Rega Saturn MK3 CD/DAC Player: Back to the Future
I have to admit I have a soft spot for Rega CD players. the original Planet Rega was one of the first audio components I looked at over 20 years ago and it still lives and breathes in a system owned by my brother. Rega was deliberately late to the digital evening. did you really think the people who invented the best-selling high-end tonearm in history would just come out any CD player? The Planet eschewed the traditional tray or sled for a flip-up cover and recessed CD well and it’s proven incredibly reliable.
It also sounded very different from the rest of the CD players out there, which is why I kept it for so long. The industrial “heatsink” design was definitely weird, but nothing else in the world that came after Planet was so distinctive.
So why all the new interest in CD players as the market has shifted to digital streaming?
If you think people don’t care about playing CDs in 2022, you’re wrong.
Our “Best CD Players” buying guide tops the list in terms of traffic, and many consumers still own hundreds or even thousands of CDs.
The pandemic has caused a seismic shift in consumer behavior and if you think millennials don’t care about property, you’d be dead wrong. We’ve covered this topic many times on the podcast and what’s very clear to us is that consumers still care about physical media; Americans bought over 40 million new records in 2021. The most in nearly 3 decades.
I spent a lot of time with the Rega Apollo CD Player and think it’s one of the best currently available. Before the supply chain issues, you could find the Apollo for less than $1000, and in my experience with other Rega CD players, this would probably be the last CD player you’d ever need.
At some point Rega realized that audiophiles were buying DACs in droves, but were not at all interested in jumping on the MQA or DSD bandwagon.
The logical way forward was to add digital inputs to all of their CD players so that their customer base (or potential customers) could run their laptop or network streamer on the CD player and use it as a digital hub.
Rega hasn’t even hinted that they’re going to introduce any of their own streamers and I don’t think one will suddenly appear with their existing line of CD players being refreshed. They are currently focusing on their new entry-level components designed to capitalize on the next generation of audiophiles who are buying vinyl in record numbers.
So what about the Saturn MK3? Why should you care about this $2,000+ USD CD/DAC player (North American pricing hasn’t been confirmed, but will be in that range)?
The Rega Saturn MK3 is not reinventing the wheel and I commend Rega for not trying to fix what isn’t broken.
Naim discontinued most of its CD players and focused very heavily on its Uniti series network players; one of the most successful launches in the brand’s history.
I mention Naim for 2 reasons; the Naim CD3 I owned was very reliable and its sliding sled with the magnetic washer was also an innovative concept that did not follow industry trends. Rega and Naim did it their way and it worked.
The Rega Saturn MK3 uses a high-stability master clock and high-capacity power supply in the CD circuit, a high-performance PLL digital interface receiver, isolated digital inputs, and a high-performance power supply architecture in the DAC circuit.
Signal switching between CD and DAC functions is performed in the digital-to-analog conversion stage. The signal path of the CD section in CD mode is reduced to a minimum.
The USB input of the DAC has been improved with asynchronous operation at sample rates from 44.1 to 192 kHz with a bit rate of up to 24 bits. The USB input has the same galvanic isolation as used in the Rega DAC-R. USB uses dedicated drivers in the computer, allowing full ASIO operation, eliminating signal degradation caused by generic Windows drivers.
The Saturn MK3 has 5 digital inputs (USB, 2 optical, 2 coaxial S/PDIF) and 3 digital outputs (S/PDIF and optical). The CD player and DAC have their own independent digital outputs.
The dimensions are 432 x 170 (H) x 350mm – the ‘170mm’ dimension probably sounds odd, but that’s the actual height of the flip-down CD cover when fully extended; something you need to remember if you put the Rega Saturn MK3 on a shelf.
Rega has introduced new models over the last 8 weeks and it is clear that a new Rega Elicit MKV integrated amplifier will be available in the first quarter of 2021.
We are receiving this for review, so stay tuned.
For more information: Rega CD Players
Related Reading: Best CD Players