February 5, 2010

10 Qs For Phil Freeman, CEO Rega Research.

Phil Freeman has been working at Rega Research for the last 31 years and regards Roy Gandy as his vinyl guru. He says Rega products are guided by engineering principals and solutions first, rather than designed by ear. But of course they do listen to their products and will only put them on sale once they're satisfied with the sound quality.

Asia Sound Equipment, the local distributor for Rega products have recently feted us audio writers and faithful Rega users to a sumptuous "Lou Sang" dinner, to mark the start of the "roaring" Chinese New Year of the Tiger to come.

Amongst the special guess present were Phil Freeman and his lovely companion, Lin, and Kim, Rega's South East Asian Representative. As usual, I took the opportunity to ask Phil, 10 questions about Rega Research, the company and it's products.
One for the memories, from left, Phil, Lin, Kim(does he look familiar???, those in the hifi hobby long enough will know Kim as one of the 3Ks at Trikay Hifi) and Sujesh of The Star, AudioFile Editor.

1) Big E: Welcome to Malaysia, I read(from Lam Seng Fatt's Hi-Fi Avenue) that Rega is working on an ultimate turn table? Do tell us a little more about it please?

Phil: Yes, we are working on such a project, and already have a working proto type on test now. It uses carbon fibre material for plinth, a re-shaped ceramic platter from the P-9 turntable and it will have external power supply. It sounds very good, but we(Phil and Roy Gandy) are not satisfied with it just yet as there's still more work to be done to it. I can't tell you how much more time we'll need to launch the new turn table, but I can certainly tell you that it's gonna be very, very expensive!

2) Big E: The Rega P-9 is one of my reference turntables, sound wise, how much better will the new ultimate turn table sound, using the P-9 as a yard stick?

Phil: If you've heard our present Rega P-3 vs P-9 for comparison, I'll tell you that going from P-9 to the "uber" turn table is like going from our P-3 to P-9 turn tables, sound quality wise. Does that answer you question?

3) Big E: Yes very much so. The flag ship Rega P-9 has been in the market for a very long time now. I noticed the recent examples look some what different yet, remained very much the same as before. Has there been a face lift, or improvement to the P-9 of late?

Phil: The P-9 has been in the market since 1996, I think, so it's been around for a long time now. We did made a few small, but worth while improvements to the P-9 some time ago. There's a slightly re-profiled ceramic platter, a new plinth with a different material used and the re-designed power supply unit.

4) Big E: Can owners of early Rega P-9 examples implement those upgrades on to their existing turn table?

Phil: I certainly do not think so, especially the part about the new plinth.

5) Big E: Some vinyl enthusiast have commented that Rega turn tables are too simplistic, what do you have to say to these people?

Phil: I see two distinct market for the stereo products. First are the consumers who can't stop playing around or tweaking their hardware. The second group are the people who just buy hifi, to listen to lots of music. I think we cater more to the second group of people.

6) Big E: Can we hear your thoughts about Rega turntables lacking VTA adjustments and a platter that seemingly runs a little faster?

Phil: VTA?(Phil knocks his head in disbelief) The affects of VTA adjustments are so fine, like 0.1% of a height differences between cartridges or LP thickness. I wouldn't bother with it, unless one has a very uniquely tall cartridge, and with that we offer spacers to fix the tone arm mounting height. The elimination of the VTA adjust ability is what gives Rega tone arms it's strength, and strong tracking abilities. On our newer three point tone arm mounting system, you can pull the tone arm with one hand and it will carry along the weight of the whole turn table without breaking. That's how strong it is. As for a platter that runs a little faster, I can only tell you that all our platter speeds are checked within the tolerance of 1%, and that's for the P-1. The higher up the range, the tighter the tolerances. If there's a choice, I'd rather have a turn table that runs a little faster, than slower. I feel the faster running turn table tends to sharpened notes a bit, which gives the music a little more oomph! A slower turning platter will sound dull by comparison.

6) Big E: Rega also makes award winning CD players, what's your take on the future of CD players?

Phil: I think the future of digital music is in Hi-Rez down loads. However, the future of the CD player depends very much on the big, big corporations that makes the hardware, like the transport mechanism, the DAC and the algorithm CPU. Once these big corporations stops supporting the CD player with parts supply, in which some of them have already started in recent years, like Philips for example, whom have totally stop making transport mechanism and DACs for CD players. The life line of the CD players is really in the hands of these big corporations. Most other CD player manufacturers that I am aware of just buy loads of NOS(New Old Stock) parts from these corporations and hope they can build enough CD players to sell in the market for a few more years to come.

7) Big E: What parts does Rega uses to make it's CD players, like for example what is the transport mechanism used?

Phil: We use a Sanyo sourced VCD transport mechanism. We've bought enough stock to last us an estimated of 3 years production at least. All other critical parts, like the DAC and algorithm CPU are in house designed and manufactured in the UK. We are due to launch a stand alone DAC unit and a valve based ISIS CD player as our new flag ship CD player soon. You can audition the valve based ISIS at Asia Sound Equipment soon as they have ordered a unit.

8) Big E: Do you think Hi-Rez down loads sound good enough for the high end stereo re-production?

Phil: I do find Hi-Rez down loads to sometimes sound better than CD actually, but they absolutely do not come any where near the sound of analog vinyl reproduction, played thru a well set up turn table!

9) Big E: Do you have an all singing and dancing Rega stereo system at home? Do you benchmark products from other manufacturers?

Phil: Yes, absolutely, I now have an all Rega at home for my musical enjoyment. Many, many years ago, I did have some Naim equipment too. I generally do not benchmark products from other manufacturers, unless a design is pretty special or some one whose ears we trust tells us to do so.

10) Big E: How is the vinyl resurgence holding up? And what's the best selling Rega turn table?

Phil: The vinyl resurgence is very real for us at Rega indeed, which I've just been told by our factory that we had shipped out 1,200 turn tables in January 2010, which is an all time record of some sort. The best selling turn table is the P-1 of course, with the P-3 following very closely behind. The P-3 always and will continue to have a special position in the Rega range. You'll be surprised that we shipped out 40 units of P-9 too, which is truly amazing!
Lam Seng Fatt of Hi-Fi Avenue giving full attention to Phil's technical briefing.

With that last question, it was way past dinner time, not to mention that we finished our desert serving too. Phil and Lin needed to return to their hotel for an early night's rest. My special thanks to Eddie Tan of Asia Sound Equipment for the invitation to the event.

1 comment:

逛街 said...