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I am looking for any thoughts, experiences and information about an older Redgum RGi60 amplifier, it has the dual volume pots for the dual mono thing.
I have found one for sale just around the corner and it is possible to possibly conduct an in-home audition with my current gear, but I am unsure about the brand and the capability of driving difficult speakers with only 60w per channel? The speakers are Paradigm S2 and I am thinking about replacing the new NAD C388 with something better matched to the speakers, rather than replacing the speakers at this stage.
Any thoughts as to price for a used one or things to look out for would be appreciated. Also is it possible to use the red gum as a faux power amp given the dual mono layout and passive pre-amp stage? like could I just set the vol to max and then use a DAC/Pre to deal with the music?
I've mentioned the circumstances surrounding the appearance of the RGi35ENR at my place of residence over in the addicts guide thread (post #95 for those who are curious). I've re-posted the pics pics above from there, they are the only ones I've got and we can't have a review thread without a few pics.
You know, sometimes I forget what it is that Iâ€™m looking for in an integrated amp. Am I looking for perfection? Wellâ€¦ sureâ€¦ why not, but Iâ€™m enough of a realist that Iâ€™m not actually expecting to find it.
Am I looking for extended highs (because I do like them!), sweet mids, natural mids, sexy vocals, deep bassâ€¦ I could go on and on.
But I think what Iâ€™m looking for is an enjoyable presentation, one that entertains. And Iâ€™m not really that fussy on the details (not until I put on my critical hat and reach for my clipboard anyway) Iâ€™m just after an amp that I will enjoy listening to, everything else is secondary. Most of the amps Iâ€™ve managed to get my hands on over the past few years have sounded pretty good, there were only really 3 that I had serious â€œlack of appreciationâ€ issues with and it wasn't so much that they did things badly it was more that they did things in a way that I really didnâ€™t like. Listening to them was still a worthwhile learning experience (even if I didnâ€™t choose to do it for very long). I am happy to say that the â€˜35ENR has provided me with another learning experience, and quite a pleasant one to boot.
Now Iâ€™ve been sent this REDGUM RGi35ENR Black Series (by accident, or possibly due to the wish I made when I saw that shooting star last week) to add to my amp experiences and I am happy to say that I quite like it. Itâ€™s got the kahunas of a paratrooper, more bass than a guitar shop and enough honesty that it could never hope to get itself elected to parliament. All of these are good things, but Iâ€™ve come unstuck in the past a few times now where Iâ€™ve discovered that even though I thought an amp performed great in initial listening they turned out to have a serious flaw or two once I put on my chosen test disc and put pen to paper so, let us get down to brass tacks shall we?
The cables in use for this test were Aurealis ICs from source to amp and REDGUM speaker cables. The source was my usual Consonance cd120 and the speakers were my Lenehan/ETI S2R stand mounts. The â€˜35ENR is rated at 65wpc and sports some pretty decent power claims down into 2 Ohms, if you want all the details I suggest you check out the indiegogo link here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/redgum-black-signature-series-amplifier-project
Or one of the SNA links, news here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/redgum-black-signature-series-amplifier-project
And discussion thread here: http://www.stereo.net.au/forums/index.php?/topic/66328-21-years-of-redgum-so-something-special-had-to-happen/
Triangle is bigger and bolder than ever with a longer ring out (or hang) time, trumpet seems to be ever so slightly smoothed/sweetened (so not quite as raspy as usual) but it retains its identity well (ie itâ€™s still very distinctly a trumpet), Piano is similar, just ever so slightly less crisp and more sweet than Iâ€™m used to, not enough of a change to annoy just enough to indicate a distinct personality. This is the first time Iâ€™ve heard â€˜slightly sweetenedâ€™ upper treble that I actually enjoyed.
I had a bit of a hard time coming up with words here, eventually I coined the phrase
â€˜naturally, neutrally, pleasant, and just a little bit mellowâ€™
to describe the mid range presentation of the â€˜35ENR.
Provides extra large helpings of Strong, Deep, Fast, Hard and Solid Bass. At lower volume levels the bass sits happily and unobtrusively in line with the top end and the mids but when you up the volume it really kicks in. At these higher volume levels it can intrude on the higher frequencies and hide some of the detail of them, however if you are listening at these volumes then it is unlikely that you would be seeking those details and more likely that you would be trying to drive your friends from the room (or possibly your neighbours from the street). There is a massive amount of bass on tap for an amp of this wattage rating. Very impressive.
7.75 (was to be an 8.0 but I marked it down 0.25 due to the occasional bass intrusion)
Very much the same as the mid range, the vocals seem to a bit understated but end up being very captivating all the same. The REDGUM doesnâ€™t seem to exerting an influence over them in any way, they certainly arenâ€™t sweetened, softened or smoothed, they seem untouched. An example of less is more maybe? It certainly makes the vocals very hard to score, Iâ€™m going to go with a 7.5 as I did with the mid range, but keep in mind that if â€˜un-interfered with vocalsâ€™ is what you are after then this should be an 8.0 or 8.5.
I have to make mention of this, the â€˜35ENR has a massive level of channel separation, so much so that many vocals and instruments that I am used to hearing â€˜smack bang in the middle of the speakersâ€™ migrated to the left or right by up to a meter (for a few songs there I must have looked like I was watching a tennis match, my head was turning left and right so often). This is a pretty damn cool effect (IMO, obviously), you could almost call it â€˜enhanced stereoâ€™. Now I stopped giving scores for soundstaging a while back, and this is a pity because here the little REDGUM excels. If I was awarding scores this one would have to be a 9.0.
Pretty much as expected, it would score somewhere between 6 and 7, maybe 7.5, which was a bit of a let down after the 2D result above.
Overall Performance Integration:
Loves its transients, puts out a very dynamic and solid performance that it is generally happy to let the bass take the lead in (at higher volumes anyway), the highs and mids can be surprisingly delicate and detailed at times but the amp does like to remind the listener that it really likes to emphasise its bass performance. This is one of those amps that loves everything to change, while it doesnâ€™t mind nice mellow flowing music it absolutely loves big dips and crashes. In some ways it puts me in mind of a 20 year old with a new sports car, heâ€™s always smiling but heâ€™s smiling wider when heâ€™s accelerating, braking or changing direction.
Ability to Emote:
Iâ€™m going to split this in two here and award one score for the mids and highs and one for the bass.
7.0 (mids and highs) a nice light allure that slowly and gently drags you in, that naturalness speaks to you but it does it a bit slowly since it takes a little time to work out exactly what it is you are hearing.
8.5 (bass) Grabs you by the scruff of the neck, drags you to the end of the pier, wraps a chain around your left foot and then throws you (and the two bricks attached to the other end of the chain) off the end. Even if you are not a fan of it, you are definitely going to react to that bass!
Electric Guitar Test:
7.5, very good but that natural mid range doesnâ€™t quite let me hear the â€˜feedback edgeâ€™ that I like. Luckily this score increases to 8.0 if you crank the volume over 85db.
80â€™s Rock Test:
7.0 Perfectly adequate but just not outstanding. I may try some other 80â€™s rock just to confirm.
Another amp that is just that little bit different to most. Itâ€™s been a long time between drinks in my chosen hobby lately but at least I can say that those drinks have been â€˜strong and interestingâ€™ ones. Since REDGUM use a passive volume control I was expecting to hear some of that softening of the leading edge of notes that I heard with the ME240 (particularly when I ran it without a low impedance source) and/or the mellow liquid sound/effect of the Exposure 2010S2. I could hear it (to a lesser extent) with the REDGUM RGM175 system I had previously too, so it was pretty surprising to discover that it just didnâ€™t happen with the â€˜35ENR. Good stuff!
In fact, there is very little about the sonic signature of this amp that reminds me about the RGM175 system that I had recently. Admittedly it was 5 years old and this amp is about 5 minutes old so that may well explain it. I will say that I like the â€˜35ENR more than the RGM175 though, and Iâ€™m not sure that all of that difference can be said to be due to my â€˜soft spotâ€™ for integrated amps. Iâ€™m thinking those three initials make quite a difference.
Another thing I discovered was that the amp is sensitive enough to easily display the difference between 2 DACs, I had the REDGUM CD5ENR hooked up and was doing some swapping back and forth between it and my Consonance cd120 and found that the character of the amp changed significantly when I switched between the two, the bass increased by at least 10% with the CD5 ENR, and was pushed out by 2 or 3 feet which separated it (in the soundstage) from the top end and the mids which seemed to stay where they already were, in between the speakers. Now I know the two players have quite different sounding character but it is rare to find an integrated amp that can display that change in character so vividly (if only they all did then there would be far fewer people walking around claiming that DACs donâ€™t make a difference). That is a definite feather in the little REDGUMâ€™s cap.
All of this is about in line with what I would expect to get in an integrated amp in the two to two-point-five thousand dollar range (Iâ€™m talking Aussie dollars here). It certainly fits in with many other amps Iâ€™ve heard that sit in that price range. Butâ€¦ it isnâ€™t in that price rangeâ€¦ is it?
OK, so now that Iâ€™ve typed somewhere around 1700 words about the integrated amp in question, how about I try it out as a power amp? If I wind the volume pots fully open then I can, and, to my way of thinking, if I can then I really should. And quickly, before anyone asks for it back.
I knew something was cooking over at Redgum, I happened to know what too since I was talking to Lindy back in March and she mentioned the new "Black" series, but I didn't know much in the way of details, until now.
Looks like we'll be getting a new range of amps with an all new look. Check out the link below for details.
Keep in mind too that the amp in the demo is the baby of the range, the RGi35ENR. It doesn't look that little any more.
This RGM175 system was bought second hand from Redgum and is one model old so it does not have the big wavey underbelly heat sinks (a bit of a pity really because the current model with those heat sinks looks really cool!).
Item: Redgum RGM175 System
Price: $3200 (including postage to anywhere in Australia, overseas postage is likely to be extra)
Item Condition: Very good, refurbished by Redgum in May 2013 and sold to me with a 3 year warranty. I have confirmed with Ian from Redgum that the remainder of this warranty is transferrable so there you go, one 2 and a half year warranty.
Reason for selling: Several reasons really, I have too many amps (OK, not really a good enough reason on its own, but it's true), I have a broken cd player that I need some cash to fix and I could use some $$ as Christmas is coming up. Sonically I think the Redgums are a little too similar in personality to my S2R speakers, for want of a better term the S2Rs sound a little 'woody' as do the Redgums and when you put them together it is a little too much of the same thing. I could see the Redgums working very well with speakers that are a bit on the bright side.
Payment Method: Pickup - Cash, Paypal, COD Only
Extra Info: See http://redgumaudio.com/shop/index.php?route=product/product&path=59_75&product_id=71 for more info.
Note: The pics show the RGM175 with the Redgum cd5 on top, the cd5 is not included in the price and is not for sale! The RGM175 comes with 12 volt trigger leads, power cords, two remote controls, manuals and original boxes and packaging but the asking price does not include any interconnects or speaker cables.
The original idea here was to perform a two way shootout between the Redgum and Burson systems but while I was waiting for the Burson gear to show up I managed to get my hands on the Exposure Classic 28 and Classic 21 components so why not make it a 3 way comparison? After all the more the merrier, right?
I have resolved that, for the sake of this trio of tests, I will take every step possible to make the systems sound their best. The only parts of the system that will stay unchanged throughout is the speakers and the speaker cables, I will swap and change ICs and cd spinners as I deem necessary.
Due to a bizarre condition that I can only assume is my own personal curse I have had 'issues' with each and every system here.
In the case of the Exposure gear this curse manifested in two ways. The first was the fact that the classic 21 was shipped from the UK packed on its back (this is assuming that the 'this way up' stickers were obeyed by the posties) with no packing. Well, OK, there was actually plenty of packing but all of it was on top of the upside down preamp and so of little use. I mentioned this to the seller and he told me that it was packed by the idiot son of his brothers first marriage (or something of the sort) and offered to have the boy neutered just to make me feel better. I doubt that actually happened but at least he offered! Thankfully it has performed flawlessly so it obviously survived its crossing of half the globe in good condition.
The classic 28 caused me all sorts of anguish, it gave me a "bass note of death" experience, it's hard to forget one of those! And when I got it back from the tech (who could find no fault) one of the channels failed within a minute. The details are available in a separate thread;
http://www.stereo.net.au/forums/index.php?/topic/54890-when-a-power-amp-goes-bad-goes-dc/ for anyone who wants the details.
The solution was to use low capacitance speaker cables, which means the expensive Lenehans and not so expensive but much loved LBP Taranuis are out of contention. So I am forced to use something different, I chose the massively thick (7 gauge!) Redgum cables and the 28 hasn't missed a beat since.
1. Exposure Classic 21 Pre and Classic 28 Power amps.
These puppies RRP'ed at close to $5K each when new so I was hoping for big things. The Classic 21 has a TT that looks to be the same size as the ones in the 28, I am guessing 350VA. Not bad for a pre that will use about 25 watts at most, you just have to love that level of over-engineering! The 28 is a dual mono design so the two channels share a power cord and on switch and that is all, it's all separate after that, a TT feeds each channel. Almost monoblocks but not quite.
I tried the Exposures with my now standard consonance cd120 and I have to say they sounded pretty crappy. There was too much of everything, too much mid range, too much bass and I had trouble hearing what was happening in the highs because there was too much of the mid range muscling in on it. Not really knowing what was going on I tried the Myryad Z114 and everything fell into place. The darker nature of the Z114 was obviously what the doctor ordered (is this a case of English gear being happier to work with other English gear I wonder?). It was all good after that!
I tried Aurealis ICs from cd to pre and pre to pwr but it was a bit too much for the highs, I tried Lenehan Ribbonflex for both runs and it came out to be a bit too much in the mids, in the end I used the Ribbonflex for the cd to pre run and Aurealis from pre to pwr. That did the trick.
And now the details.
Highs: Emerge delicately from a background of black, plush velvet, the detail on display is very impressive. Softly played piano is the best I have heard. Trumpets are just the right mix of rasp and prap, triangle is maybe a little crystalline in that is has more tinkle than twinkle. 8.0
Mids: nicely sweet in a bit of a â€œglam rockâ€ kind of way, very nicely expressed over the top of the bass not quite as much detail available as there is in the highs but that is ok as there just doesnâ€™t need to be. The only solid criticism I can find here is that there is a distinct lack of â€˜zingâ€™ in the transients, the Exposures are much more analytical and correct than they are energetic. Even so, very, very good. 7.5
Bass: This is the region where the Exposures shine, strong, full, expansive and enough to fill the room to the point where it leaks out the windows. The bass usually has something of a calming effect on me when it is on display like this, it fills the room with a mellow thunder, so it can manage to be both calming and spine tingling at the same time! It also has something of a liquidity to it and you have to love Evanescence when the gear can fill the room with mellow, calming, tingling, liquid thunder! Oh yeah, canâ€™t help but love it! 8.0 (and I reserve the right to increase that to an 8.5 depending on the results of the next two stages of this exercise)
Female: Beautifully detailed and expressive but more airy than breathy and not particularly sweet at all. Whereas some amps focus on vocals the Exposures seem to treat them as just another instrument which means great detail but a bit of a â€˜loss of sexinessâ€™ in the case of female vocals. Even so, there is something to be said for listening to artists like Amy Lee and Norah Jones with just a little bit of sexiness removed, they still sound brilliant but you appreciate them for being an artist rather than for being sexy or good looking or desirable. Made me not only appreciate the performance more but gave me a different way to look at things and that is not easily done. 8.0
Male: The same treatment that seems to remove a bit of sexiness from the ladies seems to add a bit of it to the guys. You can pick the changes in pitch presented by â€˜big rangeâ€™ singers like Freddie Mercury and Justin Hawkins so much easier than before. It even lets you pick a few small alterations in pitch in the voice of Mark Knopfler, which is not something I thought even occurred. So, in short, it actually does a better job with the boys than the girls. 8.5
2D Soundstaging: Channel separation and stereo effects are crisp and clear. For the purpose of this comparison I am setting the Exposures performance at 7.0 and Iâ€™ll compare the Burson and Redgum directly to that score.
3D Soundstaging: well controlled but a bit shallow due to its personality (see below). Setting this at 7.0 as well.
Overall Performance Integration:
Listening from afar, The Exposures give you a performance that is definitely in front of you, like a show on stage. It doesnâ€™t try to draw you in to the middle of the music but lets you appreciate and judge from a slightly removed position. I must say that I have never heard anything quite like it before, which makes it hard to score, it certainly seems to be very good at what it does so Iâ€™ll give it a 7.5.
Ability to Emote:
A bit strange in the emotion stakes. Since it doesnâ€™t draw you in and make you feel a part of or surrounded by the music but rather lets you watch the performance from a step back Iâ€™m going to have to score this one based on how effective I feel it is doing its job rather than how much it makes my spine tingle or my eyes tear up (not that that ever happens!) and since it does its job very well indeed that means it scores quite high. 8.0
Electric Guitar Test:
Again very interesting. I started out with an 8.0 but marked it down to 7.5 on the second round due to a lack of â€˜edgynessâ€™ but had to bring it back up to an 8.0 again once I noticed an extra level of detail that was available in and behind the guitars sound and while I was trying to work out how much detail was actually there I noticed that it uses a sort of mid-range â€˜reverbâ€™ effect to give the guitar the energy that it should usually have from said edginess that I thought was lacking. Once I noticed that I just had to mark it up to 8.5. So it scores as well as the Burson, even though it gets there in a slightly different way.
80â€™s Rock Test:
Excellent, very clear and yet not overly processed or artificially clean. That sort of â€˜reverbâ€™ effect is very good but not quite as good as the â€˜edgy rawnessâ€™ that I expect from some of the big hair rock bands. So it comes in as the third or fourth best I have heard rather than second or first. 8.5
Crisp sounds are amazingly crisp, excellent snap too but the overall effect is not crisp or snappy, more fresh, open and clear in the mids and highs and that wonderfully fluid, strong and all encompassing bass underneath. Sort of like a world class garden salad served on top of a triple layer mud cake!
Right about now I am very happy that I took the punt and decided to add the Exposure gear to this otherwise two way comparison. Very happy indeed.
Next up, a revised review of the Burson gear (assuming it needs revising, there's no way to know without having a long, hard listen!)
And photos, several photos.