Raven Audio Nighthawk


So the scuttlbutt on the Raven integrated amps is pretty good. But just how good are they? Are they good when compared to other comparably priced tube integrateds? Or are they better than some heavy hitters?

I currently have a NOSvalves ST-45 amp paired with a Don Sachs Model 2 (latest version) preamp and I am extremely happy with this pairing. With that said, I guess there is nothing really that I'm looking to improve. But since we all know how this game goes, I just wonder how much better (or not) the Blackhawk III would be. Consolidating two pieces down to one chasis is an attractive idea too.

I would love to hear from you if you own a Nighthawk or Blackhawk or have auditioned one against something else. I know they offer a 45 day trial period, but from my calculations if I don't like it it will cost me close to 400.00 out of pocket once the dust settles. So I'd like to go into this with a warm fuzzy that it's pretty darn good.

Oz



8d541401 a91b 4e90 877a fef72e81b98bozzy62
Sorry, the title should have said Blackhawk, that is the one I am most interested in.
I haven’t heard the Blackhawk, but like you, I have been  interested. I Had to look up your ST 45 amp. Nice. I have Don’s Kootenay amp and like it a lot. However I was also interested in the Dynaco Mk 3’s which looks like the basis of this amp. However I didn’t know this existed and didn’t want a restored Dyna w/o upgrades. Now I’ve got to check these out. Sorry to get off track but thanks for the post
IMHO the only way to really sort out which is better sounding is a direct comparison in one’s audio system. I can understand the appeal of a tidy single box integrated amplifier (convenient/fewer boxes). Both the NOSvalves amplifier and Don Sachs preamplifier have established reputations for excellent sound quality.

 Could be ’difficult’ to exceed their performance with an integrated amplifier (But not impossible). I would encourage going for the Raven Audio home audition trial offer. You ears will get it right.
Charles
My impression is there's a few people on this site maybe 5-10 who keep pushing the same products, one of them being raven (you know the other products).  Maybe these posters are harmless and certainly they have been posting here for a long time and mean well and some seem knowledgeable but overly verbose and hard to understand (logic not strong suit).

But as an outside observer I have seen it over and over again.
Wow I was positive the first response I would see is from Miller C! Hasn’t even chimed in yet. 
I ordered one of these amps around the fist of March. I emailed them earlier today to get a update on the order hopefully get a response or amp soon.  Been thinking about others options but keep going back to the BlackHawk. This will be my first tube amp pared with some Sweet 1976 Corner Horns. Fingers crossed.  
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@ozzy62 @robertcropdust I am interested in a Raven Avian series too. How did you both decide on a Blackhawk as opposed to a Nighthawk or Osprey? Thanks!
I received my Blackhawk toward the end of last year when production started up again. I love it. 
Robert crop dust, the raven with heritage klipsch speakers will be oh so smooth. You will be in audio nirvana.......for at least a year. 
I just got the Blackhawk and can attest to its imaging, soundstage and resolution. It also punches well above its 20 wpc weight in terms of current output and ability to drive less sensitive speakers. However, I’m on the fence about sending it back. There’s a faint 60Hz transformer hum that just wasn’t an issue with the Parasound Halo on the same power circuit that it replaced that just irks me when it emerges in quiet opera passages. Parasound apparently embalms the transformer in epoxy to dampen it, and I understand this is the nature of tubes, but I do crave a more quiet amp
I find it interesting that Raven Audio touts their in-home trial as "risk free" when they charge a 7% restocking fee and shipping both ways.  As the OP writes, that's a $400 risk-free trial.  I have returned some equipment from a big online seller and there was NO charge at all: no restocking fee, no shipping to me, no shipping back to the seller (they sent a pre-paid UPS shipping label).  That is what I would call risk-free.
Precisely why I’m trying to convince myself to live with it. But I haven’t put the Parasound on the market yet...
You might like it. Actually, you probably will. I don't even know that amp at all, but most amps are good nowadays. 
@robertcropdust I am interested in a Raven Avian series too. How did you both decide on a Blackhawk as opposed to a Nighthawk or Osprey? Thanks!
@mickeyb I feel like the upgraded parts will make a difference. And I like the better powder coat finish too. I might have considered the Osprey, but James at Raven says the only difference is the extra power, and I don't need that.

I find it interesting that Raven Audio touts their in-home trial as "risk free" when they charge a 7% restocking fee and shipping both ways. As the OP writes, that's a $400 risk-free trial. I have returned some equipment from a big online seller and there was NO charge at all: no restocking fee, no shipping to me, no shipping back to the seller (they sent a pre-paid UPS shipping label). That is what I would call risk-free.

@billzame
Yeah I'm a little hung on this one too. I understand the shipping, but the 7% restock fee is a tough pill to swallow. I know they can't sell it new, but so few of them come back it would seem like a good business move to eat that 7% on a few amps to get more out the door.

I'm still on the fence, but leaning towards a purchase.

Oz
Imho, the 7% restocking fee is just poor marketing.  I get the fact that they want to discourage tire kickers, but the cost of shipping both ways should be enough of a deterrent.  Besides, if they are so confident about their product, they will get very few returns. 
I find much to admire with the Raven gear.  However, more than one person has commented about a hum problem they could not get rid of.  Might want to talk to Dave about that before you pull the trigger.
I received my Nighthawk 3.1 three weeks ago. I love it! Have not heard any hum. Dead quiet. I'm very glad that I purchased one. Only reason I would send it back would be to move up to an Osprey. But I'm pretty satisfied, so I probably won't. 
OP, the YouTube reviewer/engineer Tarun said something early in his series which has stuck with me -- if one is not prepared to spend quite a lot more on a component or speaker upgrade -- 2x or 3x --  it's likely there won't be much of a difference (if there is not a radical change of style of component).

Perhaps that helps with your decision about swapping out your present stuff for the Raven.
feliks, try posting your problem on a thread that won't be deleted in a day or two and you will get help and answers.
feliks, try posting your problem on a thread that won't be deleted in a day or two and you will get help and answers.

What exactly does that mean?
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Townsend thread?

WTF is that about? You must be thinking of Ozzy.

I've never posted in or started a Townsend thread.
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I have owned a Blackhawk for about 6 months now and I am delighted with it. It has been a dramatic step up in realism and enjoyment for me, and may well be my forever amp. I have no agenda, I just wish to share my experience, as I considered others' reviews before I chose mine. I also value the receptiveness of the principals of Raven Audio to respond to any questions or concerns.  
Forever/endgame amp is what I've been thinking. Why I'm saving up for a Reflection.
@ozzy62 ,

You may want to read my review at https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/integrated-tube-amp-demo-follow-up

On target to your questions.

 -G
And BTW, I was able to negotiate a lesser potential restocking fee. Became irrelevant since I kept the amp.
@gareents
Thanks for that link. Very impressive.


Oz


I just placed my order for a Blackhawk Mk III. James was great to work with and I'm really looking forward to it. Thanks to everyone who posted a helpful comment.


Oz


Congratulations Oz!   
I owned a nighthawk and then a blackhawk.  seriously good sounding amps but this is when they were offering premium nos svet power tubes and mullard, rca, amperex small signal tubes.  
i have not heard the latest stock tube configurations but nos phillips and new EH tubes do not excite me.  
it certainly can sound amazing with the right tubes as long as you are not expecting large scale dynamics from typical 84 to 86 db speakers.   higher efficiency speakers are a must for top range sound, a compromise some are willing to make.  
a nice pair of spendor d7.2 and yeah, these amps can deliver the goods. 
I have owned a Blackhawk MK3 for a few months. It's very nice, refined, and responds well to tube rolling. But, personally, I feel that it does not rise up to the level of hype created around the Raven products, at least the Avian series. It competes favorably with Primaluna but is not better or worse than other tube amps in this price category.

I know that Raven likes to claim that the 20 watts produced by the Blackhawk can be compared to 100 solid state watts. Nope. The first 30 watts in pure class A that my Luxman produces run circles around the Blackhawk, not just in the bass department but also soundstage, imaging, and ... well, pretty much all areas. Secondly, the separate subwoofer connection is rather gimmicky in my opinion. For example, using REL's preferred method of speakon/high level connection still sounds better.

Don't get me wrong, this is still a very nice component, and very good value for the money. But giant slayer or 'punch above its class' it's not. It's made in the USA, and competes favorably with similar priced amps from other countries, both in terms of quality and cost. This was honestly my motivation to buy, not the hype.

Disclaimer: I have been using it with low sensitivity speakers (Harbeth and Sonus Faber), so it might be a completely different beast with higher efficiency ones. But it certainly doesn't have the juice to drive low efficiency speakers to their full potential.


I had a Nighthawk and I couldn't return it fast enough. Like someone said earlier, from what I heard, it was way over-hyped.
I know everyone's ears and associated equipment are different, but it left me shaking my head as to what all the commotion was about.
A lot of people love their stuff and that's cool. To each their own.
I'm sure I'm in the minority here but the OP posted an inquiry so I'm responding.
as long as you are not expecting large scale dynamics from typical 84 to 86 db speakers.

No danger in that. I’d never own such an animal........
Congratulations Oz, something tells me you will be in heaven. You've probably already come across this in your research but if not this is bound to get you even more excited.  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gcd76DZmbdY
A note to anyone considering Raven’s products after watching Millercarbon’s link to the video...
I watched the same video. I drank the same kool-aid. They are good salesmen.
Well if it sucks, it goes back to TX. But I am being optimistic about it.

Devilboy, what speakers were you attempting to drive with the amp?


@ozzy62 
At the time of audition, I was using a pair of Nola Contenders. They were rated EXACTLY where Raven recommends their Nighthawk... At 90db.

@devilboy,
You did it the right way. Get the component into your home audio system, then listen and judge. Turns out the Raven Audio amplifier wasn’t for you but it has worked out successfully for others. This can be said for any audio product on the market.

There will be hits and misses along the way. The OP says his current seperate amp and preamp make him "extremely " happy so a reference point has been established. Will be interesting to see how the Blackhawk iintegrated amplifier stacks up in direct comparison and will it make him as happy.
Charles

@charles1dad 
Exactly. There are so many variables in this crazy thing we do, and that's BEFORE it gets to our ears. Not to mention after that, everyone's tastes are different.
Like I said, I know a lot of people love Raven's stuff.  They are very well respected in the community.
Problem is, sometimes it takes a lot of auditioning to get to that point.  
I'm also curious as to what Ozzy thinks of the Raven.
@ozzy62 
I know you wanted to consolidate and I understand the benefits. However from what I understand that Don Sachs preamp is a killer pre. Your amplifier looks attractive as well.
I'm curious to know how much you're gaining in the change, if at all.

@devilboy,
That is my point as well in an earlier post. It’s asking a lot of the Blackhawk preamplifier section to equal the highly praised Don Sachs let alone be superior to it. Thus my interest in the upcoming audition. Same can be said in regard to the power amplifier section vs the highly regarded NOSvalves seperate  amplifier. Should be an insightful endeavor.
Charles
In my opinion, there are no giant killer in any integrated amp in the $2.5 - 4k price range.  All amps in that range are not end game amps.  What you will get from Raven is a tremendous sounding, quality built amp with great customer service and the potential for tube rolling to create your own unique sound.  I am not saying Raven is better or worse than other amps because that is always going to be personal preference.  

I no longer own a Raven but wish I did.  The story is too long but the person who bought my house demanded my whole two channel system.  

I have heard the Blackhawk compared to a nice SS amp in James Connel's home with the Raven Speakers.  It drove their speakers effortlessly with sound that you might expect from a more expensive integrated amp.  I am not saying a $10k amp but again for what you are paying for the BH it is tremendous value for the money.  Even if there is a restocking fee, in the very long term are you going to miss the $400 to prove what is a better option?  It is worth it if to do an A/B comparison in your own environment.  

I had the Raven Reflection MK2. It was stunning and drove at the time Sonus Faber Amati Tradition Homage Speakers.  I have a ton of experience with Raven and Dave Thomson.  Raven is hardly over-hyped.  If anything they are totally under-hyped.  They are still a small company that is growing and they are not well known.  So, if you want to call me one of those people who are constantly promoting Raven so be it.  I am only going to promote products and companies that I totally believe in....and I am not easy to please!

Ozzy, congrats.  We look forward to your comments after the BH is broken in. 
Well these are the first less than flattering comments I have read about Raven products. But as to devilboys situation, even though Raven says the amp will drive 90 db efficient speakers, I would never try that pairing. Might sound good at low volumes, but I can't imagine it would do well with music with large dynamic swings. I understand better why you didn't care for it.

Yes my Don Sachs line stage is very good. So is my amp. Collectively they are just a little more than the retail of the Blackhawk. So that said, I guess it doesn't have to be a giant killer. But here's hoping it's at least good enough to be a keeper.

Oz


When auditioning a Raven amp be aware of tube and amplifier burn in.  At least 100 hours.  Also that NOS tubes like Amperex, RCA and Mullard can literally transform the sound to a much higher level of unheard of transparency and refinement and sound stage.  
I actually demoed my well burned in, well "tubed" Blackhawk at a local dealer, one of two in the country at that time.  
Playing through a pair of KEF LS50s in a medium room at moderate volume the sound was literally the best I have ever heard.  Not the biggest, just the sweetest, most transparent likable sound ever.  Bought it on the spot.  
Ozzy62, congratulations on your purchase, I think you are really going to like the Blackhawk Mk III. Please post your thoughts once you receive the unit and have an opportunity to evaluate it. 
Thanks @lak , looking forward to it.


Ozzy62,   nothing is going to please all the people all the time, but given that the vast majority of the people that have Blackhawks are very happy with them, odds are you will be too. For it's price range, it is outstanding. Just go into it with no preconceptions and enjoy!