World Premiere Review!
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pounded, weak and weary, with a tap, tap, tapping on a darkened Qwerty. Now with many a quaint and curious tome proffered, still, I must type evenmore. The Raven Audio people are a Texas based company. Raven's products are made in the town of College Station, Texas. They are a manufacturer sharing some manufacturing facilities with the aerospace industry. And the aerospace people manufacture some things that are classified as, "only on a need to know basis."
This evaluation concerns the newest upgraded version of the latest Osprey Integrated Amplifier, the Mark 3. The Osprey MK3 manufacturer's suggested retail price is $4895. It occupies the top of the Raven Audio's Avian series. This series is comprised of three hollow state amplifiers. Following the Osprey MK3 is a less expensive Blackhawk Integrated at $3795 and last at number three in the line is the $2995 Nighthawk MK3 integrated.
The founder of Raven Audio, Mr. Dave Thomson as he's the tube Docent, has a broad knowledge of vacuum tubes, especially rare vacuum tubes and he has amassed a formidable collection. Fairly recently Raven Audio has expanded their line of audio products too include audio cables and two floor speakers. One of these the larger Corvus speaker comes with built in bass amplifiers and sells with an introductory price of $12,995. And following that is the smaller Celest speakers with the introductory price of $3995. Ravenrecently added a line of high quality SONIQUIL branded power, speaker and interconnect cables.
Note: There were many sample cables that came packed with the Osprey amplifier. I assume that the Raven guys want me to try them out.
Audio Osprey Technical Details
Additionally, there's two each 12AT7 for the preamplifier stage, 12AT7 for the power amp first stage, and two 12AU7 for phase inverter / driver. The power tubes were unfamiliar to me I had to look up the 7581A tube. The suggested match was a 6L6 Beam Power tube. However this is not just any old 6L6GC replacement mind you. The 7581A is an upgraded version of the Tung-Sol 7581. It offers an impressive amount of clean headroom and boasts a plate dissipation rating of 35 Watts.
The front panel has three matching control knobs, left to right they are. A two position on/off switch, next at the center, a Volume control and last a five-position source select switch. Commendably, turning the Osprey on or off never produced any nasty sound from my speakers, that function was totally silent.
Around the back at the amplifiers input side you will see six pairs of incredible quality female RCA jacks. These gold plated jacks are serious heavy duty hardware, and I have never seen the like before. They are bolted onto the rear panel, I had to force one set of RCA plugs forward to attach the cables. Compare this to mass market components with board mounted RCA plugs sticking through holes drilled in the back panel. I wish all RCA connections were made like this.
The innermost number 6 pair of RCA jacks is near the center of the rear panel and serves the special purpose of a dedicated SUB OUTPUT. Now directly in the center next to that is a control knob for a high pass crossover. With it you can select three options for your subwoofer signal, they are Bypass, 80 Hz, or 100Hz. Also you will find six plastic insulated European style speaker cable connectors. There are three for the left channel marked "0, 4, 8 Ohms" and there are the very same designations marked for the three right channel connections. Last but not least is the IEC socket for the AC power line and a five Ampere fuse.
Of Who's Art?
It seems to me what is left of this fanatic attention to detail still resides with our hot bottle brethren. Granted, it is never good to generalize. However I did find actual supporting evidence when I unpacked the Raven Audio Osprey Integrated Amplifier. The Teflon wired hand build quality is absolutely first rate. Every vacuum tube that came with this amplifier was specifically chosen and place marked as to its' location. In addition I was given twice as many tubes as was necessary. Some of these are rare and some are expensive. Tube swapping referred to as tube rolling would enable me to alter the sound of my system and to a smaller degree change the stereo image. To use an analogy; like the astronomers' telescope, our music systems are time machines. Though them we can look back and evoke a pleasant memory from the past.
To Testify For You
Yet compared to what I'm experiencing now with the Osprey MK3 in my system. I can hear most of the same top to bottom tube generated even order harmonic tonal retrieval. But now you can add to that much better definition. [Read: detail retrieval.] The overall effect is a deeper stereo sound stage. Small details that were buried and overridden appear now in a more dimensional sound field. Let me refer to a Diana Krall CD and it is her very first debut album. Stepping Out [Justin Time, Just 50-2] is from Montreal Canada, with my favorite track being "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me". She forms the third part of a trio. And accompanying Ms. Krall on piano is Jeff Hamilton on Drums and John Clayton on String Bass.
With the Osprey pushing notes there is an unexpected reality that moves forward and sits in my lap. Clayton's bass conveys a crystal clear bass line. That gets resolved to the sound of his finger friction stroking those fiddle strings. Clayton's bass is the sound of a warm wooden chamber that projects and propels the music into my room. When the lights in my room are turned down low, Ms. Krall words and phrasing are intimate and real as she sings just for me.
I'm repeating myself when I tell you I believe hollow state tube amplifiers and vinyl recordings seem to have an affinity to each other. Listening to the Sonny Clark track, Nica (Take2) the recording is very revealing but in a disappointing way. The start of this recording is mic'ed very close to Max Roach's drum kit in the right side speaker. So much so that the swirling metallic brush work on the drum surface partially obscures Sonny Clark on piano. Additionally the string bass fiddle is pushed back in the mix and almost not part of this track. Color me very surprised that this particular microphone setup made it to vinyl LP. I can only think it appeals to people who play drums. Crystal clean and clear but you can't get much melody out of a drum head. Lesson learned, you get exactly what is in the grooves, nothing added and nothing held back. As a review subject, the opening track and the entire recording shows the impeccable resolving power of the Osprey Amplifier.
My Piece De Resistance
My favorite song on this record is Some Must Dream. Now as you listen you can hear the subtly present live sounds of the surrounding venue. That space is in fact a complex mix of many small whispers of sound. For me a large portion of this quality is described by the word "continuousness" that is a term coined by the late Harry Pearson. It used in part to describe an organic live presence that exists as you listen to a complex cord that slowly decays into silence. I would like to remind you of a problem inherent with Red Book CD digital encoding. As the intensity / volume of a sound fades it is treated as a least significant bit and dropped. The major difference between this recording and the same DSD versus CD version is that the entire body of sound retains a natural and complete range of frequencies both odd and even. With an analog recording those overtones decay into silence naturally, just as it is in life.
For a brief time that's the gift the Osprey has given me. In my 30 year long pursuit to bring music into my home, this is the best of times. The Raven Osprey and specifically the Mark 3 version is built like a tank to last for decades. At $4895 the amplifier is not cheap. But if you see it and hear it you can appreciate for yourself where the money went. No expense was spared in its design and construction. If you can afford it then don't deny yourself, go and audition, you won't regret it. You will have a 45 day home trial to make up your mind or if you might opt to return it. The Raven Osprey amplifier paints a better musical reality then anything I presently own.
Remember to enjoy the music! And from me, Semper Hi-Fi.
Footnote: Regarding the mix of audio cables that was sent with the Osprey Amplifier…. I can only comment that I probably own the worst audio test bed to audition cables. Over the last 30 years I have accumulated a Hoge Poge mixture of every kind of audio cabling, they are a conglomerate of Good, Bad, and Indifferent. The back of my audio rack looks like a spider's web. To do a meaningful evaluation you should do a complete rewire of a system that you know very intimately and all with the same brand of comparatively priced cables. All things considered, I do not own that system. To be fair, I can see the cable fabrication is of a very high quality and the plug termination on all the wiring is first rate. As a matter of fact the banana plugs have a spring contact feature that I have never seen before.