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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Accustic Arts Drive-1; Audio Aero Prima SE [on loan]; Eastern Electric MiniMax
Amp: Ray Samuels Raptor [on review]
Headphones: audio-technica ATH-W1000; Sennheiser HD-650; AKG K-1000
Cables: Stealth Audio Sextet S/PDIF, Crystal Cable Piccolo, Stefan AudioArt Equinox harness on Sennheisers
Powerline conditioning: Walker Audio Velocitor S
Review Component Retail: $1,175

Word on the audiophile headphone alley has been that Ray Samuel's Emmeline II Stealth was really optimized for preamp duties. The new Raptor, however, is said to be Ray's current statement on balls-to-the-wall dedicated headphone amps. In my review of the Stealth, I had called it a tube component from a solid-state engineer. This meant to indicate that despite the glowing glass, the overall sonic signature was drier than one might expect from thermionic output devices. The Raptor, the same grapevine has it, makes mince meat out of any such reservations.

A GE 12AU7 military surplus valve as driver/phase splitter precedes two Philips 5687s (Ray explained his choice of this tube over, say the popular 6SN7 by saying that it provides significantly more drive and gain). The Raptor is a push/pull Class A/AB design, with, according to Ray, Class AB kicking in at levels so loud with Grados and Sennheisers that most listener will never leave Class A operation. A 3-pin twist lock connects the output stage to the separate high-voltage regulated supply via a 23" umbilical captured by the power supply. The latter gets rather hot due to the 2.5 amps of current pulled by the 5687 heaters and handled by 5-amp regulators.

A rear-mounted power mains toggle on the supply fires up the duo. Status is confirmed upfront with a red LED on the power supply and a red backlit ring around the volume pot of the headphone driver which sports two inputs selectable via rear-mounted toggle. Dimensions are petite: 5.7" x 4.25" x 3.5" W x D x H for the driver including the tubes; 8" x 5.75" x 3" W X D x H for the supply.

Build quality is typical Ray Samuels, which is to say Germanically meticulous and precise, with .1% Halco resistors, Hovland polypropylene MusiCaps and 1% Dale-Vishays in the supply. Simultaneously, note the absence of superfluous glitz or gargantuan power supplies appropriate only for a Class A speaker amplifier rather than micro-power headphone amp. Everything is as big and heavy as it needs to be but no more. Extravagance for the sake of silly trophy HiFi and deep pockets is left to others inclined to pursue the Rolex ways of audio.

HeadFiers in possession of advance units have already announced their opinions. They believe the Raptor belongs in the top five of the current best-of contenders in this genre. Our pronouncement will have to wait a bit. This Raptor just touched down a few hours ago. I'm penning this window-shopping tire-kicking intro as a vacation assignment of sorts. The uncrating and setup of 250+ lbs each of Acapella LaCampanella speakers into the downstairs listening den is scheduled for tomorrow, a visit to the chiropractor for the morning after. This backbreaking adventure called for celebrating small and lightweight while the going was good. Now here's the report on the pleasures of headfi'ng from my convalescent bed...