Ask an expert: Is the RB301 disproportionately good for the price?

Ask an expert

As a highly-satisfied long-term user of the Rega RB300 tonearm. In an old issue of Hi-Fi World I was intrigued by the reviews of the Rega RB1000 and the RB251. I refer to the ‘Measured Performance’ boxes and the arm vibration graphs I was fooled at first into thinking that these are indeed structurally different arms but the graphs don’t lie. The graphs for the RB1000 and RB251 are exactly the same!

I briefly toyed with the possibility that there had been a mix-up but this was quickly dismissed as highly unlikely. Have you ever noticed just how very similar all the Rega arm variants look? I now understand why Rega sells the RB1000 without paint: to save the cost of the paint (of course!) and, moreover, to deceive us and charge the punters over seven times the going price for a RB251. Am I correct, or incorrect – or somewhere in between?

It’s always been the case that budget models make least cash profit, whilst upmarket models, if they sell, rake it in. But let’s look at the wider picture, because it’s a little intriguing and may not be quite what you expect.

Chatting the other day to someone who knows the Rega arms well, I said I was surprised that with the obvious and clearly stated success of the RB300 (Rega say on their site that the old dies wore out after 100,000 operations!) no one had ever tried to mimic or improve on it. His reply? “They can’t; he sells them at a price no one can match”. Interesting, no?

It’s true the RB300, now the RB301, is disproportionately good for the price. It’s a simple but beautifully executed piece of engineering, a one-piece casting, that is easy to fit, lovely to use and does its job impeccably. And it costs peanuts. I suspect it’s under priced to maintain market share, quite frankly.

The more expensive models share the structure and its vibrational signature, but the bearings are improved Rega say, as well as the lead-out wires. They are better I feel certain, but proportionately so? Perhaps not. Somehow, because the basic arm is so cheap I really can’t find it in myself to complain much about this; so Rega rob the rich to feed the poor we might say? Perhaps we should just enjoy the fact that the RB301 is so good for so little.