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Reconsideration of the Rega Saturn CD Player

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A word from the publisher

Steve Daniels of The Sound Organisation, Rega’s U.S. distributor, called the other day, and we had a hearty chat on the effects created by Dagogoan Doug Schroeder’s Reconsideration of the Rega Saturn CD player article.

Per Steve, although Doug’s article did not create a full-scale paranoia among the bulk of his satisfied Rega owners, he did receive a number of calls from distraught owners wanting to return the units. On my end, since the publication of this Reconsideration article this February, I have thus far received only one email from a concerned reader who purchased a Rega Apollo a couple of weeks ago, who has been very happy about it, and is now inquiring about the worthiness of his unit.

There are issues that I feel are at stake and Steve’s grievance, however mild, is reasonable and should be addressed.

My rationale for publishing the Reconsideration article was that it was a conscientious effort on the reviewer’s part, not a display of ego or power-play, in sharing with readers who might have purchased the CD player based on his positive review. Secondly, the reviewer has exhausted reasonable venues to ascertain the legitimacy of his concern as indicated in the article, and similar experiences of readers were also conveyed to him, establishing a group of consumers with identical, repeating complaints seemingly. I had withheld articles from publishing on the ground of personal bias, unreasonable scrutiny, excessively propaganda-like and, of course, lack of substance. When it comes to an article prevalent with facts, albeit a conceivably localized phenomenon of them, I have to assess its potential, universal benefit to the readers first, and then my responsibility becomes clear: get the word out first.

Unfortunately, the downside to publish articles, such as the Reconsideration article, is the revelation of universal ownership experiences that contradict what we printed, plus the scare tactic-like effect they have inevitably on otherwise satisfied, happy Rega owners, and I bear full responsibility of having created this. As Steve pointed out, these owners constitute the bulk of the ownership base, and you never get to hear from them. That’s how things are. The Reconsideration article, then, created a dread of impending doom among owners that was just not called for. Living with a dread that you actually paid to get is not pleasant. If you are one of the happy Rega owners, then trust your own experience, and in this case and know that even the most expensive CD player will break down over time.

What I prefer not have happened was the online discussion thread that the reviewer participated in, a format that invites and chronicles both qualified and unqualified comments alike potentially. Online forums are a beautiful thing, a venue that purveys freedom of speech; but when someone like a reviewer that carries extra responsibility and thus credibility enters the game, wanting simply to contribute to the forum like his fellow participants, an activity he has enjoyed doing even before he became a reviewer, eyebrows are raised and a movement is seen.

I understand Steve’s grievance that paranoia and even politics might have contributed to the small flood of negative opinions that headed Doug’s way. To put into perspective, there is bound to be a proportionate number of complaints, however insignificant, on any given consumer products, and the more successful that product is in the marketplace, the more malfunction incidents will there be. The propagation of online forums will always serve to spread the word. Just look at the ratio of positive comments versus negative comments. The only question is: Do all incidents on product of the same category from competing manufacturers get equivalent publicity?

As of today, let me repeat that I have only received one concerned reader’s email whose unit is operating flawlessly. For the stress that our article has caused him, as well as other readers like him, I offer my sincere apology. If you are a proud owner of a Rega Apollo or Saturn, please consider the article for what it is. And in this case, absent direct comments from even one single reader who has a malfunctioning Rega Saturn, I think it is reasonable to assume this is a case of the wrong thing in the wrong hand, and the hand happened to be that of a reviewer’s.

Even the most expensive and well-engineered machines behave strangely sometimes; and when they do, the only difference is in our attitude. We have double standards that we are not aware of, for we all own things dirt cheap that we love to continue owning and serviced just for keeps, while there are things ridiculously expensive that we just love to keep buying and selling.

I had to return my PiTracer to Japan for repair and I waited 4 months; but I never abandoned its use because, impeccable sound quality notwithstanding, I am rewarded by emotional and psychological satisfaction from using it. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. Considering the very limited availability of it, I am probably not far off the mark if I say the PiTracer has a questionable reliability record, and yet I still choose to keep it. How about an affordable and yet musically superb CD player? Are you among the group of owners that will throw it away once it so much as produce a hiccup because it is cheap? Or would you just have it serviced and continue using it like your old Honda or Toyota precisely because it cost you comparatively next to nothing to attain it?

– Constantine Soo

I was one of the first in North America to obtain a Rega Apollo, and I was also at the forefront in acquiring a Saturn. This occurred prior to Constantine Soo’s kind offer to become a reviewer of Dagogo.com.

I paid full price for each of these units because I felt they were outstanding performers. In my enthusiasm, especially for the Saturn, I felt the audio community would benefit from hearing about its virtues. There was no benefit to me in conducting a review except the satisfaction of being among the first to promote it.

Well, it seems that being first can sometimes be a mistake. I am now convinced that I must caution potential purchasers in regard to persistent operational issues surrounding the Rega Apollo and Saturn cdp’s. It grieves me to have to do so, considering that they are in most respects superb. However, after working with no less than five players over the run of their production, receiving private emails from frustrated purchasers, and seeing continuing concerns on threads online, I have concluded that Rega does have a problem with these cdp’s, and to date has not properly addressed it.

I communicated initially with my Rega dealer, then the North American distributor, and finally directly with Rega UK about the anomalies I experienced. To date, I cannot say that the units being produced are guaranteed not to have the same operational glitches that I experienced.

I pointed out in my review that the unit I had did exhibit occasional errors. At the time, I was open to the idea that these errors were caused by infra red interference from my remote lighting system. I am no longer open to that suggestion. I believe there is a serious manufacturing issue in terms of the Apollo and Saturn players which has not been addressed sufficiently.

I am now publicly suggesting that anyone who purchases these players should know that they may not work perfectly. One can do a search for threads on the topic, or can research the threads at Audioasylum.com or Audiogon.com.

I have never heard of an Apollo or Saturn which has completely ceased to operate.

I have seen several people online who have insisted that their units operate perfectly. However, there are still far too many reports of glitchy machines for me to allow my review to stand without further clarification. Until reports of malfunctioning units cease, I suggest that the audiophile consider the reports of missed operations, drop outs in music playback, and failure to initialize occasional discs when considering purchase.

I would prefer to have “egg on my face” as a reviewer and provide this preface to my review than to have Dagogo and myself lose credibility by refusing to acknowledge a problem with a reviewed product. I am not attacking Rega here; I feel they have a reputation of wonderful products, however the continued reports of issues with the Apollo and Saturn mean that I cannot at this time endorse them unconditionally. I feel there is still valuable information in the review which potential purchasers and owners can benefit from.

Thank you,
Douglas Schroeder

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