This week we tested the Rega Brio-R stereo amplifier. This model doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, yet stands a head above many of its competitors on the market ? including more recent and more technologically sophisticated electronics.
Created in 1973, the British brand Rega has been known since its early days for the uncommon design of its turntables and the high performance of its phono cartridges. In 1990, the company released its first integrated stereo amplifiers, with the Rega Brio appearing on the market in 1991. As you?ve probably guessed, the main asset of these amplifiers is benefitting from Rega?s excellent mastery of warm, analog sound ? the trademark of vinyl.
The Rega Brio-R: presentation
The Rega Brio-R integrated stereo amplifier has a maximum power output of 2×50 W into 8 Ohms and 2×73 W into 4 Ohms, both of these values covering the full sound spectrum (from lows to highs). This is a purely analog model and is not fitted with digital inputs. It features a toroidal transformer power supply, an analog preamp and Sanken output stages theoretically capable of delivering up to 150 W. In order to provide optimal musicality, Rega only uses these transistors within the power range where they can perform flawlessly. Lastly, the amplifier uses a class A output stage.
The Rega Brio-R is fitted with five RCA line inputs which can be used to connect a CD player (the Rega Apollo-R, for example), a DAC (Rega DAC-R), a network player, or any other device with a line out output. The first input is destined for a phono preamp compatible with MM cartridges. On this note, the Rega Brio-R features a line out (fixed level), useful for connecting a headphone amplifier such as the Rega Ear or any other model. The amplifier?s terminals are compatible with banana plugs. An infrared remote control is supplied, making it possible to select a source, adjust the volume, turn off the sound, and even control the Rega Apollo-R CD player.
The Rega Brio-R: test conditions
We listened to the Rega Brio-R paired up with a Micromega MyDAC and a Raspberry Pi2 running Rune Audio, the Linux audiophile OS. We chose FLAC files (16/44 to 24/192) and used an Audioquest Carbon USB cable as well as Viard Audio Silver HD12 speaker cables. We used various speakers, including the Focal Aria 905, Focal Aria 926, Q Acoustics 3050 and Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX Édition Limitée.
The Rega Brio-R: listening impressions
This compact amplifier packs a punch. Sophisticated and agile, dynamic yet subtle, the Rega Brio-R has its own distinctive sound ? round lows, rich mids and ethereal highs. The soundstage is expansive enough to fill our listening room and the different instruments are judiciously distributed within the sound field. The result is a generously detailed and balanced listening experience.
As is the case for many class A amplifiers, it is necessary to wait for the components to warm up in order to reach an optimum level of performance. The listening experience is pleasantly soft and warm, yet consistently dynamic.
The Rega Brio-R generates a good amount of heat, which is normal, and it emits an infrasonic frequency when powering off. The membranes of our Focal Aria 905?s drivers oscillated energetically, but never too much.
We recommend combining it with digital sources (DAC, network media players, portable audio players) equipped with a DAC ESS Sabre 90xx, Texas Instruments PCM1792A or Wolfson WM8742, in order to provide enough power to fully take advantage of the amplifier?s melodic qualities (Pioneer N-50A, Arcam irDAC II, Pioneer U-05, Rega DAC-R or Cayin DAC 11, for example). For the speakers, any compact model will be a good match for the Rega Brio-R, and most notably Jean-Marie Reynaud speakers, designed according to the same philosophy as the Rega. Floor-standing speakers can also be used, as long as their sensitivity is above 89 dB/W/m and they don’t have more than two 8? bass drivers. More demanding speakers ? once the volume is turned up ? could demand too much power from the Rega.
Rega Brio-R: conclusions
In our opinion, the Rega Brio-R seems perfect for those looking to discover hi-fi as it was enjoyed 20 or 30 years ago, without the drawbacks of vintage, muddy sound. The Brio-R has power and punch while preserving the little details which make music pleasurable. Its 2×50 W of power seem like a lot more.