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Ray Samuels The Intruder

  1. ngoshawk
    Intruding upon your listening...in a good way
    Written by ngoshawk
    Published May 29, 2018
    Pros - Fantastic sound, done well from 7 yrs ago
    Balanced and SE sound
    crystal clear clarity
    Cons - No "bass boost"
    No "extras"
    No big deal!!!
    Price maybe?...
    Plain box?...
    Ray Samuels Intruder ($700 USD): http://raysamuelsaudio.com/products/intruder

    The Beast That Roared…With Dignity


    My first thought when hooking the Intruder up, was that this thing was a BEAST. And I mean that in the best possible way. No matter what was played through other portable amps, when played through the Intruder, there was a complete higher plane represented. And yes, I know that this could be the louder volumes, but when I sat back and analytically listened, there was a crisper presentation to my music, there was more “volume,” aka 3D presentation. Not holographic like the 3D+ on an iFi, but just filling a bigger space, without losing density. This can be hard to do…one can get a sense of that added volume but lose what you are trying to gain in density. There is no such loss in the Intruder. Playing Lindsey Stirling’s Elements is an excellent example. The song is already wrought with a full orchestral sound, willingly bounding into the walls of said space, but not getting mashed up upon return. Add the Intruder into the mix, and there is a stronger rebound impact of that sound back to me. I have not felt this way about an amp (portable, and of course excluding the Apex Pinnacle2) since my neophyte (still am…I’m pretty bad at this stuff) days with the iFi Micro iDSD Black Label. That holy buckets this is good type of stuff.


    I have/had done a good bit of reading up on the Intruder before and during my time…and some make light of the price, and the why should it cost so much, going back a few years…Well, I can say that based upon that “historical bantering,” the Intruder is as timely now as it was back then. Full-on balanced (with proprietary 4-pin square cable jack) in/out, a 3-way gain setting (be VERY careful when switching up…yikes!), USB in as well as coax, and power for the hardest to drive critters make this a timeless classic. Thinking back and if one had invested the kind of moola this critter cost, one would STILL be at the forefront of portable amps, albeit without Bluetooth (big deal…). This is an investment, not a “flavor of the month” purchase. And one, I could see trading a whole host of gear to obtain. I do not say this lightly.

    I am getting the kind of bass punch I do by switching the Bass Boost switches on my other portables…without a bass switch. I will add quickly that there isn’t the punch of bass had by those boosted amps, but the control presented through Tidal and my MBP/Intruder/64Audio U8 is impeccable. While not the best I have had the honor to hear, this is one kick arse set up. And if one goes portable, the set-up of choice (for my testing the Shanling M3S, and Opus#2) would shake the pavement with quality not often heard in public. And if so, often with more bling than this…to some an undesired quality. For this my dear reader, is about as plain black a looking box as it gets. And I LIKE it that way…I have always preferred stealthy-looking critters, and this is about as under the radar as it gets…simply splendid.

    Specs from the Ray Samuels website:

    Specs will follow….”

    Enough said…

    Comparison gear:

    iFi xDSD
    iFi Micro iDSD Black Label
    iBasso PB3

    Opus #2
    Shanling M3S
    MacBook Pro (2016, with iFi Mercury 2.0 interconnect USB cable)

    UM Maestro V2
    64Audio U12t
    64Audio U8
    Kinera SEED
    Focal Elear


    On MBP-Tidal and native iTunes
    Opus#2-streaming Tidal & SD
    Shanling M3S-SD
    (all 16bit)


    Ziggy Marley-Dragonfly (live), Lighthouse
    The Dave Brubeck Quartet-Take Five
    Lindsey Stirling-Arena, The Phoenix, Elements, Hold My Heart
    Twenty One Pilots-Car Radio, Heathen
    Joe Satriani-Cherry Blossoms
    Numerous others…


    In Depth:

    Splitting time between the above-mentioned amps was kind of an exercise in futility. I do not have the listening situation where I could quickly flip a switch to hear each amp, much as I can with multiple IEM’s, or DAP’s. By doing that with the amps, that would mean I was also switching sources. And that is not good. So, I spent my time listening to each individual amp for extended periods, trying to discern what I heard, and did not hear. From my initial listen, listed on my Blog, and in the xDSD thread, that was about as far as I could go. So, based upon that, I spent the time enjoying the Intruder…as it should be…


    Needless to say, the critter in Q is superbly built. No flaws, no loose jacks, no switches, which might function less-than-worthy of a $700 portable amp. I will state that the gain switches are a might bit hard to get to, as they are in very close proximity of the volume pot. And, if I must niggle, after leaving the amp for a day or three; the volume pot was a bit slow to turn. Almost like me getting out of bed after refereeing 6 Futbol matches the previous day…it can be excused. And I do like the solid feel of the wheel. Solid and without too much pressure. I prefer a tighter fitting knob, so any “misplaced movement” of hand does not result in a trip down French Church bells ringing on one’s head from the sudden volume increase.


    Suffice to say, the industrial look rules here, and that is OK in my book. I would not purchase this for aesthetics, but for performance. I do prefer a critter that is understated and lets the performance show. Think 1992 Mazda Protégé, and Auto-crossing and you get the picture…A family sedan by week, an autocross winner on the weekend.

    1994 Protege pictured...

    Using the square 4-pin balance plug (used by Campfire Audio, ALO and Ray Samuels among others) prevented me from actually enjoying the Intruder by balanced sound. I almost purchased a balanced cable with that end…almost. So, all of my listening was from SE in and SE out. I can only imagine what could have been…someday…It did not hinder my enjoyment…


    After short auditions to compare my existing amps (the xDSD came in late and gave the RS a run…). I spent the vast majority of time listening to the Ray Samuels in all possible listening situations I could. From portable Shanling M3S to MBP, I listened…and it was certainly a treat. Oh my…

    From the first listen, I was taken. Not smitten, that would be too small of a word. Taken like I was with the tour iFi Micro DSD Black Label, whence I heard it. I spoke of “cradling it” as I flung myself off a cliff, so the followers could enjoy the sound as I crashed to the rocks below. The same sentiment would hold true of the Intruder. If this is what RS considers “mid-fi” in his line-up…oh my goodness, I trip on myself...


    Every note heard from where the musician intended. Every beat perfectly tuned an in tune with the song in question. Dave Brubeck’s Thank You first puts you right over the Pianist’s shoulder, then tapping with the drummer’s sticks on cymbal. Then the sax solo takes up you front; to be quickly wrought to the side hearing the finger pluck of the bass. And back to the pianist shoulder. Just marvelous. To think that this amp is about 7 years old or more in design and sale is spectacle at the quality wrought by the company. I read a lot about how the Intruder “overpriced” or “not worth it” or “are the crazy with that price??!!” Let me just lay that to rest right here and now. Even with my multitude of portable amps, this would be the one so far that would make me sell all of my others to fund this one. I would keep the iFi xDSD for its Bluetooth capabilities, and because it is a darn fine amp, too. But I would replace my balanced amp for this one. I would.

    Running the Shanling M3S on volume 40, and the Intruder’s gain on Medium, I was overwhelmed by the musical nature of the amp. A full, deep reach of bass, coddled by mids, which neither shone over or subservient to the treble and bass. And treble, which to my tired old ears was just about perfect. A good reach, high of pitch when the song was recorded that way, less dominant when the song was recorded that way…an honest representation of sound, with very good sound stage would be my best descriptor…Superb is really an insult as this was MEANT to be that way. Everybody’s Jumpin’ by Dave Brubeck is another audition where any fallacy of sound could be the death, or at least downfall of a lesser quality piece of kit. Honesty was what I heard, and honesty was what I wanted from the Intruder.


    I marveled with the representation of Tidal through my MBP and the iFi Mercury cable interconnect. Yes, I know it is only Tidal, but to my ears I very much like the sound anyway and to add the Intruder into the mix, was a joyous occasion, indeed. I would put the above-mentioned songs on almost par through Tidal and the MBP as I would the M3S and the included interconnect cables…almost. The sound through Tidal has that artificially added bass push, which seems to muddy the sound more through the Intruder with rumble, but not so much that I cease to enjoy Car Radio or Heathens or Ride through the Intruder/MBP/U12t. A lucky listen with much appreciation from the two companies of which I borrow the equipment in question.

    Compared to the iFi BL, the RS has better overall control of the sound. Without the “too bright” treble I hear from the BL, the RS again betters a current amp I own without having the bells and whistles of my personals. That said, I can use the XBass and 3D+ to my advantage between songs and genres better than the Intruder. But, there is nary a genre where the RS does not function well let alone, flawlessly. I really, REALLY like my BL, so for something to come along and make me think twice about selling it in order to fund another says something indeed. But, through all of this I am content with what I have but think of the Intruder. Happy with what I have makes me appreciate the Intruder more, knowing I have been a guest in its house for a good listen. The BL is good, very good; but the Intruder is better.


    The Opus#2 was a different critter, and one in which I had a hard time nailing down. Because to me the #2 is splendid as is, I am hard pressed to see any improvement when adding something into the chain. That said, I welcomed the additional depth wrought from the Intruder, and that little extra push of sub bass I miss from the #2 alone. Don’t get me wrong, the Opus is my go-to rig and top of my food chain, but if something such as the Ray Samuels can improve upon that already stellar sound, then I am in. All in. And that additional power….oh my…


    I’m not sure what else can be said about the RS Intruder, that may convince you to either splurge and get one, or to look for a used one, other than to audition one if possible. I thoroughly enjoyed the extended stay in my house. The Ray Samuels Intruder was an honored guest welcomed by all other amps, knowing that they were indeed in the presence of one of the founding members of high-end portable amps, and indeed royalty.

    I want to that @Howlin Fester for the extended borrowing of the Intruder. I overstayed my welcome with it, and for that I apologize but will be eternally grateful. Maybe one will find its way into my humble abode. It would be welcomed.

    1. View previous replies...
    2. ngoshawk
      Much obliged for the loan...might have to add one of these...
      ngoshawk, May 31, 2018
    3. Redcarmoose
      The Intuder has a classic legendary sound. Somehow we at Head-Fi always think that new stuff coming out every 6 months is always better but it’s not always better, only new and hyped up. The Indruder could only maybe be improved with a more common balanced output. That’s it, it’s perfect even now!
      Redcarmoose, Jun 1, 2018
    4. ngoshawk
      I agree wholeheartedly. Although, mini-xlr is well respected by ALO/Campfire Audio plus RS. Might have to invest in one of their cables...

      The Intruder was a VERY welcome guest in my humble abode.
      ngoshawk, Jun 1, 2018
  2. moedawg140
    Ray Samuels Audio - The Intruder
    Written by moedawg140
    Published Sep 9, 2014
    Pros - Balanced and SE input-output capabilities, with an additional USB DAC. An auditory upgrade for most people.
    Cons - You need to put your smartphone/DAP in Airplane Mode equivalent in order to use it without hearing hisses and pops (RFI and Wi-Fi Interference).
    Ray Samuels Audio – The Intruder
    The Intruder is a fully Balanced input-output headphone/earphone amp as well as a USB DAC by Ray Samuels Audio.  I was able to borrow The Intruder from a friend for a couple of weeks, and as a result would like to give my impressions of the DAC/amp, as well as comparisons of the Balanced and SE outputs.  I am using my Shure SE846 with Sensaphonics Custom Sleeves, HL Silver Litz SE cable and my friend's HL Silver Balanced cable, with the iPhone 5 and PC (Windows 7 Ultimate) as sources.
    The Intruder (no flash and with flash):
    IMG_0189.jpg       IMG_0183.jpg
    The Intruder (left side and right side):
    IMG_0184.jpg       IMG_0185.jpg
    Pros: Built like a tank.  Balanced and SE input/output capabilities, with an additional USB DAC.  Wider, taller and deeper soundstage, a little bit harder hitting bass, broadened and an ascent in clarity regarding the SE to Balanced output, as well as separation are the best attributes in my opinion.  You are purchasing an auditory upgrade to most of whatever (portable equipment) you are using now.

    Cons: ** Slightly hisses and pops from time to time. Sweeping the pot back and forth did not help with this. ** More difficult to use compared to using only one device such as a smartphone or boutique DAP when working out. Can walk around with it, but with more difficulty than just using one device such as a smartphone or boutique DAP.  No bass-boost option.  Balanced connection is limited in its application (not normally used with most audio equipment) and you need a custom terminated cable for your particular headphone/earphone – which is an added expense to experience the Balanced output.
    ** Increasing the volume helped, but it is working fine with my PC (where I am performing my A/B tests).  When each song ends or there is no music playing I can hear slight hissing/popping, which I do not think is a problem with the cable (as I made sure it was new and not used when I purchased it) when it is connected to the iPhone 5.  When I sit with the iPhone 5, it only hisses/pops at the end of songs or if the volume is really low.  When I walk/move around out and about, the hissing/popping is much more prominent.  Maybe using the silver interconnect or if I purchased the Camera Connection Kit (Apple), USB hub and USB cable would bode better for the hissing/popping, or it could exaggerate/amplify it as well, I'm not sure as I do not have any of these connection cables to test. **  Edit:  There is a workaround for the hissing and popping.  You need to put your smartphone and/or DAP in Airplane Mode equivalent so The Intruder doesn't pick up RFI and Wi-Fi Interference from your Wi-Fi and cell phone wireless connection.  This essentially turns your smartphone into a local-access DAP with no internet connection and no cell phone service.
    Testing Conditions:
    I used the SE input/output of The Intruder for the duration of my listening.
    When I tested using my iPhone 5, I used Neutron Music Player, and Spotify Premium - Extreme setting (320kbs).  When I tested using my PC, I used WMP, VLC and YouTube.
    I used a combination of FLAC, 320 kbs mp3 and whatever is used with uploaded YouTube clips to listen to variances and nuances between the same and different tracks.
    The Intruder did not have the latest sent-in RSA update that supposedly elevates the already awesome sound quality.
    Sound Quality:
    This is only my opinion, so what I’m going to say below regarding SQ should only be taken with a grain of salt.  Okay, maybe two grains.
    In my setup, I used my PC so I could make as fast cable and amp swaps as I could.  I did not use Bass Boost, Headphone Virtualization, Loudness Equalization or any EQ settings.  Basically, every setting was default to have an as ‘colorless’ interpretation of the sound between all three connections as could be.
    Using my HL Silver Litz SE cable directly to the PC sounds great.
    Using my HL Silver Litz SE cable > The Intruder > PC sounds even better, +~5-15% increase in overall SQ.
    Using the HL Silver Balanced cable > The Intruder > PC sounds the best of the 3 connections, +~5-10% increase in overall SQ compared to the SE cable > The Intruder.
    This means your uses of the three or similar connections should bode a +~10-25% overall increase of SQ based on many, many varying factors.  You can add an extra +~2-10% if you are going from a stock cable to your favorite upgraded cable.
    With all of this said, if you prefer a possibly blacker background (with a high quality DAC/amp), more natural, organic and possibly more musical sound, you may prefer the SE connection all together.  Based on your individual tastes and preferences, my observations might be spot on, or you may just want to throw whatever observations I stated out of the window, so to speak.
    I feel that The Intruder is great for places where you will be stationary, like sitting at home, the bus, train or airplane.  I did not have a chance to use multiple sources other than the iPhone 5 and PC, but I feel using a device like the iPhone 5 may not be the best to use if you plan on walking around because you won't be able to use the Wi-Fi and cell phone wireless services.  I took the iPhone 5 with The Intruder to the mall and Costco, and it was a small challenge working with two separate devices.  I did not like the rubber band connected to the phone because it made the screen unusable, and I did not want to use sticky tape Velcro on my iPhone 5 with The Intruder, even though there was Velcro on the back of The Intruder, ready to be used so I wouldn’t have to use the rubber band.  With the rubber band off, I was free to use the iPhone 5, but it was difficult because I had to make sure The Intruder did not come out of my pocket.  Also, it took me longer to untangle an additional cable to use The Intruder when I was out and about.  It was much easier to just plug my HL Silver Litz SE cable directly to the iPhone 5 and immediately be on my way.
    HL Silver Balanced cable:
    HL Silver Balanced connector:
    Another view of the HL Silver Balanced cable:
    Views of the iPhone 5 strapped to The Intruder:
    PC setup (SE846 with Sensaphonics Custom Sleeves) on top:
    My mobile setup (iPhone 5 on holster, The Intruder in pocket):
    HL Silver Litz SE on the left, HL Silver Balanced on the right:
    All and all, The Intruder is a great sounding device, especially when listening through the Balanced output, but having to put my iPhone 5 in Airplane Mode to avoid the hissing/popping makes it not the best portable option (even though The Intruder is very small!). Even though I personally do not feel the amp is worth the price for the gain in sound quality (mainly because I can’t use the iPhone 5 past the local-access properties), I can understand why someone would purchase The Intruder and love the ability to use something that actually elevates sound quality in a portable and miniature package.  I would try to demo The Intruder (or any other DAC/amp) to make sure it can integrate seamlessly with your current equipment prior to purchasing.  If you like to keep your portable options simple and devoid of additional devices, cables and still be able to use the internet and/or cell phone services, using a dedicated smartphone or boutique DAP with your SE connection (or Balanced if you can) will bode almost as good SQ (or possibly better SQ) compared to using The Intruder.  If you value SQ above anything else, you can either purchase The Intruder and use it Balanced, or use other DACs/amps that will have as great quality sound as The Intruder, or better, regarding Balanced as well as SE connections.  That said I will be sad to see The Intruder leave my hands when I send it back to my friend, as it was great to experience an even higher level of auditory bliss - in the palm of my hand.
    1. slickooz
      Great and thorough review! I do notice some static noise when my phone gets close to my Sr-71b. 
      slickooz, Sep 13, 2014
    2. moedawg140
      Thank you, @slickooz, I appreciate it.  I feel if there was some way to incorporate much better RFI/Wi-Fi Interference shielding into the DAC/amp's housing, the device would be that much better!
      moedawg140, Sep 13, 2014
  3. George2
    Ray Samuels Intruder
    Written by George2
    Published Nov 23, 2012
    Pros - Attention to detail. Great sounding amp
    Cons - None so far
    I previously purchased. An Hp P1 and loved it right out of the box. Great amp/dac. Then I decided what the heck. I needed maybe a backup so purchased the Intruder. After I charged it up, it was a disappointment. I seriously thought of sending it back. I paid all this money for this! Now I'm in my mid 60's and I'm sure my hearing might be going bad but I do know what I like and this amp just didn't cut it. It sounded like it was always screaming at you. But after a few days of use, everything just seemed to settle in, everything is nice and smooth and more than enough power. Great sounding amp.beautifully made. I am only using an iPod classic with these 2 amps, with a set of Grados PS500.