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I was asked about High Fidelity.... but is that the real question here? How important is each link in the chain?

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The question as it was put was:  "I am going to go out on a limb and ask that if each tube changes the sound of your amplifier by that much of a degree exactly then where is the high in high fidelity?  no I am not anti tube"
See the original discussion on the Steve Hoffman Forums HERE
My resonse:
Well I would have to say that any amplifier that reveals so much from any such component change in the preamp or to a different degree, even the power tubes, would prove even further just how sensitive and delicate and revealing the amplifier really is.  That shows design and build quality, and reveals the true high fidelity ability of the product as a whole.   But that isn't the entire story now is it...
The truth is, there are many tube amps out there now, most of which will change with the tubes you choose...   but the circuit and its chain of quality (including each specially chosen individual part) are all going to be highly important parts of designing and building any amplifier.  The quality of the tubes you choose is just one of the many other important components within the circuit chain that makes each amplifier.  The build quality, soldering, PC board or wiring, all of it makes a difference.  Transformers are probably the MOST important to start because the power for all the components comes from that source, then it's going to be a tie when choosing capacitors, chokes, interstage transformers, wire quality and the circuit capacitance, with the proper resistors following ever so closely behind.  But in the end it is everything together, the stew, the mix or whatever you are going to call it.  
You will easily find out how much of a difference exists between amps when you set them side by side and audition them against one another.  I think it is HUGELY important to be able to do that when choosing an amplifier.
Once you choose a quality amplifier for your system you will then see just how important the REST of the system really is also.  The better the amp and speakers - the better to reveal the weakest link in the system chain.  Without sensitive and revealing speakers you would never know how good the amp really is though.  The cabling is probably the fourth most important part of the chain behind the quality of your sources.  You can put a cheap cartridge, phono stage or CD player in the chain and depreciate everything else too.  Everything counts~!  Everything.  
Those of you that might not know this yet can easily find out by auditioning a Raven amplifier, speakers, or cables.  We now allow a full month and a half of audition period now - because we know how important ALL of it is and we WANT you to compare us against the others out there.  And this is an EXPENSIVE hobby.  So we will never approach any of it from ONLY the profit side.  Raven is about the music, the enjoyment of building a good system, and proving that each part of the chain has its percentage of value and all are exceptionally important.  It's why we are now aiming at each link in that chain.  
Raven will soon be about full systems - tested together, matched, and making each link in the chain work at its peak for the price point that we can figure out how to build it at.  Having the most important parts of that chain made in the USA has always been important to us.  But our European allies made some excellent glass during the heyday of those times.  And now some of the best parts are made in Japan, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, etc.  So we go where we have to to acquire them if they aren't available here.  And that is just how it has to be.  If WIMA capacitors are made in Germany, and they offer an extremely low-priced high quality value for our product, we will absolutely go where we need to to get that.  Building fine electronics is now about searching the world for each value we can find.  Did we look at China to try to do some of our work for us....   absolutely.  So far each time proved fruitless.  The QC wasn't there.  So we chose Dallas, which cost 6 to 8 times as much, but the quality was superb and we could easily monitor each step.  In the end the profit was no longer there, but the sound and fit and finish of these products is at the top.  Our customers will love the result.  So its now going to be about how many we can build each time.
We have to stay alive, so eventually we will have to make money at it.  And we will.  It is simply a must.  And we will go where we can as long as we can control the quality.  There is value in building in your own back yard though.  As long as we build our products like this people will seek them out.  And that is how it will all work from now on.
Built in the USA, our amplifiers and speakers are going to be the best we know how to make them.  So when the DAC's come out our part of the expertise will be complete for a while.  We will never want any of our customers to settle without being able to try each of our new products IN THEIR OWN homes where it is most important.  We have a lot of experience now setting up full systems in many different types of rooms - at shows, in people's homes, and offices, shops, wedding receptions (!).  If it can be done I will haul a system out and stick it in that environment - if only to gain that experience.  I think some of the most fun sound I have yet heard is when I took a lowly Nighthawk outdoors and hooked it up to a full set of JBL professional speakers, big cabinets with 3" horn drivers and 15" midrange/upper bass woofers which were 99.8db (which I never knew before that were so easy to drive) and these huge JBL subwoofer cabinets with 18" drivers in them.  Of course it was better when I used a power amp on the subs, but even the little 20wpc Nighthawk was able to fill two acres with glorious music for the barbeque.  People could not help themselves...  as the music drifted across the grassy lawns and washed around them people started to move with the beat.  It was involuntary, addictive and it changed the mood of the gathering completely.  You could see it on their faces, watch it move down and around their bodies as limbs started to react and hearts started beating a little bit faster....
Music is so important to all of us.  So there is important value in finding out how much each of those individual musicians put their hearts and souls into their part of the recording.  And the best engineers do their best to allow each instrument and voice be a full component in the track.  Sometimes its about the song itself.  In the recording industry it IS about the song.  But if it's not a hit on the charts, it's going to be about the quality and soul of the recorded event.  If its not on tape its going to be gone in a few short minutes.  The musicians know this, and its their job to put everything they have into the recording when that engineer says "rolling" over the little speaker....   and only then the magic takes place.  And that is why we are all here...   right?  We truly love the music.  Each recording is historic.  It has the ability to touch us deeply inside and stir our emotions, and only a song can bring such a flood of memories and emotions rushing back to our brains...   especially if it was at an important time in our lives.  So knowing all of this is why we are here.  This is all hugely important.  We take it very seriously.  And it can be so good if you can hear each note and instrument and vocals cleanly on each track.  It makes it all so much better when you can.
That little 20 wpc tube amp never skipped a beat that day, and memories flowed through each of the brains controlling those legs and feet as the people remembered where they once were when they first heard each song.  It was magical.  It is ALWAYS magical.  And its so darn important to each of us.  We were only told by neighbors 250-500 yards away that they enjoyed our musical selection so much they stopped what they were doing and just sat outside and listened.  Sure, I wouldn't have called it "audiophile level sound" but its important to know that it's about the "system" as a whole, not any single component - which matters MOST>!  The environment/room/cables/source/speakers/amp/and your ears...  all of that is the most important part of the system.  And in the end the most important part of each system is YOU.
And even though I have done it literally thousands of times before, it never loses its importance.   I want to go fire up some glass and listen to some music...   because it's Sunday afternoon and I have some time open?  No, its because I just wrote this and feel the need again remembering that day...   I need to feel those feelings again.  I need to remember, I need to hear music.  I simply must.  And I am so very proud of the quality we are providing in our components and how they can help stir the soul each time no matter how demanding the listener is.  It's what drives us all here at Raven now that we aren't playing music for a living, or even for fun.  Knowing that I can still do something like this...   it's just so important.  And I will never take it lightly.  EVER.

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Joined: 6 years ago
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Times are pretty exciting these days.  I have about 25 brand new Avian Series amplifiers in the shop right now, fresh off the assembly line - and I'm going through them now, burning them in, picking out preamp tubes and getting them ready for their new homes!  All I can say is WOW...  these new amps are just amazing.  The long delay has melted away and the music is flooding my room with a detail and authentic finish that will make your heart glow.  Knowing that the new PC boards are so much thicker than before, and the copper tracing is heavier also, and the copper itself is so pure - I know that is what I am hearing now.  The music is just so rich and glorious and accurate...  it's taking me on a ride back in time.

Yeah, the prototypes were fabulous, but these brand new MK3 production amps are just flat out better.  The are dead quiet with a background almost as silent as if it was turned off.  That's not the usual situation with tube amps believe me.  When selling amps with great old historic tubes in them, like Raven Audio is known for - sometimes there's a trade-off and you can hear a gentle rush in the background when the music is not playing and you put your ear up next to the speaker drivers or tweeters.  But right now if the music isn't playing I am not hearing anything, and these tubes are pretty old. 

The detail has always been good on Raven Audio amplifiers, but this new level of micro-detail and sustain is just awe inspiring.  The bass is so punchy and powerful, it really doesn't matter how low I turn the volume, it's still there.  And this midrange is a thing of pure beauty.  Right now I am listening to one of the new Nighthawk MK3's and its just mesmerizing.  The female vocals, Ella Fitzgerald, a track recorded in the late 50's has that old time finish to it, but still...   it just touches the soul in such a thoroughly human way - and though more accurate and open - due mostly to the new microphone and recording technologies, few new tracks can match that pure emotional connection these days.  There was just something to the way they recorded back then.  Live with the instruments bleeding through all the microphones, and even though the stand-up (acoustic) bass wasn't directly miked, it's nice, full, and just beautiful on these tracks.  The musicians, I can almost see them in the room...  whiskey in a glass next to Ella, ice melting into the caramel colored liquid, the bass player with a cigarette carefully laid on the edge of a big glass ashtray, all the guys wearing hats, and the producer says "roll em" and Ella starts to gently sway to the music...   you can close your eyes and see it all...  you FEEL it, smell it, tears well up as she gently coos the first few syllables into that huge chrome spring loaded Sure microphone hanging a few inches above her...  here it comes...  "How much do I love you..."  and YOU are right there with her as she breathes in for the next phrase...   you can here that~!  

This is music that has a true authentic soul and emotion so thick you very easily get emotional as a listener.  Knowing the history behind her story, those days when artists didn't really get pay like they deserved, the horrible racism and brutality.  Their entire lives lived in fear and persecution.  It hangs in the air as the music drifts out of your speakers.  This was America less than half a century ago, and that isn't what we are talking about here, but it IS what you are hearing as these artists go about their craft.  Nobody today is that plagued with such unbearable pressure every day of their lives, and this is their art, their soul bearing legacy.  The Raven Audio product line will deliver it to you like no other music playback instruments.

And then in the end, we know what happened to over 80% of these artists' legacies...  their original tape masters were simply allowed to deteriorate in old unprotected warehouses, and then finally ALL OF THEM were allowed to burn in the California Universal Studio lot fire   This is truly the saddest story in the history of music, and its just so incredibly insulting to the unfortunate and brutal lives dedicated to this vastly underpaid unsung art that was delivered to us like nobody has since.  I remember the first time I read this story...   it made me physically sick to hear about it and I cried with anger at those that could do such a horrible crime against all of the music community, like you and me.

Still, every time I listen to Ella, Billie, Etta, Patsy, Duke, Benny, all of them...  now gone forever, I feel it again.  It starts at my speakers and drills right through my heart.  I get angry again...  after all I did this too for a while.  I know the sacrifice first hand.  I know what it feels like to eat beans and baloney sandwiches so I could get up on that stage, then sleep when we could either in a van or dark smelly "band house" or cheap motel...   it takes years to become an overnight success...  and I was never this good believe me!

I also know that all that is left of these truly legendary recordings is the seconds, and what's left of the tiny percentage of backups scattered across the country, and the public released materials of which holds by no means even a fraction of the original information that was allowed to burn away that night.  And once again, people like us are left with ashes while those in charge of those legacies yacht away to distant locations in search of their next opportunity.

But hey...   I'm trying to tell a good story here, not one about extreme loss, anger and sadness...  my tubes are glowing and I am going to put this keyboard away as soon as I can finish this tear-stained rant.  This is about the music...  and Ella is still singing...   "... you've got to cry me a river..."

In the amplifier I have a pair of Tungsram branded Seimens ECC81's from the 60's in row 1, Philips Miniwatt ECC81 from the late 50's in row 2 and a pair of 1950's era Raytheon 12AU7 shiny black ladder plates in row 3 and the balance is perfect.  I could live with this forever I'm telling you.  Knowing that the Blackhawk MK3 and Osprey MK3 are even more refined is really a difficult thing to think about right now because of what I am hearing is pure bliss.  I know the Nighthawk has always been good...  but this new one is just so musical and effortless.  I don't hear anything that shouldn't be there.

The hair is standing up on the back of my neck and arms as I am listening to her sing her way through these timeless songs and I am thinking, this is exactly what this hobby is all about...  sadness, tears, the struggle of life itself...   and I am so glad every day that our amplifiers are this darn good.  I really wouldn't have it any other way!  And after all...  it did take a decade to get here...   finally!