Rega Apollo CD Player

Rega Apollo CD Player

May 3, in Hi-Fi Systems Reviews

Specifications:

  • Laser : Semiconductor Laser
  • Wavelength: 780nm
  • Line Output Maximum Level: 2V-(load impedance minimum10k-ohm)
  • Digital Output Maximum Level: 0.5V (load impedance 75-ohm)
  • Digital Sampling Frequency: 44.1kHz
  • Mains Voltages: 230V (minimum190V maximum 250V) @50/60Hz
  • 115V (minimum 95V maximum 125V) @50/60Hz
  • Power Consumption: 2W
  • Dimensions: 435(mm)Wx100(mm)Hx270(mm)D
  • Required Space for Operation: 435W(mm)x180(mm)Hx315(mm)D Weight: Eight pounds
  • Mains Fuses: 230V @250mA
  • 115V @500mA
  • CDP Remote Batteries: AAA (1.5) x 2
  • Price: $995

Rega Research Ltd was founded in 1973 by Tony Relph and Roy Gandy. Take the first two letters of each of their last names, put them together and you have Re & ga or Rega, the company name. Rega is based in the United Kingdom where it makes high-end audio equipment and was initially recognized for its production of quality turntables. Starting in the 1990’s Rega expanded its line to become a full range audio company. Looking at their website you can see they now make turntables, loudspeakers, amplifiers, tuners, cartridges, tonearms, a phono stage, plus a host of other accessories as well as two cd players. Their first cd player called the Planet went into production in 1996 for $995 and received rave reviews from the audio press. The Apollo, the subject for todays review, is the company’s new entry level player. Their top of the line cd player,the Saturn, retails for $2595. When first introduced Rega initially priced the Apollo at $995. Later the price inched up to $1195 as costs rose, but now has recently been reduced back to the original $995 mark. This price reduction was made by their US Distributor, The Sound Organization, in an effort to make it extremely competitive in today’s high-end audio Cd player market and to reflect the current exchange rate.

Rega Apollo CD Player review

The Apollo can play redbook cd’s, CD-R, MP3’s and even WMA files. Its new remote even has specific keys which are dedicated for MP3 playback. It uses a three-point mounting ball chuck instead of a magnetic puck that is designed to help improve reading of the Cd by keeping it as flat as possible. The company claims this puts less stress on the mechanism for better performance during start up and stopping. Their new servo controller is designed to make sure that the data recovered from the disc is of the highest quality, while the new chip set helps with jog and vibration resistance to maintaining top-notch musical performance. Also of note is that the Apollo uses the highly acclaimed WM8740 Sigma Delta 24bit DAC from its previous partners at Wolfson. Going with a CPU IC that is designed to keep data and address bus noise to a minimum helps to keep the ground and signal connections to the DAC very “clean”. Another reason for the Apollo’s excellent performance might be their use of a newly designed output amplifier that operates in “Class A”. This amplifier is said to improve after an initial fifteen minutes warm up each time the player is first turned on. Prior to 2003 many companies were reliant on companies like Sony and Phillips for supplying them with transports and operating discs for use in their cd players. However in 2003 Sony ceased sales to other companies sending manufacturers to scurry around looking for other sources, many which turned to the far-east for new suppliers. Rega however found a British software company that was in the process of developing a completely new disc operating system. They incorporated this chip set with its 20MB of memory and 32 bit digital signal processing capacity into their Apollo cd player. Here the chip-sets allow for both optimum musical performance and optimized jog or vibration resistance. The intricate operating system of the Apollo adjusts itself to the disc to be played in an effort to produce a higher quality sound. This adjustment period for each disc takes only a few seconds and is well worth the wait. You will know when this process is complete when the red letters saying “initializing” stops displaying on the front of the player.

Rega Apollo CD Player review

Looking at the rear of the Apollo unit I see one digital and one optical output as well as the standard pair of RCA line outputs. The fuse is located in the rear as well as the always welcome IEC connector so that audiophiles worldwide may experiment to their hearts delight with the every increasing number of power cords available to us. Turning now to the front of the player is a power on button as well as controls for playing the cd at hand. Of course these play, pause, track previous and track next buttons can also be accessed with the remote control as well as the power on off button. The remote control also has other functions not found on the player itself. Please read the owners manual for complete details of its functions and warnings about proper use of the Apollo cd player. The remote sensor is located on the far left side of the cd player so be careful not to obstruct it or else the remote control will not function. In the center of the player on the front is a nicely detailed display to help you with your musical experience. If you do not yet know this, the Apollo is a top loaded cd player. To play the cd merely open the lid and place the cd onto the three-point ball chuck, close the lid and your ready. It takes up to twelve seconds for the player to initialize the disc. During this period the Apollo will lock out the remote and keypad functions until track 1 total time is displayed on the front panel. During this initializing period the Apollo is reading to see if the disc is MP3, WMA, CDA OR WAV. Because it is top loaded make sure you have enough room above the player to open and close the cd players lid properly. Also worth mentioning are the feet upon which the player rests. These were large sturdy rubber supports that allowed the Apollo to rest undisturbed on top of my Salamander audio rack and never did I feel the need to buy additional supports to improve upon its stability. I wish more manufacturers would go the extra step in providing quality feet under their products, saving us the extra expense and research to track down the proper after market feet to use with their products.

Rega Apollo CD Player back

I have always liked the group, Heart, and their cd Little Queen (Portrait RK 34799) has some excellent songs on it, such as “Love Alive”. Here the Apollo gives us a great sense of focus as it produces a precise image during the opening of the song. Both guitars can be distinctly heard, one from each speaker, while the singers voice is clearly heard center stage. When the lead and backup singers sing simultaneously the Apollo gives us a nice layering effect. On the title song, “Little Queen” the bass and drums had a fullness to them such as you would expect from a good turntable based system. This is not to say that the tonal balance was overemphasized but rather that it came across as the recording called for it to. Bass was very smooth yet powerful and distinct. Moving onto something I normally do not listen to, but after rehearing it again felt I should, was the cd Best of Ricky Nelson (Curb Records d2-77484). Sadly Ricky Nelson died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1986. Performing with the Stone Canyon Band which featured the drummer Richie Hayward from Little Feat and Randy Meisner at bass who later joined the Eagles. On this cd you can find the hit single “Garden Party”. This song has some very potent lines, such as “You can’t please everyone so you’ve got to please yourself” and “But if memories were all I sang I’d rather drive a truck”. His honesty and insightful lyrics will certainly be missed. By the end of the song I was feeling sad and yet also slightly playful after hearing such lines as “People came from miles around, Yoko brought her Walrus.(meaning John Lennon of “I am the Walrus” fame). Then it hit me, the Apollo was doing a magnificent job of connecting me with the “spirit” of the music. My body could not stop moving with the rhythm as I listened to song after wonderful song. Why I was singing along, smiling and yes even dancing to the music. I felt this way as a direct result of the combination of Ricky Nelson and the Apollo cd player and what a great combination they were. The Apollo sounded vinyl like in a positive manner as it captured the “soul” of the performance. Deciding to have a little more fun with this review I next turned to AC/DC’s cd Back In Black (EPIC EK 80207) and the song “Hells Bells”. For this song I definitely cranked up the volume to get the full effect of the bell heard in the beginning of the song. Even at volumes loud enough to be bothersome, the Apollo never seemed to break up, making me feel like it took no effort at all to do so. There was a realistic truth to the attack transients of the bell as it reverberated in my listening room. As you would expect from a bell it also had a long decay to its sound that overlapped with each new ring, just as it should. Not to be outdone the drummers drumbeat was also quite potent and not to be missed. In this song the Apollo had no problem reproducing the guitar rifts, vocal content, drums and bell with ease. The Apollo also displayed a good sense of pace which added to its ability to make you lose yourself in the music. Without proper pace songs tend to lack that special something that makes it musical and enjoyable. No problem here.

Since the Apollo has a digital out and can be used as a transport only I decided to test the waters and see how it performed in this manner. For this I pulled out my Brooks & Dunn The Greatest Hits Collection II cd (ARISTA 82867-63271-2). I used my Monarchy Audio M33 (factory modified from 20 to 24 bit) preamplifier which also has a wellreviewed DAC incorporated into it. As a transport and when playing the song “South of Santa Fe” I noticed a few improvements. The soundstage opened up a little in width and height as well as giving slightly more decay time to the sound of the violin. From the selection ”That’s What It’s All About” the bass retained its fullness while the upper frequency seemed to reveal more details with the steel guitar and the background vocals. All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this combination of DAC and transport. I must say though that for $995 most people will buy this Cd player to use it as an all in one player and never look back. If however the upgrade bug grabs hold you can feel comfortable knowing that the Apollo will be there to again satisfy your audio needs. I would though be more tempted to move up the Rega audio chain and buy their highly acclaimed Saturn cd player for $2595 before I spent mega dollars on a DAC for the Apollo. However if I had a preamplifier/DAC combo like the Monarchy or even if I could buy a good stand alone DAC cheaply on the used market, I would not hesitate to experiment with trying the Apollo out as a transport only. Please do not think though that the Apollo’s DAC was not up to the task, for in reality, it was excellent for an all-in -one player at this price range and even beyond.

Being that I felt the Apollo had a kind of “analog” sound to it, I just had to compare it to my vinyl rig setup. I know it really is not a fair comparison, after all my Oracle Delphi I turntable with Grace 707 tonearm is about thirty years old but it still sells used for $1000 or more. The Denon 301 II MC cartridge retails for a little over $300 and the Whest PhonoStage.20 + MsU.20 power supply retailed close to $2600 when new. The total combination of used and new would be around $3900 for the vinyl setup and much more if you bought that same turntable new today. Of course the newer Oracle turntable/tonearm setup would probably sound better as well as costing more. When comparing the two setups you have $3900 versus just under $1000. I put on James Taylor’s Greatest Hits vinyl recording (Warner BROTHERS BSK 3113). After playing the song “Steamroller” on the vinyl album I next put on the cd version of the song (Warner Brothers 3113-2). I did multiple listening sessions with the entire album on both vinyl and cd. I found that the vinyl setup drew me into the music a little more as it seemed more three dimensional, adding more realism to the vocals and a little better hang time in the decay of notes. The Rega Apollo though gave more clarity and sharpness to instruments, both of which I really enjoyed. It’s increased clarity allowed background vocals to sound more defined and therefore easier to hear. When I decided to switch back and forth between the two mediums there were times when I had to stop and to think which one I was listening through. The difference was that close which says a lot for the Apollo. When we put into perspective that I am comparing the Apollo to a vinyl system costing almost four times as much you begin to realize just what an accomplishment Rega has made with this cd player.

Summing up the review of the Rega Apollo cd player I would like to say that it produced a very fluid “vinyl” feeling to the sound that I immensely enjoyed. This is not to say that it lost the details of Cd playback but rather that music flowed forth without the sharp cd edge or dryness found on lesser players. This cd player will even give those of us who love our turntables a reason to think hard about purchasing the Apollo and listening to cd’s more often. For me it went a long way towards bridging the gap between vinyl and cd playback. I would think Rega’s strong vinyl background producing turntables, and turntable related accessories, helped contribute to their ability to produce a cd player with the fine qualities of the Apollo. Waiting for the initializing process never proved to be bothersome as after playing a few discs I quickly got used to the short wait. In fact I used the extra time to decide which track I wanted to hear on the cd. My patience rewarded me with a musical experience I can sum up as sounding well beyond its newly reduced price. At $995 I found it to be quite impressive and feel Rega has a winner in the Apollo cd player. Now I wonder what an all Rega system comprising of their turntable, wall mounted turntable bracket, stereo cartridge, tonearm, phono stage, amplifier, tuner, loudspeakers, cables and the Apollo cd player might sound like?

The Listening Environment:

The listening room is 18 foot 8 inches long by 13 feet wide. The room’s cathedral ceiling starts at 8 feet high then slopes upward to 13 feet at its peak in the middle. Flooring is a soft hardwood covering with an oriental rug placed dead center in between (but not under) the listener and the audio system. There are no doors that open or shut into other rooms also there are two large openings one facing the speakers and the other to its side and slightly in front of the right speaker. There are three Acoustic Revive RWL-III Panels, one in the center of the Legacy Speakers and two others one behind each speaker, as an acoustical treatment for my room. As for my audio equipment it is tucked nicely inside of a Cherry Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack.

Review equipment:

  • Monarchy Audio SM-70 PRO mono block amplifiers
  • Monarchy Audio M33 Preamplifier/DAC (factory modified from 20bit to 24 bit) Oracle Delphi Mk I turntable with custom made interconnects
  • Grace 707 tonearm with Denon 301 II MC cartridge Whest PhonoStage.20 + MsU.20 power supply Legacy Focus 20/20 loudspeakers
  • PS Audio UPC-200 Power Center
  • PS Audio Power Port Receptacle
  • Acoustic Revive RTP-2 Series Power Conditioner Blue Circle BC86 MKIII power line pillows (2) Audience Power Cord e (4 cables)
  • Audience Conductor e Interconnects (3) Audience Conductor e speaker cables Anti-Jumper cable for Legacy speakers
  • Cherry Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack

from affordableaudio, By Anthony Nicosia

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