The design of the Rega ISIS Valve Reference CD player is based on the now famous Rega ISIS.
But this time Roy Gandy called on his head designer Terry Bateman to design the tube circuits for the Valve ISIS. Bateman spent 10 years researching the concept of a CD player with valves in the output amplifier! The key issue was working out how to get maximum musicality and the right timbre without the colouration that comes with certain valve devices. It should be noted here that this is the first time the British manufacturer has ever used valves in a product.
Like the original model, the Isis Valve Reference has a large housing made from a single piece of solid aluminium, which explains its impressive 19kg weight! The front panel displays the brand’s trademark simplicity, with just one large display in centre flanked by 2 buttons on each side: Play, Stop, Skip Forward and Skip Backwards. It is top-loading, with a lid on top of the box for loading the CD. To the left of this lid are 4 holes which house the vacuum tubes. The rear panel is particularly well-appointed, with asymmetrical RCA outputs doubled up by symmetrical XLR versions. It also has a Toslink optical digital output and an S/PDIF digital output, as well as a USB input which lets you connect it directly to a computer with a USB port. This means you can stream MP3 and WMA files and internet radio directly from your computer in the full DAC quality offered by the ISIS. The quality of the connectors easily lives up to the high ambitions of the product. When you take a look inside the housing, this CD player is full to the rafters! The first thing to catch your eye will be the two 50VA toroidal transformers, which power the digital and analogue sections respectively. But there are also several regulation, filtering and stabilisation components that serve the analogue, digital, logical and mechanical sections separately. All of the internal components and production are of a very high quality. It’s also worth noting that as the tube output stage of this model is asymmetrical, it uses balancing Sowter transformers.
Naturally, We tested this CD player with its partner in sound, the Rega OSIRIS amplifier. And it certainly didn’t disappoint! The Valve model definitely adds an extra dimension to the ISIS. The sound stage is very wide and very deep, with no loss of precision. Quite the opposite in fact, as each instrument sounds more real than ever. The transparency is remarkable – the sheer amount of detail delivered by this player was totally unexpected. The timbres are superb, and very similar to the ones more commonly heard from a top quality vinyl turntable and excellent phono cartridge. The Rega ISIS Valve CD player faithfully reproduces your favourite music with extraordinary realism and presence. The ISIS was very clearly designed by real music lovers, for real music lovers! In our humble opinion, it is an absolute benchmark product.
Highly recommended! Franck
D/A converters: 2 x Burr Brown PCM 1794
Loading system: Top-loading lid
RCA output: Asymmetrical
XLR output: Symmetrical
Digital Input: USB 16b/44/48 KhZ
Digital outputs: Toslink optical and S/PDIF
Vacuum tubes: 2 x ECC82/12AU7 and 2 x ECC88/6922
Multi-function remote control: SOLAR ISIS
Dimensions: 434 x 350 x 112 mm
Weight: 19.5 Kg