Review of the Raven Audio Osprey Integrated Tube Amp and Corvus Reference Monitors

Hello fellow audiophiles! For the past 6 months, I’ve been on an epic quest to upgrade my beloved vintage console record player with high-end, modern tube gear. After months of research and auditioning several components, here is the system I finally landed on:

  • Technics 1500c Turntable with Funk Firm Isolation Kit 10 and Nagaoka MP-200 cartridge
  • Limited Edition Raven Audio Osprey Integrated Amplifier
  • Raven Audio Corvus Reference Monitors.

I could not be happier with my new setup… as many have written in these forums before, I’m listening to my vinyl collection like it’s the first time I’ve heard these records. If you’re interested in how I arrived at my current configuration, here is my saga from start to finish (it’s become quite the novel, so I tried to break it into relevant section so you can jump around to your liking)… enjoy!

In the beginning, there was vintage analog audio

This all started about 6 years ago when my wife found an all original, 1959 Webcor Ravinia console record player in amazing condition (12AX7s in the phono stage, 12AU7s in the power amp and a 5Y3-G for rectification). I instantly fell in love and after having the turntable overhauled and the amps serviced and recapped, I was off to the races. While limited in so many ways, my Webcor was 10 out of 10 on the cool scale and produced a sweet, though imperfect, sound with tons of personality and charm. Although it was mono only, the tubes combined with the 15” paper woofer, 8” mid-range driver, and soft dome tweeter created a surprisingly layered sound stage with plenty of depth. I spent many, many nights listening to my growing record collection on that unit and even though its sound was no match for modern gear, it will always have a special place in my heart.

But all of that vintage sex appeal comes at a cost. Having a vintage hifi console is a lot like having a classic car: you own a super cool pain in the butt. While I loved my Webcor, it needed a lot of upkeep. About every 1-2 years, it needed to be serviced for one issue or another. Each time it got harder and more expensive to find people that still work on these things (especially during and after COVID). Each time I would spend hundreds of dollars and wait weeks to months to resume enjoying my music… As I got more serious about dedicated listening, this became a big problem for me and eventually I threw in the towel.

So. Many. Options…

Looking back at how naïve I was when I finally decided to upgrade brings a slightly cringy smile to my face. I remember searching “tube amplifier” on Amazon and letting out an upward inflected “hmm” when the top result was the surprisingly affordable Willsenton R8 integrated amp for under $1500 (which, as it turns out, is not awesome, but not terrible either). I thought I’d throw in a $500 pro-ject turntable (also not bad) and a pair of $400 speakers and I’d be set (I know, I know…). I would’ve never guessed the audiophile vortex would suck me in so hard and so fast. As I tumbled down the rabbit hole, learning the difference between MC and MM cartridges, what a phono stage was, and how important speaker selection and amp pairing is, I populated spreadsheets full of configurations, but eventually landed on 1 turntable and 2 amps/speaker pairings to audition:

Turntable – I decided to go with the Technics 1500c because of the high build quality of Technics (my brother was a DJ/turntablist for decades and would not spin on anything but a pair of 1200s). I also liked all of the tonearm adjustability of the 1500c, but perhaps the feature that most won me over was, well… all the features! I love that I can switch between 33s and 45s without disassembling the platter and changing belts. I love the instant start/stop and speed stability of the direct drive. Finally, I thought I would love the auto lift feature as my Webcor was fully automatic, but as I’m sure many of you guessed, after the second time my record was abruptly ended mid-song, I switched that feature off. As a bonus perk, the 1500c comes with a decent onboard phono stage (it got me started, but I’ll be upgrading in the near future).

Amp – After ruling out the Wilsenton R8 and Prima Luna EVO series based on HD video/sound auditions (with hifi headphones) and several lackluster reviews, I settled on doing an A-B, in-home audition of the Raven Audio Osprey 3.1 and the McIntosh MA252 Hybrid.

Speakers – my initial audition list was full of vintage inspired beauties: the Forte IVs, the KLH 5s and Wharfdale Lintons (remember, I was chasing that ’59 sound [and look]). While these are all fantastic speakers, my listening room is a cozy 10X12 room filled with bookcases, so I didn’t need a big speaker to get a big sound. And while I really, really wanted the warm look of walnut cabinets and natural wool grills, two speakers kept coming up over and over in my research; I just couldn’t ignore them: KEF LS50 Metas and Raven Audio Corvus Reference Monitors.

The Great Unboxing

At long last, the day arrived when 4 boxes from Crutchfield were waiting for me when I got home from work: The Technics 1500c, the MA252, the LS50 Metas, and a pair of matching gray KEF speaker stands. You may be wondering where the gear from Raven Audio is… much more on that later 😉.

After getting everything set up, I invited my anti-audiophile wife into my study for the first listen. I had to entice her with music she likes, so I dropped the needle on Lemon Demon’s 2016 album Spirit Phone. The upgrade in overall sound quality and clarity was instantly apparent. As we listened to the album in its entirety followed by Dreamland by Glass Animals (more indie pop to keep her interested), we both had the undescriptive feeling that “it just sounded good.” It was clear without being harsh and generally pleasant to listen to (the MM phono stage that comes with the MA252 is one of those “makes everything, no matter the mixing, sound good” type of phono stages). Neither one of us could put our finger on any one defining attribute of the system, but we both had the thought that, “certainly this was more than good enough” and I even considered skipping the Raven Audio trial altogether and calling it a day… what a colossal mistake that would’ve been.

I listened to the MA252 with the LS50 Metas for the better part of a week before it was time to go get the Raven Audio Osprey. I can tell you that this combo doesn’t offend. The only complaints I had were:

1) A noticeable lack of bottom end. The music sounded thinner than it should’ve. I attributed this to the LS50 Metas (at this point I had read dozens of reviews criticizing the LS50’s lack of bass), but boy was I about to get a big surprise (spoiler: it wasn’t the speakers!!)

2) While the sound was very clean and clear, there was none of that 3D tube magic I had read so much about (and had gotten a little taste of with my Webcor).

American Made Stereo Tube Amplifiers and Speakers: An Afternoon with James Connell of Raven Audio

Back when I decided to audition the Raven Audio Osprey, I called the company to ask a few question (I was mostly curious about what NOS tubes they offer as an upgrade – the answer, btw, is they have or can get just about any tube ever made). I initially got the company voice mail, so I left my name and number. About a half an hour later, I got a call from James Connell – the CEO of Raven Audio! We chatted for about 40 mins and as he realized I had done my research and was serious about auditioning their gear, he mentioned that he had a Limited Edition (1 of 2) Osprey at his house. Since I only live a few hours away here in Texas, he graciously extended the invitation to have me over and give it a listen. He also invited me to bring any amp and/or speakers I wanted for comparison. Call me a yokel, but this opportunity seemed unprecedented - I immediately accepted.

Upon arriving at James’ house, I could hear music permeating through the front room while I was still 10 feet from the front door – I knew I was in the right place. He welcomed me in and before we even made it to the living room where the gear was set up, we stopped at his lovely grand piano and talked for several minutes about his experiences with some of the world’s most renowned classical musicians. After a few more mins he was playing the piano and explaining several finer points about tonality and note expression… seriously, this was what my entire afternoon was like!! James isn’t just an audiophile that runs Raven Audio – James is a concert violinist and classically trained pianist who also produces and records some of the world's top classical musicians.

While I was thoroughly enjoying our conversation, I was, after all, there on a mission. Finally, the time came to see if Raven Audio lived up to all the glowing reviews I had read. I was there to listen to the Osprey LE, but he had the Black Hawk integrated amp hooked up with the Corvus Reference Monitors, so we decided to start there first. Simply put: I was blown away. We went through several styles of music and I remember a blues song he played that featured deep, grizzly male vocals that were so real it was a little unnerving at first. We both have an affinity towards female singer songwriters, so we stayed in that genre a while. The mid-range was absolutely liquid and when we played Paris, Texas by Lana del Rey, I notice a subtle acoustic guitar playing alongside the piano that I had never heard before! As we progressed to some rock and then classical, the sound stage filled the whole space between the Corvus Monitors and the couch we were sitting on. The intricate percussion in Tool’s Fear Enoculum danced back and forth in the air around us. The Corvus Monitors perfectly imaged Maynard’s vocals at dead center. I have to admit, I had never heard music in quite that way before – I could hear each instrument separately and would focus on each’s nuance for a while before dropping back and enjoying the coherent presentation of the whole.

It’s true - I was there for the Osprey, but listening to the Black Hawk made me SERIOUSLY consider saving a few dollars and leaving with it instead. In fact, when we hooked up the Osprey LE, much to my surprise, there wasn’t much of a difference in sound. James explained that both the Black Hawk and Osprey have all the same upgraded components, the Osprey just gives you a little more headroom – but trust me, the Black Hawk paired with ~88 db + speakers has PLENTY o’ power.

In the end, my vanity pushed me to the Osprey LE (it is oxblood and matte black with ultra-grade audiophile capacitors… I just couldn’t resist having a 1 of 2), but if my choice had been between a stock Black Hawk or Osprey, I would have left with the Black Hawk.

When it was all said and done, I had spent nearly 4 hours at James’ house listening to and talking about music (yes we did hookup the McIntosh MA252, but it wasn’t even close to either of the Raven Audio amps). I left with my new Osprey LE, an order for a pair of the Corvus Monitors, and a clear understanding of why so much of Raven Audio’s gear ends up in recording and mixing studios around the world; I smiled the entire 4-hour drive home.

Amp Ranking with the Homies

The weekend after getting the Raven Audio Osprey, I invited some close friends over to have some drinks, spin some records, and see which of the two amps they preferred (at this point, the Corvus Reference Monitors hadn’t arrived yet, so we used the LS50 Metas for both amps). The Osprey was first up. I loaded Dire Straits’ debut record on the platter. As soon as the first few notes of Sultans of Swing came on, my friends’ faces lit up. The sound was all around us. The Osprey and LS50s Metas are a beautiful match. Imaging and wide-open transparency galore. But the biggest surprise from this combo came in the form of thick, textured bass!! I thought the LS50s were low-end deficient, but NO, the MA252 was the weak link all along! The Osprey made excellent use of the rear port in the LS50s and all of the robustness and full-bodied sound that was lacking with the MA252 instantly appeared.

All while listening to the Osprey, none of us really carried on much of a conversation. We sat and listened intently to the music the way you would watch a psychological thriller with a group of friends. This amp/speaker combo immersed us in the sound giving us a new level of engagement to songs we’ve heard a hundred times. Kudos to the LS50s Metas, they rose to the occasion and I gained serious respect for what may be the best value for dollar in the whole hifi universe. My wife popped in for a bit and even she kept admitting, “it’s crazy how much the music fills the room.”

After an hour with the Osprey, we hooked up the MA252. We decided it was only fair to start with that same Dire Straits’ album. After 30 secs in, one of my friends said, “nope, I’ve heard enough, the other one is better – I can already tell”. He was so right. The percussion had lost its heft. The bass guitars blended into the background. The holographic bloom was gone. With the Osprey, we had been experiencing music. Now, we were just listening to it. One of the most telling moments of the night happened when we put on one of our all-time favorite records: The Crow OST. We dropped the needle and waited to be transported to Eric Draven’s apartment by the opening squawks of Burn by The Cure. But it just didn’t happen. Compared to the Osprey, the Mac was polite, well behaved – non-offensive.  Pretty soon, we were chatting and catching up while the music played in the background.

As the night came to a close, one of my friends leaned over to me and said, “you know, listening to the McIntosh was like eating a well prepared filet mignon at a nice restaurant. But listening to the Osprey was like eating a smoky, bone-in ribeye off the grill.”


Enter the Raven Audio Corvus Reference Monitors

The Corvus Reference Monitors I ordered took about 6 weeks to get hand-built and delivered. I had been saving a brand new remastered pressing of Radiohead’s In Rainbows for their arrival. When the day finally came, I got everything set up, dropped the needle and… I was a little dismayed. All of the detail and instrument separation I had heard at James’ house was still there, but the imaging and transparency that I had been enjoying with the LS50s were gone. Because of the small size of the LS50s, placement was easy and very forgiving. I soon learned that the Corvus Monitors were a completely different animal. I spent most of my time listening to In Rainbows up and down, back and forth, moving the Monitors. By the time I got to Video Tape (last song on the record), I had dialed them in. BOOM. The speakers I had fallen in love with at James’ house were back! Thom Yorke’s vocals were back at dead center and the sound stage filled the room. So, here’s what I learned: While the Corvus Monitors are technically “stand mount monitors,” they are HUGE (2 feet tall and very deep). Their size gives them a blend of characters of both bookshelf and tower speakers. They have the ability to “disappear” and image as strongly as the LS50 Metas, but they can also deliver the detail and resolution of towers. The price you pay for getting the best of both worlds is that they have to be carefully placed in your listening room. Even since initially dialing in their position, I’ve continued to play with spacing and distance from the wall and have found that even small tweaks to their position can produce significant changes in their sound signature. Their size also means they have a fairly low WAF. My wife begrudgingly admitted that they sound better than the KEFs, but she can’t quite get over their commanding room presence. Finally, they require juuust the right amount of toe-in (angles will vary based on your room and listening position). Spend some time dialing these puppies into position and you’ll be glad you did. Crisis averted.

The next record I played was Something More Than Free by Jason Isbell (just thinking about that record playing on my Raven Audio system gave me goose bumps just now). During the opening track, If It Takes a Lifetime, there’s a line that starts “I thought the highway loved me, but she beat me like a drum.” Then, the harmonizing backup vocals come in with the finishing, “My day will come, if it takes a lifetime.” Something inexplicable happened when I heard this reproduced through the Corvus Monitors. I felt an emotional pang. By the time I got to the title track, that emotional connection materialized into an actual tear. One of my favorite songs was literally bringing tears to my eyes.

The last record I played on my first day with the Corvus Monitors was Eating the Elephant by A Perfect Circle. I bring this up because –remember when I said that James and I listened to a blues song at his house that had deep, grizzly male vocals that were hauntingly real? Well, this happened again on Down and by the River!! Maynard’s deep throaty intro in that song was otherworldly. It’s hard to explain, but it’s something like this: no matter how good a hifi system is, your brain knows the difference between live and recorded music. But every once and a while the very best systems will give you a presentation so real, it fools your senses. While you might think this is awesome- even the holy grail that all audiophiles are chasing (and it for sure is), it also triggers the sense that someone unexpected is in the room with you. For the first few milliseconds, it’s disorienting. But then, once that sensation passes, you get a few minutes in audio nirvana; pure euphonic bliss. This is what the Osprey + Corvus Monitors gave me on the first rainy afternoon I spent with them.

The Final Analysis

After a week with the Corvus Reference Monitors, I packed up the KEFs, and with a heavy heart, shipped them back to Crutchfield. They are amazing little speakers, and I kept looking for any excuse to keep them. But in the end, the Corvus Monitors were just that much better. In the week since they arrived, I’ve put everything from The Damned to Chuck Berry to Erykah Badu to Rachmaninoff through them. It all sounds phenomenal. These are end game speakers. Paired with the Osprey, music rises in the air, lingers, and then naturally decays in such a pleasant, realistic way. Finally, the Corvus Monitors are an acoustically suspended enclosure, so the bass is quick and tight, not boomy (I’ve actually found that they produce the best bass when placed about 6 inches from the wall).

I know this hobby is all about sound, but a quick side note about Raven Audio as a company. From my first interactions with James and company, they have been absolutely great to work with. They’ve been in good communication with me from start to finish (James gave me a personal call a few days after the speakers were delivered, to see how everything was going and to answer any questions I had). I know there’s a lot of great gear out there from many great companies, but it means a lot to me that Raven Audio cares about creating a long term relationship with the people who use their products. It also means a lot that they are an American company that designs and builds their products here in the US.

So there you have it… I know I’ve probably come off like a Raven fan boy, but I’m just so glad (and relieved) to come to the end of my 6 months’ worth of research, saving, and auditioning with a result that exceeded my lofty expectations.

If anyone has suggestions for a phono stage that would pair well with my system (and future upgrade to an LOMC cartridge), please let me know (I’m thinking tube based of course, but I’m open to solid state suggestions too – anything that’s nice and quiet). Thanks!



I have JAN Phillips in the first row, Brimars in the second row and GEs in the third. All NOS upgrades directly from Raven Audio. Is there a tube configuration that you like better? Telefunkens worth it? 

@crawfishdaddi I think I had those same JAN 12AT7.  I tried a pair of RCA backplate made for an electrical testing instruments company (Boonton) in position 1.  The clarity of the Soundstage improved.   In position 2 I had Brimar 13Ds, an upgrade from Raven.  Having been thrilled to see this improvement I upgraded position 2 to a set of Brimar made Military grade 6060s.  The 13D were great but again, I heard immediate improvement.  This time it was the bass that improved.  More layered, complex with overtones more audible.   I didn't hear much improvement from trying  more expensive, desirable AU7s in position 3.  Have fun rolling tubes.


I was finally able to get some pics uploaded to my Virtual System (the site was kind of buggy, but I finally got it). Thanks for letting me know!

I have a Nighthawk upgraded to Blackhawk specs (Raven capacitors, etc) and roll different combinations of tubes depending on my mood. I'm running into Klipsch Heresy IVs so very efficient and the speakers respond well to any changes.

  In position 3 I use GE shiny Box plate 12AU7 as an anchor almost always. Now I have Amperex ECC81 in 1 and GE Ladder plate 12AU7 in 2. The Amperex works well in row 2 with either Siemens ECC81 or Mullard in row 1. Best is Siemens in 1 and Yellow "T" in row 2. As for power tubes the Shuguang 6L6GC are very nice, about 80-85% of the RCA black plates that are wonderful. Dave Thompson is the guru for tube interaction with Rave Amps. Enjoy you journey with Raven..  

One more comment. Using a Technics SL1200gr with a Darlington Labs MP-7 phono preamp. Can change out cartridges with Hana EH, Sumiko Moonstone and Wellfleet. All those cartridges are nice but my Nagaoka MP-500 may be my endgame. It just draws me in to a point I don't want to change back!!!