Rega Planar PL1 review: the best affordable turntable you can get

The rich vinyl sound you want for an irresistible price

Close up of Rega Planar PL1 arm and turntable
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Simon Lucas)

TechRadar Verdict


  • +

    Spacious, eloquent and substantial sound

  • +

    Well specified and expertly made

  • +

    It’s a Rega


  • -

    Could conceivably sound perkier

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Editor's Note

• Original review date: November 2022
• Launch price: $595 / £299 / AU$645

• Target price: $595 / £299 / AUS645

Update: February 2024. Although it's no longer Rega's latest progeny – that would be the flagship September 2023-launch Rega Naia the Planar PL1 is still the newest affordable deck from the revered UK firm. And most importantly, the 2021 proposition is still one of the best turntables on the market – because this is vinyl, not smartphone iterations. That said, for similar money today, you could get a more forward-thinking deck (see Victrola's record turntable with repeat function or the 2023 Victrola Stream Carbon which will work with your Sonos multi-room wireless setup) but for vinyl purists on a budget, the PL1 remains hard to beat. Take note though, its price rarely sees any discounts. If anything, its continued popularity is only sending the price one way, so if you find it retailing for even a fraction cheaper than the launch price, consider yourself extremely lucky… The rest of this review remains as previously published.

Becky Scarrott
Becky Scarrott

Rega Planar PL1: one-minute review

The Rega Planar PL1 is the latest version of an entry-level record player first introduced in 2005 – and this may be the best version yet, which is saying something. For very nearly 50 years now, Rega has been setting turntable standards – and at all price-points.

The Rega Planar PL1 is not a very luxurious item, no – paying out for this doesn't buy you something that looks deluxe. But everything about the Planar PL1 is fit for purpose, and where the real essentials are concerned, it’s worth every penny. The motor, bearings, tonearm and cartridge are all carefully designed and engineered, and the attention to detail here is apparent in the sound quality. 

In almost every way, the Rega explains what it is people love about the best turntables as a way to enjoy music and, by extension, why vinyl has dodged the coffin all these years. It presents music as a unified, integrated whole, as a tangible performance rather than as a collection of individual strands or events. It does great work making rhythms and tempos feel natural, it extracts an awful lot of fine detail without getting uptight about it, and it has the sort of dynamic heft that can make your hair stand on end.

Not every turntable brand considers this sort of money to be ‘entry level’, it’s true. But if you want to know why vinyl is still a preoccupation for so many music-lovers, and if you perhaps want to be lured into a lifetime of tonearm adjustment, cartridge upgrades and vinyl subscription services, well… you know what to do.  

Birds-eye-view of Rega Planar PL1

This 'entry-level' Planar may just be Rega's best version yet (Image credit: Simon Lucas)

Rega Planar PL1 review: price and release date

  • Released in 2021
  • $595 / £299 / AU$645

This version of Rega Planar PL1 was released in 2021 (it's taken a few different forms since the P1 launch in 20005). In the United Kingdom it costs £299 or thereabouts. In America it’s a rather more prohibitive $595 or so, while in Australia you’ll need to part with AU$645.

No matter the territory in which you’re shopping, there’s no denying this is quite a lot of money for what the manufacturer blithely calls an ‘entry level’ turntable. But then not every manufacturer has the hard-won reputation of Rega. 

Rega Planar PL1 review: Design

  • Matte white, black and walnut effect finishes
  • Well made and finished, with pre-fitted cartridge
  • Belt drive

‘Design’ is to overstate it somewhat, of course. Not much designing has gone on here – only the cheapest or the most expensive turntables try to do something other than follow the template that was set down three-quarters of a century ago. There’s a reason all turntables look like this, after all.

As an object, the Planar PL1 is perfectly fine. It’s properly made and quite nicely finished. But, as always with Rega, the bulk of your money is going on components and top-of-the-line engineering rather than on luxurious materials or other fripperies. 

The plinth is now available in three different finishes, and no matter which one you choose, it stands on three quite assertive feet that provide both stability and vibration-rejection. There’s also an ‘on/off/ switch under here.

On top, the latest version of Rega’s well-regarded RB110 tonearm is pre-fitted with an equally capable Rega Carbon moving magnet cartridge. The arm features new low-friction bearings, automatic bias adjustment and, just to prove Rega isn’t as hair-shirted as you might imagine, an integrated clip for keeping the arm secure when it’s not in use.

Close up of Rega Planar PL1 arm

The RB110 tonearm is pre-fitted with an equally capable Rega Carbon moving magnet cartridge. (Image credit: Simon Lucas)

Rega has fitted a synchronous motor with a reworked PCB and an aluminium pulley to drive the platter – technology that has trickled down from the company’s more expensive models. The platter itself is made from phenolic material, and is relatively high-mass, especially at the outside, in an effort to guarantee speed stability and assist the flywheel effect.

You might not expect much from the belt drive, but Rega has had just as much of a think about the rubber belt on this product as for the rest of the Planar PL1. The drive belt is moulded, cryogenically frozen, and then barrelled to ensure its cross-section is perfectly round. This is in an effort to provide accurate stability, too, and it apparently extends the lifespan of the belt by a margin at the same time.

Rega Planar PL1 drive belt

The drive belt is moulded, cryogenically frozen, and then barrelled to ensure its cross-section is perfectly round. (Image credit: Simon Lucas)

Rega Planar PL1 review: Sound quality

  • Open and convincing soundstage
  • Good dynamic heft
  • Impressive detail levels

What sort of records do you own? What sort of music do you like? Whatever it might be, the Rega Planar PL1 likes it too.

Really, it doesn’t matter the vinyl you play, the PL1 relishes it all. In this test we slipped on everything from Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends to Cosmogramma by Flying Lotus via Arrival by ABBA, all of which was easy to listen to – and that’s meant in the least pejorative, most positive sense.

The vinyl format hasn’t survived this long by accident. There are virtues to the way it presents music that make it the only way to listen, for some people at least, and the Rega Planar PL1 embodies all of them to a lesser or greater extent. 

The soundstage it describes, for example, is open, well-defined and easy to understand. It locks individual elements of a recording securely, and it allows each contributor to a recording all the breathing space they need in order to express themselves. Yet it manages to do this without letting anything sound remote, or estranged, or in any way dislocated. Recordings are delivered with a unity and a coherence that makes the word ‘performance’ entirely appropriate.

It’s equally confident where tonality is concerned. Bass sounds are robust, properly textured and loaded with detail. Yes, some other turntables (inevitably more expensive than this) can give the low end a little more speed and momentum, but the PL1 is no slouch in this regard. At the opposite end of the frequency range, treble sounds are similarly detailed and so similarly articulate. Again, there could conceivably be even more sparkle to the sound, but don’t imagine the Rega is in any way dull or blunt. And in the midrange, which is where the action is for singers and so on, the PL1 is just as eloquent, just as information-rich and just as direct as it is elsewhere.

Integration through the frequency range is smooth and convincing, and the Rega has the sort of low-end positivity that allows rhythms good expression. It’s helped by the dynamic headroom that’s on offer here – the distance from the quietest moments of a recording to the most raucous is considerable – as well as the harmonic variations the turntable can identify and describe. 

If we’re being picky (and we usually are),  the PL1 is a little too ready to indulge lush or luxuriant recordings. The Simon & Garfunkel album, for example, can sound a little less perky than is ideal – the Rega seems seduced by the warmth of its sound. But let’s not get carried away, this is a minor shortcoming, one we mention really for no other reason than it doesn’t suit us to be utterly uncritical.

Should you buy the Rega Planar PL1?

Buy it if…

You want to know what all the vinyl fuss is about
You can spend less on a record player, sure, but you won’t get the PL1 experience.

You admire efficient engineering
It’s not luxurious, but the Rega is most certainly properly specified and built.

You like to get ‘hands on’
Change the speed from 33.3 to 45rpm to see what we mean.

Don't but it if…

You’re expecting to be indulged
See the ‘not luxurious’ comment above.

You want some modernity
Some turntables have USB outputs and wireless connectivity. Not this one. 

You don’t have a proper shelf to put it on
Those feet will suppress some vibration, but they’re not miracle-workers. It needs a sturdy place to live.

First reviewed: November 2022

Simon Lucas

Simon Lucas is a senior editorial professional with deep experience of print/digital publishing and the consumer electronics landscape. Based in Brighton, Simon worked at TechRadar's sister site What HiFi? for a number of years, as both a features editor and a digital editor, before embarking on a career in freelance consultancy, content creation, and journalism for some of the biggest brands and publications in the world. 

With enormous expertise in all things home entertainment, Simon reviews everything from turntables to soundbars for TechRadar, and also likes to dip his toes into longform features and buying guides. His bylines include GQ, The Guardian, Hi-Fi+, Metro, The Observer, Pocket Lint, Shortlist, Stuff T3, Tom's Guide, Trusted Reviews, and more.