Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Articles

Rega io Integrated Amplifier: The Audiophile System Builder

The $649 Rega io Integrated Amplifier doesn’t scream from the rafters but it’s possibly the best affordable integrated amplifier right now.

Rega io Integrated Amplifier

While I was doing the research a vintage audio feature on the Aragon 4004 MKII power amplifier, I came across an article from 1990 that changed my life when I read it on the newsstand during my college years inside the Beltway. 1990 was a big year for me; both in terms of moving from Canada to America but also the beginning of 31 years of audiophile hell. Products like the Rega io Integrated Amplifier are my way home.

I’m so impressed with the minimalist Rega amplifier that it earned a spot on our “Best Budget Integrated Amplifier” list during our recent podcast with “Tarun: A British Audiophile.”

The Rega io makes zero promises that it can’t keep.

We’re slightly discouraged that the price just jumped almost $75 in January to $725 USD due to supply chain issues and increased shipping costs but Rega finds itself in a tight spot right now like many other brands.

On the plus side, it borrows its amplifier and phono section from Rega’s excellent Brio amplifier which makes it quite appealing.

2 line level inputs and 1 phono input might not seem like a lot in 2022 but I’m going to suggest that it is the more than enough for a turntable, streamer, and CD player.

If you need additional inputs, the more expensive Brio will be your cup of tea. The Brio also just jumped $100 in price for similar reasons to $1,100 USD.

The front panel even includes a 3.5mm headphone jack which worked just fine with a pair of Meze Audio 99 Classics, and Audeze LCD-1 headphones. It’s not the most powerful headphone amplifier I’ve ever heard but I’ll take sonics with high sensitivity cans over its ability to drive large planar magnetic headphones.

Rega io Integrated Amplifier Front

The Rega io takes up very little space and weighs less than 7 pounds in your hand; the reality is that it’s built very well and will outlast any cheap receiver you’re likely to purchase online.

The class A/B circuit shares its DNA with the rest of Rega’s amplifiers, and as usual, great care has been taken in component selections Sanken output transistors and an Alps volume potentiometer and a linear power supply that enables an output of 30 watts per channel into 8 ohms.

30 watts.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of power but like all things Rega and Naim — the io can work surprisingly well with a lot of bookshelf speakers and I think most people will be so impressed with its smooth presentation and sense of drive — that they won’t care that it only delivers 30 watts/channel.

New York Magazine 1990-02-19 Cover
New York Magazine, February 19, 1990 (PDF article)

Violent Femmes

I grew up listening to the iconic indie band from Milwaukee in the 1980s before I ever opened that fateful copy of the New York Magazine and went down the path to the dark side forever. Not an audiophile recording to say the least but the energy drove me from my bed and I don’t think I ever enraged my parents with another album more.

Cranking my Yamaha/Celestion combination well past sane listening levels that had my younger siblings running for cover on the 2nd and 3rd floors of our home was a moment of great triumph.

The Rega io makes me want to do that with really efficient loudspeakers because it has so much drive and midrange punch, but that would put this system out reach for many.

To keep this system within reach, I would suggest the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2, Wharfedale EVO 4.1, or Triangle Borea RB03 bookshelf loudspeakers.

Sources of Angst

I’m tempted to suggest the new ProJect Debut PRO turntable but that’s probably too expensive for most considering the Rega io; the more affordable Debut EVO fits the bill here nicely.

A Rega Planar 2 turntable would also work very well with its sibling and its Carbon MM cartridge matches up well with the internal phono section.

The brand new Bluesound NODE is on my desk right now and I’m very tempted to suggest it if you can swing the $549 asking price. It offers support for every major streaming service and offers support for hi-res audio and MQA.

If you’re looking for something more affordable, the Andover Songbird streamer is a good place to start but it does not support hi-res audio and is best used from its analog outputs.

The io of My Eye?

Rega io Integrated Amplifier Rear

What I like the most about the Rega io is that it doesn’t try to be something that it isn’t. It doesn’t offer an internal DAC or network player and the 30 watt power rating doesn’t make it compatible with too many speakers over $1,000 from a practical perspective.

It is supremely confident in its ability to make music erupt from whichever speakers your pair with it and with a high level of sound quality at the same time. It doesn’t deliver detail as well as some other more expensive integrated amplifiers in the $1,000 – $1,500 category and it doesn’t deliver bass response with the kind of grip that you might expect from more expensive amplification — but it’s also never going to suck with any kind of music that you feed it.

I’m sure Rega will use that quote in its marketing.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

It reminds me a lot of the excellent Cambridge Audio AXA35 but with more bounce in its step.

I recognize that $2,000 for a system based around the Rega io might seem like a lot of money, but I’d argue that making it the heart of a system right now gives you a fighting chance to avoid going down the path of no return. And you’ll thank me for it in the years to come.

Just think about all the money you will have left for music.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Mike Cornell

    February 23, 2022 at 9:33 pm

    Ian…I’m constantly amazed how powerful my NAD 3020e sounds..20-25 wpc; even with fairly inefficient speakers, so if the io is anything like it, it should be more than enough for a good number of speakers.
    It’s the quality of those watts, not the quantity!

    • Ian White

      February 23, 2022 at 11:37 pm

      Mike,

      Best amp I ever owned delivered 7.8 watts. Not even close.

      Ian

  2. Mike Little

    April 19, 2022 at 6:03 am

    Ian,
    Have you ever seen a 4 ohm spec published?
    I like the amp but have Sonus faber Lumina I’s and they are only like 84 dB efficient and now use a Prooject S2 BT which is about 20W at 8ohms and 32? at 4 ohm.

    Curious if you have any suggestions.

    • Ian White

      April 19, 2022 at 4:02 pm

      Mike,

      I’ve had both at home but not at the same time. The Lumina I needs 30-40 watts at a minimum to really come alive.

      The Rega io could drive it but I suspect the bass would be slightly soft. I will see what I can find out.

      Ian

  3. Albert

    June 3, 2022 at 3:05 am

    Ian,

    Will the Rega drive the Dali Oberon 1’s? And thanks for your reviews, I learn a lot.

    Albert

    • Ian White

      June 3, 2022 at 11:43 am

      Albert,

      The impedance is fine but at 86dB, it might not be enough power. How large is your room and typical listening levels?

      Best,
      Ian White

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Advertisement

You May Also Like

New Products

The $1,200 Pro-Ject Debut PRO S Turntable offers a more hands-on approach to playback and cartridge swapping.

HDTV 4K & 8K TV

Amazon is taking over our entertainment, our homes, and our lives. If you are an Amazon fan, then their new product offerings may be...

CD Players

Does it make sense to spend $3,000 on a CD player in 2022? The Cyrus Audio CDi-XR does its best to make the case...

In-Wall Speakers

The M&K Sound IW150A in-wall/ceiling speaker provides installation flexibility for use with Dolby Atmos or standard surround sound configurations.

Floorstanding Speakers

The iconic JBL Classic Series loudspeakers arrive in limited-edition gloss black along with performance improvements on select models.

In-Wall Speakers

The Sonus faber ARENA CI Loudspeaker lineup has arrived in time for CEDIA 2022 and these are in-walls with a hefty price tag.

In-Wall Speakers

The Focal 100-T Series in-ceiling and outdoor loudspeakers, which are designed for commercial spaces are very affordable.

A/V Receivers & Preamp/Processors

The Marantz AV 10 Preamp/Processor and AMP 10 Power Amplifier are capable of delivering 15.4 channels of surround sound.

Advertisement

ecoustics is a hi-fi and music magazine offering product reviews, podcasts, news and advice for aspiring audiophiles, home theater enthusiasts and headphone hipsters. Read more

Copyright © 1999-2022 ecoustics | Disclaimer: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.