Rega Planar 3 : Heavily upgraded yet produces a sound that I don't like

I have the Rega Planar 3 turntable for 30 years now. It had an original everything including a 100$ nottingham analogue cartridge/stylus.
Sound was not bad but pretty basic....
A few years ago I started upgrading it. I did all the upgrades together and the result is... not good. The sound is very accurate but it is too bright, there is almost no Bass and drums have no attack whatsoever.
I can't eliminate where the problem is because all upgrades are irreversible.
I know that the Ortofon Rondo Red has a very bright sound but still...


Here is a list of the upgrades :

1. ISOkinetik ISOvert Rega Tonearm VTA Adjustment Kit


2. Cardas Litz purple phono cable


3. ISOkinetik Tonearm Low CG weight


4. Ortofon Rondo Red Cartridge/stylus


5 Linn Linto phono pre amp (an old but outstanding piece which has a cult following).

6. I use Rega Elicit Apmplifer

I tried a Ortofon Red on my Planar 3 based on all of the bang for the buck reviews. I added a spacer to help with the VTA etc.
Hated the sound it was basically as you described.

Sold the cartridge for $50 and moved on. So I am not saying this is a bad phono cartridge, I just think on the Rega TT these aren’t the right combination. Luckily a friend sold me a newish Rega Elys for only a few more $ and the sound improved 100%. 
If you have a lot of vinyl and plan to play records do yourself a favor and move up to a better cartridge. 
Or a Dynavector 10x5, or to check with a different phono stage.
Rega 3 is basic but still produces fast bass and attack.
Cardas cables are anything but bright, so you can let that bit off the hook.  One thing: Weren't especially the early Rega turntables notorious for running too fast? Have you changed the turntable belt along your upgrade path?  Anyway, check turntable speed.  If it's too fast, that could account for most of your symptoms.  Wouldn't hurt to upgrade the whole shebang, either.  (Better turntable, better cartridge, but that's an easy out.) For speed check, I recommend don't use a cell phone app.  Do use a good strobe-based device.  Best is the KAB strobe kit.  Buy it once and use it forever for any future turntable.
I played with a P5 years ago.

The most significant upgrade to my ears is replacing the plastic subplatter to an aftermarket aluminum model.

Easily noticed SQ all around. Other than a different cartridge and plugging it into the best phonostage available, time to move up the  foodchain.
This highlights the real dangers of tweaking. Despite what others might say (esp paid reviewers), after much cost in time and money you can easily end up with a wholly undesirable result. One that will never recoup all the extra money invested. 

I once tried to upgrade a Rega 3. In the end I eventually realised it was a little presumptuous to think I might know the Rega 3 better than Rega did. Even the so-called isolation tweaks didn't achieve the expected results.

Rega decks seem to be balance of very carefully matched resonances. Not so easy for the layman to improve at home.
My Rega 3 seemed impervious to any of my attempts to improve it.

In the end I bought an LP12, but that's another story.

In fact if you say that all turntables are a basically a combination of resonance control and speed accuracy, then it's not altogether obvious how any of these tweaks might have worked.

Oh well, no worries. It's all a learning process and many of us have been there before you.

A 1990 Rega 3 is not the last word in scale, bandwidth, or temporal accuracy, so good luck with getting a far better deck in the future.
OP - here are a few upgrades i did to my 32 year old rega 2 - it sounds amazing - now :-)

I recommend the RCA plugs, metal sub-platter and Acrylic platter upgrades to start with

The Audiomods tonearm, although expensive, was worth every penny - Just Amazing!

If the arm is too much, then at least get a one piece harness fitted to your arm (if it does not have onw already)
- but for about $300 more you can get the Audiomods arm - and it alone is amazing

The Plinth Upgrade was daunting - you can get some very nice new plinths on-line for a great price

The feet of the TT are now 2.5" wide bronze cones and it sits on a granite tile

The cartridge is a modified Soundsmith Denon DL103
- with the O.C. Countour Line stylus/Ruby cantilever - amazing!
- the epoxied brass plate seals the deal
- it stiffens up the plastic casing
- lots more body and less distortion

Unfortunately - the only thing left from Rega II is the plastic cover and the ON/OFF switch - but they work great! :-)

If I had my time over - I’d just get another brand of TT - there are some great choices these days

Hope that helps

Regards - Steve
"I tried a Ortofon Red on my Planar 3 based on all of the bang for the buck reviews. I added a spacer to help with the VTA etc.
Hated the sound it was basically as you described. "


I will make sure VTA and speed are correct of course but I do tend to suspect the cartridge. Speed was never an issue with my previous cartridge.
What would be a better all around cartridge at the same price and a little bit more that could balance accurate sound that will still sound... warmish and not kill the drums ?
If you add a spacer to help with VTA, you'll raise the back of the arm making the cartridge sound more etched and brighter.
Do you have an external tracking force gauge?  Could be a cartridge / arm compatibility issue.  The Rondo Red is fairly low compliance and may not be well suited to your fairly low mass tone arm. This could be impacted bass response.
You changed the cables and might have a capacitance issue. MM cartridges are very sensitive to capacitance and the wrong capacitive loading will change the high frequency balance. You have three variables you can play around with, the cartridge, the resistance load and the capacitance load. You can "tune" your high frequency response this way.
I always shoot for the lowest capacitance in cables and usually play around with resistors first. Your load now is probably 47K ohms. Read this article
A word of caution. When people note a bright sound this usually means a peak between 6 kHz and 12 kHz. Most people will not hear a peak at 20 kHz. Even a peak at 16 kHz might not be perceived as "too bright" but rather as more detail which some people like. It gives you that surrealistic Hi Fi sound. 
I had a Rega Planar 3 back in the mid 90’s.  It had a Linn K9 cartridge.  Sound was very lightweight and listener fatigue stopped me from buying records.   I ended up keeping the Rega RB300 arm from the Planar3 and bought a VPI Hw19.  I mounted the RB300 and Linn cartridge and there was bass again!  Sold the Rega TT less arm and was happy for a time. 
I would unload the TT here and get something else with the money.  
I am happy with the Elys II cartridge on my Planar 3.
I realize at $295 it might not be what you want to spend.
However I do think the Rega cartridges setup easily and are meant specifically for their TT so for me they just work. You’ll get various opinions for sure.

Regarding VTA, mentioned above, here are 2 images:
Humor me and remove VTA shim and felt mat. 
It may be worthwhile to identify the weakest link. With the weakest component intact, it does not matter how much you spend on elsewhere.

It could be the turntable itself.
Maybe the speaker or speaker cable.
Or the Rega amplifier or the interconnect.
I've been frustrated many times with similar reasons. Nothing can be more disappointing when you hear no improvement after spending $$$. However, it is a part of the business. Getting the right kind of combination and synergy among different components takes a lot of time, money, and efforts.
A quick update..
The local Rega dealer kindly agreed to lend a Rega phonostage next weekend to take home and replace my Linn Linto to help isolate the guilty component.
Assuming this doesn't help, the next step would be to try a new MC cartridge. 
Would a Rega Ania MC cartridge that costs more than 600 pounds be a golden ring in a pig's nose ?
Again, assuming it solves the problem, wouldn't it be more economical to just sell the TT and buy another one that fits my phonstage/system ?
I was not aware the Rhondo Red was a moving coil cartridge. At this price point you are much better off with a Moving Magnet cartridge. As an example you find the Gyger S stylus, perhaps the quietest tracking stylus made in the $17,000 Clearaudio Goldfinger MC. You will find the exact same stylus in the $600 Goldring 1042 MM and a similar stylus in the Audio Technica VM760SLC for $600. 
That cartridge is pure CRAPOLA.  Get a Grado Gold (MM) and listen to how sweet a P3 can sound.

Problem solved ! Well... most of it ...

I decided to start the Rondo Red setup from scratch. All I knew is that the dealer who sold it to me used a Baerwald protractor for Rega to set the Cartridge alignment. I read that a Stevenson protractor for Rega can be better. I used the Stevenson and bingo ! Now there is a nice Bass, drums have a decent attack and sound stage is much much better. I ended up spending 8 hours yesterday listening to my good old vinyls.

The sound though, is still on the bright side. When Barbra Streisand sings "Memories", at timing 01:38, sound is too bright:
In a climax part of a symphony wind instruments sound a bit too bright.
So at this point I finally end up enjoying my P3 TT but sound is a bit inferior to my Digital department (Linn Karik transport + Carry Exciter D/A) .

Bare in mind that my Linn Linto phonostage is MC only so I'm afraid MM's are not an option for me.
To resolve the brightness issue, I have to buy a better MC cartridge like the Rega Annia for 800$ or similar.
Anybody here tried the Annia MC ? Any recommendations for a decent MC ?

Unfortunately @triskadecaphobic, it is likely not your cartridge that needs to go, it is your Linn phonostage that needs to go. It has a non adjustable 150 ohm loading in parallel with a fairly useless 4.7nF capacitor (which does almost nothing except short our very high frequency noise). If you buy a different cartridge you could very well end up at exactly the same place.

This is not an advocacy of extremephono products, but it is a good little article on cartridge loading. You can see how even for an MC cartridge, the frequency response can be affected by loading. This will vary cartridge to cartridge and I feel these graphs are more the extreme:

In the past I bought these pass-through RCA units with a little circuit board in them you could put parts on them. Can't remember where I got them, but that is an option.  The Linn has fairly input impedance so these could be used as an adjunct.

@triskadecaphobic,   ran out of time to modify last post. You can obviously just wire something with an RCA female and male two if you are good with a soldering iron. We are only talking an additional resistor and capacitor between the two contacts. Not sure how many you are with a soldering iron.

There are also these, but I would prefer to be able to run resistance and capacitance. It would give you more flexibility.
I found a relevant thread I started a few years ago. The tech specs I listed there show no mismatch:

"Rondo red:
Recommended load impedance 10-200 Ohm

Linn linto:
The input impedance measured 165 ohms at 1kHz
Compatible impedance and best impedance for optimal frequency response are not the same thing.

Did you follow the link I provided on optimal impedance matching?
I read it carefully. I still do not understand the difference between the two.
Please explain this and if possible a step by step procedure of what needs to be added ? Resistor in parallel to right and left ? What values ?
Maybe you're expecting more out of your table than it's capable of delivering.  I had a Rega Planar 3.  I returned it the next day.  Bought my first VPI table instead.  

There are plenty of good-sounding tables out there without having to settle for a Rega.
This is the link to read.

The circuit would typically be an R-C in series and that is placed between the +/- at the input to the amp (or in the amp). 

Most cartridges today into a higher impedance load (the Linn is not "high", but not low either), will have a bump in the high frequencies and a bit of a dip below that.  That is going to make them sound bright. Changing your cartridge is not going to fix the issue, at least not guaranteed. It could be better, or it could be worse.  

I can't tell you the exact value since I don't have your cartridge and amp.  Maybe Ortofon could help?  They may be able to provide some guidance on loading for a flat frequency response.
@bpoletti ,

'Maybe you're expecting more out of your table than it's capable of delivering. I had a Rega Planar 3. I returned it the next day. Bought my first VPI table instead.  

There are plenty of good-sounding tables out there without having to settle for a Rega.'

Absolutely. However, as you know, sometimes it's best to find out for yourself.

I keep reminding myself to sometimes not butt in and let my kids make some mistakes. 

Can be a good way to learn. Sometimes, it's the only way to learn.

I often berate reviewers for leading me astray when I was new to audio, but no one held a gun to my head. 

Would I have listened to an alternative opinion back then?

Not too sure that I would have. Embarrassing to think that many of us used to smugly look down on the likes of Quad, SME, Technics etc as we were held in rapture by the likes of Naim, Linn and Rega.

Thankfully, that bubble was unable to withstand the pressure of reality and eventually burst of its own accord.

Freedom at last.
The main problem with upgrading a rega is using non rega parts on them. They are designed to where every main part has a different resonance and when you mess with them they can have serious side effects. The other thing is when you get one right they can be magical but finding the right cartridge for them can be tricky because of lack of adjustments on the tonearm. I do know that the Ortofon cartridges are on the bright detailed thin side on them. You might want to try a more warm brand of cartridge that has more body like a Dynavector 10x5 or 20x2.
Hey op, have you address cartridge loading yet to see if it fixes your brightness issue?

I upgraded my Rega Planar 3 (2016 model) with the following:

--Groovetracer Reference Sub-Platter (w/cubic zirconia ball) ($275.00)

--Upgraded White Silicone Belt ($40.00)

--Groovetracer Delrin Platter ($350.00)

--MCM Sorbothane Aluminum Feet ($129.00)

--Rega Neo PSU ($395.00)

--Rega Ania Pro Cartridge

--2" Acrylic Isolation Platform

I also own a stock Rega RP8 with a Ania Cartridge. The upgraded P3 doesn't 'blow' the RP8 away but it certainly is its equal. I tried the RP8 with the Ania Pro and the vocals were too sharp for my taste. I then switched the cartridges and found that the P3 as upgraded made the Ania Pro more comfortable to me.

I realize that the turntable upgrades above were nearly $1,200.00 but I only paid $995.00 for the Rega P3 and the $2100.00 invested makes it sound as good or very close to the $3,000.00 RP8. 

I think upgrades should be done auspiciously and carefully. Frank Smylie at Groovetracer makes an amazing product that is often better in quality and design than the mass production of Rega Tables--with each table a compromise of something to fit into a particular price point. 

Are Rega cartridges the final word in music production? No. Of course not. Roy Candy, Rega's founder reminds me of the late Steve Jobs--his minimal plinth philosophy and his engineering focus creates certain proprietary goals for his products. I think Rega Cartridges, especially the moving coil selections, are excellent when coupled with a Rega Table. 

In any event, my upgrade success story is based on my subjective ears--others may find a different path. The great thing about an Audiophile hobby (my family refers to it as an addiction) is the individual enjoyment of the music. Cheers.

I would not consider anything by Rega. I think that the lower levels tables are bested by other manufacturers and the higher end tables are miles behind the competition. A friend replaced his RP8 with a 20 year old Townsend Rock and the difference was startling. I have less experience with their cartridges.


@auditionaudio ,

Err.. yes, but the Townshend Rock was a unique design that's hardly likely to bettered in its areas of strength.

Particularly in the bass, which is not something Regas are known for.

I had one of those, I think it cost $900 back in the late 70’s. In thirty years I never got a soundstage out of it, but it was durable. The biggest improvement I got was to box it up and use it for a trade in. The vintage folks buy them.

 I think it’s time to upgrade, if you stay away from Rega you learn new things like VTA and azimuth and sounds coming from your records like you’ve never heard before. It’s kind of like a welcome to the 21st century.