Raysonic SP120 Integrated Amp Tube

Category: Amplifiers

The Raysonic is designed and QC'd in Toronto, but manufactured in China.

See http://www.raysonicaudio.com/amp/sp120.htm for details and photos

I was guided to this amp by some friends who own a Hi-Fi store and who were themsleves very impressed by the entire Raysonic line.

This is my first foray into the Tube world - it was prompted by the earlier purchase of a tube Guitar Amp - a VOX. This amp was so vibrant and yet smooth I thought I would that maybe a tube amp for my audio system might be of some benefit.

WOW - was that ever an understatement!

The in store test was pretty much what I expected - a very clean and controlled delivery, spacious soundstage, very well controlled low end and beautiful clean and smooth mids and highs

Once once I got it home and out of the box I allowed it 30 minutes or so to warm up and then started going through some more material - it was then that the frenzy set in!

I could not believe the magnificent sound of this amplifier - smooth, clean ,detailed, controlled, spacious.

Album after album was frantically searched out and tracks played and every one sounded incredible. I spent the whole day listening.

This amp alone has sparked an enthusiasm in me which had been lacking for several years.

The look of the unit is impressive and the weight too.
It gets a little warm - so if you have kiddies mount it high on a strong stand out of reach if little fingers

It is a very simple unit - volume and an input selector with 4 inputs and a 4 or 8 ohm load capability - that's it.
It comes with a remote control (cheap plastic), but an upgraded metal remote is available.
The volume control is a little different in that the change is not immediate - it adjusts the volume to the newly selected level at a predefined rate - a little strange.

As I said earlier - I am new to tubes, so after a few months listening I looked around for some different tubes to see if it would make a difference.

I contacted The Tube Store and they were more than happy to make a recommendation of JAN Phillips 5751 and Electro Harmonix 6SN7EH, but they did not think the Shuguang kt88-98 power tubes required replacing.

After replacing the tubes and breaking them in there was a signficant improvement in image, detail and smoothness that I had not previously heard and all instruments seemed more "lively", in all, the upgrade was well worth while.

This amp is not a power house, so I would not reccommend it for anything other than Jazz, classical, folk etc.

Also - you will need efficient speakers.

If you like clean detailed sound - give it a whirl
After reading some other reviews on this forum I decided to elaborate on some of the details within the music that this amp brings out...

Vocalists are definately in their own very focused "space"...
Andy Bey - has a nice velvety deepness
Salena Jones - has a very nice edge to her vocals
Diana Krall - has a nice whipery texture on her quiet tracks
Angela Scapatura (new artist) - you can almost see just how much fun she is having with the boys in the band
Joni Mitchel's Blue album sounds amazing through this amp - very airy and extremely natural

Instruments display exceptional details...
Cello & violin - you can hear the bow actually generating the notes as it's drawn across the string in the lower register

Cymbals are extremely dynamic - on some Spike Heatley CD's I have, you can hear exactly how the cymbal is struck - e.g. with the end of the brush or stick as opposed to the further down - whether the strike is on the edge, mid way or extreme centre of the cymbal

Vibraphone - you can hear the "plunk" of the mallet stiking the note before the tone is generated

Trombone - you can hear the initial "spit" requied to produce the note

Acoustic Guitar - you can detect whether a pick or bare fingers are being used and the harmonics generated by the guitar are true to how a live guitar sounds

On most wind instruments, clarinet, oboe, flute you can hear the keys being pressed and released (I have several recordings providing these details)

On really good orchestral recordings the seperation between instruments is amazing and their placement across the soundstage is very accurate.

One Choral CD I have that is so well engineed, you can almost count the number of vocalists - OK, bit an exageration, but each vocalist seems to be in their very own well defined space.

Of course on some CD's it's a curse because you can hear people walking around or shuffling papers or tapping feet. It sometimes detracts from the music

One BB King "Live" CD I have sounded aweful through my pevious amp, but through the Raysonic it sounds amazing - just like you were there

How do I know how live instruments really sounds? - well, I was brought up in a musical family - piano, Clarinet, harmonica, guitar (6 and 12 string), mandolin, bass guitar, drums and a bugle. I also played in a band, where I was exposed to Saxaphone, keyboards and various brass & wind instruments.

Now, the rest of my audio equipment is s little antiquated, but somehow it produces very nice results, as this amp seems to bring out the very best in details.

The Rest of My System:
- Rega Planar II + RB250 arm (too many other mods to mention)
- Rega Elys cartridge
- Cambridge Audio 540 phono amp
- Rotel RCD 940 CD Player (added gold output sockets)
- Luxman T210 tuner
- Magnat Ribbon 5 Speakers (re-wired and re-foamed)
- DIY MDF Speaker Stands - sand filled to 35lbs
- DIY Van Den Hul D102 mkIII interconnect + Furutech RCA's
- DIY Van Den Hul Speaker Cables + bananas
- DIY Furutech Power cables _ good plugs
- Panamax 4300 power conditioner
- Lovan 4-tier rack with MDF shelves
Well, just after writing the review above, the KT88 power tubes started to show signs of failure on the right channel i.e. crackles and mains hum

I consulted the guys at The Tube Store (a Hamilton, Ontario web-based store for the Canadian readers) for their opinion.

They suggested either JJ, Winged "C" or New Sensor Gold Lion, and after a lot of reading I selected the Gold Lion because of their reputation for long life.

The initial listening impression was that these tubes were very bright to the point of being harsh. But after only around 5 hours of break in these tubes started to display a totally different character - i.e. detail + control + depth + dynamics

These tubes are now performing amazingly well...
1. Extended low end - I would estrimate about 1/2 an octave lower
2. More detailed low end control - synths have amazing texture to them
3. A richer, more detailed mid range - voices have a more natural sound with a nice lower end to them
4. An extended and more detailed top end
5. Amazingly well controlled high's
-->sibilance is very well controlled
-->brass has a piercing quality without being shrill
-->cymbals and triagles have texture and character
6. Much more dynamic presentation
-->the thump of the bass drum has a dramatic snap to it
-->the tap of a snare drum has a nice sharp crack
-->bass guitar has much more punch to it
-->the sudden stop of a DEEP bass note feels like the air is being sucked out of the room[/quote]
7. Much wider sound stage - way beyond the speaker position
8. Incredibly detailed imaging - much more air around individual musicians - you can count them!
9. On tracks where phasing is used, the sound moves around the entire room and completely envelopes you

Replacing the tubes in this amp has taken its performance to a level that far exceeds what the factory default tubes are capable of and IMHO well worth the expense.

Some might argue that the amp should have come with better tubes, but then the manufacturer has to target a particular price point to be competative. Considering the improvements in performance the new tubes made, suggests to me that Raysonic spent the budget on the actual design and providing other quality components (e.g. power and output transformers), providing an easy upgrade path for the consumer if so desired

The Shuguang tubes provided with the amp produced a very nice mellow sound, which I loved and considered ideal for classical & jazz, but with the Gold Lion tubes, the amp not only gives you a truly amazing classical & jazz performance, but it is now capable of providing a very convincing Rock performance also.

NOTE: The improvements are not only due to the power tubes - I really believe I "lucked out" with the tube combination I have in place. Mainly because I had heard (after buying them) that Gold Lion were a little subdued - NOT IN THIS AMP THEY AIN'T!

Tubes now in place:
- JAN Phillips 5751
- Electro Harmonix 6SN7EH
- New Sensor Gold Lion KT88
Do You still have this amp? Have you modified it at all?
I just picked one up and would love to talk to you. I live in Mississauga and work in Oakville and I think you are close by? I had Mark Levinson gear powering Proac Response 2's and I was shocked when I first heard this Amp...It now has Genalex Gold Lion KT-88's and the 6SN7's and 12AX7's are all Tung Sol...Sound is Amazing! Very Under rated IMHO.