Rega Saturn-R

Hardware Review

Rega Saturn-R
Thursday, March 20, 2014
CD player/DAC
Jason Kennedy

The phrase is game changer. This not a CD player as we know it, with the possible exception of the £6,000 Rega Isis nothing I have heard in digital audio delivers resolution and musicality in such convincing and entertaining fashion as the Saturn-R.

Ever since streaming came along I have pretty much given up on CD, most players are either dull or painful, it seemed to be nigh on impossible to get the resolution of file streaming nor the musicality of vinyl out of the format. CD players with vitality usually have a forwardness that makes them uncomfortable long term or at level. The Saturn-R, a £1,598 player, is extraordinarily revealing and, more important, has the best timing in the business. What’s its secret? After all the Apollo-R has the same mechanism – a device made for portable use with a decent amount of RAM so that it carries on playing if it’s jogged. The DAC is different, it’s a Wolfson and they’re pretty good, yet I’ve heard plenty of no better than OK players with them onboard. Designer Terry Bateman says its essentially down to power supply and house keeping, there is more space in the box and more budget so things are done to a higher standard. And the Apollo-R is a damn entertaining player, it is in the same ballpark when it comes to grin factor, so it would seem that Rega has managed to refine that and reveal more of what it gets off the disc.



The MSB Signature Data CD IV transport has the same approach, reading at high speed to RAM and sending the bits out at the desired frequency. Put it with a serious DAC and it will produce a result that is in the same league as the Saturn-R, but at £11,000 or thereabouts (including power supply) plus DAC this will remain a pretty exclusive product. And although I can’t put them back to back I doubt that it beats this Rega for sheer realism, for showing you what the musicians are playing, how they’re playing it and what vintage of Strat is being abused. I’ll tell you how good it is, I have started burning music files onto CD-R so that I can hear what’s really going on, what all the lyrics are and what the tape op had for breakfast. I’ve rarely had so much fun with my clothes on.

It’s also worth mentioning that this is also the best DAC that Rega has made (it has asynchronous USB frinstance) even if you wouldn’t guess if from the front panel. But stick what you will into its digital inputs they won’t beat the onboard source, must be a clocking/jitter thing.

I have written a full review of the Saturn-R for a magazine which will be on sale in April (2014), so I won’t go on for fear of repetition but I will say this; if you can find a more enjoyable and revealing digital source for under ten grand I will eat my zircon encrusted tweezers.


Digital inputs: 2x optical, 2x coaxial, Asynchronous USB
Digital outputs: 2x coaxial
Outputs: single ended RCA phono
Supported sample rates: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 192kHz
Dimensions (H x W x D): 82 x 432 x 325mm
Weight: 10kg

Manufacturer Details: 

Rega Research
T 01702 333071



Had an interesting experience over the weekend, my three and a half year old daughter has a Laura Veirs Cd called Tumble Bee (an album of children’s songs done as only Laura Veirs can). We play it quite a lot and she heard it for the first time via the Saturn. Almost immediately she started asking about the words, “why is she singing that?”  “What does that mean?” Now she’s heard that CD quite a few times and on good players as well, but she’s never asked about the words before. And no I don’t talk to her about cables or hi-fi, just music. 

Dear Mr. Kennedy,

Having enjoyed your recent review of the ATC CD2 CD player in another publication, I was wondering how you would rate it against the Rega Saturn-R, of which you were a big fan (see above)?

Do you still rate the Saturn-R, and would the next best player still be the Isis / Isis valve in your opinion?

Finally, have you had a chance to hear the Hegel Mohican and if so, where do you place it in relation to the Saturn-R, Isis, Isis Valve and ATC CD2?

By Y Glust

The ATC and the Rega CD players are quite different but both are musically engaging and highly enjoyable. The ATC has a relatively conservative, even handed sound that gets under your skin without apparently trying. The Rega is more lively and exciting, it sounds more like a turntable than most CD players. Its sense of timing is more obvious but it's not as tonally refined as the ATC.

Which magazine did the review appear in? And was it the April or May edition? Thanks.

I reviewed the Saturn-R for issue 383 of Hi-Fi Choice, which was probably the April 2014 issue.

I will track down that issue and read the review every time I'm tempted to sell my Saturn R!

I still use the Saturn-R as a reference, it's not the most refined CD player on the market but it has a lot more life in it than most.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the new Saturn. I've just ordered one, upgrading from the Apollo cdp which was pretty decent & am going for a worthwhile upgrade. I like with the new Saturn that you can connect its DAC to other sources so am going to experiment with my Naim ND52XS to see how those dual Wolfsons sound with the Naim, if I can do this. I appreciate the Saturn is in a new case essentially with a few tweaks re power supply, digital inputs... Are you getting one for review?

By Ria

Hi Ria, you are correct it's a facelift version of the Saturn-R reviewed above and therefore a fabulous CD player, one which you would have to pay a lot to better in fact. It will be interesting to see if its onboard DAC would improve on what's inside your Naim streamer, usually the need to make an external digital connection via a compromised link like coax undermines any benefits that the alternative converter might bring. So it's more likely to make it different than better.

We should get one in to review, I will put in a request.