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Record breaker: Raphaelite CS30-MKII tube amplifier review and measurements

srkbear

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Other than headphones have we ever tested any gear that didn’t stand up to listening tests despite the poor measurements? I’ve reached a point where measurements help me sort out the gear that doesn’t justify its price point, and nearly everything passes muster as transparent, with a few exceptions from my recollection.

Seems to me that measurements are the most illuminating for DACs, and I believe Amir said as much in his measurements overview—they tell the whole story in the digital domain (albeit not necessarily in an audible way) whereas in analog products not nearly as much. I wish my memory would offer a reliable benchmark because since I was a kid I always thought my audio gear sounded great, and I go back to the Radio Shack days in the 70’s…
 

tmtomh

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Other than headphones have we ever tested any gear that didn’t stand up to listening tests despite the poor measurements? I’ve reached a point where measurements help me sort out the gear that doesn’t justify its price point, and nearly everything passes muster as transparent, with a few exceptions from my recollection.

Seems to me that measurements are the most illuminating for DACs, and I believe Amir said as much in his measurements overview—they tell the whole story in the digital domain (albeit not necessarily in an audible way) whereas in analog products not nearly as much. I wish my memory would offer a reliable benchmark because since I was a kid I always thought my audio gear sounded great, and I go back to the Radio Shack days in the 70’s…

I think you make a very good point. To headphones, though, I'd of course add speakers. As for electronics, I would say the one aspect where listening tests could reveal disappointing performance would be amps and preamps - not based on distortion performance, but based on poor noise performance and/or insufficient power with certain loads and/or at certain frequencies. I suppose there's also the issue of preamps and/or power amps that have very nonstandard input or output impedances.
 

DonR

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Other than headphones have we ever tested any gear that didn’t stand up to listening tests despite the poor measurements? I’ve reached a point where measurements help me sort out the gear that doesn’t justify its price point, and nearly everything passes muster as transparent, with a few exceptions from my recollection.

Seems to me that measurements are the most illuminating for DACs, and I believe Amir said as much in his measurements overview—they tell the whole story in the digital domain (albeit not necessarily in an audible way) whereas in analog products not nearly as much. I wish my memory would offer a reliable benchmark because since I was a kid I always thought my audio gear sounded great, and I go back to the Radio Shack days in the 70’s…
The nice thing is, the older you get the larger the pool of products out there that measure as transparent.
 

srkbear

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I think you make a very good point. To headphones, though, I'd of course add speakers. As for electronics, I would say the one aspect where listening tests could reveal disappointing performance would be amps and preamps - not based on distortion performance, but based on poor noise performance and/or insufficient power with certain loads and/or at certain frequencies. I suppose there's also the issue of preamps and/or power amps that have very nonstandard input or output impedances.
Perhaps for amps their deficiencies aren’t necessarily as audible for the gain/volume ranges used for listening compared to pushing their limits on the bench? Or maybe our ears are too indiscriminate listening to one component in an isolated fashion—and there’s some selection bias at work with the level of gear tested on this site. It’s rare that we ever run across something truly cheap/crappy on here.

With all acknowledgment of cognitive bias in sighted A/B testing, I tend to only truly notice qualitative differences when comparing two components close together (speakers and headphones excluded). It would take a pretty catastrophic amplifier for me to identify as abysmal from the more rarified selections we test on this site.

Again, I’ve found the measurements most valuable in weeding out the wares that are indefensibly priced—if nothing else of value came from my tenure on this forum, the mere amount of cash I saved buying a d90se over some shockingly price-gouged box of screws from the so-called “blue chip” brands would be worth it alone.
 

tmtomh

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Perhaps for amps their deficiencies aren’t necessarily as audible for the gain/volume ranges used for listening compared to pushing their limits on the bench? Or maybe our ears are too indiscriminate listening to one component in an isolated fashion—and there’s some selection bias at work with the level of gear tested on this site. It’s rare that we ever run across something truly cheap/crappy on here.

With all acknowledgment of cognitive bias in sighted A/B testing, I tend to only truly notice qualitative differences when comparing two components close together (speakers and headphones excluded). It would take a pretty catastrophic amplifier for me to identify as abysmal from the more rarified selections we test on this site.

Again, I’ve found the measurements most valuable in weeding out the wares that are indefensibly priced—if nothing else of value came from my tenure on this forum, the mere amount of cash I saved buying a d90se over some shockingly price-gouged box of screws from the so-called “blue chip” brands would be worth it alone.

Again, totally agree with your point here. RE amp power, I agree with what you say for the vast majority of cases. I have seen measurements of perhaps 2-3 cheap pieces of gear - a bottom-of-the-line stereo receiver from a major brand, and some of the very inexpensive, early Tripath-based mini-amps from several years ago - that indicate they have truly poor power-handling ability in the lowest octave that would severely limit their bass power and result in distortion and/or the perception of less bass from whatever speakers they're hooked up to. And I have heard one such very low-end receiver in this class with anemic-sounding bass. But I do agree with you that such cases are outliers.

As for impedance, I did briefly have a passive preamp-power amp combo many years ago that I immediately disliked the sound of. I didn't know about the fine details of measurements back then, but I swapped the passive preamp with an active one and the sound immediately improved. Could have just been a level mismatch and/or cognitive bias, but some time later I learned about how passive preamps can have higher output impedances, which can potentially have audible impacts. Again, though, I agree an edge case/outlier - and as always would defer to our more knowledgeable members here if what I've written makes no sense! :)
 

TLEDDY

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It is rare that I read a thread from beginning to end!

That said, this one has been a real delight, beginning with the OP Review - kudos to GXAlan!!

One of the many delights of this Forum is the vast amount of knowledge of the members and their willingness to share.

So, once again, thank you all for making my life much happier!

Tillman
 

TLEDDY

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By the way… if you share my opinion, please consider a donation! I consider this site a labor of love; just think how sad it would be without it!
 

srkbear

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By the way… if you share my opinion, please consider a donation! I consider this site a labor of love; just think how sad it would be without it!
This kind of collegial and informative dialogue is the majority of what I encounter on this site! It’s mostly calm waters across the board. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, periodically (and predictably) the waves arrive when some seagull swoops in—after getting wind of some less-than-kind words we said about some piece of Fool’s Gold they paid the usual pirates a fortune for—to fiercely defend the piles of cash they swear they can hear.

After a few disingenuously benign leading comments, they start powdering everybody with fleas with the usual marketing clap-trap and audio-woo; the more jaded of us respond with cynicism, derision, or this —>:facepalm:<—, while those who still possess enough idealism make earnest efforts to persuade and enlighten them. All too often we usually get told that they understand now why we get criticized for being didactic robots, and and as they swoop away their usual parting shot involves something along the lines of “ya’ll might try actually listening to music for a change”, etc. Then it’s back to smooth sailing again, as if they were never here.

However, every so often one of them (eg yours truly, awhile back) decides to stick it out, surrender to their humility/gratitude/curiosity, recognize that there’s some truly wise folk around here who are eager and patient enough to lend their expertise, and end up learning a whole new way of thinking about this amazing hobby!

For me, it’s those experiences that really make this site truly rewarding. With science (and music), you never run out of opportunities to learn. If, that is, you can just get past the pressures of conspicuous consumption, the allure of unattainable shiny objects, and that temptation to deny your buyer’s remorse…
 

Ze Frog

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I do love tubes, I know they are technically inferior but they are just special. Was looking at the Muzishare X7 during pandemic, but I didn't because I kind of predicted the issues in the East and knew tubes would become extremely scarce. I may get one when the world balances out again, but right not it's not really viable. There's a lot of people still selling tubes, but they are the ones that didn't make it into a specific target spec that lots of reputable sellers would actually buy a batch and measure individually and then send others on elsewhere. Now though everyone and his dog is selling these rejected tubes and at higher inflated prices.
 
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