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I forgot to stress an obvious marketing trick Rega employed to make their products special. Name them after gods. The player become Isis, the matching amplifier her brother/husband Osiris. As goddess of motherhood, magic and fertility, Isis must be special no doubt about it. You have no choice but love and respect her. Right?

I can’t be the only one to associate Rega as mostly a maker of turntables and tone arms to think analogue. Rega equals analog sound. No wonder perhaps that from the onset of this review I felt that Rega’s engineers wanted this player to sound like their best turntables – only better.

I started nice and easy with Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall and Patricia Barber. Female vocals usually tell me a lot about gear on review. The irresistible presentation only confirmed my assumption of analogue sound goals (I in fact had only planned on listening to one Cassandra Wilson album but once I started I couldn't help myself and followed up with more fantastic female vocals). Cassandra's voice finally returned to its natural wonderful depth which I rarely encounter during tests of different machines. Such jazz recordings were very rich in details shown with precision but not forward. Patricia Barber's pieces included lots of small percussion instruments which were presented in very lively resonant ways. Importantly all of them were well differentiated even though they were simply background flourishes. The holography of the presentation was impressive. The soundstage was wide and really deep, width wasn't limited to the space between the speakers whenever recordings allowed it. Subsequent layers deeply into the soundstage were detailed and stable, receding images precise and there was a lot of air around the instruments. All this made the presentation very palpable and tube-like - enough to close my eyes, use a small bit of good will and enjoy music as though I were participating in a live concert.

To completely change the mood I played one of the dark recordings of Otis Taylor - Respect the dead. Most cuts from this album felt really really depressing and ominous thanks to the hypnotic rhythms created by the bass guitar. On top of that came aggressive guitar and banjo playing plus the harsh voice of Otis Taylor to create an atmosphere dense and muggy enough for sucking in the listener and suffocating him. I wasn't sure whether the Rega Isis Valve would prove up to this task but it did very nicely indeed. I wasn't sure because I figured that the smoothness and  liquidity of Rega's sound would not really suit this type of music yet it did. The machine did present all kinds of music in this very special smooth grainless rich way with a slightly warm tonal balance which complemented even banjo or harmonica very convincingly. Don’t listen to these most depressing recordings of Otis Taylor too often however especially over a good system - lest you wish to suffer a gloomy day.

To rid myself of the onset of personal depression afterwards I cued up a few CDs with much more joyful Blues guitar both electric and acoustic. When listening to my favorite instrument in the hands of great masters like Eric Clapton, BB King, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy or Steve Ray Vaughan I suddenly realized one obvious association for the Rega Isis Valve which hadn’t occurred to me earlier – British lord (or at least a common image thereof as I never had the pleasure of knowing one personally).

The British CD player exuded demure elegance sans extravagance but with real class such that you couldn't in fact point a finger at it but knew it was there. The sound was elegant, self-controlled, polite and a bit reserved but only to the point where it needed to stop being polite whilst caring greatly for details with proper articulation. In short the Isis Valve seemed descended from a noble family. Think proper education, polite manners and great versatility which easily adopts itself to any situation encountered, all the while remaining aware to set an example for 'lower' devices. Doesn't that sound just like the definition of a proper lord?

Whether it was slow Clapton Blues, more aggressive Lee Hooker or totally raw Vaughan, the Rega always presented the music most accurately. From nice ‘n’ easy to fast & aggressive, it showed everything in a very orderly fashion. This didn’t lack in dynamics and both micro and macro expressions were more than satisfactory. The Isis was fully capable of delivering sudden dynamic output swings like a grand piano’s fortissimo without relinquishing details. I know a few players capable of even greater dynamic articulation like Gryphon’s Scorpio but Rega's clear advantage was this incredibly orderly way and fantastic differentiation of sounds never blending together.