The Ranvoice Audio RV-1020 Valve Preamplifier Review

The Ranvoice Audio RV-1020 valve preamplfier is something which is both unique in build and sound. Utilising the sound of EL-84s, and separate PSU, it's most certainly something to consider.

Ranvoice Audio is a new company based in west Ukraine. It’s quite obvious that having an obscene and unwarranted war raging in your own country would bring its own difficulties. But, against all odds, 

Ranvoice has created a unique valve preamplifier that makes you want to sit up and listen.

Ranvoice RV-1020 Valve Preamplifier


An invitation via ‘The Art of Sound’ forum got me intrigued as to what Ranvoice was offering. A valve-base preamplifier that is claimed to sound better than the Croft Micro 25, Audion Premier 2.0, and Tube Technology The Prophet Signature, Radford SC25/Woodside SC26, vintage CAT SL1, VAC Renaissance series, Audio Research SP series, VTL The Ultimate. 

Well, with these claims, it interested me greatly, as my past experience with Croft, at least, has always been a very positive one. 

So, what can this preamplifier from Ranvoice bring to the Tannoyista system? Let’s find out.

About Ranvoice Audio


Based, designed, and built in Ukraine. The engineer at Ranvoice is Vadym Sychevskyi who studied at the Lviv Polytechnic National University. After many years of making audio equipment, it wasn’t until 2022 that he announced his first really good-sounding preamp on the local market, and in 2023, we decided to promote them worldwide.



Introducing the Ranvoice RV1020 Valve Preamplifier


The RV-1020 preamplifier is a two-box affair that consists of a main control unit and a separate power supply. Both are finished in thick, black anodized alluminium casings and are very solid to hold. 

The Ranvoice RV-1020 Valve Preamplifier with the RV-1015


Weighing in at 10 kg (including the PSU), the main unit is 430mm in width, 310mm deep, and 95mm high. While the matching PSU is smaller, measuring 170mm in width, 260mm deep, and 75mm high. Both units are linked via a rather nice braided, thick, and rather stiff detachable screw ring umbilical power connector. 

Connection panel of the Ranvoice RV-1020 Valve Preamplifier


The length of umbilical cable on this unit isn’t very long but this has now been rectified. 

The RV-1020 is purley a single-ended design, and on the back we find 4 inputs and one output. Both units are nicely presented with classic, unobtrusive, and simple lines. 

Some might say basic; well, for me, that's great; like a Croft, it’s what's inside that counts. So it’s certainly something that would suit many users.

Ranvoice RV-1015 Ultra Low Noise Linear Power Supply















Connection of the Ranvoice RV-1020 Valve Preamplifier






Ranvoice RV-1020 connection power cable


Taking a Closer Look


There are two versions of this preamplifier available. One with a standard selector control and one with a digitally operated relay selector. I opted for the latter, which incorporates a red LED display. 

The outboard low-noise ultra linear DC power supply is rated at an unusual 300v. A separate PSU is always promising on a valve preamplfier as it, when done right, brings a more solid presentation and less noise, in my experience. You can also position it well away from other, more sensitive components.

It can also keep the main unit at a cooler operating temperature. So, this is a very welcome design. The RV-1020 incorporates a zero-negative feedback circuit with a zero-phase shift. It’s also nice and very interesting to see the mix of new and NOS vintage components.

In this case, the transformers are ex-USSR military grade, together with other various vintage components.

The valves used in the RV-1020, for me, are also a little unusual and rather intriguing. That is, it uses a valve compliment of x2 EL84s together with a single ECC88. Of course, the ECC88 is rather common, but the use of the EL84s in this application isn’t very widely used. 

I really love the sound of the EL84s; they have a very unique signature, and I’ve used some wonderful-sounding vintage equipment that used them, such as LEAK TL-12s, Stereo 20s, and some older AudioNote units that used them, but these were mostly power amplifiers, not preamps, so this is looking to be a bit of an experience.

Inside Ranvoice RV-1020 Valve Preamplifier and PSU

Inside the Ranvoice RV-1020 showing EL-84 valves

The internal layout is tidy, and a nice touch of yellow and blue wiring representing the Ukrainian flag can be seen weaving between the two separate boards for the EL84 valves. 

The two PSUs you can see are chokes for the EL84s and are placed well away from the signal areas.

Inside the Ranvoice RV-1020 the EL-84 Chokes




Inside the Ranvoice RV-1020 showing EL-84 valves

Inside, the PSU layout is somewhat busier, with a good-sized toroidal transformer and a large heatsink.

Inside the Ranvoice RV-1015 PSU

Inside the Ranvoice RV-1015 showing Mundorf capacitors

The switching for the volume and inputs is handled with a relay system, which gives very smooth and accurate control.

The Sound


The main power switch for the unit is on the external PSU. And upon switching it on, there’s just a very gentle bump noise. As with all of the units I review, I like to keep it running with no signal for about an hour before I can get to grips with the sound. In the case of valve equipment, I like to give it a tad longer. 

Once warmed up, I put my ear to the speaker and listened for anything that would affect the sound, and just a very quiet operation noise was heard, which was expected from a valve preamplifier. By rotating the control, it scrolls through the inputs, and by pressing the knob, it selects the desired input. 

Because the RV-1020 doesn’t include an internal phono stage, CD as well as DSD audio from my Weiss DAC-204 will be the source. Now that I have a signal, I upped the volume knob to see if I was getting any unwanted noise, and I’m happy to say, hardly any. It’s whisper-quiet, which is excellent for a valve preamp. 

So, starting with my vast collection of CDs, I have more than a few that I use for reference. Starting with The Chemical Brothers, Come With Us. Now, in my experience with a decent valve preamp, you get spatial smoothness, nuanced detail, and a defined punch to the sound. What I'm not looking for is an overblown, muddy, or muffled, flat soundstage.

With the first track starting, I could instantly hear that the former of my expectations were being delivered. As I mentioned previously, I was looking forward to hearing the EL84s in this preamp, and yes, there is certainly some of that lovely signature in there. 

As the CD played on, it was evident that the sound was becoming more developed. After a couple of hours lots of other music, I reverted back to the first Chemical Brothers track, and it was evident that the sound had developed since I The bass now had more focus, and the high frequencies had that little added sparkle. 

I could now start to hear more of what this preamp was about. After that, I played many other CDs, but one that really surprised me was the classical tracks from the Back to the Future soundtrack. 

This CD is the Japanese version with smooth sides to the jewel case and is the finest pressing on CD. This is where I was taken aback. The detail of the instruments came through with excellent separation

Next up was Muse: The Second Law. Digging this album out after quite some time, I never realised what a great production it was. The first track, Supremacy, has a wonderful orchestral openess, and the Ranvoice really pushed this through with ease. When the bass kicks in, it's full of energy, crunch, and detail.

The tracks Survival and Animals are also favourites of mine, and these really impressed me, especially in both instrument and voice separation.

For vocals, I used Kate Bush, and, again, I wasn’t disappointed. Kate has a wonderful voice, and the Hounds of Love album is one of my all-time favourites. Another great album to get a grip on vocal quality is Norah Jones - Come Away With Me. Not owning this on standard CD, I played it via USB audio, and what a treat!

The Ranvoice certainly has a knack for vocals, and the first track, Don't Know Why, came through like velvet. It's not only that the Ranvoice has it's own unique characteristics; it also has a really nice air and depth. The track Shoot the Moon is also one of those tracks that really grabs you. Again, a fantastic presentation.

Bringing me to my initial conclusion, it can be summed up quite simply. The Ranvoice has a very natural-like tone and a unique, valvey, and warm presentation, which was lovely to hear.The Ranvoice RV-1020 showing front volume control


Does it live up to it's claims?


If you are a regular visitor to my website, you will see that I’ve been using Croft preamplifiers for quite some time. But, since the sad news of Glenn passing away, who was a good friend, I think some are feeling a bit of a vacuum in the small to medium-sized manufacturing base of valve preamps, and this is an opportunity for companies like Ranvoice. 

My last two Croft preamplifiers have been modded and updgaded by Glenn and Alan Kendal (Firebottle) and are in a different league to even the Croft RS models. So, although the Ranvoice won't knock them from the valve preamplifier top spot. It will certainly impress.

So, Ranvoices claims aren’t false in regards to a Croft Micro 25, in respects to it’s character. It’s certainly on par in regards to expression and detail presentation, but with a slightly different flavour, and with that little extra bravado, it's something of a bargain.

The Ranvoice RV-1020 certainly has a leaning to a more warmer side of neutral and with slightly more meat on it’s bones in comparison to a standard Croft Micro 25. This makes it for a more dynamic and entertaining to listen in certain genres. This is something I really like; it’s different, and it is certainly welcome over the highly respected Croft Micro sound.

It also presents a natural delicacy that is smooth and organic-sounding, which, like Croft, is very difficult to become tired of. Although an equivalent Croft like the 25 is admittedly ever so slightly quieter in operation, this is negligible as we’re talking whispering differences, and it really doesn’t impact the sound or the enjoyment. 

The fact that this unit comes with so much, like the linear power supply and vintage, quality components, at a very competitive £1200 is extremely good value. 

In addition, I believe that the RV-1020 would suit a Croft power amplifier or something like a Radford STA25 very well indeed.

Inside the Ranvoice RV-1020 showing EL-84 valves



Conclusion


Summing up my experience with the Ranvoice RV-1020. It has a full bodied sound that flows with fantastic ease. It has the delicacy and energy that Croft Micro 25 has, but it also has slightly more drive and valve-like oomph, which is a nice, unique aspect. I found this to be very nice with rock and dance music which really makes it boogie. 

I believe this is due to the unusual EL84 compliment. As I said previously, the EL84 sound is uniquely well known, and it has a great energetic signature. I guess it’s a shame that the Ranvoice doesn’t include a phono stage, but this isn’t a bad thing as internal phono stages need space, especially inside a valve amp due to noise. 

So it’s good to know that they’re currently working on a separate phono stage, which I hope to review in the near future. The build quality is really good, and the controls have a nice feel too. And I can only see this model being improved over time. 

It’s also really nice to see a valve preamp that uses vintage components too. This makes this preamp unique amongst the rest of the market. And this shows it’s true colours in it’s sound. 

The Ranvoice has it’s own character and its own signature, which makes it a very worthy contender in it’s £1200 price bracket and it certainly punches above it. I believe Ranvoice Audio has a great future if it continues to create units like this at this calibre. 

If you’re looking for something that will bring life and precision, then the Ranvoice RV-1020 is a fantastic choice. It’s presentation and unique build are very hard to beat in this price bracket.

“Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!”

Highly recommended.



Details

Price: £1200 - $1542 - €1423
Contact: legendaryhifi@gmail.com



Specifications

Frequency response: 20 Hz–20 kHz, 0 dB; 16 Hz–45 kHz, -1 dB.
Total harmonic distortion (at 200mV): 0.2% at 100Hz; 0.15% at 1kHz; 0.35% at 5kHz.
Signal-to-noise ratio (at 200mV mV, 90 dB): 10┬ÁV
Crosstalk: -82dB at 1kHz.
Analogue input: 200 mV
Analogue output: 1V
Tube complement: 1xECC88, 2xEL84
Max. power consumption: 25W
Voltage: 230/240V AC
Dimensions (W x H x D): 430 mm x 310 mm x 95 mm (signal unit); 170 mm x 260 mm x 75 mm (PSU).
PSU - Rated at 300v DC
Weight: ~10 kg, including PSU

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