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Rega Saturn MK3 CD Player/DAC: Back to the Future

The Rega Saturn MK3 CD Player/DAC is one of the more interesting CD players we’ve seen recently and it might be the digital hub you need.

Rega Saturn MK3 CD Player DAC

I must confess to having a soft spot for Rega CD players. The original Rega Planet was one of the first audio components that I ever reviewed more than 20 years ago and it still lives and breathes in a system owned by my brother. Rega was late to the digital party on purpose; did you really think the people who invented the best-selling high-end tonearm in history would release just any CD player? The Planet eschewed the traditional tray or sled for a flip-up cover and recessed CD well and it proved to be incredibly reliable goddamnit.

It also sounded very different from the rest of the CD players available which was why I kept it around for so long. The “heatsink” industrial design was definitely weird but nothing else in the world that has come post-Planet has been as distinctive.

So why all of this newfound interest in CD players when the market has moved to digital streaming?

If you don’t think people care about CD playback in 2022, you would be very wrong.

Our “Best CD Players” Buying Guide ranks near the top of the list in terms of traffic and many consumers still own hundreds, if not thousands of CDs.

The pandemic caused a seismic shift in consumer behavior and if you think the millennial generation doesn’t care about ownership — you would be very wrong. We’ve covered this topic a few times on the podcast and what’s very clear to us is that consumers care about physical media still; Americans purchased more than 40 million new records in 2021. The most in almost 3 decades.

Rega Research Apollo CD Player
Rega Apollo CD Player – $1,325 at Amazon

I’ve spent a lot of time with the Rega Apollo CD Player and think it’s one of the best currently available. Before supply chain issues, you could find the Apollo for under $1,000 and based on my experience with other Rega CD players — it would probably be the last CD player you would ever need to own.

At some point, Rega got wise to the fact that audiophiles were buying DACs in big numbers but that they were not all that interested in jumping on the MQA or DSD bandwagon.

The logical path forward was to add digital inputs on all of their CD players so their customer base (or prospective customers) could run their laptop or network streamer into the CD player and use it as a digital hub.

Rega hasn’t even hinted that they are going to introduce one of their own streamers and I don’t think one is going to appear suddenly with their existing CD player lineup getting refreshed. Their focus right now is on their new entry-level components designed to capitalize on the next generation of audiophiles who are buying vinyl in record numbers.

Rega Saturn MK3 CD Player DAC Front
Rega Saturn MK3 CD Player DAC Back
Rega Saturn MK3 CD Player DAC

So what about the Saturn MK3? Why should you care about this $2,000+ USD (N. American pricing has not been confirmed but it will be in this ballpark) CD player/DAC?

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The Rega Saturn MK3 doesn’t reinvent the wheel and I applaud Rega for not trying to fix what isn’t broken.

Naim has dropped most of its CD players and focused very heavily on its Uniti Series Network Players; one of its most successful launches in the brand’s history.

I mention Naim for a 2 reasons; the Naim CD3 I once owned was very reliable and its pull-out sled with the magnetic puck was also a novel concept that didn’t follow the industry trends. Rega and Naim did it their way and it worked.

The Rega Saturn MK3 uses a high stability master clock and high capacity power supply in the CD circuitry, high performance PLL digital interface receiver, isolated digital inputs and high performance power supply architecture in the DAC circuitry.

Signal switching between the CD and DAC functions are performed in the digital to analogue converter stage. The signal path of the CD section in CD mode is kept to a minimum.

The DAC USB input has been improved with asynchronous operation at sample rates of 44.1 to 192 kHz with a bit rate of up to 24 bits. The USB input has the same galvanic isolation as used in the Rega DAC-R. The USB uses dedicated drivers in the computer, enabling full ASIO operation, thus eliminating signal degradation caused by generic windows based drivers.

Rega Saturn MK3 CD Player DAC Back Angle

The Saturn MK3 has 5 digital inputs (USB, 2 Optical, 2 Coaxial S/PDIF) and 3 digital outputs (S/PDIF and Optical). Both the CD player and DAC have their own independent digital outputs.

The dimensions are 432 x 170 (H) x 350 mm — the “170mm” dimension probably seems odd but it’s the actual height of the flip-up CD cover when fully extended; something you need to remember if placing the Rega Saturn MK3 on a shelf.

Rega has been introducing new models for the past 8 weeks and it’s clear that a new Rega Elicit MKV Integrated Amplifier is forthcoming in Q1 2021.

We’re getting this for review so stay tuned.

For more information: Rega CD Players

Related reading: Best CD Players

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Steven O'Farrell

    January 16, 2022 at 6:10 am

    I have always enjoyed having a cd player. Even more of an audio oddity is that I love having an FM tuner, which really puts me in an under 1% niche group, at least here in America where most people do and like what other people do and like. I like what I like, trends and conformity be damned, I say!

    The Rega players, as well as Naim figured out how to avoid what, to me, has always been the nemesis of most cd players: the loading drawer that slides out, then back into the player. I had drawer issues with a Sony, an entry level Yamaha and an Onkyo. The most reliable of all the platyers I’ve had over the years were the three Rotel models that I owned. Not one ever had a malfunctioning drawer/assembly. Higher end cd players are probably not plagued by delinquent drawers as much, I suspect, but for me cost was always an “object to consider.

    Rega and Naim avoided these pitfalls with their creative, improvisational designs and for that reason alone I’m intrigued by them. Rega evidently has decided to soldier on with the cd format, while Naim, by all indications is already waving the white flag as their current and only player braces itself for a proper swan song.

    Rega and Rotel seem to march to their own beat, and I appreciate that, as do others who still enjoy picking something up and putting it in something that plays it. What is also lost on many people is just how audibly superior cd players are these days compared to decades ago, and this Rega Saturn MK3 CD player/DAC will likely prove that convincingly when you put it through its paces. I look forward to your review, because… I like your reviews and I like cd players!

    • Ian White

      January 16, 2022 at 4:01 pm

      Steven,

      I almost bought the last Naim CD player that I reviewed but their decision to basically abandon the format gave me pause.

      I own Audiolab and NAD CD players and have found them to be ok so far.

      The Rega CD players are very reliable. My old Planet that I gave away to my brother — still works after 22 years.

      Ian White

  2. Jeffrey Srnec

    January 17, 2022 at 7:19 am

    I also have had trouble with a number of drawer CD players, most recently an NAD top model I decided to take a chance on the Audiolab 6000 CDT slot loaded transport and liked the reliability so much and purchased a second unit, each mated to Schiit Audio DACS in separate 2 channel systems and I am thrilled with both the reliability and sound. I suggest anyone looking for a giant killer CD player, instead mate the Audiolab 6000 CDT transport with either the Schiit Audio Modius DAC combo (for $748) or upgrading the DAC to the Schiit Audio Bifrost 2 Multibit R2R DAC for a dynamite CD only rig for an affordable $1248 killer combo. You will be shocked how good these combinations are. The Modius DAC is certainly the choice if you want a sub $800 investment but if you have over $10k – $15k in a 2 channel speaker system, go for the Bifrost 2 DAC. Now pour yourself a favorite beverage, relax and enjoy!

    • Ian White

      January 17, 2022 at 11:27 am

      Jeffrey,

      I’ve owned the 6000 CDT for almost 3 years. Exactly as you describe. I have it connected to a Cambridge Edge A using the amp’s internal DAC.

      Schiit Gungnir as well.

      Ian White

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