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I want to have faith in Ray Samuels Audio... but I just don't

post #1 of 267
Thread Starter 
Please be aware that this isnt any slam against Mr Ray himself, as he is undoubtedly a gentleman and an upright businessman.

His customer service is unquestionably excellent. His products look gorgeous. He has an amp for almost all price points and all applications. He does both solid state and tube. All good things.

But for the life of me, I can't seem to have faith in the designs/circuits used by RSA amps.

I previously owned a Raptor, which quickly developed a problem, which I reported here:
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/sli...raptor-133241/

Which eventually led to me returning the unit. Since then I couldnt help but notice similar threads appearing out of the woodwork:
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f21/ne...hat-do-328595/
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/his...edator-334251/
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f15/predator-hiss-289595/

And so forth. After I returned my amp, I also recieved PMs from some members who remarked that they were not surprised I had issues with the SA5000 on the Raptor (which were my reference 'phones at the time), as they were too revealing of the amp's inherent noise flaws.

Am I spinning moonbeams out of one bad experience and a few faulty units, or is there a genuine issue with RSA amps?

I've been told that Ray tends to use 'switching' power supplies, which is apparently a "no no" from a design perspective - I'm not an amp designer or builder, and dont have the technical knowledge to know how accurate this is, its just a comment I've read in technical discussions in the past. Can anyone confirm/deny?

I would very much like to believe in RSA amps from a design perspective, as I do think his products are very visually appealing and his customer service skills are very high. But his refusal to be candid about his design choices (opamps used, DAC chips, etc), combined with my own bad experience and those of some others who have posted make faith a difficult task.
post #2 of 267
How many products does ray sell compared to some of the other builders? Did you give Ray a chance to fix your issues with your amp?
post #3 of 267
Brave brave statement, Jason.
I'll continue watching this thread.
Some things are not meant to be hidden from the community. And that includes flaws.
post #4 of 267
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by olblueyez View Post
How many products does ray sell compared to some of the other builders? Did you give Ray a chance to fix your issues with your amp?
I'm not sure what the relevance of the first comment is. Many manufacturers have lineups of as many, or more amps than RSA.

I followed Ray's troubleshooting advice in the thread I posted at the time, as well as that of several other Head-Fi'ers, and was unable to resolve. I didn't go so far as to request a replacement unit though, as by then I was too disheartened with the flaws of what I thought would be my 'ultimate' amp. A few years ago when I was buying it, $1,450 USD was alot of money for me.

My main beef with the unit was the simple fact that there should have been no power supply hiss whatsoever, under any circumstances. Faulty tubes were eliminated as a potential cause by tuberolling. The PSU is in a seperate chassis with an earthed case, eliminating EMI/RFI considerations. The DIY M^3 amp that I bought after the Raptor had no hiss/noise issues whatsoever, all the way to max volume. Granted, that was solid state as opposed to tubes, so not an entirely fair comparison.

My main reason for bringing this topic up is I'm not sure if my experiences and those of the other linked threads in my first post are isolated issues, explainable by factors other than the amp itself, or indications of build quality issues.
post #5 of 267
I've been talked to by others via PM about RSA products, and they weren't thoroughly impressed by them. I mean, it's good stuff, sure, but it wasn't as amazing as the forum led us to believe.

I remember that one time when somebody asked why one of Mr. Samuels' portable amps (either the Tomahawk or Predator, I forgot) was listed as having no hiss at any volume, when the OP found out there was some at the highest volumes. IIRC, at the end of the topic (IDK what happened to it; maybe it's still around), it was determined that the hiss was irrelevant because it by the time you turned the volume knob that high, you might as well should have listened to a grenade explode besides your ear. EDIT: Oh, duh, it was in the OP's post - here.

Now I know that's splitting hairs, but it just goes to show that everything anybody says should not immediately be taken as the wholesome truth, not even the manufacturers. But I digress....

Here, I'll go ahead and say it: I imagine the reason why some choose to stay quiet about this whole underlying awkward thing with certain major manufacturers is because they want to stay "clean" with everybody here.

I mean, seriously, those (mainly) solo-driven companies (I won't list names, you guys know them), when they show up at meets or you talk to them on the phone about something, you know that they're serious about their products and high-fi audio. Like, really serious. So you wish you knew them better, or could sit down and talk to them and maybe learn something from them, audio-related or not.

But at the same time, when/if you discover their products aren't quite up to want you expected in the QC area, what to do? Again, these are the big dogs here around Head-Fi; they design the very products we pay for to enjoy music with. And the other big dogs around here in Head-Fi, even though they don't neccessarily build and things either, they're good friends with those big dog makers. So if you imagine that if you were to raise your hand and ask something in a negatively-sounding way, it'll be a double-whammy for you. And you want to be well-liked in the Head-Fi community. Who doesn't? Don't answer that one.

So yes, I would say that inevitably, there will be people who do not like/prefer some major-name companies here at Head-Fi. But I've seen firsthand that some are even afraid or hesitant just to mention small issues such as Covenant has pointed out. I, and I'm sure many others, would like to see that more people speak up about any products that they've had experience with, no matter how intimidating the Head-Fi sponser may be.

In exiting stage right, there is the side question of "Is there a conspiracy behind the Head-Fi curtains?" Do the moderators not wish the readers to read such things like Covenant has posted? I've had PMs about this too in the past, but for this thread, only time will tell as more people continue to read and respond to this thread.

As for me, I've just saved everything I've typed here on my computer, so in case this post decides to be smuggled out, I'll be ready for seconds.
post #6 of 267
Thread Starter 
Awesome post TheMarchingMule, I agree completely with all your comments.

At the time I was making my first (and only, so far) RSA purchase, I had never been to a meet, had only the most basic low-fi gear, and was relying entirely on reviews and "What do you think I should buy?" type threads to get an idea of where I should invest. I was new to the hobby, but serious about it.

I kept reading about the Raptor's "black" background and dynamics for a tube amp. I read the "featured full review" on Head-Fi at the time, the 6moons review by Srajan, and other threads full of praise for RSA, often repeating the term 'black background, or blackground" to describe the silence between the notes. This terminology in particular sparked my imagination, and sealed the choice for me.

So it was with great distress that I found not only was the background not, well, black, there was an audible hiss past a certain volume point. And in trying to troubleshoot the problem i exacerbated it, causing an audible distortion at any volume level.

Some would take the stance of devil's advocate, and remark that I should have tried a replacement unit, I should have tested more than two sets of tubes, etc. But at the time I was just plain disheartened, and after finding no solution through Ray's troubleshooting advice, returned it.

Now, I'd love to know that I was in the wrong, and that I simply had a dud unit. But to know that, I need more than anecdotal evidence or expressions of "did you give him the benefit of the doubt?". I need to understand how and why such faults occur, if the design is prone for such faults, or if my experience was just the result of an uncontrollable manufacturing defect in my particular unit.

Maybe the rave reviews were right all along, and I just lucked out. Or maybe the naysayers and doubters were right, and the rave reviews were just new-toy syndrome or using headphones that arent particularly revealing of such flaws. I'm hoping to find the answer in this thread
post #7 of 267
I just thought that someone who produces a lot of units would be prone to have a few more problems. I think it was the tubes but that is a moot issue because Ray never got a second chance. How many chances does Mikhail get?
post #8 of 267
Quote:
I need to understand how and why such faults occur, if the design is prone for such faults, or if my experience was just the result of an uncontrollable manufacturing defect in my particular unit.
I think this is a very good position. Especially in wanting to know the why behind this problem.
post #9 of 267
We all know what happens to scribes when the stroke of their pen offends the powers that be.

Quote:
Originally Posted by olblueyez View Post
I just thought that someone who produces a lot of units would be prone to have a few more problems. I think it was the tubes but that is a moot issue because Ray never got a second chance. How many chances does Mikhail get?
The answer to your question is that both manufactures receive plenty of slack on this forum. When something goes awry, they are generally given the benefit of the doubt. There are manufacturers who do not receive this courtesy.

Having said that, some of these products are at times oversold. The so-called "black-background" was in-part one of the stated attributes that attracted me to the RSA Predator as quoted below:

Quote:
Originally Posted by RAY SAMUELS' WEBSITE
"You should hear no noise or hiss at all from the DAC when connected to your computer, it is completely silent in every sense no matter which headphones you use, including all the sensitive headphones, IEM, with full gain of 11, at MAX volume.. That by itself is just a remarkable accomplishment when comparing amps with each others using IEM’s."
....yet this is far from true with my unit as I have discovered of late. Hiss is readily apparent on my TF-10s when the volume knob approaches 11 O'Clock. The Predator also falls short in a couple of other areas, but it is still a solid portable amp when compared to similar products on the market.
post #10 of 267
Quote:
Originally Posted by Covenant View Post
Awesome post TheMarchingMule, I agree completely with all your comments.

x2, brilliantly expressed and I hope the "tone" of this thread remains amicable, all issues, good, bad, ugly and indifferent are vitally important to be expressed here.
post #11 of 267
Everyone knows that a few thousand hours of burn in will solve all these problems.
post #12 of 267
Quote:
Originally Posted by SR-71Panorama View Post
Everyone knows that a few thousand hours of burn in will solve all these problems.
Let's say a few thousand = 3000.
Average usage = 4 hours a day.

750 days.

More than 2 years. Lol.
I don't see why people should wait THAT long to solve a problem compared to buying something new or different. And what about those who don't believe in burn-in?
post #13 of 267
ZephyrSapphire, it was a sarcasm.
post #14 of 267
Well - I don't know about the Predator or the Tomahawk but my Hornet is quiet all the way to 11.
post #15 of 267
I do not have any issues with it as well. Hmmm, maybe just because I do not own one, what you think guys

Just wonder if this thread still alive longer than another couple of hours
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