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 Rega has always been famous for the quality and quantity of bass they’ve been able to extract from small woofers and cabinets. Their legendary (and now discontinued) Ela speaker used transmission-line loading for its tiny 3.5-inch woofer, producing a level and quality of bass response in small rooms that had one questioning the existence of the laws of physics. The R7 and R9 continue the Rega tradition of the transmission-line loading principle, building on what they learned from the Ela and further refining and improving it.

Transmission-line loading aims at absorbing the rearward wave of the bass driver by means of a tunnel, line, or port that ultimately vents outside of the cabinet. Unlike the acoustic suspension system which uses rear-wave energy to compress a sealed volume of air which then serves as a spring to the loosely suspended driver, or the now almost universal bass-reflex principle, which radiates sound from the rearward wave out through a tuned port, the transmission line aims to eliminate any perturbations of the woofer’s motion by the rearward wave. Done successfully, the result is tight and clean transient response, with no overhang, sluggishness or weird ‘phasi-ness.’

Rega loads the R7’s sideways-firing 7-inch woofer by transmission line. Unusually, they also load the 5-inch midbass driver by a separate bass-reflex port. This unique arrangement produces a bass clarity, articulation, rhythmic swing and timing sophistication that makes conventional woofer loading schemes seem lead-footed, bloated, and broken.

Inspired by PBS’s broadcast of the Cream Reunion Concert, I ran through the CD and DVD documents of the concert, reveling in Jack Bruce’s virtuoso bass playing and fully understanding his interplay with Ginger Baker’s drumming and Eric Clapton’s energized guitar work (Clapton hasn’t played this well since the demise of Blind Faith.) This naturally led to revisiting all my old Cream recordings. Which then led to listening to rock bands that used double drummers – The Allman Brothers and The Grateful Dead. Then I was off on a Ron Carter kick, listening to a dozen or so or his performances, both as sideman and leader. Next it was West African master drummer recordings; then on to Persian and Indian sitar/santur/tabla performances. These kinds of spontaneous listening orgies are what great audio products should inspire. The Rega R7 produced the most musically satisfying bass performance of any speaker in my memory. (I have not yet heard the Rega R9.)

Extracting this level of bass performance depends ultimately on the partnering amplifier’s bass control, resolution. and rhythmic certainty. Like most contemporary speaker designs, the Rega R7 assumes high damping factor and general solid state bass control. Tube amp owners in particular should make sure their amps have sufficient control and definition. I got excellent results from my antique Marantz 1060 transistor integrated amp, the budget-priced Cambridge Azur 640A, Rotel’s RB 980BX, and the Cyrus 8vs. Needless to say, Rega’s own amplifiers are an obvious first choice. An additional level of resolution in bass clarity is available through use of the Stillpoints Universal Resonance Dampers. Though many listeners resist isolation devices for speakers (unaware, perhaps, that speaker spikes are in fact isolation devices themselves) I find them absolutely essentially to extract all that a system is capable of producing. Similarly one can achieve even greater bass authority, dynamics and control through bi-amping; but since I did not have 2 identical power amps I could not test this.

The Rega R7 is chameleon-like in response to ancillary gear. Its inherent neutrality and transparency makes differences in component quality clear and unambiguous, making component-matching choices easy and obvious. The exceptional stage width of the Cyrus CD8x CD player, for example, was faithfully rendered, as was that CD player’s superb high frequency response. The stereo illusion is laid out with a precision that matches the best of near-field mini-monitor performance, and is limited only by recording quality and the capacities of the partnering gear. The difference between analogue and digital sources is immediately obvious, the differences in performance of my 4 reference turntables easy to hear and to judge. The R7’s inherent neutrality means that moving-coil cartridges with a rising top end will sound unnatural, as will cabling used as a tone control to ‘brighten things up.’ The R7’s are not forgiving of falsely bright ancillaries. I got the best results with cables that were neutral in response, rich in harmonic content, and possessing exceptional timing and rhythmic qualities.

Since I did not have Rega electronics on hand, I used components possessing the nearest equivalent sonic and musical signature - the classic Hegeman Hapi Two preamp and Rotel RB980BX power amp – for much of my listening. Yet even with my highest resolution gear the R7’s were not outclassed. They did not match my Sound Lab Dynastat’s 6-foot tall electrostatic panels in ultimate midrange resolution, but then the laws of physics concerning starting and stopping masses preclude any dynamic moving-coil driver from matching an effectively mass-less membrane. Bass was actually clearer and more transparent to the music with the R7 however.

Like all Rega products, the R7 excels at music. Timing –the essence of music -is superb in all its musical manifestations. The transient envelope of each note is superbly rendered, leading to easy identification of instruments and their physical placement. Timing between notes - and thus tempo, rhythm, and urge - is equally excellent, as is the exact placement in time of contributing notes from ensemble players, leading to clear communication of the flow and structure of the music. Fine detail and accurate tracking of small volume changes allows full communication of the subtleties, nuances, and artistry of the playing, and the speaker’s highly articulate diction leads to clear parsing and punctuation of musical lines and phrases. Add exemplary bass definition, superb lyric comprehension and an ability to create as large and coherent a soundstage as the recording contains and you get an unusually successful loudspeaker. The R7 combines the true-to-the-music philosophy of all Rega products with the resolution and imaging demands of the audiophile world. Now one can be a music lover and an audiophile without compromise. The R7 is exceptional by any standard; factor in its $2495 price and it becomes an absolute bargain. The highest of recommendations.


 


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Specifications:
Height (without spikes)...972mm (38.25 inches)
Depth at plinth...............348mm (13.7 inches)
Width at plinth...............270mm (10.6 inches)
Weight................................17kg
Nominal Impedance........6ohms
Sensitivity...........(Approx) 89dB
Bi-wirable/Bi-ampable..........yes
Power Handling................125w per channel.

Price: $2495 per pair.

Address:
Manufacturer
Rega Research Limited
119 Park Street
Westcliff-on-Sea
ESSEX
ENGLAND
SS0 7PD
Website: http://www.rega.co.uk/index2.htm

US Distributor:
The Sound Organisation
Stephen Daniels
11140 Petal Street
Suite 350
Dallas
Texas 75238
Tel: 001 972 234 0182
Fax: 001 972 234 0249
Website: http://www.soundorg.com
E-Mail: steve@soundorg.com