Raven Blackhawk LE... am I going to be disappointed?

Only reason I ask is because it will be pushing Salk Veracity Ht2-TL’s...  Im coming off a Belles Aria, which was fantastic, but wanted to try something different.  My concern is the low wattage of the Raven and low sensitivity of the salks, but my Belles 75 watts sounded better than 3 other nice 225 watt integrateds.  
So, anyone with experience with the Raven Blackhawk LE pushing somewhat low sensitivity speakers chime in and let me know.  

88dB is pretty low. 92 is my cutoff for consideration, and you are well below that. Still, what really matters is you prefer quality over quantity. The Ravens 20 tube watts is comparable to 50 to 100 solid state pseudo-watts, and you already know you prefer a really nice sounding 75 to not so nice 225.  

There's people in your situation who have been disappointed, but they never write detailed reviews so you never really know, it may have been all down to unrealistic expectations. I think as long as you know you are not buying a high power headbanger and are more into a believable compelling presentation you will probably be find. Captivated, maybe even. We hope!   

Not just saying that because I am in the process of buying a Raven Reflection MkIII either. ;)
I was looking at the Osprey for my Spatial M3 Sapphires 92db and decided against it. Wasn’t crazy about their restocking fee. Although the Ravens seem to be trending now I wasn’t convinced I would be able to push those 15” woofers. I opted for an Octave because I had a dealer close by and haven’t looked back. I wound up with the V70 Class A. The Octave is stunning and can drive virtually anything. You might want to check them out.
room size and how close you listen are important factors.  
i had the raven blackhawk driving KEF LS50s in a medium large room that everyone said would not work.  fortunately you listen with your ears and not on paper.  the sound was spectacular.  
you are in for a treat.... 
Cool.  Thats kind of what I was thinking.  I’ve only ever had one tube amp, a prima luna prologue 3 or 5... cant remember.  I like it but Im thinking that the Raven will be a step up.  
I may roll tubes and if I like the Raven but it doesn’t get loud enough, I’ll switch speakers to something higher efficiency. Choices seem limited though to ZU, Spatial and Tekton...
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What is the lowest impedance point of your speakers? 

Millercarbon is wrong the Raven 20 watts is not equal to 50 to 100 watts of S.S. power. He just cant recognize when he is clipping his tube amp. 

Looked at the Raven website. A tube manufacturer that makes 4 ohm impedance speakers? Stupid! Supposed to be very good gear however.
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A tube amp will soft clip so as long as you don’t need things too loud it should be fine.  
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I would not pair these two products unless forced to, and I would expect seriously compromised performance from such a setup. BTW, this is NOT a comment on the individual products, but the decision to use them together. 

Tis why I started this thread!

Something else... I am partially thinking that when you connect a sub to the sub out it crosses the mains over ag 80hz, reducing the load, no?  I may have misunderstood though.

@douglas_schroeder , how to dig myself out then?  If i like the sound of the Raven with the Salks but the don’t play loud enough, stick with the Raven and go high efficiency?  
So 85db’s at 1 meter is fine, 75 dbs at 2 1/2 meters...

I ususlly dont listen at ear bleeding levels.  
We’ll see!  I was wondering though already about ghe soft clipping properties that Douglas mentioned.  I wonder how many people think their low powered tube amps are cutting it but they are just clipping it constantly and not knowing it because of the soft clipping properties.

@fuzztone, lol, thanks for the candid response.  I know it wasn’t mean, just your truthful opinion (which might be factual!) and it made me chuckle, so thanks for that
@b_limo - it’s a decent product but overly hyped. And no, 20 watts is not the equivalent of 100 watts, not by a long stretch. Personally, and as someone who owns a Raven Blackhawk MK3, I don’t think it’s a good match for your speakers. It might get loud but you will miss the dynamics and bass. 
Also, the sub out feature is mostly a gimmick. I use a REL with the amp but vastly prefer the speakon high level connection.  
Had a nice long talk with Dave Thompson the other day. We were talking amps. I mentioned my Melody. Dave started describing the Melody he had used way back and still has sitting in a box somewhere. I say that's the same amp, I880 integrated. Dave says nice amp, he liked it enough to buy it, and still has it. But flat compared to a Blackhawk. I said yeah what I figured. And compared to the Reflection? "Oh, my, yes. That is something special."  

So yeah, been seriously considering the Reflection for a while now. Right around a year I guess. Which is pretty much the way I do it. Research the crap out of it, read all the reviews and comments, talk to some owners, let it stew and gel a while, finally call the owner/builder/designer. Just your normal due diligence.  

The way the sub out works, you have a choice. The sub out signal is always there, so no matter what you can run the mains full range and subs at the same time. In addition to this there is the option of using the built-in crossover to filter the low end off of the mains. When you do this, because so much of the power is down low it greatly reduces the power load on the amp. If you read up on my posts about how DBA and subs work you will see it is better as far as deep bass is concerned to have full range floor standers continue to get full range signal. In your case however that is more than balanced out by the need to lighten the load on the amp in order to drive those 88dB speakers. 

The Blackhawk uses a 6dB per octave high pass filter that can be set at 80Hz or 100Hz. It depends a little on your room and situation but you typically want to avoid running subs higher than 80 in order to avoid being able to localize them. Set at 80, then your Salk will be down 6dB at 40 which means one fourth the amplifier power. The subs will easily pick this up and so this will allow you to run those mains a lot higher volume than you otherwise would. You were already pretty close and with a sub I think you are home free. 

Especially since you are already open to new speakers like Tekton. I can say for sure the 20W Blackhawk will drive a pair of Moabs to deliriously high level, and sound the business while doing so! 
I demoed Dynaudio Evoke 20s (86db, 6ohm avg) with Quicksilver Integrated amp 20 watts. It sounded great at about 6 feet away at about 70-75 db but above that, it started to distort, not in a grating way but in an unpleasant way. Still, it took a little while. Not sure if you can extrapolate from that, so FWIW.
@audition__audio  why is that stupid?

Have you read the reviews and how they push the reviewers to use with not only tube but SS amps.

Sounds to me they treat their speaker business as a channel and it used across multiple platforms not just Avian series amps.

Sounds like sound business to me. Is Sonus faber stupid for making a 4 ohm impedance speaker? 
tube manufacturer that makes 4 ohm impedance speakers? Stupid! Supposed to be very good gear however.

Man, so confused!  My heart says go for the Raven, my head says maybe not.  The Raven is so sexy but I am into dynamics and loud...

I want tubes but I want power too. I need more $, lol.

I don’t know, we’ll see.  If I don’t like the Raven / Salks combo I suppose I could figure out then, if Im keeping the Raven or Salks.  
Im starting to see the appeal in high efficiency speakers...
@b_limo have you ever looked at the Rogue Cronus Magnum?  It’s a fine sounding and affordable tube integrated with enough oomph to drive most speakers to reasonable levels.  Highly recommended. 
@b_limo ,
 You've been here before and have been able to put together some nice systems. I'm afraid this time you'll be disappointed. Amp and speakers are not a good match.

Personally, and as someone who owns a Raven Blackhawk MK3, I don’t think it’s a good match for your speakers. It might get loud but you will miss the dynamics and bass.

I think this says it all. 

@b_limo I don’t agree with @arafiq . My Magico A3s have the exact same 88dB at 4 ohms as your Salks. I have a Blackhawk Mk3 driving them. I forget what tubes I have in it right now. I have a couple of sets. But I have zero issue driving my A3s. I have soundstage imaging and dynamics. I am thrilled with the volume. Now I play mostly ECM jazz. But today I put on Jethro Tull Minstrel in the Gallery 40th Anniversary 2015 remix. I turned it up. But not crazy loud. I want to keep my hearing. But it was loud. No distortion and no issues and I don’t think the volume knob reached 12 o’clock. Plus I had a pair of RELs attached. Though I think it’s a marginal need for the A3s. I have them around mainly for my Maggie system. But they were also connected using the Kimber REL-CU high level cable with spades off the Raven speaker terminals. So some signal is going to the REL amps. But I have had a lot of very satisfying listening with great bass, dynamics and everything with the RELs turned off. So what I am saying bass is no issue. Also for shts and giggles I am trying out a pair of Amperion ribbon super tweeters that Randy the cheapaudioman reviewed. So that is tapping signal off the A3 binding posts too. Still the Blackhawk Mk3 performed super well. I am very happy with this integrated. Of course I have invested a lot in the rest of the system. Bottomline, if you are looking to drive 88dB at 4 Ohm towers in a medium sized room, I think you will have no issues.
Sad reality, the speakers you have never will give you the dynamics and volume you want. No matter how many watts you buy. It works like this: sound and power are logarithmic.

What that means, your 88dB speakers require TEN TIMES the watts to play as loud as 98dB Tekton Moabs. What this means, my Moabs with my 50 WPC Melody will play like 500 watts into your 88dB speakers. Five hundred. You literally cannot buy enough watts to compete, and that is with just my dinky Melody at 50 watts.

And think of it, these same speakers can handle 400 watts. Yeah. Don’t even want to know how loud that is, 50 is way more than enough in my rather good sized room.

But even then, even if you do find the 500 watt amp, and take out the second mortgage to buy it, even then no way it sounds anywhere near as mesmerizingly captivatingly draw you in good as a quality tube amp like the Blackhawk. Forget about it. Not happening. Never heard one yet. Instead what you get is dreck like ML, Krell, sorry they just aren’t doing it. I could go on all day, when before the end of Side One in my room you would be on the phone to Eric. Take it to the bank. Sign it. Cash it. Spend the money.
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Lots of theory here, but talk to the maker, Jim Salk. He's been exhibiting with tube maker McGary audio. Here, the speakers are 87 db driven by a 30 watt amp.

I asked Jim exactly these questions when I bought my Salks. No problem driving them with a 30 watt tube amp, he said. At first, I was going to buy his little 82 db Wow1 monitors. He said this about 82 db monitors:

"I would look for a minimum of about 100 watts for solid state and 30 watts for a tube amp (the more the better in both cases). The reason is that the way these amps clip is different. The solid state amp will be linear until it reaches its maximum output and then clip, becoming overly bright and edgy. As you increase the gain (volume) with a tube amp, it is linear to a point near its maximum output. As you increase it further, it acts somewhat like a compressor and simply limits the maximum output. So it is “soft” clipping as opposed to “hard” clipping. For that reason, you can get by with less wattage with tube amps. People who love tube amps love the liquid-smooth midrange they provide. But they don’t have quite as tight a grip on the bass. If you want tighter bass, then solid state becomes more attractive. The bottom line, then, becomes “what is more important to you...liquid smooth performance or tight bass performance.” Other than that, as long as the basic amp design is good, wattage becomes the most important (since amps are very accurate compared to speakers)."

What this says to me about your present 88 db Salks is that you should be fine IF Raven is well made, again depending on how loud you want to go. And it may be an open question how well they grab the bass. But you have a sub, right?

Talk to Jim.
@b_limo I would never pair such a speaker with 20 watts. Unless you listen to a steady diet of "girl with piano", I think you will be disappointed.

BTW, you must be buying used since the Blackhawk LE is no longer in production.


For a year or so I ran my LS3/5As with a Stereo 70, 35 w/channel. That was in a room about 14x20, firing into the long end. I added a sub, crossed over at 80Hz. I was surprised to learn after buying a db meter I listen at about 80-85 db max, I’d thought I liked it loud. It sounded, IMO, great.

about a year ago I replaced the ST 70 with a pair on VTL MB-125s. The VTLs sound very different, more speed, drive, more alive. More SQ like I would expect to hear from your Raven, just without the power. But consider what MC said regarding the use of the sub, as that’s a very good way to get you where you want to go. You take the very low end from your Salks, the upper lows to mids will only get better and sound like you have much more power, which in reality you do with the power to the sub.

That's a double edged sword. Yes you get the benefit of relieving small drivers from trying to produce bass, but you also get the downside of having to run the speakers through an inferior crossover on the subwoofer. Personally I like running speakers full range and bringing in a sub for the lowest frequencies, but this doesn't help with the OPs issue.


Raven includes a high pass crossover in that amp which is ideal for your situation.

"High-Pass Crossover

This addition to the Avian series provides an extraordinary advantage when using a subwoofer. It frees the power amp from 65% of the load it normally has to bear. This is like tripling the power of the amplifier in terms of its ability to drive speakers. It also frees smaller speakers from reproducing low bass frequencies that they really don’t reproduce very well which lowers overall distortion. This is all achieved with a gentle 6db per octave slope making it easy to achieve a seamless transition with a good quality subwoofer."

Try it, if you don't get enough volume or enough bass, just use the built-in crossover to a self-powered sub, that let's the Raven act like one of the big boys!


I am using a Luxman 10 wpc with wharfedale 87 sensitivity very happily in my small office. A crossover and a self-powered sub for a bigger room would be dandy.

For a main system, I recommend 2 subs, front firing, located adjacent to the mains to create/preserve imaging. It is both the fundamentals and their overtones that give location information.

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Everyone is stupid for making low impedance speakers when they can design the same speaker with a higher impedance. Especially bad are wide swings. Now I am not saying that low imp. or wide swings arent sometimes the only way to create a design, but in almost every case, higher impedance, stable loads are much easier for all amps to drive and will sound better due to the ease on the amplifier. I can think of only one designer that may claim his amps sound better with low impedance loads. 

So you ask the designers of amplifiers about speaker design. Fascinating. What do the designers of toasters think, I wonder?   

Meanwhile, back in the world of sense and logic, we ask speaker builders about speakers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMAO9LPsups
I have had a Raven Nighthawk 3.1 for almost four months now. First tube amp I have ever had. I love it! Sounded good right out of the box. After a couple of conversations with Dave, I made a couple of tube changes. Now it blows me away. Speakers are KEF R3, not an efficient speaker. I have a medium size room. The Nighthawks 20 watts are pretty amazing. Plenty loud enough, plenty of thump. Someday I will move up the ladder, but I am enjoying my music so much now that it will probably be awhile before I do! Totally happy with Raven, Dave, and Jim. Great overall experience. 
Compared to your other amps, yes you WILL be disappointed by the Raven. Have not actually heard a Raven, but 20 or even 30 watts is not going to cut it with 88dB speakers. I disagree with MC's comment about 20 tube watts is comparable 50-100 SS watts, NO way...
Yes way. Based on extrapolation. Several different 50-60 watt tube amps run with different speakers produced bass at least as good as 150-200 watt solid state amps. Compared in the same system. (Part of why I bought them.) With tube amps the ones with really high quality transformers tend to be best at this. Raven uses exceptionally high quality transformers. Allowing for this a 20 watt Raven being equivalent in perceived power to a 50-100 watt solid state is about right.

Compare and contrast this experience and practical reasoning with, "yes you WILL be disappointed by the Raven. Have not actually heard...." Wonderful. Have you tried using all caps to write other uninformed ideas? Does all caps somehow endow the words with gravitas and credibility?
@chicagoblue1977 -- I understand that some of my comments might seem unfair to the Blackhawk. Admittedly, the speakers that I have tried the amp with (SF Olympica 2, Harbeth P3ESR, Harbeth 30.1, Harbeth SHL5+) are all considered somewhat hard to drive. But let me explain why I feel the need to voice my concerns and call out the (over) hype associated with the Avian series.

If you have been following the various discussions and posts on this site, you would have noticed that the Blackhawk was/is touted as a giant killer that simply stomps over all other tube amps at twice or even thrice the price. Basically, there is no competition that can touch this amp. Period. Second, the claim that 20 watts is the equivalent of 100 SS watts.

In fact, it's not just the posters on this site. I was told the same by Raven Audio that this amp would have no problem driving SF Olympica 2s (now sold). The underlying message was not to worry about the wattage specs. It was only after a few owners, including myself, started to contradict the hype, that the stipulation of pairing high sensitivity speakers was added as a way to refute the objections. But believe me, many were, and are, led to believe (20 watts = 100 SS watts) that this amp would have no problem driving tough loads. It is categorically NOT true! How do I know? I have compared this amp with Luxman 590 AXII (30 watts class A, 90 watts A/B) and Audio Research GSi75. Yes, I know it's an unfair comparison due to completely different price brackets. But that is the point! The Blackhawk performs admirably within its price bracket -- but giant killer it's not. The 30 watts produced by the Luxman are vastly more potent and higher quality - as it should be given the price difference.

Further, the amp is comparable to other offerings from Rogue Audio or Quicksilver, both in terms of build and sound quality. Yet, I have seen many posts where it was implied that this amp is in a different league altogether. Having said that, I agree that this is a decent product for the price, and pairs well with (a) high sensitivity speakers, (b) in small-to-medium-sized rooms, and (c) when played at low to moderate volumes. But this is not how it was presented up until very recently.
Not just saying that because I am in the process of buying a Raven Reflection MkIII either. ;)

I'm getting one as well. The Reflection MK3 should be ready sometime next month. The chassis were delayed because of shipping problems.  I think it will be a phenomenal amp.
Several different 50-60 watt tube amps run with different speakers produced bass at least as good as 150-200 watt solid state amps.

Sorry but BS alert.

A watt is a watt unless the specs are juiced differently.

Soft clipping makes X # watts seem to go further because peaks get clipped in a listenable manner. But 50-60 watts is equivalent to only 50-60 watts period no matter how produced. It may sound fine subjectively but it is NOT, repeat NOT, the same as 150-200 in terms of dynamic peaks possible without distortion.

If you have a good combo of amp/speakers,  more power may be overkill at some point unless you have need for even louder potentially ear damaging dynamic peaks, but that is a different story.....just two different ways to effectively slay the beast.

A couple additional thoughts-

1) A High Pass crossover is a very simple device and should not degrade sound quality one bit.  Think about an RIAA equalizer in your phono preamp and the serious amount of EQ it does to the signal.  

2) There are other high quality higher efficiency speaker options.  The Legacy Calibre is an awesome speaker for example.  
A pair of Spendor D7.2s would sing loudly and clearly with the Raven amp.  

3) Tube amps a lot of times will not clip until very loud volumes but usually just run out of gas without making a ruckus.  The midbass and up will continue to increase in volume while the bass will plateau.  

4) I think the OP will be more than happy.  
So I have the Raven hooked up.  It was a preowned hnit and Im having issues with the sub out; it wont adjust the volume on the sub.  It passes the sub signal through the amp with the Raven off... strange.

Anyhow, its not warmed up yet and it actually sounds pretty dang good.  Plays stronger / louder than I expected.  It came with extra tubes too so I may roll some tubes later.  Fun stuff!

Raven will add the sub crossover to older units and since this one has sub out issues anyways...

I may just try returning it and swapping out for something else.  I got it at TMR and they have been really great so far so Im sure they’ll take care of me.  I want to keep my business with them on this so I’d try possibly trading for a different integrated.  The MF NuVista M3 looks interesting as does that Cayin tube integrated.  Problem is, coming off the Belles, its got to sound amazing number 1, then loud number 2.  This Raven is the firdt amp I put up against the Belles that can hold its own in terms of sound quality

I’ll update more here later today when I’ve listened some more
"...Sorry but BS alert. A watt is a watt unless the specs are juiced differently..."

Yes a watt is a watt. There is also "soft" clipping of the tube amp but that has nothing to do with the amps output if measured the same way. But what is different is that most tube amps have very good power supplies, decent transformers and large capacitors. My 25 watt tube mono blocks can hang with ANY 100wpc consumer grade receiver. Cheap under-speced components just don't get you to the same place regardless of the power specification. My little mono-blocks have 4 coke can sized capacitors, you wont see that in any mass consumer amp. So that's why we say there are watts and there are tube amp watts, even when we know a watt is a watt.    
So Im able to get an average of 90dbs with 95db peaks spl at my listening seat...

I am missing a bit of dynamics / slam that I had with Belles but the Raven is slightly more open and clear.  

We’ll see we’ll see
How long does it take to get a tube amp warm?  Its been 30 mins now, shes radiating some heat, and it sounds really damn good.  
I switched to 8 ohm tap... whats the difference between the two?  My speakers are nominal 6 and dip probably too 2 or 3 I assume.  
I started with the 4 ohm tap.  Can I use either?  Is it just going to be a difference in sound quality or does it put a bigger strain on the amp?

I am definitely seeing the appeal in a good tube amp though, whoa.  The openess, bloom and freq response is amazing.  I think its going to have enough power too which is really really surprising...
I'm seeing a lot of baloney here.  The amp designer, builder and marketer recomends speakers between 85 and 95 dB efficiency.
Take it up with him.
Sounds like you got a winner. There is nothing wrong with the Sub Out. It does not adjust level, you do that on the sub not the amp. All the Sub Out does is pass the input signal to the sub. It is outside the pre-amp circuit. That is why it works even when the amp is off.

Warmup for any amp of this quality level is more a continuum than a destination. My Melody is not as good as a Raven, but I turn it on half an hour before listening, run some demagnetizing tracks through it, and still the sound gets better and better for quite some time. I would say the "warmup" is something like a matter of minutes to sound pretty good, an hour to sound really good, and then who knows how long to finally top out. This is of course a combination of not only the amp quality but the overall system transparency and listener skill level. Many people will not notice anything different after 20-30 minutes.

Your amp here however, while used it sat idle who knows how long. This first time being fired up it may be a little longer coming into full form. Not a lot, but that is just the way it is with anything high end that has been off a long time, jostled around, exposed to temperature extremes, etc.  

Taps are purely for convenience and to give you the option to find one that might sound a little better. Which tap you run means nothing as far as the amp itself is concerned. There is a technical difference of course but all that matters is if one does sound better, use that one. Regardless of what the speakers are rated or the amp says. This is sort of like loading a phono cartridge, you try different ones and go with the one you like the best.

I am definitely seeing the appeal in a good tube amp though, whoa. The openess, bloom and freq response is amazing. I think its going to have enough power too which is really really surprising...

Surprising to you, my friend, and some others. As for me? Situation normal.

So Im able to get an average of 90dbs with 95db peaks spl at my listening seat...
I am missing a bit of dynamics / slam that I had with Belles but the Raven is slightly more open and clear.  
Enjoy your amp. But what you're describing is a lack of current to fully drive the low-end and areas of low impedance.

That’s one interpretation. Another is, it is typical of solid state performance to exaggerate leading edges relative to the full body of the tone. They almost always get this balance wrong, which does have the effect on some guys of thinking this is tight, greater definition, more detail, etc. When in reality it is just added glare.

Instead of trying to fit everything into a preconceived narrative, how about reading the actual listener comments?
The openess, bloom and freq response is amazing.

These comments are totally at odds with "lack of current to fully drive" anything. You simply do not get openess and bloom with a lack of anything. What you get instead is compression and congestion. The idea the amp is running out of current is not based on anything in evidence here. It is pure preconceived narrative.