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Do you have plans to upgrade to the TC?
Only if someone buys my Phi CC in the VERY near future.
Otherwise I'll be passing on a couple of iterations and/or not bothering.
I couldn't justify the loss I'd take versus the increase in TC price. If the Phi were up-datable I would have done it in a heartbeat.
Interesting review stating that AIC10 is capable to drive SR1A while I tried once but did not think like that...
May be I should ask for a demo and try again...
I read that review too, and was (pleasingly) surprised by the comments from the reviewer. He is a long time lover and owner of the Riviera AIC-10, so perhaps he's a bit influenced by that, but he explicitly wrote that the 10W AIC-10 was better sounding than the Schiit prototype (the amp now called Jotunheim-R) and his 250Wpc speaker amp.
He says regardless of the rated power, the trick is that the AIC-10 is able to provide a sufficient current (5A?) to the SR1a thus giving them enough juice.
Another head-fier (@biscottino) commented on this thread that the Riviera AIC-10 is able to drive the SR1a quite decently, although he prefers the Benchmark AHB2 for demanding musical pieces, like large scale classical.
I have never heard the SR1a with the AIC-10, and of course I am now very curious about that pairing (not enough to make another trip to Amsterdam, though).
In terms of sound signature, the match should be very good given the warm-ish, full bodied tonality of the AIC-10 and its slightly elevated bass, but I am still perplexed about the much under-rated power of the AIC-10 compared to the RAAL Requisite 'specifications'.
Why would anyone use an under powered $17,000 Riviera AIC-10 to drive the SR1a when the Jot R is projected to sell for less than a grand?
Maybe someone rich and tried that the AIC10 performs better than Jot R and his 250watt amp, but in this case I think Jot R is a very good option though. Other than someone who has already owned aic10, I think no one will do that
I agree that the AIC-10 is not the amp one would buy specifically for the SR1a. But, given I already own one I am naturally curious about how much it can stretch its versatility.
I am already enjoying how good this amp is at driving my Abyss TC and my loudspeakers. If it could do justice even to the SR1a it would further justify the admittedly whopping investment
$17,000 A/C-10 versus R with approximately $1,000 with MB card. That's an easy decision for me, with the left over $16,000 I'll acquire several seasons of box seats at the Kimmel Center and hire an Uber to take me door to door with dinner before or after the performance.
I've completed my first week with the SR1a. I need more play time on the ribbons, and even more so, a better amp match.
I've put my write-up in spoilers to save space.
Spoiler: My SR1a Write-Up
RAAL Requisite SR1a – The First Week
NUTS & BOLTS
No manual but fairly simple to figure things out.
No serial number but on tape on the bottom of the carrying case has 4 handwritten digits – and 3 handwritten digits. First set looks like month and year and the second set of numbers could be production for that month. Of course the distributor here or the dealer could have put them on for some other purpose of their own.
The feel when handling these phones is a little floppy. The ribbon wings are quite heavy and completely rigid compared to the leather and very flexible slim stainless steel headband. I do like and will use these phones with the rear headband added as it helps keep the ribbon wings in position more positively than without them when I move my head, lean forward, get up to change the CD, etc. I’m going to buy a replacement headband and modify it to replace the rear headband. I think a wider leather area will make for a more secure seating of the phone on my head. I’m guessing somebody makes a hole punch of the right diameter (?) for adding additional holes for a custom fit with leather.
It took me only a few minutes to get the holes in the leather straps to the right positions for my head. The leather is of different type/finish than I’ve experienced with other phones, very soft, very flexible, very suede-y, very light weight. I was able to wear the SR1a for several hours without having to reach up and pull the ear cups off my ears a bit to allow heat and moist air to exchange with some cooler, dryer air. That in itself is a huge plus from my perspective.
Hinge points to rotate the wings are firm initially but relax with use. I get the most vivid presentation with the wings as close to my ears without touching any area of the lobes as possible. Moving the wings out will change the sound intensity and image spread. The overall sound fades a bit as I extend the wings out. The right spot to position the forward cushions turned out to be just in front of and up against my tragus on each ear. The clamping pressure is very light after adjusting the leather and stainless steel bands. I didn’t even notice the upper cushions on the side of my head. I set the headband so that it put the ribbon at the center at the center of each ear with equal amounts of overlap above the top of my ears and below my earlobes.
Still playing with ribbon wing angle, I suspect I will be doing that for a while trying to get the best compromise to the sound. These are different enough from standard phones and speakers that I’ve not really figured out the imaging and sound staging capabilities yet. Images are stable, big and seem close (recording dependent). Sound stage is very different, with less high frequency info that usually floats and sounds like it’s coming from directly over my head. The sound in general is a little more in front than inside my head, especially with binaural recordings. Of course the problem with most classical recordings is there are so many mics placed over the orchestra that a correct playback would be as if one were listening while levitating over the orchestra.
The cable connecting the phones to the interface box is almost weightless and more flexible than any I’ve ever experienced. 7 feet (approximately) in length is fine as I sit alongside both my HP rigs. For use with my home theater I would need an extension or longer single cable. RAAL has a number of both types in different lengths listed under the Accessories tab on the website. The tiny pins on the headphone end seat fully and firmly up into the female connector on the base of each wing. The female 4 pin end clips snugly into the male end on the interface, no worries about it getting lose or accidentally pulled out. That’s why I like XLR connections, whether or not the signal is balanced or single ended.
The short amplifier jumper cables that connect the interface to the amp are a good length and relatively stiff which is okay – keeps them from drooping on AC and other cables in my install, but I may at some point get some longer ones (maybe with locking bananas, but the ones used fit very snugly into the interface), just for placement flexibility. When released, the beauty of the Jotunheim “R” is it will eliminate the amplifier, the jumper cables and interface box, being all-in-one.
The sound is not typical headphone or speaker-like to my way of hearing it, somewhere in between the two in its own category maybe, but a lot more headphone than speaker. I will be doing my initial evaluations over the next two weeks (or so) with my Ragnarok 1. Based on what I’ve read so far it is under powered to get the best from the SR1a so what follows is in light of this factor.
I had to use the 3rd gain setting and balanced input from Yggdrasil 2 when I use the lowest for my HD800 and 800S and Utopia, and the middle gain setting with the Abyss Phi with CC pads added after the purchase (it is not the TC model and is not the upgrade-able release) indicates to me that more power is needed for the SR1a. I connect the Ragnarok 1 to my Yggdrasil 2 with balanced cables. Although if I understand what I’ve read, and have been told so far, it’s not about the number of watts an amplifier can output but more about the ability to deliver 5 or more amps into the load. So with the right Schiit amplifier some of my comments below could very well change somewhat, and I’m hoping that right amp will be the Jotunheim “R”.
I’ve never heard the K1000 or MySphere but have always been partial to the sound of ribbons done right. And the Abyss sounds its best to me with its dedicated “Formula S” amp. (I’m not a dealer so I don’t have an unlimited supply of different amps to work with. Only what I buy to own.)
Right out of the box the high end energy was apparent and the increase in air and detail manifested itself readily. The amazing thing is I have never heard this amount of high frequency detail with absolutely no harshness, sibilance, or a shout-y quality, regardless of loudness level. Cymbals shimmered with air. Bells had a proper metallic quality to being struck. The brass had appropriate sounding metallic edge to them. High strings at all high dynamic levels were the best I’ve ever heard outside the concert hall. It’s all clean and clear without irritation of any sort.
I did not find the midrange recessed or forward (recording dependent), great tone and detail and body to the sound. I read a review where the reviewer commented that it seemed like the music sped up with the SR1a. The sensation I got was that a good bit more detail information was coming at my ears in the same time span and forcing my brain to speed up to unravel it all in the time allotted. But it was a quick adjustment for me. I think what may be happening is I hear a subtle detail revealed with more clarity for the first time, and my thought process pauses for just a second to make a mental note but the music has already moved on.
Bass is where I think opinions are going to vary greatly. Now that the air isn’t mostly trapped inside the ear cup the bass does not sound as full, impactful, airy and satisfying to me most of the time. I don’t think Wayne and Garth would approve. It’s very different approach from what I’m used to with my 4 other phones including the original HD800, but as a primarily classical music listener I’m drawn in by the extra detail I get at the bottom end without any blurring and look forward to improving that area with playing hours and a better amp. I compared 5 different recordings back to back of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” by 5 different orchestras in 5 different halls and was impressed at how easy it was to hear the differences in how the recordings bass was captured on each and the ambient air of the recording site. Tympani and bass drum and double basses (as well as other instruments like bassoon, etc.) on each were very different in quality and quantity, impact and air. Recording quality seems to be big determinant of what I’m hearing (or not hearing), but in general the bass was not as rich or impactful as I like. This may also be a result of needing more playing hours and a better amp match as well.
In general, I find all digital recordings (made from digital masters) fair better with this headphone than with older analog masters transferred to digital and I was not expecting this. Often times the results are the opposite with my other phones, especially in the midrange and highs. Many of my favorite old RCA and Mercury recordings don’t compare as well sonically as I expected with more contemporary recordings. Telarc’s, DG’s, Naxos, Decca, Reference Recordings, etc.; all sound better in the lower frequencies which I expected but the mids and highs are significantly better than I expected. But then my Sheffield recordings were made with a single-point stereo microphone and the CD’s issued still sound very good and came from two track, analog, safety tapes made simultaneously with the direct to disc cuts. The RS1a is pretty ruthless in revealing recording quality.
I’m finding the midrange and highs are more transparent and vibrant on the newer recordings with the SR1a, and the SR1a manages to handle highs with almost no glare or digititis (or whatever one wants to call it). It’s almost like digital recordings were waiting for this headphone to come along to show what they can do. Specific exception in the bass; Prokofiev 5th on Telarc label with Paavo Jarvi and Cincinnati S.O., the impact of the bass drum and the whole lower octave in general is very good, but with my other phones it sounds better at this point. Stravinsky’s “Rite” on the Exton label with Jaap van Zweden and Netherlands Radio P.O., one of several solidly recorded deep bass examples is good on the bottom but still I want a little more. These phones never get frazzled or congested during loud passages when the whole orchestra is going full tilt. My other TOTL phones all have a breaking point at the higher dynamic levels which are usually of very short duration time wise.
One curious aspect I noted was bass at low levels and in quieter passages gets closer to right for me, but as the dynamic level of the full orchestra goes up it’s almost as if the bottom octave is being held back or left behind as the midrange and highs just continue expand with the cleanest most dynamic sound I’ve ever heard from a headphone. Example; Mahler 5, Solti and Chicago S.O., I had the original analog LP (1970), still have the first digital transfer CD (AAD-1984) and the remastered CD (ADD-1991). The soft bass drum strikes are very well captured in the 1st movement, the loud ones in the 2nd movement are very good too. But in the 3rd and 5th movements they are just not impactful enough. And at two points during the symphony the bass drum is hit very hard overloading the tape recording equipment and the sound distorts terribly – it was that way on the original vinyl release and I always blamed it on my various phone cartridges inadequacies, but then it carried through on both digital re-mastering’s so it must be a problem with the original master tapes. With these phones the deep bass notes are there, you can hear them cleanly all the way down to the bottom, but they just don’t carry the weight of my other phones or sound close to the live impact in the concert hall. But then there are exceptions like that Prokofiev 5th mentioned above, which is much better, it just misses a bit of impact and air. Somewhere below 100Hz these phones just start to sound lighter in weight than I like.
These phones are very right with my pre- Beethoven music and chamber sized ensembles, the bass is mostly acceptable to my ears. Violins in particular (and violas, cellos, and basses) are better reproduced with the SR1a than any other phone I’ve heard to date and at any dynamic range point.
Someone in an earlier post queried as to how the Chesky binaural recordings would sound on the SR1a. I listened to my favorite evaluation tracks from Chesky’s Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc and it sounded very good.
On track 1 (When the Saints go Marching In) the ear grabbers I noted were the body to the sound of the banjo along with the speed and air of its plucked string’s, the tuba, and the drum set, especially the high-hat cymbals just shimmered and went on forever in there airiness and the ambience of the recording site.
On track 2 (Don’t You) Amber Rubarth’s voice still cut through the air like a samurai’s blade but without any harshness or sibilance, and the cello had great body and even greater detailing of the bow on string sound than with my other phones.
On track 5 (Las Perlas de Tu Boca) the opening double bass drops down to subterranean levels but without the bloat I get with some of my other phones providing much greater clarity and inner detail. I kept noticing little extra details in the reproduction of the singer’s voice that made it sound more realistic than with my other phones.
On track 6 (Ben’s Farm in Vermont) the various percussion instruments come through more cleanly than with my other phones, and the attack, decay, color and tone were spot on. The only possible weak spot was the final (and sole) bass drum thwack; I’d have liked more of an impactful thump and more air like I get with my other phones. It’s easy for me to recall how this sounds on my other phones.
On track 11 (Wa Wa Wa) the grouped voices were more clearly differentiated than I’ve experience with my other phones and the horns were sharp and gritty but again without any sibilance or irritation. This lack of irritation in the highs is notable with every recording I’ve listened to so far. I have yet to hear anything cringe worthy in the highs with this phone.
On track 12 (War) I have never heard the drum set as clean, powerful, and realistic as with the RS1a. The cymbals are airy and extended. The bass drum is weak compared to my other phones, like in track 6.
On track 13 (Rock and Roll) the soloists voice is just more real sounding and clearly intelligible with the SR1a than with my other phones. Not by a big margin but it is noticeable to my ears. And the electric guitars sound fine to me but others may have a different take when it comes to electric amplified instruments and what they are capable of and sound like.
The lack of strain exhibited by the SR1a reproducing music is truly amazing regardless of volume level. Again, I think the point of contention will come over this phones reproduction of bass. If someone wants to hear bigger, warmer bass that’s perfectly valid, we like what we like and there is no right or wrong. My point of comparison is always the live experience in the concert hall so right off the bat I’m at a disadvantage of mindset when listening to reproduced music.
For day 6 I’m going to relax and listen to mostly Rock oriented music. I’m not as critical a listener with genres other than classical and just go with the flow.
I’ve only got about 30 hour’s play time in over the past 6 days so things could change but for me I’m satisfied with my SR1a purchase. Will the bass improve with break-in hours of play? I don’t know. Is a ribbon like cones or other planar's that benefit from break-in? Maybe it will. It’s not going anywhere so it will eventually accumulate hours of play
I do think different amplification based on others comments will make some difference. First up will most likely be the Jotunheim “R” when available. Tube amplification may also make for changes in the sound (but it will probably be under-powered if the right amount of watts is between 150 and 400 as some have indicated) and I’ve got one nice tube/transformer’d output amp available. But the maximum output in ultra-linear mode with the KT88’s I run (4 per channel) is around 72 watts/channel because of how conservative the auto bias runs them (for longevity). I could try the more expensive KT150’s but even at that the rated output with my amp only increases to 88 watts per channel and that’s still not in the running. And, I have to disconnect the bi-wired cables to my Sonus fabers and the Speak-On cables to my REL sub-woofers, and then I’ve got no 2 channel listening until I reverse the process. One day I’ll get around to it. I’ve got a lot of albums to listen to with my Ragnarok 1 before I get to that point and I’m hoping the “R” will be available sooner rather than later.
It also crossed my mind that a full range ribbon this small may not be capable of making the excursion necessary to reproduce bass at the same levels of say my Abyss and with similar sonic traits as my cone or planar headphones, but what is there is very clean and detailed.
I spent several shifts listening to selections of mostly Rock oriented music today. Results unsurprisingly mirror my experience so far with the Classical and Jazz genres. First up were Alan Parsons “I Robot” from 1977 (MF release) and his most recent release this year “The Secret”. All the same favorable qualities as with many of my classical selections but I would like more bass weight. Some albums fared better than average, Chris Isaak’s “Heart Shaped World” sounded better than most from top to bottom thru the SR1a, and surprisingly it’s AAD from 1989. CSNY’s first 2 albums brought back some memories from 69’ and 70’, the year I finished my Army service. David Crosby’s “If I could Only Remember My Name” from 1971 is another favorite, especially “Cowboy Movie”, still could use a little more on the bottom end. Fleetwood Mac’s first two albums from 75’ and 77’ were passable in the bass. Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and “Dancing Days” were pretty anemic in the bass in the release I have which was from a 4 CD “best of” set. Steely Dan’s “Bodhisattva” (great guitar work) and “Don’t Take Me Alive” both needed more weight yet “Babylon Sisters” was not bad. Aja album overall was better sounding. Traffics “Low Spark…” and “Rock and Roll Stew” were just okay and can sound better with my other phones at the bottom.
I’ll be checking out some more albums over the next week by Bad Company, The Clash, Dan Hicks, Drive by Truckers, Sting, U2 and some movie soundtracks in addition to my Classical and Jazz stuff but I expect no revelations.
A NOTE ON SINGLE ENDED VS. BALANCED
I tried running SE from my Yggdrasil 2 to Ragnarok 1 with SR1a and interface. Results were not very good. I was running an SE line out of the Yggdrasil 2 and had the Ragnarok 1 set to the highest gain setting and still I was having the volume control well beyond 3:00 in SE mode. 12:00 to 2:00 was about right when driving the amp with a balanced signal in most cases regardless of the level the recording was made at.
I’ve always experienced having to use a higher setting of the volume control with SE versus balanced with my other phones but never noted such a big difference in sound otherwise. With my other phones maybe balanced has a small advantage over SE with respect to imaging and sound stage, but that’s about all I hear. I run my two Senn HD’s and Utopia at the low gain setting on the Ragnarok 1, and the Abyss seems to benefit from the middle gain setting (although as I said earlier, it sounds its best to me with its own purpose built “Formula S”). But with SE and the RS1a the results, even at the highest gain setting, was that the sound was kinda washed out, pale, even at well past 3:00 on the volume control. And slipping my Loki in the chain made no improvement and maybe made it worse. I can only conclude that the RS1a does indeed require a lot more juice of some sort than I’ve ever experienced before with any other headphone. On balanced and highest gain the sound was significantly more transparent with believable presence and clarity on the SR1a. I don’t understand why the results are so drastically different but that’s the way I heard it.
So, until Jotunheim “R” is available I can only run balanced and get satisfactory sound, I’ll try SE again when “R” arrives and give my Loki another shot. Of course other amps may give better results right now but the “R” is just too intriguing not to wait for and I’m hoping it will be the answer with respect to the SR1a for me.
When I get an “R” in my sweaty hands I can use my Switchwitch XLR switch box to make quick comparison between the Ragnarok 1 plus interphase and the “R”, I’m looking forward to that.
The SR1a is an exceptionally good sounding headphone especially from the bottom of the upper bass thru to the highs in comparison to my other phones. It’s very revealing of everything in front of it starting with the quality of the source recording. It’s non-fatiguing for long listening sessions and I find it very comfortable to wear, especially when it comes to the open baffle design and how easy that is on my un-enclosed ears. Because they are so open and not confining like traditional ear cups, ambient noise can be a problem so a quiet environment will be a plus. When “R” arrives and after A/B’ing against the Ragnarok/interface I will move the SR1a to my upstairs rig which is in the quietest room in my home.
The sound never gets congested, garbled, or strident at any volume setting or dynamic level. The sound never gets out of control. It’s exactly because the midrange and highs are so transparent, so fast on attack and controlled on decay, and lacking in any type of coloration, that the lower bass can be frustrating to me at times. The low bass is also transparent, as fast on attack and controlled on decay, and lacking in any type of coloration like the midrange and highs, but it’s just lacking that oomph and weight that satisfies me with full orchestra and even Rock with but a few exceptions depending on the recording. And the fact is I can’t limit my listening to just a handful of exquisitely recorded CD’s.
A better amp match should mitigate some of my desire for more bass so I’ll reserve my final judgement until I get more experience, break-in (now at about 30hrs.), and the “R” arrives. In the meantime I’ll be playing a couple of different “break-in / burn-in” CD’s and high quality, wide dynamic range recordings I have during each day this upcoming week when I’m not listening to get more playing hours in quicker. By the end of the second week I should be around 140 hours.
Maybe RAAL will come up with a version voiced for “audiophiles” to complement this one for the recording studio engineers whose needs could be different from home audio enthusiasts (and I knew that going in).
I highly recommend an audition of the SR1a if you get the opportunity. It is un-like any of my other phones and with the exception of deep bass (at this point in time and I’m pretty certain I’m not a bass-o-haulic), I prefer it over my others and not just for sound but comfort as well. I’ve got a lot of hours to listen and compare ahead of me and more impressions with various amp pairings should be forthcoming from the community. If I get to a breakthrough I’ll report back.
Thanks for a good and detailed (and still ongoing) review. Yes, it will certainly be interesting to hear your thoughts when the Jot-R arrives. It is aggravating for me to wait for new pieces of equipment (or interconnect) to arrive, but I find the good part of that situation is I am forced to listen to what I have currently (which might also be relatively new); and then just as I become thoroughly familiar with what I have the piece I "really" want to try arrives and I'm better equipped to make a good comparison.
I've always loved tubes (technically, the tube sound) and have been trying to head in that direction for amplification - unsuccessfully so far since I've also invested (mentally) in planar magnetics (given a long-time love for Magnepan and Martin-Logan floorstanding speakers). A question about the Jot-R though: If I try the Raals with the Jot-R I thought by adding the right tube-based preamp I might satisfy some of my need/desire for the sound (good) tube-based products bring. The Jot-R has a preamp out option, and I also read references made to a MB (Mulitibit) option. While a detailed description of a product that is not yet in production is not available, are these clues that the Jot-R will actually be, technically, an integrated amplifier with integral DAC?
I "can't" go 100% solid state, so I have a dilemma! Six months ago I was on the Stax-009 plus Blue Hawaii or KGSSHV carbon track, but with the really nice tube-based amplifiers available (Apex Teton, DNA Stellaris, and the new L-3 or Copenhagen V from Doug at ecp) I thought I'd be happier with an expensive amplifier that would power other headphones in addition to my primary set. Now, still searching for the "answer", it would be easy to just go to electrostats and "forget about everything else" for a year.
I digress; (If one is honest, for tuning) might one be able to pursue (outboard) DAC and preamp options when using the Jot-R to drive the Raals, or will the Jot-R be a reasonably-priced all-in-one solution that locks us into just that amp and preamp for use with this headphone?
I have a "production-qualifier" unit, which is as close to production as you'll get (it's literally what would ship if no issues are found with it).
It can use the same DAC and Phono cards as the regular Jotunheim, Lyr 3, Asgard 3 and Ragnarok 2. The unit I has is equipped with the "True Multi-bit" DAC. These cards are optional. And with, or without them, you can still feed it either single-ended or balanced signals.
Absolutely you can.
I'm running the Jotunheim R with various external DACs, including Chord DAVE, Bifrost 2, RME ADI-2 DAC fs, using both balanced and single-ended connections. They can be switched from the front panel.
Nothing stops you putting a tube-buffer or pre-amp in front of the Jotunheim R. If you do, and it has its own volume control, you can simply turn the Jotunheim R volume all the way up, and control that from your source or pre-amp. I might stick a Saga+ in front of my Jotunheim R for the office to get the benefits of the relay-switched attenuator as well as the option to switch in the tube-buffer.
When "R" arrives I can try it with my MJ2, LYR3, and even Valhalla 2 when it goes upstairs. But first things first; what does "R" alone do for me by itself?
I am SS versus tube vs hybrid agnostic. I've heard good and bad boxes of each type over the years.
My third set of speakers were the original Tympani 1U's bi-amped back in 1973-4 (I think). I started with Dynakit tubes I built myself (PAS3x Stereo 70's, MKIII's and IV's with a crossover I kluged together myself. Eventually graduated to ARC SP3a1, Dual 79B's, and the passive ARC X-over for bi-amping. Those were the days!
It's an SR1a-dedicated headphone amplifier and passive pre-amp.
It removes the need for using a power amplifier/speaker amp and the SR1a's "Amp/Ribbon Interface" box and drives the headphones directly.
If you order it without any modules installed, then you'll need to connect an external source to it. Which you can do via either its RCA or XLR inputs.
The only scenario where it does anything in combination with a Mjolnir 2, Lyr 3 or Valhalla 2 is if you take the pre-outs from those and feed those to the input on the Jotunheim R.
You can toggle whether the pre-outs on the Jotunheim R do anything or not from the front panel. Those can feed an external amplifier or active speakers.
I know it's direct drive, I was asking, rhetorically, what will "R" do for me and my musical tastes sound wise.