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A few weeks ago I purchased a YBA Heritage A100 integrated amp. That amp performed so well that I found myself wondering if it was worth picking up the associated Heritage CD100 player as well. So I wondered and I googled and I ordered based on what I found. I must say, I am glad I did. The YBA components compliment each other very well.
There are already several pics of the A100 in my 'Addicts Guide' thread but none of the CD100 so let's correct that shall we?
Not the greatest pic but it does show off those toggle switches. Once you've experienced toggle switches you won't go back to buttons, toggles are so much more tactile than buttons.
And an internal shot, note the R core power supply. It may not be important to some but to me the fact that those opamps are mounted in a "press in" manner that enables me to roll them with ease is a very big thing. There will be some Burson discretes tested out in this puppy by the end of the month.
Edit: I just noticed I left the cd in for this pic, I do recall the YBA doing a very nice rendition of the "Gregorian Masters of Chant" album. Great atmosphere on that album. I also seem to be wearing my uggies, what an overly informative picture.
And the required 'action shot'.
I have yet to get to the details of this review (however it is a long weekend for me so I should be done by Monday night) so this first post is more a preview.
The YBA gear gives great atmosphere, almost as effectively as the Sansui AU5900 actually. Where the Sansui uses a whole heap of warmth to impart its atmosphere the YBA's utilize a fullness of tone to achieve a similar effect. It feels like there is more meat in the middle of each note with the YBA combo and that makes the bass sound more full (not deeper or faster but it feels like it has more staying power, you can really sink your teeth into it), lets the mid range fill out the soundstage and tonally fleshes out the top end as well (piano is an absolute delight through the YBAs).
The toggle switches on the cd player really work for me, for some reason it is so much more satisfying to use a toggle switch than it is to just press a button. On a more practical note it also allows for two functions per switch, up for one and down for another so YBA can utilize all the usual functions without crowding what is otherwise a very clean looking face plate. The coax input on the back is a nice addition too, so the player can double as a single input DAC.
The only thing I have found that displeases me about the YBA Heritage gear so far involves the functionality of the remote control. There is no 'punch through' function on anything, so if you have selected the cd player and you want to change the volume you have to select the amp button first or the volume button is inactive. Similarly if you want to change the track that is playing and you have just adjusted the volume then you have to select the cd player first, otherwise the track forward and back buttons are inactive. A 'punch through' function on the volume control would have been nice. I will say this for the remote though, it is extremely well balanced.
I'm very impressed with the YBA Heritage gear and that is without any reference to the price. At two to two and a half K per component I would say they were a good buy but since they cost $1650 for the amp and $1299 for the cd player I would say they are a screaming bargain. (they are on special though, normal RRP is $2K for the amp and $1550 for the spinner, including postage, mine were purchased from A1 Future Shop)
I've already reviewed the Ragnarok in my "Addicts Guide" thread but it made such a positive impression on me that I thought it deserved a thread all of its own. I'll cut and paste the review and the contents of a few following posts to make this first post a summary of the Ragnarok experience and then I'll continue with my cable and preamp experimentation here.
Iâ€™ve wanted to try something by Schiit for a while now but...wellâ€¦ I didnâ€™t really need another DAC or pre and I donâ€™t own a decent set of headphones, so it didnâ€™t happen. Until Schiit decided to manufacture an integrated amp (the loyalists seem to view it as a headphone amp that just happens to be so powerful it can run a pair of speakers, but to me it looks a lot like an integrated amp) now we were talking!
The first thing I noticed was that the amp runs slightly hotter than your average pie warmer, not only should it not be placed in an enclosed cabinet I wouldnâ€™t even place it under a shelf. However, if placed on a surface with plenty of space above and around it then it does seem to be pretty happy with running hot (in other words my custom cooling fan is not actually required).
The second thing I noticed was that its gain settings are slightly lower than I am used to, 9 oâ€™clock on the volume dial on most amps will require the Ragnarok to be turned to between 12 and 1 oâ€™clock. It isnâ€™t really a big thing, but it is something you will definitely notice.
On the specs front we have 5 inputs, 2 balanced and 3 RCA and one of each for the preamp output stage. 60wpc into 8 Ohms should drive 98% of speakers so no great concerns there (and Iâ€™ve found 3 separate cases on the web where testers have used the Ragnarok to power KEF LS50s, they require serious current, so this figure may well be on the low side of the actual number of watts on tap), nicely done Schiit. I also notice that Schiit do not list an input impedance for the Ragnarok, odd, but again, no big thing.
I was using my Consonance cd120 as a source, feeding into the Ragnarok via Aurealis R1 interconnects and then into my Lenehan/ETI S2R speakers via Redgum speaker cables.
Highs: Trumpets are nice and raspy without being hard or harsh, triangles and piano twinkle gloriously and delicately, cymbals and brushes are very crisp but not harsh. One of the best top ends I have yet heard on an integrated amp. 9.0
Mids: Clean, clear, uncluttered and beautiful to behold. Every instrument feels like it is happy to play its part and is given its own space to do so. Acoustic hang time feels very natural. It is just fun to listen to! 8.5
Bass: Very well behaved, articulate and defers to the mids and highs as required. Also clean and smooth with nice detail. 8.0
Female: 9.0 The most natural and pleasantly real vocals I have heard from an integrated amp.
Male: 9.0 Personally Iâ€™d rather be listening to the ladies than the guys but the Ragnarok makes not such distinctions. The vocals are given an ever so slight preference over the instruments, the vocals floated just slightly above the centre of my system and none of the instruments was allowed to get too close to them. The effect was very much like placing the singer out in front and then wrapping the band around them in a semi-circle. It was a very convincing effect.
2D Soundstaging: 9.0 The instrument separation also extends to stereo effects and placement within the soundstage. None of the instruments feel like they are locked into place it just feels like they are floating very still.
Overall Performance Integration:
Brilliant clarity and a good sense of rhythm combine with the soundstaging, the vocals, the imaging and the clear top end to present the impression that this amp not only knows how to spell words like â€œenunciationâ€, â€œiambic pentameterâ€ and â€œspatial differentiationâ€ it also understands what they mean and why they are important. This is one piece of audio componentry that has been put through a very prestigious finishing school. 9.0
Ability to Emote:
Once you start to listen itâ€™s got you, you can stop listening if you want to, but why would you do that? 8.0 (as a minimum, it rates higher once the ladies start to sing)
Electric Guitar Test:
8.0 Itâ€™s good, donâ€™t get me wrong it is very good, but it needs the soul of a rebel to do any better than this and it is too refined to be that rebellious.
80â€™s Rock Test:
8.0 Again, itâ€™s very good but itâ€™s calm and collected enough that it wonâ€™t go above an eight.
The Ragnarok has impressed me greatly, it is a very detailed amp without a single trace of harshness to its sound. The vocals are clean, natural and a joy to listen to and instruments are very true to life without being fatiguing.
Could I live with the Ragnarok long term? Hell yes!
I've also been playing about with the Ragnarok as a preamp. I had a session with it feeding the ME580 last night and it was pretty good, more prominent bass (of course!) and a top end that didn't seem to lose anything at all but the vocals just didn't retain their magic and the more prominent bass got in the way (if only slightly) of the mid and upper treble. I swapped ICs between the Rag and the 580 from Aurealis to Furutech Alphas and got some more breath into the vocals and a little more mid range flesh but I didn't like the effect on the bass or the slight softening of the top end. All in all it was not a bad combo but not as well put together as the Ragnarok on its lonesome, the boys at Schiit did a very good job of matching the pre and power stages on this puppy.
I've also got the Exposure Classic 28/Ragnarok to try.
The Exposure/Schiit combo is very interesting, reminds me of a more refined Sansui 5900 in many ways. It's got that velvety exposure warmth and more breath to the vocals but the instrument separation just isn't there. It loses some detail and the delicate frequency balance is thrown out too, even so, it is quite more-ish! Sounds a little too much like vinyl to me, but I'm sure some would like it.
One thing I have definitely noticed is that the volume dial position is only slightly above where I expect it to be when the Ragnarok is used as a preamp so it seems the power amp section of the Rag' has slightly lower gain than most. As I've said before it isn't really an issue but it is something that is easily noticed.
I'm running the Ragnarok with my Halcro DM38 right now and the results are astounding, I'll get to the details later but for now let's just go with astounding. I've found this combo to be quite cable sensitive so it is taking some time to fine tune.
I've yet to get to the Burson Timekeepers, but I will. Then I'll have to try some different sources too.
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.