Ian Robinson formed Redgum Audio five years ago, after 30 years of Hi-Fi retail and servicing with firstly Chelsound Electronics, then The Contemporary Sound Center. Redgum Audio was born out of Ians beliefs that he could produce a better built and better sounding amplifier than the more expensive overseas ones that he was then selling and servicing. For the full story please refer to the feature on Redgum Audio in issue AVL-78.
Being very familiar with the Australian Made Redgum Amplifiers line up, I was very keen to open up the box of the newest member to the Redgum stable - the RGi35. The RGi35 joins the RGi60, RGi120 (also integrated amps), the RGM175 and RGM300 (dual monoblock and pre-amp), RGCD2 and RGCD5 (CD players) as well as the two speakers in the range, RGS28i (bookshelf) and RGS38i (floorstander) both finished in real Redgum wood veneer. The RGi35 greeted me with the same look, as it’s 60 and 120-watt brothers. The only noticeable difference was in its weight, slightly lighter than its 60watt brother. Aesthetics is a strong point with the Redgum equipment, that is not jazzed up like a tiny tot quest entrant, rather a keep it simple presentation. With a piece of solid Redgum as the fascia of the amp, the key that turns the unit on and off and three machine-turned solid aluminum knobs, (left and right volume and source selector) the “less is more” philosophy is not just for looks but more importantly for sound. Why the left and right volume controls you ask? Redgum has attempted through this dual mono design to reduce the amount of distortion the volume pot adds to the sound quality. The decreased amount of contact equals better sound quality. In fact conventional carbon potentiometers are not used rather the volume controls are made of conductive plastic. Redgum build their Amplifiers with longevity in mind, by using MOSFETs rather than transistors, which are renowned for dying through thermal runaway. The RGi35 is a 35+35W integrated Amplifier based on the RGi60 Chassis but using plastic case MOSFETs. These MOSFETs have the same voltage, current and power rating as the (RGi60) 60+60Watt MOSFETs but require simpler hardware for mounting producing a noticeable cost saving. The RGi60 sells for $1495 and the Rgi35 sells for $945. Typical final test results are 41.6 w RMS sinewave both channels continuous, 49 w RMS sinewave one channel driven continuously, 79 w RMS both channels driven with 10% duty cycle (typical music content).
Getting comfortable in my listening room I partnered the RGi35 with the following. The Musical Fidelity X-Ray provided the CD source to the RGi35 with it then driving a pair of Orpheus Aurora 3’s. It took about four songs before the amplifier warmed up and really came alive. The first thing I noticed was that the music to which I was so accustomed (Phil Keaggy - 220) sounded so open and transparent, this was the opportunity to “rediscover” some old favorites by the sound of it. Boz Skaggs, Michael McDonald, Phoebe Snow backed by Donald Fagan and band took on “a whole new meaning” with the song ‘Drowning in the Sea of Love’ the vocals came to the fore, as well as increased detail and presence. The likes of the band Kings X really expressed the raw power that is their music with an ear grabbing sound stage. Mighty Sam McClain’s, ‘What You Want Me To Do’ really sang with the notable underpinning of the Hammond B-3 organ. After listening to several other tracks, from different artists and genres, including some pretty poorly recorded material, it was clear that this was a very good little amp! So it should be, something handcrafted and an expression of the owner/manufacturer should always outclass a factory excreted amp at the same price. Anyway back to the sound! The music came alive but without the clinical ear fatiguing edge, the music ebbed and flowed and sounded open and natural. Though this amplifier is rated at 35 watts per channel don’t under estimate is power and endurance. As the saying goes “ it’s not the size of the boxer in the fight that counts, it’s the size of the fight in the boxer” this RGi35 dances well, but keep your ear on the right hook. Sure the RGi35 doesn’t have the remote control feature comforts, but after having a good listen it’s a feature I’d gladly exchange for the quality amplification stage it’s delivering.
If you are looking for an amplifier under $1000 make sure you put this unit at the top of the listening list. In a world filled with mass factory excretion, it’s great to see a handcrafted piece of equipment and even more so it’s great to hear one.