Redgum Integrated Amp and CD Player

      Date posted: October 10, 2000


Redgum RGi120 Integrated Amplifier
(Suggested Retail: $2200 CDN)
Redgum RGCD5 CD Player
(Suggested Retail: $1999 CDN)
Dist: Australia Audio - NuView Audio Tech
Box 622, Salmon Arm, BC V1E 4N7
(877) 361-3630 FAX (250) 833-4332

(Reprinted from the Summer/Fall 2000 Audio Ideas Guide)

     Redgum is an Australian hardwood that, when finished in a glowing lacquer as on this company’s products, looks stunning. It’s used for the faceplate of both the amplifier and CD player, the latter flipping down to reveal controls and disc drawer. Redgum audio is an Australian company(obviously), based in suburban Melbourne, which makes amplifiers and CD players.

     The RGi120 is rated at 120 watts per channel, and uses MOSFET output devices that manage very high current. There are only 3 front-panel controls: a pair of ganged level potentiometers, and a rotary selector. Inputs are provided for CD, VCR, AmFm, and a pair of tape monitors. The level controls are linked by an internal elastic band, this setup allowing individual adjustment of balance by moving one while holding the other. The pots themselves are conductive plastic, these said by designer Ian Robinson to be more reliable and to have lower distortion than their carbon counterparts. They also cost a great deal more.

     The output devices are arranged around a convection tunnel aluminum frame with a fan at the inner end. Though the amplifier is said to be dual mono, there is a single power transformer that may be double wound. The amplifier claims a peak current output of 150 amps, which may be a bit optimistic, given the size of the transformer.

     However, this review sample came with a test result sheet (like all Bryston amps) that specified 315 watts short-term power per channel with both channels driven, 153.1 watts rms, one channel driven, and 121 watts rms, both channels driven. This latter figure suggests that a beefier power supply (ie; bigger or dual transformers) would turn this already powerful integrated amp into a monster.

     Redgum claims that the RGi120 will operate into a dead short, and is virtually indestructible. The company is so confident that it does not use output fuses. And just to make sure that the kids don’t try to blow it up when Mom and Dad go to the Outback for the weekend, the on/off switch is a key, the most literal form of “parental lockout” yet devised. These keys are all different, so they also serve as an anti-theft device, though, as with cars, there’s nothing stopping a thief from hot- wiring the amp when he gets it home.

     The RGCD5 CD player is among the most unusual I’ve encountered. Not only is it the first with a wood fascia, but its transport appears to be a computer mechanism, with its controls beneath the drawer. The drawer itself has “Infra 60oo” and “Creative” written on it, while the remote control is a credit- card type also festooned with the Creative logo. Transport buttons on the remote are orange, with blue numeric ones underneath, and a vertical row of silver ones at right that are inoperative, including volume up/down.

     No literature was supplied with the player, so we’re left only to guess at Ian Robinson’s reasons for using a computer CD transport. The rear panel sports an RCA coaxial digital out, but also a digital in, along with the analog RCA outputs.

     Though there is no technical information supplied for this new player, in its two-piece sibling, the RGCD2, the transport uses the same mechanism, and perhaps we can infer that the identical Burr-Brown PCM1710U dual 20-bit DAC chips used in the DAC are also employed in the digital processor of the RGCD5. With 8-times oversampling and a special Cirrus Logic CS8412 low-jitter input clocking device, the DAC section is designed to handle 20-bit signals and provide high resolution digital decoding for its own and other digital sources. And there must be even more than all this in the single box RGCD5, because it costs almost twice as much as the two-box RGCD2.

     When I started our standard tests the CD player underlined another peculiarity of the computer CD-ROM transport: no display. Unfortunately that made it impossible to do a reliable Verany disc dropout check, since I not only couldn’t see what track it was playing, but couldn’t even find my way to track 25, where these tests of increasing dropout size begin.

     However, the Canadian CD Check disc came in handy, the transport able to track only the first two of 5 levels of error. In our random error test, the player was typical of good transports, playing to the two-minute mark before skipping ahead looking for good data. It wouldn’t play the see-through poorly aluminized disc at first, but a second try resulted in loud ticking and very audible distortion. I also discovered, playing one our own emphasized recordings, that like most computer transports, this one does not recognize emphasis flags, so such CDs have notably brighter upper octaves. In sum, I’m not sure that this type of transport was a particularly astute design choice, since it’s not a great tracker (though its performance on the random error disc was good), won’t tell you anything about the CD you’re playing, and does not have a de-emphasis correction circuit.

     Nonetheless, it proved to be an outstanding player sonically, the DAC among the better ones I’ve heard. Switching to the digital input is automatic, based on whether there’s a disc in the transport. And I thought that the DAC sounded even better when it was fed from another transport, in this case the Talk Electronics Thunder 1. I liked the player’s freedom from grain, or that digital hardness that makes me put on LPs. It was dynamic, clean, and detailed, without much listening fatigue.

     These qualities were carried through the RGi120 amplifier with great transparency and energy. This is the best MOSFET amplifier I’ve heard, and easily the most powerful integrated amp in my experience. It is quite possible that the elimination of a separate balance control and the use of plastic pots has reduced distortion, because this amp is as clean as a whistle, and very quick with transients. I found it particularly impressive with 96 kHz DVDs, the absolute live performance quality of these fully conveyed.

     If you have no Denon CDs (most of which are emphasized), you might find the RGCD5 enjoyable for its sound quality, but you’ll have to get by wondering what track is playing and how long it might be. However, I have no such reservations about the RGi1210, easily the best integrated amplifier I’ve heard since the Jeff Rowland Concentra, which is more expensive and more refined. But the Redgum delivers (as the casinos like to claim) excitement, this time Aussie style.

Andrew Marshall

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