I started my listening by cueing up two copies of baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff ’s hard-swinging Blue Serge LP, one on the RP6 and the other on my usual vinyl rig, the Pro-Ject RM-1.3 fitted with a Denon DL-103 moving-coil cartridge. I soon noticed that the two ’tables sounded considerably different. The RP6/Exact combo sounded extremely clean compared with the RM-1.3/DL-103, which had more of a “classic vinyl” sound. It also seemed to minimize surface noise at the expense of a bit of treble detail. With the RP6, Chaloff ’s beefy baritone sounded considerably smoother in the midrange. With the RM-1.3, I heard some subtle tonal colorations in the mids, which I bet result primarily from resonances in the RM-1.3’s less sturdy tonearm. I liked the extra zippiness the RM-1.3 added to Philly Joe Jones’s cymbals and snare, but ultimately the RP6 won me over.
This may seem like a strange and potentially unflattering way to describe a turntable’s sound, but to me the RP6 sounds more like a CD player — a really good CD player — than any other turntable I’ve heard. When a record finished playing, I also noticed that any hum and vibration coming from the RP6 was practically inaudible.
Big Star’s #1 Record gave the RP6 a better chance to strut its stuff. The bass sounded fantastic on this record: groovingly tight yet satisfyingly full. And the RP6 made it much easier to appreciate the perfectly in-the-pocket, interlocking guitar/bass groove on “When My Baby’s Beside Me.” After going back and forth between the Rega and Pro-Ject turntables, I noticed my foot unconsciously tapping when the RP6 was playing the song but stopping when I switched over to the RM-1.3 — and the RM-1.3 has better-than-average bass for its $499 price.
My super-clean 1970s pressing of Joni Mitchell’s timeless Court and Spark proved perhaps the most revealing of all the records I played on the RP6. The background vocals and horns on “Car on a Hill” sounded clean, spacious, and totally uncolored — much as they do on the CD. The RM-1.3 had the sound vinyl’s known for, with more noise, more tonal coloration, and weaker bass. Installing the DL-103 cartridge retained most of the RP6’s character but added the DL-103’s comparatively hyped treble; I preferred the RP6 with the stock Exact cartridge.
The Rega RP6’s lack of adjustments and technically clean — rather than sonically charming — performance may turn off some serious vinylphiles, but it sure hooked me. I often find the flaws in vinyl playback hard to listen through, but with the RP6 I found them nearly impossible to hear.
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