REGA OSIRIS integrated amplifier
First impressions: It looked heavy and it was, all of 25kg and a bit more. Just one glance at the Rega Osiris integrated amplifier and you know nothing has been spared to ensure nothing goes wrong with this one. Or so you would think. Those, like yours truly, who believe in ignoring the manual until all else fails are in for a puzzle because the blasted power switch is beautifully camouflaged!
Then, I spotted it … a sliver of silver at the edge of the recessed part of the fascia, cleverly disguised to look like part of the trim. Push, to power on or off … smart, I thought, until I tried to switch off the amp after a couple of hours of listening. The switch went in and refused to budge until the amp had cooled! I could only conclude that the heat caused some expansion between the tiny gaps. The review unit was from the earlier batches, and I’m assured this quirk has been sorted out by Rega.
The Osiris is the British veteran company’s flagship amplifier and marks its first foray into the higher end of the hi-fi market. Part of the Reference range that also includes the Isis CD player and RS10 speakers, the Osiris looks like a mean machine, built to survive a nuclear holocaust in the company of an old Krell. The moment I got it up and running, it sounded the way it looked … a confident and powerful sound, undaunted by the tricky (by general standards today) load presented by a pair of panels.
Specs: This dual mono solid-state integrated amp outputs a hefty 162 watts into eight ohms, 250W into half that load. The design is based on a minimalist high-gain power amp mated to “passive preamplifier circuit topology”, with a passive volume control (an Alps Blue Velvet potentiometer is used) and a solitary stage of amplification between source input and speaker output.
According to Rega, the symmetrical circuit topology, which includes eight Sanken 200W output transistors, provides enough voltage swings to drive even demanding loads with ease and sans distortion. Also inside are two low-noise, purpose-designed 400VA toroidal transformers.
The amp is housed in a custom CNC-machined aluminum case with high thermal efficiency heat sinks. The inner part of the fascia is in some sort of Perspex finish, the rest of the amp is finished in a matte black, with heat sinks along each side.
Five outputs are provided, once of them balanced, along with a record input/output and a direct output that bypasses the preamp stage and goes straight to the power section. At the front, there’s just the volume control and two triangular buttons to select source. Features like mute, direct and record in/out are accessed via the supplied remote handset. Oh, and just one pair of speaker terminals, no bi-wiring nonsense. Dimensions are a burly 12.2 x 43.4 x 35cm (h/w/d).
Performance: If you’re shelling out this much moolah for a one-box amp – there are numerous pre-power configurations that can be had for the price – you can be excused for having high expectations. Initial listening, at low levels, held great promised – through my familiar reference music, I found no detail missing or any lack of vitality with the Osiris in the system.
Pushing up the volume later in the listening rounds saw the true nature of this beast revealed. Well, I wouldn’t call it a beast in the traditional Krell sense, rather, the Osiris has a bold and muscular presentation without imposing itself … there’s a polish, grace and guile in this one that is, in a sense, a reflection of the times in which it exists.
This is an amp that won’t hold back when you demand that it rocks. At reasonable volume, it was mostly what I expected it would be – in possession of a crisp and very organic sounding treble, and a smooth and silky mid-band, without masking any detail. When the recordings were simpler and, yes, acoustic, one noticed an inky backdrop and a well-defined air about each part of the mix.
Bass was firm and well fleshed out, fitting in nicely with the proceedings. My Maggie panels have a typically different take on bass frequencies, which may be limited compared to a full-range dynamic speakers, but which have great clarity and presence. The Osiris was especially competent in this area, showing no sign of faltering even with bass-dominant material, acoustic or electric.
While this is not one of your sweet-sounding solid-state amps, the Osiris had a very holistic and grain-free presentation, honest to a tolerable degree to the source material – it won’t hide the warts, but it won’t render average recordings unplayable (to audiophile ears, at least) either.
Typical of numerous Rega products I’ve had the chance to encounter in my listening room over years, the Osiris had faultless drive and timing, sounded tight but not lean, was fast but detailed and possessed a solid sonic presence. A gut feeling tells me it will sound even better with dynamic speakers in this range.
When I pushed a bit beyond my usual listening volume (which is not soft!), the amp suggested some congestion in the mid and upper ranges, especially with busier recordings. Power and headroom it usually didn’t lack, but the sense of space, ease of presentation and rhythmic delivery made way for a shut-in feeling as the volume got uncomfortably loud … not that most of us would do much listening at this level!
The good: I like the idea of keeping things simple, as Rega has done with this amp – the unfussy presentation, sheer musicality and tight pace reflect the long-standing and well-respected pedigree.
I seldom missed my own amps, so well-measured and confident was the Osiris. Long hours of listening were easy in the ears. Classy sound apart, the design, which oozes a tough industrial charm, will please those who like their equipment to look the price.
The ungood: Those looking for qualities beyond sonic performance will find the Osiris too spartan. The weight demands careful setting up … you don’t want to shift it after that!
Oh, it certainly isn’t cheap, and cynics may ask – do you want to pay this much for a product from a company better known for its entry-level and mid-range offerings?
Final verdict: The Rega Osiris is a classy powerhouse solution for those who want to keep their amplification in one simple (if heavy) box. Very communicative of the nuances and subtleties of most recordings, the Osiris will keep your ears focused on the music for long hours.
It may be bare-bones for some, but audiophiles who want to cut through the fluff will find it does its business – that of amplifying the musical signal – with little fuss and a great degree integrity. These are qualities a product at this price cannot afford not to have, and Rega ensures the Osiris is, at the least, sonically par for the bigger course.
Digital sources: Ayon CD-1s CD player, Linn Majik DS / Preamp: Odyssey Audio Tempest SLB / Power amps: Odyssey Audio Khartago Extreme SE monoblocs / Speakers: Magneplanar MG1.7 / Interconnects: MIT CVT 1 & 2 / Cables: MIT CVT 2 / Power cords: Furutech / Power supplied via AVIA balanced Powertrans / Supported on Finite Elemente Spider racks
Sujesh Pavithran is an ardent fan of Magnepan and Apogee speakers, loves vinyl AND supports digital formats as he believes they will keep improving, has a yen for tubes and is a gadget-head (shamelessly encouraging consumerism in this sector). He has been reviewing hi-fi equipment and music since the mid-1980s, but occasionally wonders if he should have made a detour into motoring or photography instead…