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Why looks matter: Rega RP6 Union Jack turntable review

  • “I’ll be your mirror, reflect what you are”. I grew up in the 1980s (en)during Thatcher’s Britain. In front my young eyes went the Falklands War, the Miners Strike, Sir Clive Sinclair, Grange Hill, Only Fools and Horses, Torvill and Dean and BMX bikes. Between my ears played New Order, The Smiths, The Cure, Duran Duran, David Bowie and The Style Council.

    Shifting up a gear into early adulthood in the following decade my attention turned to Pulp, Oasis, Blur, The Auteurs, Baby Bird, Suede, Supergrass, Menswear, The Bluetones, The Divine Comedy, Strangelove and The Boo Radleys. Oh, and Robyn Hitchcock. And Momus.

    I read VOX, Select, Melody Maker and the NME. At the height of Britpop, you couldn’t turn the page in any one of those magazines for fear of stumbling upon yet another gobshite with a Union Jack draped across his shoulders. For a while there, patriotism was the tide that lifted all boats.

    Britishness – it’s inked into my soul.


    Beauty or brains? It’s an age-old question that sends idealists into a spin and has pragmatists asking they can’t have a little of both. Brains matter hugely but there must be a degree of initial attraction that draws us close enough to find out what lies beneath.

    We are told: “It’s not what it looks like but how it sounds that matters most”. Fair enough but a dash of attractiveness goes a long for a product that must take visual prominence in any living space. Hi-fi hardware must function as we expect but its aesthetic appeal can make or break the final deal.

    We gravitate towards products that speak to who we are and with brands with which we identify most. It might be how company’s promo language reflects their underlying philosophy – hello Schiit Audio – or it might be the cut of a product’s job that piques your curiosity. Much of this takes place on a subconscious level. Like the band names we scratched onto school desks as teenagers, the brands/products to which we align ourselves in our adult lives, they are our mirrors – they reflect who we are.

    Besides, a band is a brand.

    In sifting options our internal dialogue constantly asks, “How do I feel about X?” and “What do I think of Y?” Thoughts and feelings come into play. Do you prefer the clean lines of a more minimalist aesthetic? Do you prefer something a little more retro-styled? Or is a more ostentatious presence more your bag? Much of this conversation takes place on a subconscious level.

    In a subculture dominated by plain black (and silver) boxes, lazier hi-fi hacks might call out the more obviously attractive as having ‘High WAF’ but I’m having none of that. Flipping it over so I can flip it off, throwing your significant other under the bus to better rationalise why you can’t own that pair of large loudspeakers you’ve been lusting after just isn’t cool. If you share your listening space with others then perhaps you need to find something that better fits with the household’s shared identity. You need something that speaks to your team.

    One brand that consistently stands out as being aesthetically appealing is Peachtree Audio. Their range of all-in-one DAC/amplifiers cut sharp shapes in a world dominated by plainer boxes; their Mad Men aesthetic is one that appeals to both Don and Betty Draper. The overtures made by Devialiet’s forthcoming Phantom will likely reach a broader audience because of its break from the norm of two speakers and an integrated amplifier.


    To celebrate their 40th birthday in 2013, Rega commanded a limited run of Union Jack-emblazoned turntables. The RP1, RP3 and RP6 each received the Royal treatment.

    My experience with Rega turntables has been less than stellar. I much prefer the Pro-ject Debut Carbon to the RP1 at the entry-level. I’ve owned both and found the former to best the latter in both build quality and sound. And like Michael Fremer at Stereophile, I could never get a stable speed out of the Rega RP3. It ran (varying degrees of) fast.

    However, with Australian distributor Synergy Audio down to their very last Union Jack RP6, I jumped. Why? Ain’t it obvious, me old mucker? The British flag splashed across the plinth – ‘ave a butchers will ya. To borrow from prototype Britpoppers The Inspiral Carpets, the Rega’s red, white and blue looks ‘cool as fuck’.

    Some readers might point to the TT-PSU (external power supply) to stabilize the RP3’s speed…but doing so adds US$395 to the turntable’s US$895 sticker for a total that drops in US$200 below the RP6’s US$1495 asking; and the RP6 includes the TT-PSU inside the box.

    Those wanting to dig deeper on the RP6’s two-piece glass platter and RB303 tonearm are direct to the Rega website’s product info page here.

    Unlike a standard RP6, the Union Jack-ed version is the Full Monty – it arrives complete with a with a factory-fitted Rega Exact MM cartridge. You’re pretty much ready to rock out of the box. Place the RP6 on a flat surface, level it, hook the belt around drive pulley and aluminium sub-platter, carefully drop the glass platter over the spindle, wire in the TT-PSU, connect the RCA-terminated tonearm leads to your phono-preamplifier and Bob’s yer Uncle. It doesn’t hurt to double-check the tracking force and VTA (as I did).

    And cor blimey, squire, the Rega RP6 is one vigorous performer. Details jump from the grooves of The Auteurs After Murder Park with considerably more gusto than the outgoing Pro-Ject Debut Carbon. A run through Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians “If You Were A Priest” unlocked more textural feel from each bass note’s surface. On Blur’s “The Universal”, so tightly was Damon Albarn’s vocal locked into place you could point to it.


    More deeply inked tonal colours and fleshier supporting instruments saw an original pressing of The Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead drawn with meatier acoustic mass but without the intrusion of unwanted additives; the RP6 does a fine job of keeping surface noise to a minimum. Dynamics kick harder too – which makes for an altogether more engaging listening experience than the junior Pro-Ject or the long gone RP3. Take from my sonic memory what you will but I reckon the improvements brought by an RP6 over the RP3 will be obvious to anyone having made the leap.

    For this geezer, this is the first Rega turntable to live up to the UK’s manufacturer’s formidable reputation. In bringing musical excitement, energy and drama to the fore, it’s a must for fans of techno and indie rock. And not just the British stuff either.

    Union Jack or not, if you’ve got the extra readies at the ready, the Rega RP6 is a far better value proposition than the cheaper RP3; it’s the dog’s bollocks! Funny that twas this turntable’s Union Jack stylings that drew me close enough to mark it out for further sonic investigation.

    Further information: Rega Research | Synergy Audio Australia

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. I love my RP40! Comes very close to an RP6.
      A nice upgrade for the RP6 and other Rega tables is to replace the plastic sub platter to an all metal one, aluminum and steal. The RP6 only uses a metal hat on top of a plastic sub platter. Also replace the bearing to a zirconia (ZrO2) ball bearing. Groovetracer is just one company doing this. I will probably upgrade soon.

    2. You only had to look at some town centres in the UK during the 1960’s during the function is form era to see what a mess you can make of things by ignoring pleasing aesthetics.
      It’s very important as without it the design is half finished, sure sound quality is king but you have to live with your kit for some time and the honeymoon period doesn’t last so hats off to the likes of Peachtree, Devialiet, Aurelic, B&W etc

      Good sound does’t have to be ugly.

      • Might I amend your sign-off phrase? “Good sound doesn’t have to look ugly”. That’s a marketing department’s dream. 😉

        • Thanks for the correction John. I’d like to say it was Intended but on this occasion it was a keyboard operator malfunction.

    3. Strewth John,
      Wanted to read the review, but read the lingo instead. Brings back some great memories of spending time as a dutchman in England in the 80s. Gobshite. Wonderful word. Still don’t know if the RP6 is any good. Wil have to re-read it.
      Cheers, Johan

    4. It gets a bit more complicated when you use a non-Rega cartridge with the RP6, or any Rega turntable for that matter. I’m using an Ortofon 2M Black on my RP6, and although I’m extremely pleased with the combination, it required a 2mm spacer for VTA adjustment, plus overhang/offset adjustments with an arc protractor. However, I feel it was worth the effort.

      I also installed the Groovetracer RP6 subplatter, which is a very worthwhile upgrade. Before upgrading, the platter had a noticeable wobble that appeared to be due to a warp in the plastic subplatter. The Groovetracer upgrade solved the wobble problem, and partly closes the gap between the RP6 and Rega’s higher-end models that use all-metal machined subplatters.

    KIH #20 – THD

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