Rega Research from Great Britain (Essex) now exists 40 years and is mainly known for its record players. We ourselves have the modest Planar 2 to occasionally play some black gold, but Rega makes other devices such as dacs, CD players and integrated amplifiers. Rega does not often launch a new amplifier so the arrival of the Aethos is a special experience. When we said that the Hegel H120 was a heavy machine, we were only kidding, the Rega weighs a solid18 kg! Lets check out if the sound is ‘heavy’ as well.
A while ago we visited the new Brio and it sounded fine. However, the Aethos we are testing today is in a very different price range. In the amplifier line you can find – in order of affordable to exclusive – the Io, Brio, Elex-R, Elicit-R, Aethos and Osiris. The Aethos is the second most expensive amplifier in the lineup and therefore our expectations are high. Very high. Especially because this is a puristic amplifier without all the digital bells and whistles.
Construction and appearance
The Rega Aethos is a beautiful device with a recognizable design. Sleek with wavy lines and a tight front, just the way we like it. The combination of the black with the red lights always works well of course (look at The Griffon). This unit has charisma and allure. The Aethos builds on the Elicit-R and Elex-R and you notice that. Still, there are a lot of important adjustments under the hood, but more about that later.
At the front left the power button is so discreet that we had to dive into the manual to find it. In the mid-panel we see a record, mute and input button with next to it the beautiful 6.3mm headphone output. The different inputs are in the middle and the active input is indicated by a small red light. During the day, this small light is just visible from the listening position, but it is very small.
On the right we see the atypical Alps RK27 volume knob that fits perfectly but unfortunately doesn’t work very comfortable. Via the remote control the volume rises in big leaps, making it often a bit difficult to do a precise adjustment. After a while we get used to it but it is far from ideal. In this test model the volume control even faltered regularly but this should have been solved by now. Turning the knob manually on the other hand is really nice.
The remote control is the same as the one of the Osiris, a rather ordinary box with a lot of keys. A more stylish version would have been more appropriate. At the back we see a long row of single-ended connections: Five inputs, record in and out, record link out, direct in and a pre-out connection. Next to that two pairs of nice speaker connections and the connection for the powercord. No XLR unfortunately and so we asked Rega why.
Due to the nature of the Aethos design, which uses all discrete circuitry throughout, we’d have to use an all discrete balanced input stage or a transformer for the balanced input. This would have considerable cost implications, especially if the transformer solution were to be used. Hitting the price point for the Aethos was tough enough and including a balanced input would have been detrimental to the over pricing strategy. Lack of space on the back panel for two balanced XLR sockets was also a problem.
Head designer Terry Bateman and his team therefore mainly looked at the Elicit-R and Elex-R for the implementation of the reinforcement, but a number of elements from the Osiris also crept in. What makes the Aethos different from its stablemates?
First of all, the entire amplification in dual mono, and the power supply by four Sanken transistors is impressive. The power is impressive with 125 watts class A / B in 8 ohms. Because of the gigantic power supply, this amplifier plays with ease and has enough headroom. Despite adjustments to limit the heat a bit, this Aethos is still quite warm and needs to get enough space. A family trait apparently.
In addition, despite the somewhat clumsy volume control, Rega tried to get both channels stable so that the stereo image comes out of the speakers proportionally. It has become a complicated application but the bottom line is that Rega combines passive and active feedback control. A last big change is the preamp, which is now built according to a completely discrete circuit in class A.