I think it’s safe to conclude that Rega is one of my favorite hi-fi brands of all time. The crew there makes, in my opinion, some of the finest no-fuss components in the industry. From turn-tables to amplifiers, speakers to cd players and dacs, they have almost everything covered.
I remember my first introduction to Rega eleven years ago. I was nineteen then (yeah, I’m a youngin’), and had no idea what I wanted. All I did know is that my eyes had been opened to flac compared to mp3, and now I was ready to take the plunge into a real setup.
Before I proceed any further. If you’re most interested in the review, please scroll down. I wanted to take some time to talk about how I acquired this magnificent amplifier, but I understand that not everyone is interested in that.
My research at the time had led me to Paradigm, a long standing champ in the home theater market. I read thread after thread on a wide variety of websites and concluded that they were a perfect match for me. You know, because I know exactly what I want based on other people’s reviews.
Adventure to a local hi-fi shop
When I show up at the local hi-fi shop in Dallas that carried Paradigm, I instantly knew that I was in over my head. And I also knew that I must have stood out like a sore thumb. What’s a broke college kid doing here in a place that caters to far wealthier clientele?
I was surprised to say the least. I was greeted by John, one of the employees there. We exchanged pleasantries and then I explained what I was after. I very clearly remember him asking me “what percentage do you listen to music and movies?” Easy, 80% music, 20% movies.
He takes me to listen to the paradigm speakers. I’ll be honest, I was blown away. Of course they’d be better than the Logitech speakers I currently owned. But the next part I wasn’t expecting. He asked if I’d be up for listening to something else, something “special”. Sure, why not.
It was there I had my first run-in with Rega. I was sit down in front of a system that comprised of a Saturn, a Mira 3, and RS7’s.
Synergy at its finest
There is something to be said for system synergy. It’s hard to describe, but I don’t think anyone can disagree with the fact that manufacturers design all of their components to a similar “house sound”. This system, as I would later come to find out, had serious foot-tapping synergy.
I left the shop a little perplexed. I thought I enjoyed Paradigm more but I kept coming back to the Rega’s. By comparison, at the time, they sounded boring and lifeless.
It took a few nights of me thinking about it to realize that it wasn’t that the Rega’s were lacking, but that the Paradigm’s had too much. Thus I called up the shop, talked to John and purchased their demo pair of RS7’s.
Enter the Osiris
A few years after I entered the hi-fi market, Rega introduced their flagship integrated and cd player, the Rega Osiris and Isis. I came in as soon as i could for a listen. I knew beforehand that I wouldn’t be able to afford them, but that didn’t matter. All I cared about was listening to them.
Now, this was a long time ago – nearly a decade. But I still remember the first time I heard it. I was awestruck. It’s as simple as that.
A Dream Come True
Nearly a decade after its introduction, I finally had a chance to own my very own Osiris. Before getting to the review, let’s talk specs:
The Osiris comes in at 17″ x 14″ x 5″ (WDH) and a hefty 56 lbs. Don’t let that fool you. This thing is a brick. It’s crafted from aluminum and has a very industrial look. It cranks out 160W into 8 ohms, increasing to 250W into 4 ohms.
Each channel has its own dedicated custom-made toroid transformer and the quad of Sanken 200W output transistors per channel means this behemoth has no problems driving any kind of load. Its rated to deliver the specified power at 0.05% THD+Noise. I’ll admit that specification isn’t spectacular by today’s standards but it is still fine for critical listening. This amplifier doesn’t play nicely with high efficiency speakers, I recommend something around 86dB or less.
The Osiris has five inputs, with the first one being a rather unusual transformer balanced input. This is great, since it provides an extra level of isolation, causing the already low noise floor to dip even further. There’s also a direct input that bypasses the preamp, allowing the Osiris to perfectly function within a home theater environment.
To top all of this off, the Osiris comes with a lifetime warranty. What other company out there offers this kind of support?
As I mentioned earlier, this amplifier feels like a brick. I can safely say that once you set it up, you won’t want to be moving it again! But how does it sound?
Let’s start with the setup. For my critical listening, I was running a nearly Rega Reference setup. On the analog side, a Rega RP10 connected to a Rega Aria phono-stage. By all accounts, the analog side is near reference. All it’s missing is the new Aura phonostage. I’d also love to get my hands on the new P10 turntable, but I know my wife wouldn’t have any of that.
On the digital end, I am using a Rega DAC. I think it’s fair to say that the performance of the Rega DAC has been good enough that I haven’t necessarily felt the need to upgrade. It is, by far, the oldest component in my system.
On the other side of the Osiris, I am hooked up to the venerable RS10. These speakers didn’t get the attention I feel they deserved. At least not in the USA. But that review is for another day.
You know what every great system needs to make it exceptional? Great bass response. It’s not enough to have a system capable of reaching down to 30 Hz. It requires an amplifier capable of controlling the drivers. It’s not wattage that allows an amplifier great control of the low-end. It’s current, and lots of it.
In most cases, you can recognize an amplifier with ample current delivery by looking at its wattage output as impedance decreases. A great amplifier will double down, so 100 watts at 8 ohms becomes 200 at 4 ohms. There are exceptions to this rule, but it is a great rule of thumb.
The Osiris is one of these exceptions. While it doesn’t double down, it has the current. This is provided by those four Sanken output transistors per channel. They insure that no speaker is too hard to drive. With that out of the way, we can talk about the bass response.
I had to try with multiple pairs of speakers to be sure, but the Osiris has a way with speakers that just demands attention. Its low end grip is unbelievable. Don’t take this as thinking that there’s too much bass. In fact, I’d say it’s just the right amount. The thing with bass control is that you could have two similar systems, but one has “boomy” bass while the other. Even though their output is the same, the system with tighter bass will sound as if it has less. Nothing to do with the output, simply the quality!
Circling back to the Osiris, it has bass grip in spades. If you listen to a system with this amplifier and find the bass to be unsatisfactory, take note that it is most definitely not the amplifier.
Moving up the audio spectrum, we arrive at the mid-bass and mids. Just as you’d expect from a Rega amplifier, the mids are downright seductive. I would say that it airs on the warm side of neutral, just barely. I believe this to be a Rega trait, but is one done so well that you rarely notice it. Instead you find your foot tapping to the music.
If mids are your main concern, this again shouldn’t be an issue. It’s what they do and the Osiris is a perfect example of this. As we move even further into the highs, this is the first place I would say the Osiris isn’t a little less than perfect. Don’t take that as it being awful, but rather a side effect of the Rega house sound. Since it does lay on the warm side of neutral, some of the highs can sometimes get lost. But we’re talking 10 kHz+.
Musicality for days
This is what it comes down to. We can talk for days about bass response and the mids/highs. But what it comes down to for a piece at this price is its musicality. I’ve listened to similar offerings from other manufacturers in this price range, and the Osiris definitely punches above its weight.
I think this comes down to what I call its musicality. It has just an innate ability to extract the soul of the music and lay it bare. It leaves your foot tapping and let’s be honest, that’s all that matters at the end of the day.
Every time you turn on the Osiris, it’s a new adventure and it honestly has made me want to rediscover my music collection all over again.
Calling it a Wrap
I’ve had many amplifiers come and go in my system, but this one is by far the most expensive. Despite that fact, it is one that I was more than happy to purchase once the time came. And it is one that I don’t foresee ever leaving system (at least, not for long!).