Rega Apollo: my first introduction with the term “high end”
In the beginning of my audio adventure I used a very basic cd player. But I had the feeling my audio system could do a lot better. I was thinking about buying a SACD player because of the superior sonic characteristics of the SACD format over regular cd’s. So I went for the very first time to Alpha High End Sound & Vision – one of the more exclusive high end audio & home cinema stores in my hometown of Antwerp. There employee Serge gave me the best advice I could ever imagine coming from a salesman:
Serge: “How many SACD’s do you own?”
Serge: “And how many CD’s do you own?”
Me: “about 1500″
Serge: “Then why the hell would you need to buy a SACD player?!
Me: “Because I want to buy more SACD’s in the future.”
Serge: “SACD is dead!” DSD & hirez files are in!”
Me: “Euhm…” (not yet knowing of the existence of hires music)
Serge: “I could make quite some profit out of you and sell you a SACD player but you won’t be satisfied at all. What you need is a decent cd player and a decent DAC. As a cd player I would recommend you the Rega Apollo. We sell the newer model: the Apollo -R”
Me: “Ok, then I’ll buy this Apollo R”
Serge (smiling): “No you won’t.”
Me: “Why not?”
Serge (smiling again): “Because I don’t want to sell it to you. Since you have a limited budget the older model Apollo is much better for you. It also has raving reviews in the trade press. What you should do now is go and find a place where they still have the original Apollo in stock. You might even get a discount because it’s an older model”
This first introduction with Alpha High End Sound & Vision – although not very conventional – gave me the confidence that they are a store not only thinking about making money but more important: giving their clients top advice, investing in long-term relationships rather than a quick sale.
Since this first meeting with the store I became a “regular” there for quite some time (until recent staff changes & a relocation), I was a returning customer who got befriended with the staff and was proud owner of a spectacular cd player (for the money that is) which in my current high end setup still does quite a decent performance and therefore being my oldest component friend!
Note: the last couple of years my system expanded a lot, achieving “high end” status (in my own terms that is). The Apollo is still a budget reference, being able to deliver a decent sonic performance. However, the player doesn’t win the competition with my other sources anymore, but has been a worthy contender for a very long time.
Rega Apollo: a brief description & review
The Rega Apollo has received numerous stunning reviews & awards. It uses a Wolfson WM8742 DAC chipset which decodes the digital signal and outputs it to the analog RCA outputs. The player has SPDIF (coax & optical) outputs so you can use the Apollo as a dedicated cd-transport and output the digital data directly to an external DAC without having to use the onboard DAC. When you have a decent external dac this last option will give you the best sonic results.
Soundwise this player does it all, especially when considering the price of this player: natural sounding, descent amount of resolution, being able to dig up some of the micro details of the recordings, good timing, crisp & clean sound and being able to deliver a solid stereo image.
When the Apollo was first launched in 2004 it sold for about 750 euro’s/dollars. For a normal person this would seem like a crazy amount to pay for a cd-player, but rest assured: this is a budget player in high end terms. The higher model cd-players in the Rega gamma have price tags of 2.500 euro (the Saturn-R), 8.990 euro (the Isis) and 11.499 euro (the Valve Isis).
Only a few audio adepts are lucky enough to play in such a league. The rest of us can only dream of this luxury and have to take satisfaction with a budget (high end) “reference” like the Apollo, sacrificing the last amounts of (micro)detail, resolution, transparancy, stereo imaging and livelyness along the way. But if you own a decent dac like me, and use this cd-player as a transport only, you can go a long way with this player. If you further invest in decent cabling (SPDIF & power) and maybe even add a high grade fuse, this player performs at it’s best and won’t be an embarrased performer in the company of other high end components in one’s system.
The original Apollo isn’t manufactured anymore. It got replaced by the Apollo-R some years ago. On the second hand market the original Apollo is still sought after, and can be obtained for around 300 euro’s/dollars. But be carefull when buying second hand. Cd-players should always be tested on laser reading problems. Especially some models of the Rega Apollo have had reported issues of this error.
Rega official website: http://www.rega.co.uk