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RSA **Predator** A review in stages ** With some "NEW" images on 1st and page 64 . . .

post #1 of 689
Thread Starter 
Why is it I never get used to small amps? What I mean is, I get used to them after I have them for a while but when I see a new one for the first time, that is small, diminutive, little, compact, you know all the adjectives to describe itsy-bitsy, I just look in amazement and wonder, how can this sound like anything at all? Well opening up the box to the Predator, this was my thought.

I wonder how many hours of use were on the Predator at the big meet, I know very few and from listening to this one that has 300 hours of use, I could tell that unless broken in the sound would be somewhat flat, ill defined and well, just not engaging. It took a few hours of "on" time to start opening up even though this one has many hours of use. I suspect the cap just needs some charge as it would lose some forming and I clearly heard this. So how does it sound? Well at this time, with maybe 6 hours of listening, I would have to say quite open, nicely detailed, well controlled bass, good rendering of male and female voices and just plain fun.

On this note, I will have more to add as I listen and compare and I do have a few things to compare.

I am using my Mac computer as the base trying both music from a CD and from copied music to the hard drive.

1. A 3 position gain control is on the back of the unit, which barely sticks out so accidently changing it is difficult. Adjustment up to a gain of 11.
2. A switch on the left front allows you to change from the incoming USB signal to using just the amp section with an input next to the volume control.
3. The power switch on the right of the volume control is lit red, no led.
4. The high gain setting can generate more volume than I could possibly listen to on my full sized headphones, which are driven with ease.
5. The fit and finish of the case are to the normal very high standards of RSA.
6. Quiet as a church mouse with IEM's. Deep black quiiiiieeeet, oh so quiet, unless you play music of course.
7. Charges from the provided wall wart because if it used the USB to charge and you have your computer running off of a battery then you are going to discharge your computer that much faster.
8. When no USB is used the dac is out of the circuit and no current goes to this section. The Predator then acts as a small high quality portable amp.
9. Run time using internal battery for the amp section is approximately 56 hours depending upon the volume used and the type of monitors being used.
10. The gain switch influences sound. the lowest gain is the warmest, medium gain is the most neutral and the high gain of 11 is brighter. With more time using each gain switch I now find this less true than I did at first and to me they are all sounding nearly the same.
11. Running off of the battery while using the USB dac is the most musical as you are using battery power vs the wall wart that is used for the charger.

12 18
This has to be one of the sweetest amps I have heard. It has a tube type quality to it without losing any control of the music. There is a euphonic quality in the positive sense, which I find very appealing. I can also see where this would pair very well with IEM's. I read that the sound of the Predator is an "in your face" presentation and while it isn't the most distant I have heard, my Monica from the iRiver presents a more distant sound, it isn't in-your-face by any means. The bass has a nice growl to it, as in being well defined.

I haven't done any real comparison yet as I want to get a grasp of the sound, the signature, of the Predator.
__________________

12 18
I am finding out that the sound quality is improving with the passage of time. I prefer to leave devices like this on all the time and to my ear, this is no exception.

Cymbals are getting that nice sheen and decay rather than a dead or splashy sound.

No, no, this is not In Your Face. . . . leave it on! I am getting some excellent depth and separation.
__________________

12 19
I need more time to compare but the Predator is shaping up to be a very interesting sounding amp. By this I mean that the quality of sound is complex yet musical. There are nuances to the sound that make it a pleasure to listen to. It is *highly* detailed but *not* etched. I found out that the Florida meet Predator was a different unit and only had 1 day of use.

No one has heard what the Predator really sounds like, though I am finding out and will keep adding to this. This is not a two dimensional amp/dac.

12 19
I found out the Predator has a 15,000uf cap so I can see where a long burn-in is needed. I would speculate, due to the small current flow and large cap that a burn-in of 500 hours or more is needed to realize the full potential of this amp/dac. I know that in the 2 days I have had it on, there have been changes, which is one reason it isn't really fair at this time to compare it to other burnt in amps but I do enjoy hearing the changes and reporting what I hear.

Anyone who buys one of these has to bear in mind that you will not hear what it is capable of for a few hundred hours. As dielectric changes due to the charge going through the wire, resistors change, and of course caps form due to the chemical and metallic properties they possess. There are white papers written on all these properties but I don't feel like citing them right now.

12 19
More on sound:
Well I have been describing that to a point. Right now it is a little bright (350 hours) but the bass impact is excellent, male and female voices (K.D. Lang, Shadow Land) are very good and do not get lost in the mix. This little thing throws a wide and fairly deep sound stage but again, it needs time to fully form/settle/break-in. What still amazes me is how far portable amps and now usb/dac/amps have come in just a couple of short years.

12 20
I can say that with well recorded music I don't think there will be many people disappointed with the Predator. Seldom will everyone agree on any one point and this would be no exception but I do think the Predator gives a good dose of high quality sound. I find the high frequencies clean and without grain, the mids are not forward or recessed but enough to bring out the voice so it has dimension and the bass has impact with rhythm and pace but it does not mingle with the lower mids as some amps can do.

12 20 370 hours on unit.
At this point I find that the Predator is handling volume quite well. No sign of clipping with bass heavy music and as the volume is increased the sound field closes in slightly but no more than what I would normally expect. Right now I like the medium gain as it sounds the most neutral to my ear (the low gain is a little warmer and the high gain a little brighter).

I am using the Ultrasone 750's most of the time but other headphones that I use can be seen in my signature.

12 20 1154PM
Listening to Chris Isaaks "Forever Blue" the cut Forever Blue has never sound more holographic, deep and fluid. What a treat. Not all the songs sound like this but most of the album is enjoyable but Forever Blue right now is the most lifelike from headphones I have ever heard, something I have read about but never experienced. Don't know if it will last but it is fun for now.
Eric Clapton's "Unplugged" is also a CD I use as well as many others.

12 21
I have been comparing just the amp section of the Predator to the P2, they are very close with a little more recessed mid and slightly more detail in the upper mid than the P2 and the Reference has just a bit more Open sound than either of the two. Take this in the context that the Predator is still breaking in with around 400 hours on it. On the rest of the frequency range I want to wait, these are just a couple of things that pop out. The sound of a drum stick hitting the drum has a more defined sound on the Predator than the P2 at this point, more of a leading edge and a thwack, than a more rounded thud from the P2. I do have some different opamps coming for the P2, which makes it more difficult to pin down. They all sound pretty darn good. I am using the feed from my Monica II dac for all three amps.

12 22
At 425 hours the Predator seems to be evening out. It is very open, smooth and on well recorded music like Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon", throws tremendous depth and width with fine imaging and solid well controlled bass. It does not have character that changes the music but changes with the music giving you musical entertainment when the recording is decent or better and not so enjoyable when not. As I stated early on there is a very slightly warm presentation, which is a positive for IEM's and with anything else I have listening with.

12 25 07
One thing I haven't mentioned is the fit and finish of the Predator. As usual it is up to the extremely high standards of Ray. Much like a fine watch in fit and finish. I thought the volume knob was plastic because it was so perfectly made but after I thought about it I couldn't imagine Ray using plastic and after examining it I realized it is metal. Everything fits perfectly together on the case with little room for any error in tolerance.

12 26 07
I wanted to wait for more time to pass as the Predator transitions through different stages.

At approximately 475 hours the bass became overwhelming. I thought there was something wrong with the amp or my ears so I did a comparison and it was the Predator. I haven't had a component change to such a great degree. The bass was as if I had a max bass switch and doubled that. I put down the headphones after confirming with my other amps and sources that it wasn't my ears or anything else and let the Predator burn in over night as this started in the evening. The next day the overpowering bass was gone but the sound was somewhat bright.

500 hours. I am at around 510 hours now and the sound has become more even in the frequency range. The bass is well defined and on well recorded music the depth and width are very good. I think that with the large capacitor that the Predator uses, as with a number of other portable amps that Ray produces, the time required for the final sound to materialize should be understood. I have found this can not be rushed and is just part of the process.

1 6 2008
I wanted to mention that the HD650's and the Predator go very well together. Listening to piano really brings it home. The notes seem to hold in the air with a nice rounded melodic quality and weight that is what I hear in live presentation.

750 hours. The Predator has developed into a very solid performer. The bass is extremely well integrated. The sound field is very transparent and the separation of voices and instruments within space is convincing in both the front to back and side to side perspective. There is a body to sound from where it emanates that occupies space. I am finding that the amp and amp/dac section both involve me in the sound and provide a natural and enjoyable layered sound.

Listening to The Eagles, "Hell Freezes Over", not a great recording but some great music, the cut "in the city", the bass feels like I have speakers in the room. Yep, booaum with quality not boom, boom, but tonal bass. (HD650's)

1 28 08 1200 hours and counting:
I have over 1200 hours on the Predator now. It ages and does it well. There is a "mature" sound that comes across as in an amp design that has come of age.

The new Geagles album (geezer sorry) Eagles as with many albums comes across with a fluid snap to the music. It is hard to put into words but there is an illusive quality to the sound of the Predator. The amp develops as time passes. I have plenty of other amps to reference to so I know of what I speak. The Predator grabs a note but then releases it like you would a guitar string. Twang, clean, sounds like a note and sounds like . . . something very special.

Below is my favorite carrying case that has a velcro strap for a belt and holds an iRiver H120 or 140 and the Predator. The IC is my own custom hyper pure silver design.





Post by Orcin on 7/9/08

Quote:
Originally Posted by webbie64
It's got that underlying punch and drive, particularly in the bass, that first impressed me with the Hornet M. And the extra impressiveness of the Predator, to me at least, is in the even more transparent and tonally accurate rendition of the overall sound (deeper soundstage as well, due in part to improved micro detail over the Hornet M).

Response by Orcin:

Yes, I think it's the detail and distinct separation of the instruments that is impressing me the most over the Hornet. I am not very good at describing these things in audio terms, but in my mind what I feel is that the sound went from having a rough edge at 200 hours to a very polished one at 500 hours - like I was comparing a sawed edge of a piece of lumber to the polished edge of a granite countertop. Every note is clear and precise, and the vocals are forward and clean. And the bass... oh boy!!

I am not yet seeing the soundstage as a big difference over the Hornet, although it is quite good, so maybe that is yet to come as I get closer to the 1000 hours. I may also be influenced by my choice of music recently, so I will try to find something else to examine this element more closely.

I must confess to listening a lot to NiN's Downward Spiral lately, which may not be the best choice for evaluating soundstage. But it sure is demanding when it comes to separation and clarity. A bad system can make it sound irritating with the instruments collapsing together in a heap of noise, while a good system can leave your mouth hanging open from a blast of what the uninitiated might call "distortion" but I choose to call "creative use of synthetic tone". And the bass... oh boy!!! The snap of the bass drum pedal, the elongated bass guitar note, the rumble of a deep organ... all awesome.

The punch and drive is also important to me, so I don't think I would enjoy this amp as much if it were more detailed but more laid back (as many have described hearing from the Pico). Again, I like NiN and Rush and Black Sabbath, but no classical. I like Mahavishnu Orchestra better than Miles Davis, even though I have both. Did I mention I have no classical music at all? So take my opinion on this point with a grain of salt if your tastes are different. But not the rest of my comments, I see those being valid with any music.

This amp has excellent synergy with my iPod line out (via ALO Cryo Dock) and my two primary phones (HD600 & UM2). I find both of these phones to be a bit dark and the iPod needs some punch and bass boosting. The amp pushes through the veil of the phones and wakes up the neutrality of the iPod, while the phones pick up the accurate bass and push it to the correct balance for my taste.

This time last year, my primary portable rig was iPod 5G, Hornet, and UE sf5pros. I upgraded each piece in the past few months and I am really happy with the result. In summary...

I love my stuff!!! I guess I'm just a happy guy today. Thank you for being here to share this joy with me
post #2 of 689
please do compare with your P2, i know its not apple to apple
post #3 of 689
Thread Starter 
This has to be one of the sweetest amps I have heard. It has a tube type quality to it without losing any control of the music. There is a euphonic quality in the positive sense, which I find very appealing. I can also see where this would pair very well with IEM's. I read that the sound of the Predator is an "in your face" presentation and while it isn't the most distant I have heard, my Monica from the iRiver presents a more distant sound, it isn't in-your-face by any means. The bass has a nice growl to it, as in being well defined.

I haven't done any real comparison yet as I want to get a grasp of the sound, the signature, of the Predator.
post #4 of 689
wait you mean you already have one?
post #5 of 689
Thread Starter 
It was loaned to me.
post #6 of 689
Oh cmon Billy! Why do you have to have the first of all of Rays products!

Jamato8, tell him the truth. You KNOW you have the first one already #001 baby!

~G
post #7 of 689
Quote:
Originally Posted by shaizada View Post
Oh cmon Billy! Why do you have to have the first of all of Rays products!

Jamato8, tell him the truth. You KNOW you have the first one already #001 baby!

~G
HaHA..thats good. i tried but he said it was called for. i said something like..
"yeah i didn't want it anyway, i was just testing you..ha" you know I had to save face.
post #8 of 689
Thread Starter 
I am finding out that the sound quality is improving with the passage of time. I prefer to leave devices like this on all the time and to my ear, this is no exception.

Cymbals are getting that nice sheen and decay rather than a dead or splashy sound.

No, no, this is not In Your Face. . . . leave it on! I am getting some excellent depth and separation.
post #9 of 689
Quote:
Originally Posted by jamato8 View Post
I am finding out that the sound quality is improving with the passage of time. I prefer to leave devices like this on all the time and to my ear, this is no exception.

Cymbals are getting that nice sheen and decay rather than a dead or splashy sound.
Keep it coming Jamato. this is more sweeter with pics to drool on!

Thanks
post #10 of 689
how does it compare to the xin reference?
post #11 of 689
Quote:
Originally Posted by aluren View Post
how does it compare to the xin reference?
x 2
post #12 of 689
Quote:
Originally Posted by vvs_75 View Post
x 2
x3...Basically because you currently put the Xin at the top of your preferred portables.

But I would also appreciate a comparo to your current top rated RSA amp, the SR-71.
post #13 of 689
Thread Starter 
I need more time to compare but the Predator is shaping up to be a very interesting sounding amp. By this I mean that the quality of sound is complex yet musical. There are nuances to the sound that make it a pleasure to listen to. It is *highly* detailed but *not* etched. I found out that the Florida meet Predator was a different unit and only had 1 day of use.

No one has heard what the Predator really sounds like, though I am finding out and will keep adding to this. This is not a two dimensional amp/dac.
post #14 of 689
post #15 of 689
Quote:
Originally Posted by upstateguy View Post
x2
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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphone Amps › RSA **Predator** A review in stages ** With some "NEW" images on 1st and page 64 . . .