So, after much attempting to make the Rega P2 sound as good as the Kenwood KD-2070 with the Benz MC20E (including changing mats and adding 5gm to the head shell which all helped improve the unit), it has been relegated to my office which has a concrete floor and smaller loudspeakers.
Here's the real life review with input from very adept analogue children (boys 9 and 11):
1) On the usability front the Rega just plain sucks mud. The mechanism to cue the tonearm is not positive and the tonearm falls back down from its apex after activating it making you think its going to damage the disc. Its also not high enough off the media surface.
2) But first you have to lift the dust-cover without pulling it out of its receivers on the main body! Totally cheese-ball set-up. I would pay $10 USD more for spring loaded hinges which are actually connected to both main elements of the unit.
3) The thin wool mat is a joke. My dog ate it. I would pay $20 USD more for 5 pieces of hard rubber mat I could stack to set the VTA (four with just a small hole for the dick and one with a big hole for the label) or a combo of rubber and and the wool.
4) The anti-skating adjustment finally drove me to take the unit out of production last night. I delayed my dinner and set the Kenwood up just to ensure my ears weren't messed up. The idea of taking a $500 USD plus unit apart to fix the anti-skating AND check the tonearm clamping was just too much for me.
5) In contrast the Kenwood has an excellent dust cover arrangement, the cueing is excellent, the stock rubber mat is at least ok. The strobe and RPM adjustment work well and you can play a 45 without surgery. The unit is effing heavy and has very good feet and most of all the Benz absolutely rocks in the thing.
From the audio side the Rega is at a disadvantage in my main listening area. I have an old house made of wood. Though my solid wood entertainment structure fully loaded with an HD CRT and all the other electronic bits is substantial, the Pioneer HPM-100's go down to 35Hz and I like to listen at slightly higher than average levels which inevitably drives vibration to the furniture and then to the turntable
When the Rega was the best I could get it, without pouring it its own concrete-to-earth pedestal, I could feel the main body vibrating fairly significantly at normal listening levels where the Kenwood was a rock. It also never achieved the "magic" I had with the Kenwood and the Benz. I literally NEVER sat down and smiled and made two hours melt away spinning discs.
In the end I believe that the Rega P2 is a basis for spending another $100 plus USD to tweak (read "Hobbyist") but only off you have a house with a concrete slab and a piece of furniture to help the Rega be isolated. I also believe that it needs a cartridge which works well in a light tonearm. I can see where it could deliver excellent performance in a semi-rarified environment but as a turntable which out of the box could deliver the goods for the average folks dusting off their LP its a complete joke. Buy a used 70's Marantz, Kenwood, or whatever, put a good cartridge in it, set it up and go. (sssssssss-shaped tonearems, remember?).
I re-set the Benz in the Kenwood, got it dialed in, took the screens off the HPM-100's, cleaned up the toys and spent two hours smiling and wondering what I was going to listen to next, which is the point I guess.
I am open to cartridge suggestions for Rega P2.