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Product Review - Redgum Audio RGCD2 CD Player with User Replaceable CD-ROM Drive - March, 2000

David Wurtz
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Redgum RGCD2 CD Player

Burr Brown PCM1710U Dual 20-Bit Digital to Analogue Converter

THD and noise: -92dB

Dynamic Range: 98dB

S/N: > 110dB

Frequency Range: 0 Hz – 24 kHz 0.2 dB

8 X Over-Sampling

Size: 3" H x 16 " W x 13 " D

Weight: 17 pounds

MSRP: $945 (Australian), $650 (USA)

 

Redgum Audio, Factory 3/25 Clarice Road, Box Hill South, 3128 Melbourne, Australia; Phone 61-3-9897-1277; E-Mail redgumaudio@hotmail.com; Web http://www.redgumaudio.com.

Introduction

The RGCD2  compact disc player is another quality product from the Redgum Audio, Australia range. Ian Robinson, its designer, labelled it "The Ugly DACling" because of its unusual appearance and its high quality Digital to Analogue Converter (or DAC). Ian’s 30 year audio repair experience has led him to design and produce audio equipment that lasts. Now he has produced a "User Serviceable" CD player - which is a rarity these days! With this very useful option in mind, the most obvious question remains, does it sound good?

The Product

The Redgum RGCD2 is a unique product in the market because it allows the user to easily replace the laser transport assembly (i.e. the whole CD-ROM unit). This is the part most susceptible to failure in the majority of CD players. It is quite heavy as CD players go, coming in close to 17 pounds. It has the distinctive solid Redgum fascia that is characteristic of all Redgum products. This fascia flips down to reveal the power switch and a personal computer CD-ROM. The CD-ROM is mounted in the case with high quality electronics and one of the most credited/raved-about DACs in the world.

Over 30 different CD-ROM units have been tested with these electronics, and all have worked perfectly. Ideally, if you needed to replace the CD transport unit, you would require a CD-ROM unit with at least a Play and FF function. The CD-ROM unit supplied was a Creative Labs 48 speed with Play, Track FWD and FF, Track Back, REW, and Eject buttons plus its own remote control, which had individual track selection.

If the laser goes faulty, (i.e., skipping) a replacement unit costs about $80AUS as opposed to many hundreds for a normal repair at your local hi-fi repair shop, and takes about 10 minutes to install with some basic tools. Keep in mind that a user-replaceable CD-ROM unit in a CD player is extremely unusual, and characteristic of only a handful of CD players in the world.

The digital bit stream (zeros and ones) is fed straight off the laser (the only use of the electronics in the CD-ROM unit) into a Cyrus Logic CS8412 "8 X over-sampling Digital Jitter correction chip which is fed from its own crystal timing clock. This in turn, is fed into another Cyrus Logic digital splitter for left-right channel separation and jitter correction, and the signal then goes to the highly credentialled Burr-Brown PCM1710U Dual 20-bit DAC. Jon De-Sensi of MusicLabs, Melbourne, designed the Digital Analogue Converter circuitry. The final output stage, designed by Redgum Audio, is driven by an AD712J Dual Precision, high speed, BiFET OP Amp. The unit has four gold plated RCA output connectors which are mounted very securely on the back of the chassis, these being left and right line level out and a digital in and out. The digital in and out enable this unit to be used as a stand alone DAC, bypassing the transport and going straight to the DAC. The unit can be purchased without the CD-ROM unit and used as a DAC only.

Only two real notable features missing from the unit, one is an LCD display. I got used to functioning without it,  though I would have obviously preferred to have one. If you’re one of those people who just puts a disc in and presses play, then it’s really not a problem. The other problem is that the remote control doesn’t work if the front of the Redgum fascia is closed.

All Redgum products come with a 7-year warranty, but in this case, it is 7 years for everything except the CD-ROM drive. There is also a "purchase price" money back guarantee if you are not 100% happy with the product (although all freight must be paid BOTH WAYS by the customer).

All components and connections are silver soldered which is a lot stronger and less likely to fatigue in comparison to the 70/30 lead/tin solder used by nearly all other hi-fi manufacturers.

The Sound

I was fortunate to be able to connect the RGCD2 CD player into my reference system (Yamaha PC 5002M power amp and JBL 4410 Studio monitors), and also into Redgum’s own 120-watt power amp, the RGi120. Now, was the minor lack of functionality going to typify its sound? NO WAY. From the first disc I fed the CD-ROM unit, I was very impressed with the overall sound quality. Every facet of every CD I played seemed to be improved over my other player, and all along the audition, I felt that this product was nothing short of top shelf. I selected an album named "Taste the Salt" by Australian artist Daryl Braithwaite. This album has a number of songs with a high amount of studio compression (this is a recording studio process that reduces the dynamic range of a song or album by trying to make all the instruments and vocal the same volume level). The RGCD2 actually seemed to increase the dynamic range of the music, and this is a tough task, as other units I've played reproduced the album the way I always heard it before. I don't mean to say that you get something for nothing, because there is no such thing. None-the-less, the CD seemed to increase a previously lifeless albums and gave them a heartbeat.

I like using classical music to test dynamic range, as I find there is a greater variance in sound level due to the nature of the many instruments that can be added or subtracted from various parts of the work. From the soft sweet piano and violin verses to the forte bass notes and full-on passages, the music can have a dynamic range of up to 20 dB. In real terms, this is equivalent to the softest notes being say, 1 Watt and the loudest notes (forte) being 20 dB louder at 100 Watts, or the difference between 90 dB SPL and 110 dB SPL (which is very loud). The player excelled in this area, reproducing the soft notes with delicacy and the louder more complex passages with accuracy and authority. The stereo imaging and soundstage were near perfect (there's no such thing as perfect). On a straight vocal track, the artist’s voice was perfectly central, while on more complex rockier tunes, all the bits of audio were in the places they were meant to be and reproduced without any noticeable distortion.

Switching back and forth between the Redgum RGi120 power amp and my big Yammie amp (all 130 pounds of it), I found slightly improved the overall spaciousness of the sound with the Redgum. I think my amp, being a monitor series, is slightly more laid back in the top end. The slight accenting of those higher frequencies and the increased (perceived) channel separation made the Redgum combo (Amp and CD) quite an exhilarating sonic experience.

There is one quite obvious problem with the unit and appears when accessing different tracks. A loud buzz, followed by a crack is heard when the FWD button is used (on the player) to skip tracks. There is also a quite noticeably loud ticking noise when the FF button is used to search through a track. I spoke to Ian at length about this, and he said it was something that he had been working on (getting the muting right when it’s moving between tracks and attenuating the ticking noise when searching), but as yet he has had no reasonable success at resolving it.

NB. This problem does not occur when using the unit’s remote control, so it’s a problem that can be easily counteracted. Nor does it occur when the CD is just playing by itself from track to track.

Conclusion

The Redgum RGCD2 Compact Disc Player has a unique place in the market with its user serviceability, high quality design, and high quality audio output which more than compensate for any ergonomic and functional deficiencies.  I believe its sonic qualities are comparable to players 2-3 times the price. All the music played in the unit, from classical through to hard rock, was extremely accurate. So, if you’re in the market for a high quality CD player that can be repaired or indeed upgraded by yourself at a very reasonable price, then this is the unit should be on your short list.

- David Wurtz -

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