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One somehow feels reminded of speaker builders who on one hand offer massively thick panels for dead enclosures whilst the low-mass school insists that truly dead boxes are impossible, hence claim that it's rather more effective to quickly release such energies than try to damp them down to zero. Is it really coincidence then that Spendor, Harbeth and Rega would all stem from the green isle?
Back on track. The rectangular outer frame isn't merely a different cosmetic option. Its primary function is as support for the docking dust cover whilst nearly eliminating actual contact with the spinning deck. 'Nearly' remains a qualifier because the three frame footers' rubber bands center the actual deck, hence there's some contact between these rubber strings and the conical feet of the actual plinth.
The bearing has trickled down from the former P9 top model but was slightly modified for this new usage. It supports an aluminum sub platter driven with twin belts by a 24-volt motor that's powered by a quartz-stabilized regenerator which allows for a 33 1/3 to 45rmp adjustment (red and green respectively). With the platter we revisit the material approach of the plinth. Resonance attenuation pursues constrained-layer damping. An aluminum sub platter couples in places and not across its full surface to an upper glass platter with top felt mat.
According to Rega only this particular combination of materials arrives. The glass bit itself is a triple laminated affair which increases mass where useful: outwards to increase the flywheel effect. A similarly heavy but constant platter would minimize the same effect. The RP8 also gets a new arm dubbed RB808. Solo it goes for €1.000. That's significantly more than the popular RB303 which is routinely packaged with competing tables from other makers. Rega cites a new vertical bearing and a more strongly slimming arm wand as improvements. With Rega arms one looks in vain for RCA or similar connectors. The tonearm wiring continues unbroken into its own RCA cable as though to say, safer is best to control all parameters up to whatever phonostage the user might have.
With Rega pickups mounting is dead easy because Rega use three rather than two headshell screws which are strategically oriented to automatically end up in the geometrically perfect position. Clever. Of course non-Rega users like myself—I used primarily Denon's DL-103 and Ortofon's Rondo Bronze—have it harder. Must we really fumble with spacer discs to adjust VTA by altering the arm shaft's height? Why no shaft adjustments with a locking bolt? It'd be more precise and far quicker too. Okay, perhaps that's mere reviewer neurosis. Civilians only set up once, perhaps curse a bit but then cue up tune after tune. And this deck is a real player to warrant that excess!
Of course audiophile neurosis in general questions immediately whether to go with our without. Frame that is. Theoretically it shouldn't matter. Frame and skeleton are decoupled after all. Sonically there's little difference indeed. But little ain't nothing. I thought that 'with' resulted in somewhat more substantial bass and lower midband albeit at the cost of articulation. 'Without' felt timed more precisely and imaged more accurately. In the positive sense it was better sorted and leaner. In the end it's a matter of taste and about nuances. As a perv I predominantly listened to the 'nude' Rega RP8 whilst comparing it to my VPI Scout II.