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REDGUM Articulata Integrated Amplifier Review

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Everything’s venomous in Australia. Well, not everything, just a lot of things; snakes, spiders, jellyfish. I recall reading in the book In A Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson, how in 1967 Prime Minster Harold Holt, a man very comfortable in the water, went for a swim with family and friends during high tide at Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria. With a confident reply to concerns about the action of the waves, he entered the water saying, “I know this beach like the back of my hand,” walking, then swimming into the surf – and he never came back! Australia has spiders that actually attack humans, their venom disintegrates flesh. Many of the world’s most deadly creatures are found in Australia or off its shores. It’s not a place to visit if you have deep-seated concerns that nature is out to get you!

The product under review, the REDGUM Audio Articulata Integrated Amplifier, is as unexpected as the seemingly innocuous, but venomous duck-billed platypus, another resident of Australia. The Articulata is designed for lower impedance loads, sporting dual volume control knobs, a subjacent sine wave heat sink, color-coded and unlabeled inputs, and a wood faceplate made from solid Redgum tree wood. Due to its sensational density and a propensity to shed large branches during dry seasons, the Redgum tree is potentially lethal; locals know not to camp underneath the trees as the heavy branches falling can kill a person. Thankfully, the REDGUM Articulata is safe to use. As a safety feature it comes with a “Redgum” keychain and, yes, a key to turn it on, among other things as a deterrent to theft. Seeing the curious mix of attributes of this product, I knew a review of it was going to be a singular experience.

Gumtrees can be found outside of Australia. While in Swaziland during a trip to Africa, I encountered the Bluegum tree. As there is an array of species of Redgum tree (the Owner’s Manual mentions the River Redgum Tree), I suspect the one culled for the fascia is not of the Articulata species, as the actual Articulata tree is an oversized scrubby bush reaching no higher than about ten feet and found in such paltry numbers that it may also be an endangered species.

The Owner’s Manual shares some tidbits about the wood byproduct. The River Red Gum tree is structurally strong enough for use in construction and is suitable for furniture. The wood is extremely hard, the second hardest of any tree in the world – it took the invention of the carbide saw blade to cut the wood precisely. Do an online search for images using the phrase “Redgum Amplifolia furniture” and you will be rewarded with a visual feast of gorgeous looking pieces. The front panel of the Articulata integrated amp has such a high aesthetic appeal as to elicit thoughts of a polished slab of semi-precious stone. Thankfully, as is the case with many names of HiFi audio products, the etymology of this name bears little resemblance to the appearance and performance of the component. The scrubby Amplifolia tree is unbecoming, while the integrated amp’s front panel is gorgeous. I haven’t done research on the cost of Redgum furniture, as it would seem impractical to pursue it in North America, but I am drawn to it for its innate beauty. By the end of this review you will learn that, similarly, I am drawn to the Articulata integrated for its innate sonic beauty.

 

Rare people and rare products

Before proceeding to the analysis of the Articulata, it bears mentioning that REDGUM manufactures an entire range of high-end audio and AV components. One can build an all-Redgum stereo or surround system from source to speakers. The particular line of products from which the Articulata comes is the Amplifolia line. Redgum is associated in Australia with fine sound quality, but is relatively unknown in North America. Colleen Cardas Imports handles the distribution of REDGUM in North America.

I was introduced to the company at AXPONA 2016, where I saw a similar model, the RGi120 Integrated Stereo Amplifier, at work. Noting that it was both high power and high current, I thought it would be ideal for an article on an integrated with enough oomph to drive less efficient speakers, such as electrostatic designs. After consultation with REDGUM, I decided to move up the line and review the Articulata, which features a similar design but is higher-powered, and is hand wired in the shop in Australia.

A robust build is a characteristic of REDGUM components, which are said in the owner’s manual to be, “… reliable, indestructible and reasonably priced.” Ian Robinson, the owner of REDGUM, shared an instance where a customer complained of the sound of his amp. Upon consultation, Ian learned that the owner had hooked up the amp in such a fashion that it had a dead short and had been operating that way for several days! The amp was not harmed and when hooked up correctly performed as expected.

Other design features of the Amplifolia range integrated amps include:

  • Utilization of Audiophile-quality MOSFETS
  • In-rush suppression to minimize impact on the mains power system
  • “Ultra-Flex Power Supply” makes higher voltages available, so the integrated is stable down to loads of less than one ohm (to .07 ohms)
  • Transient power well above the rated WRMS (Transient >320W short term RMS)
  • Very high damping factor for tight bass control
  • No multiple contact points
  • Conductive plastic potentiometers for manual volume controls
  • EMI mains filter

The dual mono remote control volume is worth separate consideration. The broad swath of Redgum wood on the face of the Articulata is broken by the key ON/OFF switch at the far left and to the far right what appear, before power up, to be three volume controls. The right most is a source indicator that has color coordinated LEDs corresponding to the color coded inputs and outputs on the back. From left to right these are Record Out, CD1, AV1, DVD, CD2, AV2, and Preamp Out. The color scheme does allow for simple connections; I found it easier to remember a color than a number. There are only RCA connections, but I have not found this to be a detriment when pursuing great sound. In my experience, any given amplifier or integrated having only single ended (RCA) connections may outperform any given amp or integrated having balanced (XLR) or both types of connections. For those interested in recording sources or using external power amplifiers (REDGUM does provide options for this), I direct the reader to the Articulata’s Owner’s Manual.

The Articulata has a three-tier power up process; a rocker switch on the back provides power from the wall, the key turns the unit on, and the remote control conveniently does the same from the listening seat. When the power switch at the back is turned on, a beep is emitted once the MEPS (Minimum Energy Performance Standards) power supply is established. The manual continues, “This is followed by rising ‘whoop’ sound, a number of beeps indicating its firmware version, a check and adjustment of the dual volume controls should they be set too high, a series of clicks from a Power-On-Self-Test of all relays and indicating lights, concluding with a rising ‘Ta-Dah’ tone notifying that the amp is operationally fit.

Slight “thunks,” as they are discussed in the manual, occur several seconds after switching off the amp. They are negligible, as they are simply the unbuffered discharging of stored power. This reminded me of the popping that happened every time I powered up the NAIM Nait 5i that I owned years ago. As with that integrated, I found that I grew accustomed to all the sounds and behaviors, just as I had the clicking of the Cambridge Audio Azur 840E Preamplifier’s attenuation circuit.

The dual mono remote-controlled volume feature allows for individual settings, a feature that may be welcomed in asymmetrical listening rooms. Each channel is balanced to an accuracy of within .01 dB. Selection of the source is via the remote control only; REDGUM includes two of them with the Articulata, one outfitted with battery and the other as a backup. On the remote are additional controls, such as MUTE (<15 dB), BALANCE (the center image is shifted by using the Left or Right arrow buttons), and the “MAGIC” button. The MAGIC button causes a red light to flash and a staccato beeping as a test of the remote control’s battery.

Initially, I found myself using the wrong buttons for volume control; many remotes have the volume Up/Down controls oriented horizontally, but on the Articulata they are oriented vertically. If the channels become imbalanced, one merely pushes the “BAL” (Balance button) to restore it.

In the front, underneath the lustrous Redgum wood façade is a heavy black heat sink formed in the shape of a sine wave that buttresses the unit. The form is not merely a nod to the shape of a sine wave; it carries on through the entire chassis like an audio signal rendered in metal. The amp rests on the outermost fin of the heat sink. The tough but slightly slippery finish to the metal allowed the amp to skate a bit on the hard surface of the amp stand upon which it sat. I did not find it to be a problem, but if it irritated the owner something slight could be placed underneath to halt the progress.

2 Responses to REDGUM Articulata Integrated Amplifier Review


  1. Danny says:

    My Class D based system (Kii Three) if fully capable of portraying the “subtle echo” in “John Henry”; so either my system is very good (in spite of being Class D) or it isn’t that difficult to reproduce.

  2. Technical Addendum to Articulata review:
    As I have continued to build systems with the Redgum Articulata I have noticed distinctly that the slight noise which was manifested during the review period is now absent. The determinant factor it seems was the source, the file server/streamer. I have been reviewing a two box streamer/server which pairs absolutely silently with the Articulata and a variety of DACs. I suspect a lack of synergy in terms of silent operation on the presence of noise between the former server/streamer and the Redgum integrated.

    Meanwhile, with the current server/streamer the performance of the Articulata has been elevated nicely. The combination of streamer/server, DAC and integrated is proving again to be an efficacious system setup.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

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