I was asked about High Fidelity.... but is that the real question here? How important is each link in the chain?
Times are pretty exciting these days. I have about 25 brand new Avian Series amplifiers in the shop right now, fresh off the assembly line - and I'm going through them now, burning them in, picking out preamp tubes and getting them ready for their new homes! All I can say is WOW... these new amps are just amazing. The long delay has melted away and the music is flooding my room with a detail and authentic finish that will make your heart glow. Knowing that the new PC boards are so much thicker than before, and the copper tracing is heavier also, and the copper itself is so pure - I know that is what I am hearing now. The music is just so rich and glorious and accurate... it's taking me on a ride back in time.
Yeah, the prototypes were fabulous, but these brand new MK3 production amps are just flat out better. The are dead quiet with a background almost as silent as if it was turned off. That's not the usual situation with tube amps believe me. When selling amps with great old historic tubes in them, like Raven Audio is known for - sometimes there's a trade-off and you can hear a gentle rush in the background when the music is not playing and you put your ear up next to the speaker drivers or tweeters. But right now if the music isn't playing I am not hearing anything, and these tubes are pretty old.
The detail has always been good on Raven Audio amplifiers, but this new level of micro-detail and sustain is just awe inspiring. The bass is so punchy and powerful, it really doesn't matter how low I turn the volume, it's still there. And this midrange is a thing of pure beauty. Right now I am listening to one of the new Nighthawk MK3's and its just mesmerizing. The female vocals, Ella Fitzgerald, a track recorded in the late 50's has that old time finish to it, but still... it just touches the soul in such a thoroughly human way - and though more accurate and open - due mostly to the new microphone and recording technologies, few new tracks can match that pure emotional connection these days. There was just something to the way they recorded back then. Live with the instruments bleeding through all the microphones, and even though the stand-up (acoustic) bass wasn't directly miked, it's nice, full, and just beautiful on these tracks. The musicians, I can almost see them in the room... whiskey in a glass next to Ella, ice melting into the caramel colored liquid, the bass player with a cigarette carefully laid on the edge of a big glass ashtray, all the guys wearing hats, and the producer says "roll em" and Ella starts to gently sway to the music... you can close your eyes and see it all... you FEEL it, smell it, tears well up as she gently coos the first few syllables into that huge chrome spring loaded Sure microphone hanging a few inches above her... here it comes... "How much do I love you..." and YOU are right there with her as she breathes in for the next phrase... you can here that~!
This is music that has a true authentic soul and emotion so thick you very easily get emotional as a listener. Knowing the history behind her story, those days when artists didn't really get pay like they deserved, the horrible racism and brutality. Their entire lives lived in fear and persecution. It hangs in the air as the music drifts out of your speakers. This was America less than half a century ago, and that isn't what we are talking about here, but it IS what you are hearing as these artists go about their craft. Nobody today is that plagued with such unbearable pressure every day of their lives, and this is their art, their soul bearing legacy. The Raven Audio product line will deliver it to you like no other music playback instruments.
And then in the end, we know what happened to over 80% of these artists' legacies... their original tape masters were simply allowed to deteriorate in old unprotected warehouses, and then finally ALL OF THEM were allowed to burn in the California Universal Studio lot fire This is truly the saddest story in the history of music, and its just so incredibly insulting to the unfortunate and brutal lives dedicated to this vastly underpaid unsung art that was delivered to us like nobody has since. I remember the first time I read this story... it made me physically sick to hear about it and I cried with anger at those that could do such a horrible crime against all of the music community, like you and me.
Still, every time I listen to Ella, Billie, Etta, Patsy, Duke, Benny, all of them... now gone forever, I feel it again. It starts at my speakers and drills right through my heart. I get angry again... after all I did this too for a while. I know the sacrifice first hand. I know what it feels like to eat beans and baloney sandwiches so I could get up on that stage, then sleep when we could either in a van or dark smelly "band house" or cheap motel... it takes years to become an overnight success... and I was never this good believe me!
I also know that all that is left of these truly legendary recordings is the seconds, and what's left of the tiny percentage of backups scattered across the country, and the public released materials of which holds by no means even a fraction of the original information that was allowed to burn away that night. And once again, people like us are left with ashes while those in charge of those legacies yacht away to distant locations in search of their next opportunity.
But hey... I'm trying to tell a good story here, not one about extreme loss, anger and sadness... my tubes are glowing and I am going to put this keyboard away as soon as I can finish this tear-stained rant. This is about the music... and Ella is still singing... "... you've got to cry me a river..."
In the amplifier I have a pair of Tungsram branded Seimens ECC81's from the 60's in row 1, Philips Miniwatt ECC81 from the late 50's in row 2 and a pair of 1950's era Raytheon 12AU7 shiny black ladder plates in row 3 and the balance is perfect. I could live with this forever I'm telling you. Knowing that the Blackhawk MK3 and Osprey MK3 are even more refined is really a difficult thing to think about right now because of what I am hearing is pure bliss. I know the Nighthawk has always been good... but this new one is just so musical and effortless. I don't hear anything that shouldn't be there.
The hair is standing up on the back of my neck and arms as I am listening to her sing her way through these timeless songs and I am thinking, this is exactly what this hobby is all about... sadness, tears, the struggle of life itself... and I am so glad every day that our amplifiers are this darn good. I really wouldn't have it any other way! And after all... it did take a decade to get here... finally!