In tune with the latest machining technology

Dan Ware (left) and Ky Gandy exploring the features of Rega Research’s new XYZ 750 LR machining centre
Dan Ware (left) and Ky Gandy exploring the features of Rega Research’s new XYZ 750 LR machining centre

For almost 50 years, Southend-based Rega Research has, to the point of obsession, used engineering as the basis for the design and manufacture of its extensive range of home audio systems. PES hears how the acquisition of an XYZ 750 LR vertical machining centre is helping the company keep up with increased demand.

Employing engineering to produce the best music for its customers while maintaining a high level of reliability and affordability and wherever possible a strong UK-supplier base, has led to Rega Research creating innovative designs that are both aesthetically pleasing and produce the best sound quality.

This combination has created a loyal customer base, with the past two years seeing significant sales growth, which resulted in the company seeking new machining capacity and its latest investment in an XYZ 750 LR vertical machining centre. 

Rega Research was founded and owned by Roy Gandy, who struggled to find an audio system that met his expectations. He was advised, possibly by a frustrated audio dealer, to ‘build his own’ if he couldn’t find what he wanted. The rest as they say is history. Using his engineering skills gained in the automotive sector Mr Gandy reviewed what was available, and even the best turntables at the time were said to ‘offend his sensibilities’ so the quest to re-engineer and create new concepts in audio began.

The XYZ 750 LR is being used for prototype work, as well as manufacture of assembly jigs and test rigs with a variety of materials being machined
The XYZ 750 LR is being used for prototype work, as well as manufacture of assembly jigs and test rigs with a variety of materials being machined

The company now designs and assembles a full range of home audio equipment including turntables, amplifiers, phono stages, CD players, tonearms, cartridges and speakers. Production stands at over 5,000 turntables every month made up of 3,000 units of its entry-level P1 turntable, over 1,000 of its mid-range P3 turntable and even 70 units per month of its range topping P10 turntable, which retails at around £5,000. Add these to its other products and production tops 10,000 units per month. Every product is assembled in-house with components sourced mainly in the UK.

High fidelity quality

There is a subtle difference between music lovers and hi-fi enthusiasts and Rega’s products appeal to the former: “Our customers love music; many would go to concerts daily if possible, so we strive to deliver a level of quality that can replicate that experience for them,” says Ky Gandy, supplier co-ordinator, Rega Research.

The blend of high quality, design and value for money has seen Rega grow from 130 employees at the start of 2020, with a turnover of £13 million to a £20 million turnover and 180 employees at the end of 2021.

“The lockdown arrived and while the first few weeks impacted on operations, it also had a positive effect. Sales boomed due in part to people being stuck at home, many with more disposable income. I also think in the previous decade that the world had a shift in attitude and came to terms with value for money, which is what we aim to provide.”

This significant growth added pressure to Rega’s toolroom, which was populated with manual machines to produce assembly jigs and test rigs, as well as some prototype machining. A move to CNC had been on the cards for many years, but had been put off for several reasons, particularly lack of space.

A re-organisation combined by the increased workload finally allowed the purchase of an XYZ 750 LR vertical machining centre to go ahead. The machine will be used on a variety of materials from aluminium, high pressure laminate through to MDF, so Rega opted for the 12,000rpm model and for added versatility the 4th axis and 24 position arm-type tool-changer options. The XYZ 750 LR is fitted with linear rail technology, which like Rega’s products combines performance with value for money. 

One of Rega Research’s metal components being machined on the XYZ 750 LR
One of Rega Research’s metal components being machined on the XYZ 750 LR

“We had been looking at introducing CNC to our toolroom for several years. We did our research, as we do with all our suppliers, and while the machine was important, ongoing support and service was a priority,” Mr Gandy explains. “This resulted in a shortlist of one, XYZ Machine Tools. During our search we kept coming back to XYZ and in the end it became a straightforward choice due to the confidence we had in their ability to support us with technical help and aftersales.

“We also received glowing reviews from our existing component suppliers. Another factor that made the decision easier was that during the quotation process they didn’t try to upsell to us. We indicated an interest in their HD machines, but they did the right thing and sold us the machine we needed, not what we thought we wanted.”

Fit for purpose 

The aftersales service was immediately put to the test for the delivery of the machine, which due to limited access had to be stripped back to its carcass then re-assembled in-situ, a process that took just four days from unloading to powering up and running.

Throughout the pandemic focus was on delivering products to meet demand, so product releases were put on hold. Now, with a degree of normality returning, new products are on the horizon with new turntables and amplifiers due to be launched in 2022.

This will see an increased workload for the XYZ 750 LR in terms of machining development parts and the testing fixtures that will also be needed. Having the machine will enable Rega to respond quickly to change, and to meet the increased demand from its assembly department, where demand for fixturing continues to grow.

There are no plans for the XYZ 750 LR at Rega to be used for production work, but it is filling a need for reworking existing stock components that may need rectifying or adjusting. A recent example was a batch of plinths that were found to be out of concentricity tolerance on two bores.

The Rega Planar 10 turntable (with and without platter) along with its Rega P10-PSU advanced outboard power supply
The Rega Planar 10 turntable (with and without platter) along with its Rega P10-PSU advanced outboard power supply

“The obvious solution was to return the entire batch to our supplier, but that isn’t the Rega way of doing things,” says Mr Gandy. “We respect our suppliers and accept that occasionally errors arise, so we took the decision to rectify the parts ourselves. We used the XYZ 750 LR to manufacture a fixture, which it was then able to use to rework the parts to within microns – something that saved time and money thanks to the efficiency of the machine and the input from Dan Ware, who joined us specifically to run it.”

Keeping up standards

For the past 50 years Rega Research has stuck to its belief that by applying the best engineering processes you can create value for money, but also the highest quality of sound.

“There is an assumption that to be high-end and made in the UK, it has to be expensive, but through application of engineering disciplines we are able to deliver what our customers want – a product that generates high-quality music in a cost-effective and an aesthetically pleasing way. This isn’t always easy, as developing parts to meet our founder’s guiding principles can sometimes take two years, and they may not be the easiest components to manufacture.

“One example is our one-piece tonearms which require detailed tooling for diecasting – but the result gives high stiffness but reduces their weight down to 34g, enhancing their performance. Working with our suppliers there is always an engineering solution to be found,” Mr Gandy concludes.

XYZ Machine Tools
www.xyzmachinetools.com

Rega Research
www.rega.co.uk

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