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Planet 2000 CD player
as reviewed by Ed Kobesky
The unspoken promise of Rega's Planet 2000 is that it is a CD player for the LP lover. A more pointed description would be that it is a CD player for people who hate CDs. Despite Rega's read-between-the-lines marketing approach, it is clear that the Planet promises CD playback that is decidedly different from that of its competitors. The question is whether that is good, or even necessary.
The Planet is now in its second generation. The current machine has been with us since 2000, and is apparently due to be replaced by the Apollo. Much has been written about whether the Planet indeed culls an analog-like experience from digital media. It's a curious debate. Then there's the Planet vs. Planet 2000 argument. Some say that the original Planet is better at mimicking analog sound, but at the expense of detail. Others contend that the Planet 2000 is far better than the original, with less softening at the upper end of the spectrum, but concede that it indeed sounds more "digital."
In the Planet 2000, a 24-bit Sigma Delta IC40 DAC, built to Rega's specifications, replaces the 16-bit DAC used in the Planet. Otherwise, the design is basically the same. It is a slick-looking top-loader with a detachable power cord and an uncluttered front panel. Gone are the slots in the top, and along with them, some of the substantial feel of the original. On the upside, the remote is outstanding, falling comfortably to hand with intuitively placed controls. It is also compatible with the company's Mira integrated amp.
Operation is straightforward and satisfying. Lift the player's lid (which glides up and down silently on a damped mechanism) and drop a disc on the spindle. Then give the lid a gentle nudge and it glides downward, cinching itself closed like the electric trunk latch on your father's Cadillac. A clamp on the lid spins along with the disc, which can be seen through the tinted dustcover. The only complaint I have is with the LED display. Its red color is imparted by a plastic lens placed over the standard-issue blue readout. If you accidentally rub against it with your thumb, it can be dislodged, as it is held in place by pressure, not adhesive.
The Planet 2000 looks like a turntable and feels like a turntable, but does it sound like one? Having lived with the player for three months, I can report that your CDs will sound like CDs, for better or worse. You will never mistake the sound of the Planet 2000 for that of a Planar 3. What I can promise is that the Planet 2000 offers a level of smoothness, musicality, and rhythmic drive that is reminiscent of good-quality analog playback, and absent from nearly all entry-level CD players.
The most obvious thing the Planet 2000 gets right is cymbals, which sounded crackly, tizzy, or sizzly—sometimes all three—on the other three players I have owned. The Rega sounds far more accurate, making nearly all of the music I listen to far less grating to my irritated ears. There is still a slight digital edge, but that comes with the medium. Piano notes retained a bit of chilliness when compared to my Planar 3/Linn Basik LV V/Denon DL-110 analog rig, but again, everything is relative, and the Planet preserves tonality, timbre, and decay better than any other CD player I've owned.
For the most part, the Planet defies attempts to analyze its traits in checklist form. It excels with jazz, but any recordings that can be improved by British-style momentum benefit from its taut, rhythmic athleticism. R&B and reggae, for example, positively thrive with the Rega. I also hear quite a bit more spaciousness on most recordings, along with a more natural tonal balance, but also a tiny bit of congestion on cacophonous rock tracks. In the most basic terms, the Planet 2000 performs on a par with my NAD C521i, and is noticeably better than the mass-market Sony and Toshiba players I'd become accustomed to.
To leave it at that, however, would be to reduce the Planet 2000 to appliance status, and it's more than that. It is a machine, of course, but with a little bit of soul. Like many worthwhile products in high-end audio, it is not overbearing in its superiority, nor can it be appreciated through casual listening. Its true value becomes apparent when it is removed from a familiar system and another player is substituted. When I tried this, I not only missed the ease with which it played music, but its unique aesthetics. Comparing the Rega to other players in its price range is like comparing 35mm film to high-definition video. They're both quite detailed, but film just has something special that makes it more organic, and consequently more watchable.
More tellingly, I didn't need a revealing system to note the Planet's sonic advantages. Even in a modest setup consisting of a Sony GX49ES stereo receiver and vintage Bose 301 Series IV speakers, I could easily tell when the Planet was in orbit. Still, it was the PrimaLuna ProLogue Two integrated amp (read tat review here), together with a set of stand-mounted Mission loudspeakers, that allowed the Planet to shine.
Rega even supplies a pair of interconnects with the Planet 2000, which it describes as being perfectly adequate. I find that brave. This product sounds very, very good right out of the box. No passing the buck at Rega's conference table, and no blaming bad sound on wire. (Okay, I never even tried the freebie interconnect, but that's only because I needed slightly longer cables.)
Is the Rega Planet 2000 different from its peers? Well, it's very British, and that is distinctive in itself. I wouldn't say that it represents a radical departure in CD playback. If pressed, I will say that it's a teeny bit soft sounding on top. Rega's engineers do seem to know what irritates people about CDs, and have taken steps to address the most glaring artifacts of a format that was behind the eight ball before it was even introduced. The Planet 2000 may not be an ideal choice for people who loved the compact disc at first listen. For everyone else, it deserves an audition.
At the ripe old age of five (going on six) years, the Planet 2000 remains not only competitive, but special. It has that certain something that separates the high end from the mass market, and has it in spades. Connect the Planet to a decent receiver, and you might appreciate the way it handles the notes, but not the music. In that case, it would be better to consider players from NAD, Rotel, or Cambridge Audio, and save yourself a few hundred dollars. If, on the other hand, you can give the Planet the support it deserves, and you want a player that helps you forget that you're listening to digital and to concentrate on the music, check out the Planet 2000. Ed Kobesky
Planet 2000 CD Player
In the US