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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Audiophile Review!
Oppo Flagship UDP-205
May Be The Only Player
That You Will Ever Need


Brevis...
Price $1,299
Likes: best sounding Oppo UDP ever
Dislikes: does not play SACD ISO rips
Wow Factor: still the universal king!
More info: Oppo UDP-205

by John Gatski
  Oppo released three new products this year: the Oppo UDP-203, the entry level universal player upgrade; the stand-alone Sonica DAC and the much-awaited update of its flagship universal player, the new UDP-205.
  They are all home runs in terms of performance price and features in their respective niches, but I consider the UDP-205, the most impressive of the three. With the addition of a new 4K video decoder for video, and the new ESS Pro DAC chip for the audio, the new top-of-the-line player serves up increased audio refinement and accuracy, better video, while keeping its versatility intact: including analog multi-channel, unbalanced stereo/balanced stereo output structure.

Features
 Priced at $1,299 the UDP-205 is a bargain considering all its audiophile capabilities. Equipped with dual-ESS ES9038 Pro 32-bit chips, one for the multi-channel music and movie soundtracks, and one for the dedicated stereo outputs. The UDP-205’s  stereo audio output, through the dedicated ES9038PRO DAC chip,  also incorporates a specially designed analog buffer and driver stages.
  The ESS Pro DAC chips (ES9028 and ES9038) are impressive performing D/A circuits that reveal a more linear, accurate dynamic sound stage and detail over previous ESS chips, such as the widely used ES9018 that was used in the BDP-105.


ES9038 D/A chip: increased sonic articulation

  The '205’s stereo output offers both XLR balanced and RCA single-ended connectors. Oppo’s balanced output features a true differential signal path all the way from the DAC to the XLR. By transmitting a pair of differential signals, the balanced output provides better common-mode noise rejection and improves measured signal quality.
  Likes its predecessor, the Oppo UDP-205 can play almost anything through its internal DAC. From its USB input, an external software player from a computer or smart device enables the '205 to decode and play PCM up to 32 bit/768 kHz sample rate, and DSD to 11.2 MHz sampling.
  With the addition of a new 4K video decoder for video, and the new ESS Pro DAC chip for the audio, the new top-of-the-line player serves up increased audio refinement and accuracy, better video, while keeping its versatility intact: including a set of analog RCA multi-channel, unbalanced RCA stereo/balanced XLR stereo output structure.

  Via tracks loaded onto a USB drive, the 205 can play up to 24/192 PCM and 5.6 MHz DSD, plus  it handles any SACD, DVD-Audio Dual-Discs, Blu-ray, CD, etc. The only audiophile format it does not play is SACD ISO rips. For most serious stereo music listeners, however, the BDP-205 is all you would ever need. You get an excellent DAC and a player that will play almost any kind of format all in one box.
Need more connections? I doubt it.

  On the audio-for-video side, Oppo is still one of the few players with full analog 7.1 outputs. And since it has built-in set up DSP and a multichannel 32-bit volume control, the Oppo players can be used as a standalone video player/preamp, if you are just using it as the solo source. Output the HDMI video to a screen and hook up the 7.1 RCA’s to a multi-channel amp and a sub.
  Oppo also improved the headphone amp in the UDP-205 with more gain and a more direct path from the stereo ESS DAC. The HP amp was pretty good in the BDP-105, but it sounds even better, thanks to the new chip.
  For the video fan, the BDP-205 supports discrete 4K Ultra HD Video Blu-ray playback, as well as upscaling from 1080 to 4K. The UDP-205 is also capable of playing 4K media files and user-generated content. Support for decoding the HEVC, H.264, VP9 4K, and Hi10P video codecs provides increased compatibility with user generated media.

High Dynamic Range Video
  The UDP-205 also supports High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Color Gamut used in today's better TVs. The HDR’s showcases enhanced resolution, refined contrast, greater brightness, and expanded color produce stunning video with unparalleled clarity and detail.

 You can play DSD to 5.6 MHz or up to 24/192 PCM  via tracks on a USB stick inserted into the front USB port. Simply insert the drive, navigate your LCD via the remote and push play, The UDP really becomes a hyper Hi-Res player as a USB DAC via computer. It is spec’d to play up to 32 bit linear/768 kHz sample rate PCM and 11.2 MHz DSD! 

  In addition to supporting the HDR10 format on discs and video files, the 205 is also capable of providing an accurate conversion of HDR to SDR for older displays, as well as conversion between various color spaces such as BT.2020, BT.709, and BT.601.
  With its latest firmware, UDP-205 is the first Ultra HD Blu-ray player to support. Dolby Vision, which require Dolby Vision-encoded discs and a Dolby Vision-enabled television to utilize it.
  According to Oppo, the '205 also received an internal parts upgrade over the 105; the capacitors, resistors and power supply have all been improved in the new player. The UDP-205 has separate power supplies for digital and analog circuitry, said to eliminate virtually all harmful interference. The analog audio circuit is powered by a larger toroidal power transformer, which provides a very clean and robust power source to the audio components.
  To enhance its reputation as high-end optical disc player, both the UDP 205 and little brother UDP-203 received a disc transport/loader upgrade. It is faster, quieter and less prone to loading glitches and lockups. My old 105, on more than one occasion, locked up after disc load-in.

The set up
  I set up the UDP-205 in two playback scenarios: as a standalone player/DAC and as Blu-ray/multichannel hi-res audio player in my A/V room.
  The audiophile components used in the review included Rogue Audio RP-5 tube preamp, Benchmark DAC-3 DX DAC, Prism Callia DAC/preamp, Mytek Brooklyn DAC/preamp and Coda high current preamp.
  Amplifiers included the MOSFET output Pass Labs Integrated 60 and Benchmark AHB-1 bipolar output unit, linked to a pair of MartinLogan Impressions, and at different points in the review, the wonderful, airy sounding  KEF 300 bookshelf speakers.
  All cables were Wireworld Eclipse, including USB, digital optical/coaxial, analog line (balanced and unbalanced), and speaker. Per usual, I connected the Oppo and the other associated gear through the UL-approved Essential Sound Products Essence Reference II power cords and power strip.

The audition
  Operating the UDP-205 in my audiophile set up was a piece of cake since the GUI, remote and onboard controls are essentially the same as the previous two generations of Oppo’s. In fact, I love the big remotes the company supplies. Durable, and easy to see each button, which have a tactile feel.
  First up was the my perennial jazz trio favorite, The Anthony Wilson Trio - Our Gang SACD (Groove Note). The album feature Mr. Wilson’s Gibson Birdland hollow-body guitar and melodic lead runs accompanied by a Hammond organ and drums. It is a rich, warm, live-to-two-track DSD recording that needs accuracy from its playback chain to keep it from going over to the extra-warm side.

Mega powerful video chip co-developed by Oppo
  Unlike the BDP-105 with the ESS 9018 D/A chip, the UDP-205’s ESS Pro ES9038 DAC circuit presented the Our Gang SACD with a more refined sound stage and revealed a much more balanced portrayal of this recording. It is similar to the sonic flavor from the much-heralded, Benchmark DAC3 Series, which uses the ES9028. (I have the ISO tracks of this SACD that I play through the computer and into various USB DACs, including the DAC3-DX).
  Through the '205, the organ’s prominent midbass tone, the tube guitar amp hues and the shimmery cymbals are aligned perfectly in terms of balance  — with that wide image presentation that I love from this recording. The Previous ‘95 and ‘105 Oppo UDP models, sounded overly warm on this recording, especially the cut Britta’s Blue.
  In long-term comparisons with the UDP-205, the Benchmark achieves a slightly more present image impressions (and of course, the Benchmark has one of the best onboard headphone of any DAC made), but tonally they are very similar. That is high praise for a all-in-one universal player.
  Switching to Classical, I popped in the 2005 Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto In D by Joshua Bell SACD. This live recording (how did they keep the audience so quiet?) is simply one of my favorite s for the violin in hi-res. Dynamic, full violin harmonics with orchestral accompaniment, the SACD gives a  hi-fi system a work out. The better the system the more real it sounds. Again, the UDP-205 did a fantastic job.
  Through the Rogue RP-5 preamp and the Merrill Audio Veritas Class D mono blocks, driving the MartinLogan Impressions, the violin signature was starkly vivid and a full dimensionality across the speaker plane. It does not sound like a single track mixed into a recording, but with a space impression like you are in the hall — way up front. Just incredible how good it sounded from a $1,299, all-in-one A/V player.
 All the sonic accolades I have bestowed on the UDP-205 as an audiophile player is ditto as a video player. On numerous Blu-ray discs, the ESS Pro chipped ‘205 sounds more dynamic than the BDP105 — if you let it decode and pass its multichannel audio output to a pre/pro analog ins. It is one of the few players left with multi-channel analog output.


  Moving on to Pop/Rock, I played a number of DVD-As, CD’s and Blu-rays and HDtracks downloads, and found the UDP-205 to be just as capable on the better recordings. Steely Dan —  Gaucho in DSD, played from a USB stick, was simply gorgeous with its vast space in between the instruments and backing vocals. Like listening to the studio master.
  Speaking of USB sticks, the UDP-205’s ability to play virtually any hi-res files from either the front USB port as a player, or using as a USB DAC from a computer, makes it one of the best Hi-Res players out there.
  You can play DSD to 5.6 MHz or up to 24/192 PCM  via tracks on a USB stick inserted into the front USB port. Simply insert the drive, navigate your LCD via the remote and push play,
  The UDP really becomes a hi-res player as a USB DAC via computer. It is spec’d to play up to 32 bit linear/768 kHz sample rate PCM and 11.2 MHz DSD from computer players, such as JRiver, Audirvana. The Android app USB Audio Player Pro, operated from a tablet, also made an ideal handheld, ultra high-res player in the bit perfect mode.



  To prove its ultimate hi-res compatibility, I played some experimental 32-bit music tracks (integer not floating point) that I had made with the Mytek Brooklyn 32-bit A/D. They played just fine. I also played some 11.2 MHz DSD tracks from Bluecoast. They also played without a hitch. (As to whether you can gear a difference between 2.8 MHz vs. 11.2 MHz DSD or 32 bit vs 24 bit, that  is another story).
  To add to the UDP-205's list of accomplishments, I sampled the headphone amp and I found it pretty impressive, Utilizing a 32-bit digital volume control from the ESS chip, it is not an afterthought. It is pretty neutral in its audio delivery, which I liked through my Sennheiser 650s, Shure SRH-1840’s and AKG K702 HPs, which take a bit more gain to make louder. The '205 had no problem driving them. The HP amp lacks some of the aural nuance of the Benchmark DAC 3 HP amp (and other standalone high-end HP amps I have sampled), but it is certainly no throwaway HP port. After all, it is delivering the signal from the mighty ESS Pro chip.

In the home theater
  All the sonic accolades I have bestowed on the UDP-205 as an audiophile player is ditto as a video player. On numerous Blu-ray discs, the ESS Pro chipped ‘205 sounded more dynamic than the BDP105 — if you let it decode and pass its multi-channel audio output to a pre/pro analog ins. It is one of the few players left with multi-channel analog output and with the quality of the D/A, analog circuit and dedicated power supply. It takes a $3,000+ pre/pro to match or better the sonics of the Oppo.
  Heck, if you just have a Blu-ray player as your only home theater source, you can use the UDP-205 as the player and the preamp. The option to enable the 32-bit multichannel volume control and all the necessary setup DSP are all on the player; you don’t have to have a pre/pro. Just route the multichannel outputs to your favorite amplifier set up.

UDP-205: tidy and clean with quality parts selection

  I tested the ‘205 through a Marantz 8802 pre/pro via HDMI, which means Marantz’s DAC was decoding the audio. However, I also set up the ‘205 as a standalone player/preamp, running audio straight to Parasound Halo three- and two-channel amplifiers.
 With the '205 as the pre/pro, I viewed several Blu-ray movies including the animated fantasy adventure BoltThe Fifth Element and the 24/48 PCM 5.1 uncompressed soundtrack of the animated Meet The Robinson’s.
  The multi-channel delivery through my Westlake Audio professional cinema speakers (three in the front), NHT Ones in the rear and a Paradigm Pro 15 subwoofer was as good, maybe better, than some of the high-end pre/pros. The multichannel soundstage separation and dynamic range impressed me the most. The digital volume is not quite as smooth as the best multichannel preamp analog volume circuits, such as the Bryston SP3 pre/pro, but it is no slouch. It blows away low-end receivers in spades.
  The video features can be used with a pre/pro as well (via the pass-through mode to the TV). Including the 4K upsampling and discrete playback to a 4K TV, plus the HDR (high dynamic range), which I believe is more impressive than just 4K.  The deeper colors make the picture much more dimensional.
  No matter how you use the ‘205 in an A/V system, you can’t top this player. The Oppo UDP-203 is a lot less money and its AKM DAC chip and similar video features get it close to the ‘205, but ultimately, the '205’s audio circuit wins out in my book, especially for the multi-channel.
  Overall, I had not one single problem with the UDP-205. It played everything I threw at it, and never glitches, locked up or skipped a note. I had a few glitches on the old 105 along the way.

 In the ever-shrinking standalone universal player niche, the UDP-205 stands alone at the top. There are a number of us out there, who appreciate the versatility of a quality standalone multi-format player. You don’t need to use a separate computer or smart phone, or a separate CD player. The UDP-205 does it all — right in your rack

  The fan-less system means it operates quietly (remember how loud the fan-equipped BDP-95 was), and it does not run that hot. If you have any problems, as rare as that might be, Oppo has great support staff to walk you through it, and they do software patches to fix media incompatibilities when they discover a problem.
  The only criticism i could dig up on the '205 is that it does not play SACD ISO rips that are easy to make with a certain Sony Playstation. In reality, however, you are not supposed to be playing those anyway, but if the '205 did, it would be perfect

The verdict
  The UDP-205 is now the king of high-end universal players, as was the BDP-105. With its expansive capability to play almost any kind of audio files (stereo or multichannel) and great-sounding onboard ESS DAC. The UDP-205 is,  indeed, all that many audiophiles will ever need to play their music. Videophiles will appreciate the video quality, 4K, HDR compatibility and its prowess as a standalone multi-channel player for HQ movie and multi-channel music soundtracks.


  In the ever shrinking standalone universal player niche, the UDP-205 stands alone at the top. There are a number of us out there, who appreciate the versatility of a quality standalone multi-format player. You don’t need to use a separate computer or smart phone, or a separate CD player. The UDP-205 does it all. Plus, it looks way better in your rack than a laptop. A great big EAN Stellar Sound Award and a EAN Digital Payer of the Year nomination for the UDP-205.

   John Gatski has been evaluating consumer, audiophile, home cinema and professional audio gear since 1988. In 1995, he created Pro Audio Review, and he has written for Audio, Laserviews, Enjoy The Music, The Audiophile Voice, High Performance Review, Radio World and TV Technology. Everything Audio Network is based in Kensington, Md. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited. John Gatski can be reached via email: everything.audio@verizon.net

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Audiophile Review!
Raven Audio Osprey
Integrated Tube Amplifier:
“A Modern/Classic 6L6 Valve Amp”


Brevis...
Price $4,595
Likes: classic tube tone, attractive look
Dislikes: a little bit pricey for 30 watts
Wow Factor: perfect for stand speakers
More info: Raven Audio Osprey


by John Gatski
  Tube hi-fi amplifiers never go out of favor, and even today, they come in a plethora of configurations, sizes and power levels. I have listened to countless tube amps over the last 25 years from Rogue Audio’s finest to old Macs and Marantz's — and everything in between.
  Newcomer Raven Audio, manufactured in Texas is emerging as a player in the tube amp niche with a number of nice amps that pay homage to the old days, but also offer modern features, such as remote, IEC power cord and auto bias.
  Case in point is the $4,595, manufactured in USA, 30-watt Raven Audio Osprey, an amp that reminds you of the early 1960s integrateds with its open-chassis, prominent front-mounted tubes and covered transformers.
  Via a 6L6 push-pull output circuit, the Osprey puts out an ample 30-watts per channel CLASS AB. Its tube complement also includes a 12AT7 - 2EA for the preamplifier stage, 12AT7 - 2EA for the power amp first stage and a 12AU7 - 2EA - phase inverter/driver.

Features
  The Osprey’s build quality is exemplary with tidy circuit boards, chassis made out of carbon steel (main cabinet) and aircraft-grade aluminum (faceplate and preamplifier tube plate). The handles are manufactured out of solid aluminum, and the knobs are machined out of aircraft-grade aluminum as well. Overall, the Osprey is an attractive amp that should please the eyes of any hi-fi enthusiast. It comes in two colors: jade and pearl white. I had several audiophiles over when I had the jade amp in demo, and they commented how cool it looked.


  Like old Mac MC30s, the Raven Osprey is perfect for stand speakers; the Legacy Studio HDs and the Amphions really shined  — with a spot-on bass/treble balance and a golden, sparkling top end.

  Besides the 6L6GC output tube complement, supplied with Russian-made tubes, the Osprey receives the royal treatment in internal parts including RavenCap – Silver Foil; PTFE high-quality audio capacitors and Alps Black Motorized 20 k ohm volume potentiometer.
  The amp is housed in a partial, open-chassis (tube) and an enclosed compartment for the power transformers located in the rear. The front controls are simply laid out on the front panel: power knob, volume control and source selector.
  As far as the circuit, the Class A/B auto-biased system is designed to work with  the 6L6GC spec tubes. The auto bias take care of the bias, as long as the tubes are matched quads.


Easy connection and plenty of them


  Raven President Dave Thomson said the amp is designed for 6L6 (G, B or A) output tubes as well 5881 or KT 66s —  even 7581As for a "little extra kick." Older 6l6WBT tubes, however, are not recommended because of the higher plate voltage required by the tube.
  The back panel contains six pairs of unbalanced RCA inputs, and 4 and 8 ohm speaker binding posts. The IEC power cord is a bonafide 14 gauge wire made in France.
  From a design standpoint, the Raven Osprey is a modern update of the classic 6l6GC design of say the old Mac amps of the early 1960s. Tube watts often seem fuller and louder than solid state watts, and the Osprey has got plenty of oomph with just 30 watts. Thomson said Osprey is a “highly souped-up, highly customized, much more powerful version of the company's Blackhawk LE Integrated.” All Raven amps are made in Trinity, Texas

The set up
  I installed the Raven Audio Osprey in my primary audiophile room, and plenty of different speakers were on hand for testing with the tube amp. Raven says the amp performs best with speakers with 90 db+ sensitivity, though I drove the MartinLogans with no problem, though their powered sub means the Osprey saw a lighter bottom-end load.
  Speakers included my MartinLogan Montis, a pair of Legacy Studio HD’s, Westlake LC8.1s and a pair of the Finland-produced Amphion. All of the latter speakers are nearfield,  stand speakers.
  Source gear included Oppo BDP-205 universal player, and several DACs: the  Oppo Sonica DAC, Benchmark DAC3 HGC and Mytek BrooklynI also auditioned the Osprey for LP record playback, utilizing a Parasound Zphono with a VPI Player TT and Hanna high-output moving coil.
  Wireworld Eclipse cables were used for speakers, analog and digital connections. Essential Sound Products Essence Pro II power cables, power strip connected the components to the AC.

The audition
  To get a sense of the Osprey's stereo imaging and transient impressions, I first hooked to the MartinLogan Montis. Since the bass is handled inside the Montis via a self powered acoustic suspension 10-inch woofer, the Osprey was not driving below 300 Hz. But it allowed me to first hear how the tube amp handles the critical midrange and treble.
  Playing the DMP SACD of Steve Davis  — Thought About You, which has fantastic percussion. I found the Osprey’s top end to be warm, yet seductive. It relayed the brash cymbal splash with that pleasing tube smoothness. Not quite as fast as say my Pass XA-30 Class MOSFET amp, but I thoroughly enjoyed the tone.

Raven amp assembly at U.S. factory

  And, by the way, the Osprey did the MLs proud. The imaging is huge via the dipole electrostatics, and the amp does a nice job putting the sonic info across the speaker plane.
  As good as the supplied tubes sounded, I popped in a matched set of Yugoslav-manufactured JJ 6L6GCs and found that the Osprey became even more transient rich and slightly faster on cymbals, pianos and such. I liked the increased accuracy I heard with that tube complement.
  On the Joshua BellTchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D SACD, the JJ tubes opened up the harmonics on the violin versus the factory-made tubes more velvety signature. I liked the amp with those JJ tubes, but I also tried a 1990s matched quad of Svetlana 6L6GCs, which had an identical tone to the JJ’s.
  With the top end sounding pretty darn good, I switched off to a set of Pass SR-1, three-way towers with the amp now driving the entire speaker. Though not the most sensitive of transducers, the Pass speaker ramped up to a loud enough level, if required, But more importantly, it showed that the Osprey's bass performance was quite good.
  The Raven’s bass was full, but not slow through the Pass towers, and the upper end was musically smooth with strong dimension to 5 kHz and above. The Pass tower speakers revealed that the Osprey had a classic tube tonality and balance but with good dynamics.

Perfect for stand speakers
  The best balance of sound I got out of the Osprey was with stand speakers, such as the Westlake LC8.1 (8-inch woofer/1-inch tweeter), Legacy Studio HD (6-inch woofer/ribbon tweeter) and the Amphion Argon3S (5-inch woofer, 1-inch tweeter).
  Like old Mac MC30s, the Raven Osprey is perfect for stand speakers; the Legacy Studio HDs and the Amphions really shined  — with a spot-on bass/treble balance and a golden, sparkling top end.
  The Tuck and PattiWith Love CD from 2003 is a beautifully mic’d vocal and guitar recording that showcases Patty's complex vocal tones, while Tuck’s modified Gibson L5 jazz guitar plays incredible solo and rhythm runs that are so fleshed out and full. The CD, as played through the Osprey and Legacy Studio HDs, was very musical to use a well worn phrase. That voice/guitar cohesion shined via the Raven — with a slight rounding of the percussive guitar picking that made it easy to listen to.
  On the Amphion Argon3S’s, I liked my tried and true audiophile test tracks. The title track from the Warren BernhardtSo Real SACD. As mentioned many times in my reviews, the drum cymbal recording is among the best I have ever heard. The Amphions are very accurate little speakers, and the Osprey pushes through the essence of the brushes and snare rim shots with a slightly reserved character that fits the speaker perfectly.

 Although there are plenty of tube amps out there that range in prices from the hundreds to the many thousands of dollars, the Raven Audio Osprey is a good choice for a low-powered, tube integrated for small-room listening. Vinyl fans, hi-res audio aficionados and those who just like the glow of the valve, will like this amp.

  The Westlake LC8.1’s really stood out when playing the limited LP release of The Isao Suzuki QuartetBlow Up, a 1970s audiophile Jazz LP favorite that consists of upright bass, drums and piano, re-released a few years ago in a half speed, special vinyl. The treble-rich, analog tape source recording, as played via the bang-for-the-buck Hana cartridge and VPI Player TT, hit its stride with the Osprey. The Westlake's soft-dome tweeter ease on cymbals and bright piano textures helped to balance it all out.
  And the Osprey’s spacious stereo width and depth, with the 6L6’s warmth intact, was readily apparent. The Parasound phono pre is not expensive, but it did a  fine job with the Hana cartridge and a great sounding record.
  On harder, denser Pop music and heavy Rock, I am not always a fan of vintage tube amp tone. It can sound really mushed on lesser amps. But the Osprey surprised me on some older, analog-sourced Rock and Roll.
  The 24/192 remaster of NirvanaIn Utero sounded surprisingly detailed and fleshed out, considering all the electric "fuzz" from Kurt Cobain’s guitar. Classic Black Sabbath in 24/96 (Vol. 4, for example,) also was not as thick as I thought it would be through the Osprey. Tony Inomi's Gibson guitar riffs and rock hard solos kicked butt.
  Classic country music revealed an ear-friendly richness via the Osprey. Waylon JenningsHonky Tonk Heroes 24/96 RCA reissue (from HDtracks), for example, really sounded good through the Osprey/Legacy Studio HD tandem. Ralph Mooney’s edgy steel guitar gets tamed a bit via the tube stage, making it more listenable at higher levels. Love that jangle of Waylon's Telecaster.

Trying different tubes
  I should point out that Raven sent me a bunch of extra signal tubes, vintage NOS including Telefunkens, etc. I did not think they made as much difference as did switching output tubes. In my opinion, when a properly designed, signal tube is mated to the proper circuit, even a Chinese tube can sound good. I usually judge signal tubes by how noisy they are. The supplied tubes were pretty quite and, thus, I was happy.


The pearl white Osprey

  Raven President Dave Thomson does believe that different tubes can have a subtle effect on the tone, and he is a big fan of NOS USA and European tubes. He recommends experimenting with various brands of signal tubes. “Feel free to experiment and depending on your speakers, the cables, etc. you will be able to find something that you like better than all others.”
  Regarding his penchant for seeking out the perfect tube, Thomson added: “And this is one of the main reasons tube amps are so darn much fun!”
  Overall, I had no problems with the Raven Audio Osprey, no extraneous noises, excessive hiss or hum. Once I dialed in my choice for output tubes, I was golden. The remote control worked perfectly, it was easy to connect banana plug speaker cables, and, most importantly,  the Osprey had a musical charm when sitting down to listen — just like my original mid-1960s Macintosh MC275.

The verdict
  Though there are plenty of tube amps out there that range in prices from the hundreds to the many thousands of dollars, the Raven Audio Osprey is a good choice for a low-powered, tube integrated for small-room listening. Vinyl fans, hi-res audio aficionados and those who just like the glow of the valve, will like this amp.


  It ain’t cheap at nearly $4,600, but it is a fine stereo tube integrated amplifier, nonetheless, that looks as good as it sounds. Because of its combination of tube sonics, user versatility, attractive appearance and USA build, EAN is giving it a Stellar Sound Award.

   John Gatski has been evaluating consumer, audiophile, home cinema and professional audio gear since 1988. In 1995, he created Pro Audio Review, and he has written for Audio, Laserviews, Enjoy The Music, The Audiophile Voice, High Performance Review, Radio World and TV Technology. Everything Audio Network is based in Kensington, Md. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited. John Gatski can be reached via email: everything.audio@verizon.net