REVIEW: Raven Audio Blackhawk Integrated, Soniquil Cables....


So, I decided to give the Raven Audio Blackhawk a second shot of making it into my audio den.

Some of you may recall that this past summer I ordered a Raven Audio Blackhawk and that I was very excited about getting this integrated amp and that James Connell from Raven was going to personally deliver it to me, and that I posted that here at Agon.

Well James delivered it (I had to meet him at a mall but that is okay) and I brought it home to set it up in my system. Well Bryant at the factory packed my Blackhawk out with defective tubes and when I fired it up well smoke came out of the thing. I emailed Bryant and James and they said they would check it out, so I packed it up and met up with James at the same mall and he took it back. Never once did they ask what I wanted to do or tried to keep me happy.

So, the next day an Agoner asked me how the Blackhawk was working out and I posted what happened. Well over night my phone is blowing up with text messages from James and they were none too kind. Dave then proceeded to lambaste me and brought up another issue I had with my CeLest Towers. (yes, they have an issue with system controls and QC processes. As a MSME in an industry where if we send the wrong part trains derail and aircraft fall out the sky, I am critical of these short comings especially when they are so simple to fix but are repeated (at least with me). I had even written a review and it is posted on the Raven Audio website and here at Audiogon.com about my experience with the CeLest, but I digress.

To be clear I was a Raven Audio fan boy. Even more than Millercarbon, but Dave’s post and James text messages tarnished their image and created doubt about their “Great Company”. Heck I spent close $10K with these guys in one summer and answer a question on Agon and get lambasted by the Principals of this company. I tout how great their CeLest speakers are and their cables (they are top shelf stuff) every chance I get. I think these products are some of the most underrated in our community.

Well I cannot lie I really wanted to get a Blackhawk, but I was not going to give Raven Audio another dime of my money. So, what to do?

Simple buy a used one and give it a go, and that is what I did. Found a Blackhawk MKIII on Agon for $$ well a steal and hooked it up in my system.

Well Raven Audio has an excellent product in the form of their Blackhawk MKII. The stock tubes that came in the unit were great and buying used yes, they are quite well burned in. So I did order some new tubes and plan on doing some rolling (thetubestore.com).

My system:

Raven Audio CeLest Towers.

Raven Audio Blackhawk MKIII with stock tubes.

Raven Audio Soniquil Power Cables.

Raven Audio Soniquil Speaker Cables (yes, they are cables).

Raven Audio Soniquil RCA and XLR Interconnects.

Moon by Simaudio 280D Streaming DAC/DSD (awesome clarity).

Thorens TD145 Beautiful restored TD145 with Curly Maple Plinth with Walnut inlay. Tonearm rewired with Cardas tonearm wire, new Thorens belt, Brand new Nagaoka MP200 cartridge. New RCA Jacks, IEC power jack. Sounds wonderful.

Icon Audio PS2 MM TUBE Phono Amp. Dedicated MI/MM phono stage that sounds fantastic.

Okay so to the point the review.

The Blackhawk is of substantial build quality and this integrated will stand the test of time. Stock tubes were in good condition and I downloaded the Raven Blackhawk user’s manual for the Raven website. Tube installation is straight forward and had I not been shipped defective tubes on the original order … I digress.

So, once I had everything hooked up it was time to spin up a record or two or three.

I spun up Miles Davis Bitches Brew sat back and was lifted into the music. The soundstage was vast and detailed, I felt as if I was at the Green Mill on Broadway in Chicago listening to Miles in 1970.

Next up was a low quality poorly engineered album by the only band that matters The Sex Pistols. Yep sounded just as shitty on this rig as it did on ever since I bought this album in 1977 but Never Mind the Bullock’s just flat out rocks and so did the Blackhawk.

I moved over to my digital section and ran a couple of CD through the system. Queens Of The Stone Age, R. Robin Trower Long Misty Days, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Live in Cuba. The Raven Blackhawk did not miss a beat, fast responsive bass, great balanced mids and high end. Just wonderful to listen to.

To close out I put Holst the Planets on the TD145 to seal the deal! I found that I was listening to the music not the gear.

Yes, the Raven Blackhawk has earned a spot in my listening room. Yes, it is a wonderful tube integrated amp and yes, it is mostly made in the USA.

Though I may not care for James tact or the jib of Dave’s sail I will say they are building some high-quality audio gear.

I also want to thank Raven Audio for initially shipping defective tubes and not trying to reconcile. If you had I would not have been so determined to get a Blackhawk and review it (hoping for validation) and you saved me thousands by sending me to “THE U$ED MARKET”, but I would have paid $$$$ Thousands more for this quality and sound.

No really Dave, James and Bryant thanks for building a quality product and one day you will be a “Great American Company.

Enjoy and Listen to the Music not the GEAR! BUY A RAVEN!


2ec3cb13 12d3 4b00 a0e6 9f5eb9f2afaeskypunk
So the moral of the story I guess, they can't all be Keith Herron. ;) 

Seriously though thanks for the follow-up. Not to discount your experience but people are only human and so as long as we don't hear more stories like yours maybe we can look on the bright side which is they make one hell of a good amp. "Yeah, when they work" I guess you would say, after your experience. ;)   

At this very moment I have Will Lenn messaging me about Raven. Its no secret I was hoping to have a Reflection by now, and that is still the plan, it is just an awful lot of money, for me anyway! So NMT, "needs more time" as they say in the technical analysis world of charting.  

I spun up Miles Davis Bitches Brew sat back and was lifted into the music. The soundstage was vast and detailed, I felt as if I was at the Green Mill on Broadway in Chicago listening to Miles in 1970. 

To steal the line from Jerry Maguire, "You had me at lifted into the music."


Listening to King Crimson right now on the Blackhawk. Feel like Fripp is in my listening room like 1977 @ the Parkwest. 
skypunk sorry to hear your struggles but glad you finally have the amp you wanted and even better it's as good as you had hoped! I commented on your system love the plinth on your Thorens would love to see a better pic of your speakers. Happy New Year!
Is this the current Blackhawk MkIII or the earlier MkII?
@jond will upload some tomorrow... Happy New Year!
@skypunk,

No dog in the fight yet I appreciate your post! 
Yes, I also saw the Blackhawk MkIII that was for sale. I seriously thought about it but I'm doing good with what I currently have, for the time being...
Thanks for the review :-)
@lak thanks for snoozing on it. Great deal and a great piece of audio equipment. 
Your gear looks the bit too!

Thanks and Happy New Year!
@skypunk; I was wondering what the difference in music would be with the Blackhawk MkIII vs an Allnic T-1500, or CJ Classic Sixty SE or Luxman590 AXII? I have no idea?
Customer service is very important to me. There's only one hifi store in my city and I have never had one good experience there even when I was just window shopping. I've given them a 'second chance' over and over and nothing changes. I know an acquaintance that works there and told him about the service and he keeps saying 'things will change' but they never do. So I travel to a store about 80 miles away and leave completely satisfied with my purchases.
@lak no Idea. Never owned a Luxman have listened to them and they are nice. When I was looking (and bought) several Moon integrated and separates Lux was in the mix. Ultimately bought a 240i then the 390/440 separates.

Had a Macintosh MA252 for two weeks was okay at best.

I still have a Pathos Classic One MK3 and it is a very very very close second to the Blackhawk. Has some features I wish the Blackhawk had and has a great soundstage being a hybrid (tube pre). 
@bluorion I feel your pain. Living in Dallas we have some great audio shops and some real turds too.

Not holding a grudge with Raven and COVID did make a climate harder for service levels. Felt this in my business but we can not make mistakes shipping defects or wrong components cause people will die. Guess I carry this to an extreme and expect the same no matter who the vendor is.

If you fly in any aircraft (fixed or rotor) ride a train or drive a truck or car be glad there are a-holes like me out there. 
Geez lak, anything would sound good with that Teres feeding it! 😍

Thanks skypunk, there's been some older ones sell for a lot less and so when you said you saved "thousands" made me wonder if you got one of the earlier/older versions. 

The current MkIII are according to Will Lenn very close to the Elite Series, ie Reflection MkII. The Elite Series like the Reflection, Raven has not revised them in some years. The Reflection is due for at least a revision to MkIII, but may wind up being enough to merit a whole new name. Part of the reason I am waiting is to see what happens there.

In terms of sound quality I have no doubt you are in it now up to your ears!

The Blackhawk is supposed to be a much higher quality four step powder coat finish than the Nighthawk. You probably never had them both to compare but what do you think about the look and feel of your Blackhawk? 
@millercarbon The MKIII is built like a tank...no really solid construction. The fit and finish are excellent and would look and sound great in most any system.

Solid build quality and fantastic sound quality!

As far as the deal was concerned the guy selling it must have needed $$$$ should have sold for at least a G note more than it did. 
Spent 1/4 of the savings at the Tubestore.com for schitz and giggles. 
Wow. Congratulations. Killer deal!
@skypunk, I agree you scored big time. Enjoy ;-)
I have learned that what or when you write or text something in a public forum can sometimes be perceived wrong by the parties involved.  For me, it is better to go to the source first to solve problems then putting it in an open forum that can really harm a business.  Just saying.  Peace out.  
I got my Blackhawk Mk 3.1 in November. I was after skypunk on the list. 

After your issue, it was a while before I finally got mine. Bought cables and tubes.

Not an issue at any time. Great build and sound quality. 
@toyman 
Glad you had no issues and I am sure every manufacturer of this type of product has issues.

I am happy so far though my Pathos Classic One is on standby, it rivals the Blackhawk in sound quality and is dead silent. 
Think I maybe talking myself out of un-retiring the Pathos...