Our search for affordable audio gems brings us this time to the British brand Rega. Strangely enough, we at Alpha Audio never tested a product from Rega Research and that had to change. We receive the amplifier via importer Joenit of whom we recently had the fantastic Totem Signature One visiting. At fairs Totem loudspeakers are invariably tested with Rega amplifiers and that combination works very well. The Rega Brio is the latest version of this, now illustrious, budget amplifier.
At Alpha, we normally always try to test brand new products and of course this method of working is the most relevant. But although the Brio has been out for over a year, it was still at the top of our wish list. Because when we talk about affordable gems we can’t ignore the Brio. Over the years it has become a classic in its price range. What’s more, Rega does not tinker with an existing amplifier every year, let alone release a new model. The first Rega Brio dates back to 1998!
The latest Brio was designed by chief engineer Terry Bateman, who also took care of the very first version. The construction of the Brio is apparently based on an old design from the 70s. We find that in itself particularly intriguing. Where a lot of manufacturers are looking for the most advanced techniques, we can appreciate a return to the roots. But then, of course, everything has to be right.
Construction and appearance
The latest version of the Brio is a fully analogue class A/B integrated amplifier without bells and whistles. He delivers a modest 50 watts in 8 ohms. It is an elongated amplifier that is half as wide as a standard unit. Because of this you can put it anywhere but it might not be as handy in the hifirack. Also keep in mind that he’s a little deeper than average. With us he just fits on the furniture.
The front looks pretty tight with the volume knob on the right. It’s a separate model with a hollow disc. We think it’s got something. In the middle, the inputs are indicated by numbers from 1 to 5. The active input lights up red just like the Rega logo. On the left we see a full headphone output and the on/off button. Not too much fuss.
At the back we find five rca inputs, the first of which is a phono input. The sixth connection is a record output. Who else uses them?
Because the speaker connection is very close together, we think it is best to use banana plugs or bare wire. Spades are going to be hard to estimate. The continuous ends of the chassis also ensure that it is not always easy to connect. Our Supra Sword cable, for example, didn’t go in so smoothly.
As on the NAD 316 BEE, digital inputs cannot be found. Not at all with all those beautiful loose dacs that have come on the market in recent years. Still, it may be a reason to ignore this amplifier. We think that would be a grave mistake.
The box contains a simple, but handy remote control with all the necessary functions. Adjusting the volume is done with relatively large jumps making it sometimes difficult to get the sound just right. But all in all, it’s not that bad. Furthermore, the box is well put together but sober in appearance. All in all this Brio weighs just over 5 kg.
Although at first glance there may not be much more to tell about this amplifier, the few extras it possesses are definitely worthwhile. We already said there’s a headphone output on the Brio and that’s the first time. We think this is a good move by Rega because a lot of audio lovers have a nice headphone for the late hours.
A second, logical addition is the phono input (moving magnet). Rega has a reputation to maintain when it comes to turntables and phono amplifiers and this input will have received enough attention. If you don’t have a record player yet, you should definitely check out the new Rega Brio Planar series.