The Rega Aethos is the integrated amplifier that many audiophiles have been waiting for. Over the past three years, Rega has released three turntables, Planar 6, 8 and 10, which could very well claim to be the benchmark in their price bracket. Until recently, however, the Rega did not have a suitable amplifier for them. Their catalog has three relatively inexpensive amps (including the excellent Brio), but then there is a gap all the way to the High end Osiris model (also great).
The Aethos Integrated Amplifier is designed to fill this gap. It should be noted that at its cost this device falls into the market segment with very intense competition. Some of his rivals have already been in our tests and have shown excellent results, so Aethos has to work hard to succeed.
Specifications and design
When developing Aethos, the company had the task of developing a device in the price range between $ 2000 and $ 7500, that is, already existing models. In this case, you can take a more affordable amplifier as a basis and develop it further, with a more expensive one, cutting down its functions and parameters. But there is a third way – to build something completely new, radically different from both cheaper and more expensive models.
Rega chose to use most of the Elicit R design in the Aethos amplifier. In fact, the novelty is a powerful version of this device. The Aethos uses the same circuit, but which gives a slightly higher output power (from 105W to 125W), but the differences are not only there. The number of output transistors in the amplifier was doubled (from two to four), which made it possible to increase the output current, and, as a result, ensure more confident operation with complex loads.
The volume control is also similar to the one used in Elicit and is a fairly new development from the company. It is not a direct change in signal level that is applied here, but an adjustment of the feedback depth in the preamplifier. Rega claims that this helps improve the level consistency of the stereo channels while reducing noise and improving amplifier headroom. Technically, the system works great. Volume control is completely free of channel imbalance and is produced with good linearity. However, it should be borne in mind that the Aethos volume change characteristic is quite steep.
The Aethos is rather unusual for a 2020 model, as it is just an amplifier and nothing more. The device is equipped with five RCA line inputs, an input / output for a tape recorder (there is an additional line output, so you can simultaneously connect a tape recorder and, for example, a headphone amplifier to Aethos), a power input and an output from a pre-amplifier. There is a 6.3 mm headphone jack. One small problem is that there is no direct input selection function, only a sequential search of sources. This is certainly not the end of the world, but this circumstance must be taken into account.
The amplifier lacks a built-in phono stage, and at first glance this solution may seem rather strange. Indeed, the owner of Rega turntables would benefit from such a function, but let’s not forget that Aethos is focused on systems with Planer 8 or 10. And turntables of this level are usually equipped with MC-cartridges, which require a specialized phono stage. In addition, the Aethos’ case is already quite densely packed with components, and it would be difficult to find room for another circuit. In the meantime, Rega makes three excellent MC cartridge phono preamps that will work great with Aethos.
The design of Aethos starts to be liked more and more as you look at this device. The side tabs on the top plate serve to expose most of the heatsink, but they also do an excellent job of reducing the amplifier’s perceived mass. The black finish with red accents is superb and the exterior of the Aethos is completely modern while remaining fully recognizable as a Rega.
The quality of the amplifier is very high. The thick metal panels that make up the body and the powerful power supply ensure the Aethos weighs over 17 kg, and given its small dimensions the device looks very solid. In general, the amplifier looks completely at its cost, if not more expensive. The only complaint might be the remote control, but at least it does its job perfectly.
How was Rega Aethos tested?
The Rega amplifier has been tested in combination with various components. In all cases, it was connected to an IsoTek Evo 3 Sigmas surge protector and placed in a Quadraspire QAVX rack. Chord Electronics Hugo Mscaler and TT2 were used as sources, receiving signal from SMS-200 Neo , operating as Roon endpoint, from Roon Nucleus and LG 55B7 OLED.
The amplifier has also been used with the Chord Qutest and T + A DAC8. Analogue sources included a Planar 10 turntable operating with several different cartridges and a Cyrus Phono Signature phono stage, and a Michell Gyrodec with a tonearm and SME M2-9 operating both Cyrus and AVID Pellar.
The system used speakers Kanta No1 , Kudos Titan 505 , Neat Ministra and PMC twenty5 21i. Music content for listening included FLAC, AIFF, DSD, audio / video on-line services, and vinyl.
I’ve tested Aethos for quite some time, and my attitude towards it, initially quite positive, has only improved over time. One could simply say that Aethos is excellent, but with the right system for it, you can achieve really great results.
Using an amplifier with Focal Kanta # 1 speakers is just that case. Aethos has complete control over these acoustics and recordings such as Jaqueline O Circa Waves sound big, powerful and confident. This music just captures the listener. The Aethos also delivered great bass, fast and deep, which was perhaps surprising to these speakers.
At the same time, at high frequencies this combination did not reach perfection. At high volumes and with imperfect recordings, the Aethos and Kanta # 1 already feel less confident. Choosing a source for the Aethos is not as easy as, for example, for the Cambridge Audio Edge A (which costs about the same aside from the digital part). While Edge and Focal pair well with each other, Aethos doesn’t always feel confident here. In a more limited, but still noticeable form, this also manifests itself in the case of the Neat Ministra.
However, with the PMC twenty5 21i and Kudos Titan 505 speakers, the amplifier has the synergy it needs, and Aethos really shows what it can do. The same large and focused soundstage, coupled with accurate reproduction of the most complex musical passages, is still present, as is the complete control of these speakers. But they add some sweetness to the sound of Rega Aethos that makes listening to music a pleasure. It’s the difference between sitting and thinking “this is a damn good amplifier” or just having a lot of fun listening to music.
What really appeals to the sound of Rega Aethos is the ability to reproduce the most dynamic compositions naturally without losing the delicacy of the music. With the help of Aethos, I listened to a selection of 50 Albums for Lockdown Listening and the device demonstrated its excellent genre versatility. No music tar to put Rega Aethos on a quandary. If you are the proud owner of a Planar 8 or 10 turntable, the synergy they have with this amplifier – even with the Cyrus phono stage – is exceptional.
The amplifier is capable of captivating the listener with its sound, and this is a rare quality. That being said, Rega Aethos does not work best with vinyl players, but it sounds phenomenal with them. The combination of the Planar 10 and the Aethos shows this perfectly: individually, both are very good, but together they sound great.
In conclusion, the Aethos headphone output is one of the best I’ve dealt with in an amplifier of this value. It has a wide dynamic range, and it provides a pleasant and generally refined sound image, and will also work well with various headphone models. It delivers great bass and a comfortable sound that’s great for longest listening sessions.
There is no point in summing up the Aethos testing without reference to the two Naim integrated amplifiers it actually sits between. On the Naim side, these amps are a bit easier to match with speakers that will show their best. Also, unlike the Rega Aethos, they have a built-in phono stage, which many users might like.
But at the same time, Rega Aethos has too many virtues to ignore. It delivers a lot of power, and if you can manage to give it a little attention, its sound will be absolutely outstanding for an amplifier in this price range. Its excellent performance with Kudos Titan speakers at twice the price suggests it could be the backbone of a very high end system. Choosing between Aethos and Supernait 3 would be quite difficult and I can see why. Rega Aethos is highly recommended by us for purchase.