CanJam at RMAF: Ray Samuels Audio

Ray Samuels Audio
Ray is a prolific headphone amp maker, and a fan of the military aircraft after which his products are named. Well ... that's not quite true, all his amp names start with "Emmeline," the name of his daughter, and then the aircraft name. Now with 20 products in his line of electronics (portable and home headphone amps, phono stages, and preamplifiers) I begin to wonder when he'll run out of military planes.

Ray is famous for making amps that have loads of power and his latest creation is no exception. With an introductory price of $2995, the Dark Star (wait, is that a military plane or Lord Vader's yacht) is a solid-state, fully balanced amplifier designed to easily drive headphones that need lots of power like the HiFiMAN HE-6 or AKG K1000. Here's an excerpt from his website:

In SE output it can easily swing close to 80 volts P-P., but the Dark Star Amp is a fully true balanced amp from input to output with quad independent gain stages and buffers. In balanced mode the voltage swing is double of that in SE. You can literary make your HE-6s sound like a speaker from a distant of 12 feet or more. There is no limit to how loud you can drive the hardest to drive headphone like the HE-6s. We are not only accomplishing the amp’s drive capability but the sound quality, the 3D surrounding environment is beyond what you have ever heard from these phones. The Bass is tied and articulated. Dark Star amp will make you fall in love with your phones all over again.

Wow! 80 Volts peak-to-peak! When you're not using for your listening pleasure you can do a little light welding out in the garage.

Good to see you again, Ray!

warp08's picture

The Dark Star (it's a drone, BTW) is also capable driving most conventional headphones with medium to high sensitivity. I used mine with my Sennheiser HD600s and other not-so-hard-to-drive headphones and it'll make them sing, assuming you have a decent source and interconnects. Best served balanced. I've heard the LCD-2 V2s the first time on Ray's demo Dark Star, and it was amazing.

As with any weapon of choice, you've got to exercise common sense when switching headphones and mute the volume to protect your drivers. Even the mighty HE-6 is no match for the full power of the Dark Star, as Ray has demonstrated...:-)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
"Even the mighty HE-6 is no match for the full power of the Dark Star, as Ray has demonstrated...:-)" Ha ha! Oh well, we all have our bad days. Jude mentioned he thought the Dark Star was the best amp for the HD 800, IIRC. I didn't spend much time with it, I think it's really hard to form opinions about amp in show conditions. Just too many variables. A drone? Eh, I think I'd rather think of Ray's amp as Lord Vaders Yacht. That's pretty cool.