Monday, 18 April 2011

Rega Fono Mini to be discontinued

Rega announced this week that their budget phono stage, the Fono Mini is being discontinued, their press release said:

"We have recently learnt that the earthquake and tsunami in Japan seriously affected the factory in which the sockets for the FONO MINI were sourced and it has now closed permanently. We had an order in place with this company which we have now been informed they can no longer fulfill."

This socket is quite an unusual design (pictured below), so they cannot be sourced elsewhere, and once the remaining stock have sold out there will be no more (we currently have just a handful left).
They did use this as an opportunity to inform us of the replacement they have been working on that is scheduled for a July 2011 launch. This new phono stage will also have a USB output included, which whilst very convenient for those people transferring LPs onto CD does cause me a little concern. For a start there are already lots of similar units on the market, but more than that it will almost certainly put the price up due to the extra complexity (the great thing about the Fono Mini was its incredibly low price) and lastly including the required Analogue to digital conversion is bound to cause noise which is the last thing you want in such close proximity to a delicate phono input - unless Rega have been very careful with power supplies and positioning/screening it’s almost impossible to avoid.

Then there’s the question as to whether a USB output is really that necessary. Most people are unaware that their PC probably already has a line level input that would be perfectly suitable when used from their existing amplifier/phono stage and if not an external sound card can be added very cheaply and quickly (especially ideal for use with laptops). This also allows you to set the recording levels correctly (to allow good resolution without risking clipping), rather than put up with the 'best guess' that you will naturally get with a non adjustable design with integral A/D conversion.

So I remain to be convinced this new model will be a true replacement for the excellent Fono mini, but then Rega have a habit of surprising me, so it will be very interesting to see what they come up with.

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