Review: Rega Apollo CD Player

Category: Digital

I lost my power today, Ice storm on MLK Day here in Michigan. I had just purchased a Musical Fidelity A5 CDR and was looking forward to relaxing and enjoying it for the day. Without power, I thought the only thing I was going to hear was my, and the neighbors, generators running. Decided to get out of the house and ventured into Ann Arbor to Overture Audio, the grooviest stereo shop I know of in the area. Explained my power issue with them and they were kind enough to let me sit in their smaller room and play with a Rega Apollo CDP connected to a Arcam A80 (or A90, I didn't have my glasses) and Linn Ninka Speakers.

First let me say that Rega is on to something here, the Apollo seems to have the ability to strip away the digital glare or haze that you don't really notice unless you compare digital to analog. The player really lets the rhythm instruments come up in the mix. I heard instruments I had never heard before while listening to Dave Alvin's 'Blackjack' CD, I heard piano I had never noticed before in Diana Krall's 'Girl In The Other Room', same with the Tom Waits CD, I had never enjoyed 'Get Behind the Mule' more than this afternoon. It was a magnificently enjoyable hour or ninety minutes with someone else's stereo!

Unfortunately I also noticed that the Rega Apollo also seems to accentuate the "S" in female vocals. I believe it may be called silibence. The "S" sound was so exaggerated that it sounded like the sound was stuck between the tweeters for an extended period as compared to the other sounds. I compared several songs using a Arcam CD73 and the Apollo. The extended S noise was defiantly in the Apollo CDR and not in the CD73..

Has anyone else noticed this? As much as I enjoyed the Apollo's PRAT I couldn't get around the silibence in the S's. I also noticed the cymbal's ringing more than I believe is normal.

As much as I liked being able to experience a new CDP, I was somewhat disappointed in this aspect of the sound reproduction.

Thanks to Overture in Ann Arbor for being the kind of store that lets a unwashed, smelly (no power no water) potential customer play with their stereo's without any inkling of a hard sell. I love that store!

Associated gear
Linn Ninka speakers, Arcam A80 Intergated, Arcam Cd73 CDP.
I didn't think the sound of my Apollo was that great when I first got it. But after a couple of months of break in it has improved steadily. Now I can see what all the fuss is about. It offers extremely high bang-for-the-buck. And I noticed no such problem with sibilants on the high-resolution VMPS RM30 speakers in my system... Although I will admit that the high frequency reproduction seems to have improved since I first got it.

My stock Apollo sounded VERY comparable (in the same league) as my Monarchy M24 tube DAC, and a highly modified Denon 3910 with tube output stage and WBT NextGen RCA outputs. It actually sounded a slightly more incisive and dynamic than either tube unit and the vocals are excellent on my rig.
The "very slight tendency to overemphasize sibilance" was also noted by The Absolute Sound in their review of Apollo.
Plato makes a good point: the sound of the Apollo definitely improves with age. It sounds okay out of the box, really good after a couple of weeks, but mine took about four months to show itself to its best advantage. I was catching some occasional sibilance as well (more than I had been experiencing with my old Alpha DAC), but break-in and moving to a 100% copper from a silver/copper interconnect has largely fixed that. And I love listening to Dave Alvin's King of California CD on the Apollo -- plenty of detail and slam.
Zinfan2, agreed, the Apollo does take quite a while to break in. And I am also getting excellent results using copper interconnects from player to preamp.
Don't know how many hours were on the Apollo CDP or if it was possibly a poor match w/cables or a poor match with the Ninka speakers.

Like I said, I was just amazed by the Apollos ability to reproduce details, instrumental interplay and the backround information that makes music interesting.

Will have to give it another listen and find out if it was broken in.
I to had the apollo CDP in my system, a lender from my audio store and it to exagerated the upper midrange to lower high frequencies .To be honest its soundstaging capabilities were excelent and its prat factor were outstanding , but its exageration of sibilance were a let down in my system,Magnepan 1.6qr,audible Illusions modulus 3A preamp, Mccormack DNA 125 power amp, all put together with Jps superconductor.Compared with my CDP, cambridge audio azur 640 its imaging was superior,and midbass somewhat more difined, but the cambridge had more meat, its bass and dynamics were more believable,overall I thought that moving from the cambridge to the rega was a sideways move.I had the apollo for about two and a half weeks and in that time I didnt notice a difference in its performance.Just my ten cents worth.
I notice the sibilance effect in Cambridge Audio CD players too. Funny, the Apollo and the Cambridges use the same Wolfson DAC.
apollo to a ray samuels audio hr2 headphone amp thru a number of headphones. no sibilance added to any redbook cds.

very good sq, especially for the money.

my naim cd5 w/flatcap blows it outta the water as well it should for 3 times the price.
i own an apollo cd player: i just bought it this past thursday
it is an interesting player for the money indeed.
in a confusing word of format wars, the apollo is indeed
a graet player for the money.
i did compare it to two other players which were $3000 and 3500.00 respectively and while these two players did some things better than the rega the rega was overall the most listenable without fatigue (over a wider spectrum) as some in this thread have postd. it has the most top to bottom cleanness the others didnt have for much more money.

its obvious that the folks at rega did their homework and sensed a market that was wide open as the japanese designers abandond the redbook cd players, and rega went to town on developing a player that closed a wide open gap of consumers who wanted a good RB player without the worry of immediate impending doom on the that market.
it is as some golden ears have observed:slightly bass deficient but its not enemic... at least at this time of non total break in (now only approx 10 hrs)
but bass is sufficient enough to ignore it for the rest of the musical spectrum which is full widely dimensional and open.
it does wipe the haze from standard cd players weve been used to and opens up the soundstage and depth enjoyably.
instrument separation is a delight to hear as i was listening to grover washingtons cd "reed seed" which (hint) should be remastered into audiophile status. this not as popular as his winelight album but trounces that cd in terms of listenable content. its also a cd that like some recordings such as james taylor fire and rain; abbey road among other good recorded albums...that have potential for instrument spaciality and openness that auophiles like.
steve hoffman are you listening?

i immediately heard the three saxphones that differentiated in the "trio tune" song on the cd, rather than just sound as one almost homogenous instrument.
thats the standout difference between cost saving cd players and this one.

this player isnt broken in yet and still i really like it. i went with it because the players going for 2500.00 to 3000.00 didnt seem worth the extra money save for the musical fidelity the "5" model which is the best thing for the money over the rega. but i had to remain within the constraints of my budget alas.

i owned an early model cambridge audio when it was manufactrured in england in the 90's (now its in china).
that was and still is a great player though it is out of order permanantly now and no one localy can repair it. no big deal its why i bought the rega. though the cambridge is a good player in its own right i now prefer the apollo because it is more open and unrestrained, (the cambridge was darker) yet again if you want to spend low dollars the cambridge is a good unit but it seems to have reliability problems as reported by some owners (as mine did).

i also own an earlier magnavox: 90's: (didnt come with a model number) it is a tank by comparison and one might think that having guts would make it better sounding than the rega. it is very good souding still and has better bass extention than the rega but rega has overall more ease of listenability and openness and hence you wont get listening fatigue and will hear all your old cd's sound new for the first time without straining to hear anything as its presented with such listening ease.

beware this cd player may annoy your lady since it is so open and loud she may tell you to turn it down as you proudly show it to her. it sounds like the instruments are closer to you live than any other player in this price range. the drum sticks are woody, clacky; you actually feel and hear the bang of the fingers on the piano, sometimes the breath of the musician breathing air through his sax. this is a player that should be recommended to all budding audipophiles and will not annoy you when another player in its price range comes out because it is pretty satisfying as it is.
i hear its faults but they are mostly negligable and i actually cant fault the player for them; i just realize that its more of a budget player than not. i also found that the $1600.00 arcam was a dud by comparison. i wasnt sure the why of all the hype about arcams. no offense to them but it is overrated methinks.
here's the thing to remember about cd players: you do honestly need the decoding guts to get the best sound which means more expense for the best stuff, but some companies like rega have found out how to work around that and make a "low end" cd player listenable. if it were more analytical then its cost would reflect that.

so without hesitation i recommend it over naim nad etc and all others in its price range and above to the 2500.00 mark at least and in some cases the 3k mark.
so do not hesitate to audition this player and dont quiibble about the money: you have a charge card use it. this player will keep you less edgy about wanting something more expensive with higher resolution and will stop the question of: "should i have done something else with my money?"
I had a Rega Apollo, I didn't like it in my system, I think I must have a weird system, as I didn't like the Linn Ikemi either ! (I currently use a Pioneer PD-S505)
Anyhow the real point of this, is that the Apollo did seem a little bright, and the reason could be that emphasis might be permanently on. I noticed the emphasis light light up on my Muse 2 DAC, when I attached it to the Apollo. I tried a few discs, as apparently CD's with emphasis are rare, but do exist.
Maybe the Muse DAC was misbehaving, I would be interested if anybody else who has a DAC that has an emphasis indicator, has tried connecting it to a Rega Apollo.
The Stereophile review measurements said if anything there was slight rolloff at the top. That said, I have heard it on maybe 3 or 4 CDs out of my large collection. 10cc is one. In these cases on my system (Krell and Apollo) it's clearly the mastering of the CD. Though with my system at least the old cliche' holds - unforgiving to poorly mastered CDs. But yeah, I've heard it very occasionally. Still love the player although I'm trying to get to a music-server based system either with a Transporter or a DAC1 Pre. (The Squeezebox DAC is inferior to the Apollo's.)

regards, David
Forgot to mention, the Arcam would bring that out more IMO. I've listened to Arcam several times and the detail was right on up there - to a fault actually. Intellectually my engineer brain said this it great but the Arcam left the rest cold. No warmth. My Krell has that kind of detail but with more body, warmth and realism. My point is I think the Arcam would exacerbate any tendency to sibilance the Apollo has.
regards, David
I had one and eventually sold it; liked the less expensive Onkyo DX-7555 much better.
I don't hear the sibilence. My only gripe is the "play" button sticks. I have to use the remote.

Heard from a well respected source that the top of the line NAD is terrific and could be an alternative at 300 dollars less.

Iam assuming that the repaired Rega will be my last player I ever buy.

Imaging and clarity are terrific.