The dictionary in my Macintosh defines Brio as “vivacity of style or performance,” but in the case of Rega’s Brio integrated amplifier, it has a vivacity of style and performance. With so many choices these days, it’s tough to sort through it all. Though England’s Rega Research is best known for their turntables, they have been making a full line of high quality amplifiers (and speakers) for decades. The new Brio you see here is a perfect example of an integrated amplifier with an outstanding on-board phonostage, featuring more than enough power to drive any pair of speakers and a headphone input for personal listening. This beautiful amplifier will only set you back $995, and it’s small, 8.5”W x 3”H x 13.5”D footprint will fit anywhere, making it a perfect choice for the space challenged music lover. We paired our review sample with the awesome Totem Signature One speakers ($2,650/pair) and Rega’s legendary Planar 3 turntable ($1,145 with Elys 2 cartridge). While you don’t have to spend that much on a pair of speakers to build a great Brio-centric system, know that it is up to the task. Around back, there are four analog inputs for any other components you might have, like a digital to audio converter (DAC), CD player, tuner, or even a tape deck. Considering the mighty cassette from the 80s is making a mega comeback, you never know. Taking this a step further, the Brio offers a “record output,” just begging you to make a mix tape, which I did, inspired by a recent screening of Guardians of the Galaxy. Firing up the Nakamichi cassette deck with a fresh tape and a pile of 80s favorites, all rendered by the Rega turntable, this proved to be a fun and engaging experience – something a streaming
Thanks to its newly acquired sonic weight, the Brio is evenly balanced across the frequencies. The top end sparkles and yet there’s a sweetness to it, while basslines enjoy depth and rumbling textures. Voices are intimate and expressive: you can hear the restraint in Corey Taylor’s usually roaring vocals in From Can To Can’t, while Tom Waits’ gravelly tones are textured and full of rawness in Alice. At this price, the Brio’s main rival is the Award-winning Cambridge Audio CXA60 (£500). While the affable Cambridge is more open and delivers a bigger scale of sound, it sounds soft around the edges compared with the Brio’s punchy, articulate sound. And we get another surprise as we jump up the price range to the Rega Elex-R (£900) and Elicit-R (£1600). The £600 Brio can’t match its bigger brothers in terms of scale, subtlety and dynamism, but it does have the crisp top end and sense of fun that holds up against its fiercer siblings. The sonic character remains the same, which is impressive for Rega’s budget amp.
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