. Each of these upgrades brings the performance of the P 3 to a higher level of analog playback and each of these items are quite cost effective for the price/performance dollar invested.

Straight out of the box the Rega P3 is a great table and at its price/performnce ratio there is little in the market place that can touch it. In recent years the RB 300 tone arm has become somewhat of an icon in its own right,with many high end tables employing this arm or a derivative of the RB 300 in higher priced turntables.

However there is on the market today several counter weights for the RB 300. I have used the Expressimo and the Clear Audio offset counter weight with excellent results and this has moved the overall sonics of the RB 300 to loftier performance levels and has improved tracking to another level.

Although this time sought to use the J.A. Michell counter weight, which is the new buzz in Rega counter weights today. This is a well thought out design and the machining is top class all the way. This is a four piece system, which consists of new end stub,slider,2 counter weights and adjuster for stylus pressure. One counter weight for 3 to 6 grams the other counter weight for 6 to 13 grams, so virtually any modern phono cartridge is usable with the RB 300 arm. It does take a little more finesse to get this counter weight right than with the other two menetioned,but once properly set up, brings the overall sonics of the RB 300 several levels up from the other contenders. Vinyl Engine on the net has covered this counter weight and while I thought their claims were somewhat over embellished, I now have to admit that for the most part their analysis of the Michell Rega Counter Weight was right on. One just has to hear the RB 300 arm with this counter weight. It is a major leaque improvement of the stock Rega Counter Weight and easily surpasses the Expressimo and Clear Audio Rega counter weights. The Michell is far more precise in its overall execution and allows the RB 300 arm to far excell its performance bar. I highly recommend this J.A. Michell Counter Weight for the Rega RB 300 tone arm. A very worthwhile upgrade, that far belies its modest cost.

Next upgrade was the Rega sub platter, to the Deep Groove sub platter with ruby ball bearing. Not a lot has been written about this. However the stock sub platter on the P 3 is slighly off speed on the fast side and the general trick has been to add to electrical tape to the perimeter of the stock sub platter to get spot on speed. However the sub platter does not have much weight to it and is made of some plastic fiber material. Therefore the flywheel effect if any is quite minimal and the start time to speed is about 2 1/2 to 3 revolutions to 33.3 rpm.

The Deep Groove sub platter for the Rega P 3 solves a multitude of those inherent problems with the stock sub platter. The Deep Groove sub platter is precisioned machined from aluminium stock and is ever so slightly larger to avoid speed problems. The ruby ball bearing along with its lubricant allows the platter to reach full rotational speed in one revolution and appears to put less stress on the belt and motor pulley assembly and due to its slightly heavier weight adds the much needed flywheel effect to the P 3. This is a very easy install and can be
handled by anyone with basic turntable skills. The directions are clear concise and step by step and with 20 minutes at most the job is done. Using the VPI strobe disc confirm the one revolution to speed and was rock steady at 33.3 rpm. A great upgrade that is more than offset by the price and brings up the level of the P 3. I do recommend this upgrade as the Rega greatly benefits from the lower noise floor,flywheel effect and the reduced stress on the motor,belt and pulley.

The platter on the Rega P3 and other Regas has been the glass platter with felt mat. Although it was considered a revolution in its day, time and technology has pushed forward and the word today is acrylic platters. the one used here is the Iron Audio pure acrylic platter as replacement for the glass platter. This is a very nicely machined acrylic platter with frosted top and polished clear side. It is well balanced,flat without visible warpage and fits precisely of the Rega and Deep Groove sub platter. It is somewhat thicker than the glass platter and is slightly recessed underneath so that the stock height is retained. Nice side benefit to this is that the sub platter becomes less visible with the recess. The Iron Audio Acrylic Platter makes a tremendous difference in the sonics of the Rega. Sound stage is vastly opened,depth front to back is seamless and well defined and detail one thought that was not there, comes to life. This is one of the most dramatic upgrades with immediate benefits I can think of. Can be used with the stock Rega Felt Mat, or in this case the Herbie turntable mat.

These upgrades are more than cost effective,greatly enchance the overall performance of the venerable P3 to loftier heights and if your really into analog, these are a must have for the Rega Planar 3 or P3.

The Rega P 3 now competes and is on par with my VPI Scout and the overall cost is less.

The J.A. Michell Counter Weight was $125.00

The Deep Groove Sub Platter was $189.00

The Iron Audio Acrylic Platter was $95.00

The Rega P3 was purchased for $500.00

So at a total of $909.00 here is a great analog playback system that is on par with my VPI Scout at $1,500.00.

This is just posted as food for thought if one is considering the upgrade path for a Rega Planar 3 or P 3. Plus these do not have to be done all at once and can be added as time and budget dictates.

So if you have been looking at some of the higher priced tables, but budget dictates else, here is a solution that delivers perfomance one can get easily spolied to and one does not have to make excuses for. One of analogs great turntables with updates that bring it to higher levels of resolution with cost effectiveness a priority.

Doesn't get much better than this.

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VPI,Oracle,Project, you name it,has been through here at one or another.
If you have an old planar 3 then I think the motor upgrade should be your first action. The upgraded motor attaches directly to the plinth, and is not suspended with rubber bands, as with the old planar 3 motor.

Most users report greatly improved speed stability with the new motor. I have the new motor on my planar 3 (I did it when I moved to the US, rather than as an upgrade) and speed stability is excellent since my re-oiling.

I still maintain that the flywheel effect will not change, and could be reduced by going to an acrylic platter, and since the subplatter is of relatively small diameter I doubt if this contributes at all to the flywheel effect.

If the new subplatter improves speed stability it would probably be due to machining tolerance of the bearing shaft and the pulley surface, rather than a flywheel effect.

Google polar moment of inertia ... a good flywheel needs mass at the periphery of a decent size diameter. The acrylic platter will have less mass than the glass platter, and the subplatter has insufficient diameter.

Also watch for slightly off-center LPs. I have a number in my collection, and you can see the tonearm swing gently back and forth if viewed from above.
the motor is mounted directy to plinth with thick adhesive tape. I know that the new motor is different in several ways, less vibration, more steady[?], but what you said about the subplatter:

"If the new subplatter improves speed stability it would probably be due to machining tolerance of the bearing shaft and the pulley surface, rather than a flywheel effect."

really makes sense.

These subplatters are inferiorly machined, no doubt.
thanks for putting that in words, though, because a logical, reasoned reason is comforting. ... up until it fails, then I gotta come up with another one. ;-)

BTW, I have the mdf platter, not glass, so it will turn out that the acrylic platter will be heavier than my current one.

"These subplatters are inferiorly machined, no doubt"

I wouldn't say that. There is a good chance that they are machined at least as well if not better than a stock P3 subplatter. I was just meaning to say that this is the only possible aspect that could improve speed stability.

You can find glass platters on ebay occasionally. If you find one at the right price then that might be worth a punt.

I still think if speed stability is the goal the motor replacement should be top of the list. I would also be extremely careful to level the table, as the bearing can rub if the table is not absolutely level.

I still haven't got around to using 140w oil, but I'll report back when I do.
When you thik about it ... to have to upgrade an already paid for motor is really piss poor. I didn't spend tons of money on this turntable starting out, but the parts you get SHOULD WORK WITHOUT FAULT WITHIN NORMAL OPERATING USAGE. A tweak is to improve not maintain.

An off-speed motor, non-shielded motor, poorly machined subplatter, the flimsiest of felt rags as mat, crappy holds for the dustcover, ground in-line with signal, sheesh. and the way people go on about Rega's. Would it be fair to say "This thing ain't made right?".

I remember buying a turntable in the '70's and at the very least it was sturdy, silent, like my old Sansui which I dumped for the NAD533. Makes me wonder if I did the right thing.
put a new belt on and the speed/wow issues are gone.

i feel silly after all this grousing for the problem to be so trivial.

i suppose it was a dual issue oil + belt. i think i will make this a 6month new oil and yearly new belt maintenance thing.

the subplatter is still in the upgrade path as it has the ruby bearing which would make it a quieter single jewel movement but it's gotta wait untill i finish getting all the parts for and building a Hagerman Bugle Pro.

what tedious fun all this is. :-)