£1600 ★★★★★

We’re excited about the Elicit-R.

We get started with David Bowie’s The Stars (Are Out Tonight). It’s a tricky one, with assorted elements that can sound like a cluttered mess when thrown together on lesser systems.

It’s no problem for the Elicit-R, which handles this with skill and panache. Layers are separated with eyebrow-raising clarity and put together with precision. Instruments are clearly identifiable and given space to perform. And the lead guitar riff weaves between Bowie’s gravelly vocals, propelling the song but never hogging the spotlight.

Great detail and rhythm

It’s also incredibly detailed. We switch to the Buena Vista Social Club album and the Rega makes light work of the subtle shifts between instruments.

From the husky vocals to the wonderful percussion section, the level of texture is nothing short of stunning.

We’re also impressed by the Rega’s agility. Its surefooted timing really demands attention. It also helps that the Elicit-R has great dynamic reach, going from peak to trough without hesitation, all the while maintaining composure.

Downsides? There’s a slight leanness (and a hint of brightness) compared with the richer, smoother Roksan Caspian M2 (p88) or Heed Obelisk Si (p85). The Rega trades warmth for transparency — so material that’s been subjected to an iffy recording session (or, indeed, low-bitrate files) won’t fare very well. Some might also find the Rega a little too demanding of attention: it’s not what we’d call a relaxed presentation.

The same characteristics run through the built-in moving-magnet phono stage. We fire up our Rega RP6 turntable with a record of REM’s classic Automatic For the People, and the Elicit-R responds with a performance containing plenty of insight, although it isn’t the most relaxed listen.

Still, compared with the other built-in phono stages in this test, the Rega’s is the best. It’s worth a listen for anyone who loves the tactile fluidity of vinyl records.

Physically, the Rega Elicit-R has divided opinion in our office. It’s a metal box with a black satin finish and a glossy, recessed front panel.

There’s a single rotary dial on the front, flanked by a handful of scattered buttons, and a mildly ominous red glow.

For some it looks very cool. For others, it’s a bit like KITT from Knightrider (only without the sass). It’s a bold appearance, at any rate — much like its sound.

The Rega Elicit-R really is a fantastic amp. It’s easily one of the best in this test. Far-reaching dynamics and staggering levels of detail and agility make this a tough one to beat.

Even the long-reigning Roksan Caspian M2 is beginning to look a little shaky on its lofty perch. This is going to be a close one come verdict time.

Rega Elicit-R £1600 ★★★★★

Power output 105W per channel • Inputs 5 x line in, MM phono, MC phono, tape loop

• Outputs Speakers, preamp, tape loop • Remote Yes • Dimensions (hwd) 8 x 43 x 34cm, 13kg

Rating ★★★★★

FOR: Seriously impressive detail, dynamics and agility; good built-in phono stage

AGAINST: Some might want a more easy-going presentation; revealing of poor recordings VERDICT: This is a fantastic stereo amp — and easily one of the best at this price

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