I recently had the opportunity to work on an iconic Rega Planar 3 belt-drive deck. It reminded me of all that I like about these classic decks, and a couple of things I really don’t…
The Rega Planar 3 has deservedly won a place in the hearts and minds of many vinyl lovers over the years. You don’t get to have your own Wikipedia entry unless you’ve done at least a couple of things right and Rega did, they really did. They took the wobbly old ‘pipe and slippers’ belt drive decks the Brits were known for and created something different and new, almost a hybrid of the solid-chassis direct-drive approach and the wobbly chassis belt-drive way of doing things.
Sure, the motor is very basic, low-tech and not particularly quiet. These days Rega will sell you add-on regenerative power supplies that turn the motor more smoothly and offer lower noise and vibration. But these old motors last and often you need only replace a couple of drive capacitors to bring them right back into spec.
The main bearing is again basic, thoughit does the job and is cheap to replace. The sub-platter and spindle element are a cast plastic and stainless steel combination and work pretty well together. The HDF wood chassis is elegant and understated and the platter is a lovely glass piece on the older decks, as opposed to an absolutely awful wooden platter on some other rega decks – I mean a wooden platter – seriously?!
The best part in my opinion, especially on more recent decks, is the Rega RB300 tonearm. I really like the RB300 arm, for a number of reasons. It is cast as a one-piece assembly, and this appeals to the latent engineer in me. There is less to vibrate and no joints to deteriorate, nor any headshell to worry about – you can’t change it and that’s that! The ABEC arm bearings in later models are excellent and easily replaced.
But the Rega tonearm is also the weakest link. The internal wiring is best described as ordinary, but actually, I hate it. The lead-out wiring of the older Rega arms is diabolically bad and almost impossible to repair if it breaks at the poxy din connector at the base of the arm. If that breaks, an arm re-wire is by far the best option, or just purchase a new Rega arm, or one of the many OEM Rega arms available on eBay.
Anyway, the images below detail the service and tune-up of a really nice older Rega Planar 3. After some discussion, my customer decided he wanted me to service the deck and install a new Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge, which I recommended as working very well on the RB300 arm. I have found this to be a great match after having fitted quite a few and listening to the results. It is also technically a very good match in terms of tonearm-cartridge resonance.
As part of the service, I installed a new premium Rega white drive belt and serviced both the motor and the main bearing, which was completely dry and devoid of any oil whatsoever! This was strange but easily fixed and I used a small amount of synthetic bearing oil to restore bearing performance. With a new drive belt, cartridge and thorough service, this old Rega Planar 3 sounded better than she would have when new. Her owner was very pleased with the result!