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REDGUM Articulata Integrated Amplifier Review

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Ian Robinson, the Designer

One must accept a convergence of the unique and unexpected if a REDGUM amp is to be appreciated. Ian, the designer and owner of the company, along with wife Lindy, is as extraordinary as the country he inhabits. They are willing to send you Ian’s autobiography if you wish. Well, it’s not literally an autobiography, but metaphorically the mountain of personal and company information contained in the Owner’s Manual, and equally thick company history, are a small tome. The product timeline detail borders on excessive; spend time with it if you wish. The operations of the Articulata are distinct enough that the Owner’s Manual is a must read to understand the product properly.

In brief, Ian’s background is in industrial grade electrical systems when he worked on Australia’s national power lines, as well as the commercial, retail and manufacturing sectors of Australian HiFi. He was producing horn speaker systems and amps for local discos in Melbourne before he finished his electrical engineering degree. For some time, he was the quality control and repair tech of a local HiFi store. Seeing the insipid designs in products popular in the 1970’s he knew he could better them for serious listeners. It worked, and slowly he built up a line of not only amps, but a full range of audio/video components, including speakers. His shrewd design principles favored an emphasis on power treatment leading to extreme performance. His designs broke the price barrier on the upward side, but also the performance barrier. As with superbly conceived products like Vandersteen and Magnepan speakers, his designs have been received as having a high value to performance ratio, and have been largely unchanged through the decades, with the exception of continuous upgrades of internal components.

I wish to give a shout out to Lindy, Ian’s wife, at this time. There was a need for a high level of communication pursuant to the establishing of this review, and a few complications to be worked out. Lindy showed herself to be unflappable, unfailingly upbeat, and timely. I rate her among the most eager and thorough customer relations people I have dealt with in the span of my reviewing career.

Besides this, she is the business partner tasked with assembling many of Ian’s Amplifolia products. Frankly, women in this industry often have better attention to detail than men. I have seen the work of men who can scheme circuit boards like Michelangelo’s drawings, but assemble it like Beavis or Butt-head. Lindy sees to it that the entire Amplifolia range of hand built products is assembled well, as was the review unit.

 

About idiosyncratic audio products… 

An idiosyncratic product can be good or bad depending upon your priorities. Topology brilliance and parts selection quality in a unique product may be extremely high, case in point the Vapor Audio Joule White Speaker. Rarely have I seen in a premium speaker such a homely but gloriously overbuilt crossover. Thus it is at the same time among the most ugly in appearance and the most beautiful in operation I have encountered.

The chassis of the Articulata is as seemingly contradictory as the rest of the design. The metal work is quite nice, and the heat sink stygian, but the thickness of the top lid is a tad lacking. The metal work on the case is sufficient, not extreme. I tapped the top and the tapping was met with a ringing of the metal. I put a weight and foam absorbers atop to settle any vibrations that might encroach upon performance.

In defense of the design, if I were shipping to all corners of the world from Australia I might, too, lighten up the load. A top can be dampened, but a novice in the field should not retrofit a circuit. I would much prefer the alternative chosen by Ian and REDGUM to a fancy, tank-like casing with mediocre parts.

A novelty with purpose is the Articulata’s sine wave heat sink. As viewed from the front fins, running the span of the chassis from front to back, of differing length form a wave, with the troughs, if considered in proper orientation to how a signal appears on measuring apparatus, acting as footers. My first thought was, “Rowdy! Cool! But, potentially tougher on shelving?” As rugged looking as the fins were, the finish on them was smooth such that the amp slid easily on the high gloss finish of the amp stand, and no scarring ensued. The finish, while slightly bumpy, seems smooth enough to not cause gouges. If you do not want the amp to move at all when making connections on such a surface, simply place an appropriate piece of foam or non-slip cloth beneath it.

Systems and listening sessions

The music source for the entirety of this review was the rock solid Salk Audio StreamPlayer III, a highly recommended file server/streamer, which I run using Roon media software and Tidal’s higher quality lossless streaming service. The rest of the equipment rotated in and out. I will share experiences with several systems used over the lengthy review period. I appreciate the informal manner of the review process granted by REDGUM, which allowed an in-depth investigation of this integrated amp.

 

1ST SYSTEM: PureAudioProject Trio15 Horn 1 Speaker

PureAudioProject Trio15 Horn 1 fronted in reverse order by Clarity Cable Natural Speaker Cables; the Articulata, which also was sending speaker level signals to the Legacy Audio EXTREME XD Subwoofers via Silnote Audio Anniversary Speaker Cables; TEO Audio KRONON Liquid Interconnects with RCA terminations; Eastern Electric Minimax DSD Supreme DAC with Sparkos single opamps and Burson 4th generation dual opamps; Salk Audio StreamPlayer III as source.

The PureAudioProject Trio15 variants (I have articles on the Tang Band, Voxativ and Horn 1 versions) have been nothing short of pure delight. This is the most compelling affordable speaker I have encountered in many years. Were I to reset my search for an eminently gratifying transducer back twenty years to when I flipped back and forth between Vandersteen and Magnepan speakers, if the Trio15 was available I likely would have eschewed the others for it. There is very little slack in this well conceived and delivered speaker of many faces.

The Horn 1 version, my favorite by a large margin, is efficient and thus is powered easily by the Articulata. Recall that the REDGUM amp is intended to drive less efficient speakers such as the Kingsound King III electrostat. More about that in a bit, but first a chat about the Trio15. High power and a graceful speaker have vivaciousness that is difficult to capture with lower efficiency speakers. My experience is that if I put 500 to 1,000 Watts on a power pig speaker it may sound convincing – until compared to a speaker like the Trio15 Horn 1 with similar power. It’s all about dynamics, and the dynamics decidedly favor more efficient speakers.

I recall the exploration I did years ago with the Tannoy Glenair speaker. At the time I put some robust Jeff Rowland amps with them, and at one point I had 1,000 Watts driving them. I had learned how Japanese audiophiles were combining big SS amps and efficient speakers. The Glenair was not the last word in definition, but the big 15” dual concentric speaker was punchy, gripping, and not the least bit sleepy or dull with high power. Similarly, the Trio15 Horn 1 was exciting to hear with the Articulata.

A bonus about this pairing was the wealth of low-end driver acreage; between the Trio15 and the Legacy EXTREME XD Subs there were eight 15” bass drivers employed. Is that overkill? Of course, but it’s that overkill which makes for ease not normally obtained. Depth, power, presence, fullness, impact all were at a maximum in a display of dimensionality in the bass not often heard, and usually not heard at all with a speaker costing only $7.5K. Frankly, the low-end reminded me of the Legacy V Speaker System, which costs $49.500. Now, do not misconstrue my comment by limping to the conclusion that the Trio15 is just like the V. No it is not, not remotely. However, in the bass the panoply of drivers held authority and cleanness, as would the V. Why was that? Simply put, it was the clean power of the Articulata and the clean source signal of the BorderPatrol DAC SE.

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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