Ray Samuels Audio F-117 Nighthawk: Giant Killer?

Discussion in 'Vinyl Nutjob World: Turntable and Related Gear' started by purr1n, Apr 2, 2016.

  1. Rotijon

    Rotijon Friend

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    Never thought id see the day people buy RSA gear again. The rest of his stuff is pretty shit though.

    Will definitely look for a nighthawk when i get my vinyl setup done.
     
  2. eastboundofnowhere

    eastboundofnowhere Facebook Friend

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    I've had one for a couple years now. I keep thinking about upgrading, but for the money it is very versatile little preamp. I've got a low output Grado and it is very difficult to find something that puts out 55-60 db of gain at 47kohm. Tried that cart through several MC stages that don't have the right loading and it definitely sounded off.
     
  3. Pyruvate

    Pyruvate Friend

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    I’ve always had my sights on this phono due to its glowing reviews. I’ve been upgrading my setup's components one by one and figured it’s a good time to grab a new phono to make use of my Saga and Vincent power amp. Figured schiit would make a new phono someday, but I got impatient and decided to pull the trigger. Glad I did.

    Special thanks to @PTS for the opportunity and keeping it in tip-top shape.

    My rig is as follows: Ortofon OM30 cart > U-Turn Orbit Plus TT > F-117 Nighthawk phono > Schiit Saga preamp > Vincent SP-331 power amplifier > Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1 speakers

    1. Previously I had a TC-750 with all the mods from OJNEG, with an upgraded power supply. Per Marv’s advice, I leave on the nighthawk for an hour before listening on speakers. The thing has a solid feel to it, even though it’s basically the size of a pack of cards. It’s heavy enough that the RCA cables don’t drag it down like it did with the TC-750. Regarding sonics, differences between the phonos are night and day.

    2. First thing that captures my interest is how strong the center image is. Incredibly focused, makes listening to the modded TC-750 akin to removing my glasses. Like Marv mentioned, the stage is very upfront. Kind of hard to explain, with everything in front of you, instead of sprawled apart. Sounds like everything got shrinkwrapped, in a good way. Depth is decent, feels deeper, but I’m sure a tubed phonostage could take this to the next level. Width of soundstage about the same (I don't usually focus on width), but I've always been more of a depth person. Edit: after more listening, staging is definitely larger in terms of height and width. The upfront stage feeling is totally convincing.

    3. This little fella truly slams, bass is deep, yet whops a serious punch. It’s very recording dependent, and my sloppier recordings don’t do it justice, but those LPs with a good bottom end, it’ll do them justice alright. TC-750 just sounds bloated in comparison. Of course, due to the limitation of my rig, probably my speakers, digital bass still takes the cake for bass extension and slam.

    4. Essentially a veil has been peeled off, everything simply has more presence and sounds more lifelike. Vocals pop out more than they did before, highs being more extended. More plankton being resolved. For the first time, I don’t actually feel like I’m missing a whole lot from vinyl now when compared to digital (except a little bass).

    5. Neutral sounding and doesn't miss a beat; very quick on its feet. People generally would associate vinyl as warm and slow, but this phono will seriously make you rethink that. This thing would be awesome for rocking out.

    6. I keep praising this focus, but let me illustrate an example. On headphones, center image is always an issue, so the nighthawk won’t WOW as much. On speakers, where center image is eons ahead of headphones (even shitty speakers can image well), the effect is jaw dropping. So even though digital has a slight upperhand (more or less of a tie depending on what you’re looking for) on headphones, vinyl fucking dominates on speakers.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 21, 2017
  4. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    Vinyl pretty much just rocks in general, if you ask me. Especially on loudspeakers.
     
  5. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    From the dead

    I've been using the Nighthawk for the last several years,based on this thread and the fact that Ray was just not going to let me out of his basement workshop without buying something.

    Love the sound of it with my mid-fi rigs but now im re-examining every piece of gear as part of a general two-channel upgrade plan.

    Is this still a phono-amp of choice for the users here ? the only competition listed in this thread was the manley chinook upgraded with NOS Amperex 7308s.

    Would the chinook be an upgrade? sidegrade? any other giant killers out there to consider now? @purr1n @JK47 @Dr. Higgs
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    I still use it a compliment to rev2 of the Mani. It depends on the cart. The Nighthawk is blacker with zippier transients and a wraparound stage. The Mani has better extension top and bottom with more expansive stage. Nighthawk sucks with MM carts. It likes MC carts where the gain is set higher. For MM carts, the TC-750 with an external LPS is better than either.

    I didn't feel the Chinook was worth it for the price. It's sound is sort of the opposite of the NH, depending upon tubes.

    Ask @brencho about the EMIA. You will need to add SUTs. I'm due to visit @brencho's place. He's gone through a few phonostages, most were very good, but missing in one aspect or two. EMIA is supposed to take the cake.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2020
  7. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    Couple of Chinook's available on audiogon for ~$1600 right now is why I ask

    Whatever I end up with will be aimed at MC cartridges.
     
  8. sphinxvc

    sphinxvc Gear Master (retired)

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    Context truly is king. My gushing on page 2 of this thread was 4 years ago, when my only reference point was the Mani V1. Since then, I've gone through the VTA PH16-X, Avid Pulsus, Manley Chinook and Allnic H1201, and I would easily put any of those higher up than the NH.
     
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  9. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    It's still not bad and has its place with its sonic particularities. Just overpriced in context of what's now available or since discovered.
     

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