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Cambridge Audio CXA 60, integrated amplifier
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Matrix Audio Quattro II
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2014 Midwest Audiofest Tent Sale & Vintage Audio Swap
Rega RX3 Loudspeakers Reviewed By Jason Kennedy
Some consider weight gain to be a bad thing but when it applies to loudspeaker cabinets there are some clear advantages. This is what happened to the Rega speaker range last year, the company changed tack away from thin and thus relatively lively speaker enclosures and started using 18mm MDF which is pretty much the standard choice of speaker builders throughout the audio world. Some said this was because perceived value was undermined by the relatively low mass of earlier models and others, closer to the Rega camp, that the thicker material makes for a more substantial sounding speaker. One obvious effect is a significant hike in price over the previous range, presumably because cabinets have been getting more expensive with the reduction in number of suppliers on the market, and the aforementioned beefing up of the box. Rega is probably the largest speaker maker to use British built cabinets throughout its range.
The RX range replaced RS models with a stylish new look and some significant changes in drive unit technology. The RX models are the first to employ doped rather than plain paper cones and the only driver difference between RX3 and RS3 is the new DX125 mid/bass unit. But as the midrange is the most important part of the spectrum this is quite significant, it’s the same five inch diameter as its predecessor but now has a metal phase plug where previously there was none. Like the ZRR soft dome tweeter and RR125.8 bass driver it was designed in-house and manufactured by a drive unit specialist.
The bass units are side firing which is normally done to accommodate their wider chassis but in this case they are very close to the size of the mid/bass so it could have gone on the front. The reason for the side mount is it gives you more flexibility in placement, essentially if the sound is boomy face the bass units inwards, if it continues pull the speakers further from the wall. It’s a useful option given that rooms make so much difference to the bass response.
Sensitivity remains a relatively easy 89dB albeit with a nominal six Ohm impedance, most manufacturers quote for an eight Ohm load which results in a lower sensitivity figure. But ease of drive is very good, I was able to play them at a highly entertaining level with the 72 Watts of an Elex-R integrated amp.
The RX3 is not a big speaker by many standards, it’s certainly smaller than the PMC fact.8 I usually use yet the Rega proves quite quickly that size doesn’t matter if it’s musical thrillpower that you are looking for. Most of the Rega products I’ve heard have the ability to get to the nub of the music, to let you hear what it was that the musician(s) was trying to communicate when he or she was in the studio or on stage. The advantage of going up the Rega range is that you get more realism as a result of greater resolution of fine details. But the ability to engage with the music is based on timing and that is a constant across the board with this brand, a state of affairs illustrated with considerable clarity in the RX3. Put it with good source and an appropriately priced amplifier like the Rega Elex-R and you have a system that won’t let you sit down if you put on music with energy. And that can be any music; ZZ Top, Beethoven, Chemical Brothers or Dinu Lipatti playing Bach. If you want to hear the life, the intensity, the emotion behind the song or composition, it’s there for the taking.
The RX3 is not like earlier Rega speakers as far as I recall, its presentation is precise, clean and very low on time smear but it’s not a bright, edge of your seat sound. Back in the day people would make speakers sound fast by giving them a lean balance that was very exciting but showed up every hint of grain in the recording and electronics. The new Rega has excellent bass extension for its size, I used them with the bass drivers firing out towards the walls less than a metre away either side, and this will have reinforced the low end output. But not to the point where they sound fat or lazy. The RX3 is a front ported speaker but you don’t hear the port, which is not always the case, instead you hear strong, textured bass lines that are completely in tune with the rest of the range. Being a transmission line speaker user by choice I have become very sensitive to the veiling warmth that ports can add to the low end but I didn’t encounter that here. Double bass sounds meaty while low woodwind is downright gorgeous when played with skill.
What’s the trade-off with this speaker? Well you don’t get everything in many speakers and the price you pay for the RX3’s phenomenal coherence is a shortfall in refinement, that means highs are not as sweet as the best in class and imaging is not quite as 3D as it could be. I suspect that it is better in these respects than its predecessors however. Its inclinations are to get you involved with the music rather than impress with audiophile qualities, it was ever thus with the brand and long shall it last. Do you want a system that lets you hear pins drop or one that makes you want to play music till the cows come home. I find myself firmly in the latter camp and have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of power handling you get out of such a compact design. If you like playing music at approaching realistic levels and have an amp that is up to the job the Rega RX3 is ready for the challenge.
What really marks it out from the crowd is the ability to put the music first, this is true regardless of recording quality or type. It will show you what the musician was trying to do whether the recording is high resolution file or a worn slab of vinyl, I even played some transfers of 78s on CD, which sound far better than you’d expect once they’re on a system that’s focussing on the music not the sound. It really makes you wonder why more manufacturers can’t do the same thing; what it is that the guys at Rega have figured out that so few others have. It is that the purpose of hi-fi systems is to let you appreciate music, which seems simple but yet is still a rare quality. The fact that it can be had for this price makes me wonder why not everyone has a pair of Regas in the living room, but that’s another story.
Type: 3-way, four-driver, floorstanding speaker with reflex loaded enclosure.
Drivers: One 20mm soft dome tweeter; one 125mm doped paper midrange driver; one 125mm side firing bass driver.
Impedance: Nominal 6 Ohms
Dimensions (HxWxD): 800 x 160 x 258mm
Finishes: Black ash, cherry, walnut (real wood veneers).
Trim: magnetic grille
Tel: 01702 333071
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