Raal Ribbon Headphones - SRH1A
Jun 16, 2020 at 5:56 PM Post #2,311 of 4,496

llamaluv

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I will likely order a 2nd ABH2
One tempting reason for going for a second AHB2 is that running two in dual mono offers a tangible improvement over just one with the SR1a, IMO. I wrote some quick impressions a while back here.
 
Jun 16, 2020 at 6:00 PM Post #2,312 of 4,496

DelsFan

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Hello!
Is there a problem with using raal sr1a with a more powerful power amplifier?What is the maximum power limit to use with sr1a?
Because I have a Mcintosh MC611 and I'm looking to pair the raal sr1a with it. Mcintosh have power output per channel
600 Watts @ 2, 4 or 8 Ohms.
Dont know if I need a less powerful amp. What do you think?
No problem. It's just like with speakers — don't turn the volume up too high if you don't want to blow them out.

I agree with @rkw
Plus, most people (of the few who have access to them) who have tried the SR-1a headphones with extremely expensive and/or powerful two-channel amplifiers suggest there seems to be no limit to the improvements heard - so having a "great" amplifier should give "better" results. Simplistically, $10K amplification (and pre-amplification) sounds better than $5K, $15K sounds better than $10K, and $25K sounds better than $15K. And 300wpc or 400 wpc (into 6 ohms) is better than 150 wpc.

Therefore, it seems
a) the 600wpc Macintosh should give a good result, we'll await your report!
b) you probably cannot damage the Raal headphones using your 600wpc amplifier during normal (sensible) use without first experiencing a lot of pain, and then going completely deaf?
 
Jun 16, 2020 at 6:01 PM Post #2,313 of 4,496

EndGameSearch

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One tempting reason for going for a second AHB2 is that running two in dual mono offers a tangible improvement over just one with the SR1a, IMO. I wrote some quick impressions a while back here.
Thanks, that idea had not even occurred to me. I'll read your impressions but hope you didn't cost me another 3k. My two rigs are in different rooms so a 2nd benchmark for the SR1a's would still lead to the purchase of a 3rd amp to cover all my needs.
 
Jun 16, 2020 at 6:09 PM Post #2,314 of 4,496

DelsFan

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One tempting reason for going for a second AHB2 is that running two in dual mono offers a tangible improvement over just one with the SR1a, IMO. I wrote some quick impressions a while back here.

From only reading threads here, two Benchmark amplifiers was my first thought also.

Another option, which requires yet more patience since both Raal products are on backorder: seemingly the pairing of SR-1a headphones and the Raal HSA-1a amplifier (which costs "only" $1000 more than the Benchmark) sounds better than almost any combination of expensive amplifiers receiving their input from the interface box. Let's say this holds true up to $20K? (Either one or two Benchmark amps will requires utilization of the interface box, whereas the HSA-1a amplifier does not, maybe saving an additional $500.)
 
Jun 18, 2020 at 5:06 PM Post #2,315 of 4,496

Pale Rider

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@Pale Rider, thanks very much for your terrific review of the Primavera amplifier. I was going to post these questions/comments with that review, but then realized it is 99% a Raal headphones post/question so I moved it here...

Background info below, but I think I have two questions:
1) How much better are the Raal headphones with the Raal HSA-1a amplifier, compared to the SR-1as with the Jot-R (the Jot-R being 1/4 the price of the HSA-1a)? I guess a follow up, does the SR-1a paired with the HSA-1a amplifier pretty much sound better than when paired with most any high-powered (and high quality) regular pre-amp/amplifier combo + interface box, regardless of price? Or, at least any amp/preamp combo under $10K?
2) Paired with the MicroZotl MZ3 amplifier, or some other boutique amp like the ecp DSHA-4 or ecp L-3, or Apex Teton, what do you think about the MySphere 3.2s compared to the Raal headphones paired with the Raal amplifier? Or does it come down to this: As long as one eliminates the Raals from consideration, then the "no-brainer" is the MySpheres with a really good amplifier, if one can afford it?
3) I lied about there being only two questions. Are there upgrades people have found that "help" the HSA-1a? Or, is the only "upgrade" replacing one headphone output for the SR-1as with a "normal" female four-pin balanced output so the HSA-1a will work with regular headphones.
4) So, I'm thinking now is the time to pull the trigger on the Raal combo and I go to their web-site and look at photos of the HSA-1a. What the heck?!!! The RCA inputs are right next to the IEC power input, pretty much as close as they could possibly be without touching! For many of us these are the only two connections on the back that will be used, and they are way too close to each other for comfort.
5) Maybe this is why I haven't bought anything yet; I cannot be pleased...

Background, if it matters:
I have been working on an "end game" headphone setup for a couple of years now; I have most everything in place except headphones and amplifier. Sounds backwards, but there have been a lot of headphone developments in the last few years!!! For the better. Currently I am listening to two components I picked up as near-new, as a "stop-gap" measure: Ether2 headphones driven by Pass Labs' HPA-1 headphone amplifier. The result is pleasing, but (for more $$) there is better to be had. The problem is, the landscape keeps changing!

I'm finally getting anxious though, and wish to soon sell my current amplifier and headphones and "graduate" to something better. But, two pieces of something better need to cost less than $10K, hopefully by a good bit, so this eliminates the Susvara headphones paired with suitable amplifier.

Here is a description of my journey so far:
Currently own Mr. Speakers Ether 2 headphones and the Pass Labs HPA-1 amplifier (along with A LOT of ancillary equipment).
Two years ago I thought the HiFi Man HE-1000 headphones were the answer, then the v2 came out, then I read about dependability problems; then Raal and MySphere entered the picture.
In-between, I graduated to what I then thought was "the absolute final answer", Stax SR-009 (the s model had not been released yet) paired with BSHE or KGSSHV Carbon (although the Carbon doesn't utilize tubes it surely is spectacular, but I don't need to tell you). But a lot of people said the Stax electrostatics are a bit clinical and I got busy with some other business... so I did nothing for a little while longer.
Then I became aware of the MySphere 3.2 headphones, and about eight months ago demo-ed a pair, powered by my Pass Labs amplifier and also a friend's (very good) meticulously-built Dynahi amp. Well, here's the ticket, anyone could purchase the MySpheres and pair them with the right amplifier and be happy for a long time. (That is probably still true today, especially in the under $8K for headphones and amp category.)
Of course, by this time the Raal SR-1a headphones had been getting good reviews so I started looking at tube-hybrid integrated amplifiers that didn't cost an arm and a leg to go with the Raals (with interface box) - but then the Jot-R came out and now finally the HSA-1a is out (kind of).


I woke up this morning thinking: "It's time to make a move," so a set of MySphere 3.2s paired with the LTA's MicroZOTL MZ3 amplifier might be the ticket, as I've always liked tube pre-amps/amplification. If I go with conventional (planer or dynamic) headphones, I'm determined to power them with a tube-base headphone amp.

BUT, every time I think I'll do something like what I suggest above (whether with MySpheres or Focal Utopias or Stax SR-009s), I do some reading.
Then, I come back to the Raals. It seems, now that the HSA-1a has been released, for $7K or so this system is now the no-brainer?
I apologize for not seeing this sooner. I've been off Head-Fi for a few days as I've been spending more time with my speaker system. In my view, you simply cannot go wrong with the SR-1a, whether with the JotR or the RAAL HSA-1a. Do I think the HSA-1a is 4x better than the JotR? No, and that's just one reason the JotR is an amazing bargain. Do I think it is .5x better? At least. But SR-1a and JotR is truly TOTL quality, and for the price, you just can't beat it.

I'll throw in a couple of observations here. I have tremendous respect for Torq. He's probably forgotten more headphone knowledge than I will ever know. But I must respectfully disagree with his assessment that bass with the SR-1a is qualitatively better [my term] than the Abyss. Yes, what bass the SR-1a has is faster than the Abyss could ever hope to be. But to my ears, and I am not a fan of the Abyss, the Abyss has legitimate deeper bass. But forget the Abyss for a second. The Susvara has more bass than the SR-1a. Does it matter? It does to me, and I listen to almost no hip-hop and only a smattering of electronic. But I do listen to classical, and many other genres that have legitimate bass in them. There is an authority in the Susvara on the Trafomatic that is absent from the SR-1a. Does the Sus have the same speed? Nope. And if speed and transients float your boat, as they do mine, then you will love the SR-1a.

While I applaud others who have addressed—notice I did not say "solved"—the thinness of bass by adding subs to their room, that's not an option for me. The very purpose of my headphone rack is not to share any sound with the rest of the house. A live sub would defeat that purpose. I also have a hard time believing that either the Rhythmic [I've owned their stuff, and it's good] or the Tzero can keep up with the SR-1a.

Not sure why you're adamant about powering your headphones with tubes. Don't get me wrong. Between the Trafo, the T2, and the LTA Z10E, I've got plenty of bottle rockets in the rack. But tubes were not a goal; music is the goal. That's one reason this is a great hobby; we each get to choose.

Not sure why you're worried about socket placement on the HSA-1a. I used the XLR inputs, but unless someone can demonstrate a noise floor or loop problem with the socket placement, I just don't see why it should matter. My HSA-1a has zero discernible noise.

Good luck to you! You've got lots on your plate to soft through.:beerchug:
 
Jun 18, 2020 at 7:09 PM Post #2,316 of 4,496

Kirklandia

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I apologize for not seeing this sooner. I've been off Head-Fi for a few days as I've been spending more time with my speaker system. In my view, you simply cannot go wrong with the SR-1a, whether with the JotR or the RAAL HSA-1a. Do I think the HSA-1a is 4x better than the JotR? No, and that's just one reason the JotR is an amazing bargain. Do I think it is .5x better? At least. But SR-1a and JotR is truly TOTL quality, and for the price, you just can't beat it.

I'll throw in a couple of observations here. I have tremendous respect for Torq. He's probably forgotten more headphone knowledge than I will ever know. But I must respectfully disagree with his assessment that bass with the SR-1a is qualitatively better [my term] than the Abyss. Yes, what bass the SR-1a has is faster than the Abyss could ever hope to be. But to my ears, and I am not a fan of the Abyss, the Abyss has legitimate deeper bass. But forget the Abyss for a second. The Susvara has more bass than the SR-1a. Does it matter? It does to me, and I listen to almost no hip-hop and only a smattering of electronic. But I do listen to classical, and many other genres that have legitimate bass in them. There is an authority in the Susvara on the Trafomatic that is absent from the SR-1a. Does the Sus have the same speed? Nope. And if speed and transients float your boat, as they do mine, then you will love the SR-1a.

While I applaud others who have addressed—notice I did not say "solved"—the thinness of bass by adding subs to their room, that's not an option for me. The very purpose of my headphone rack is not to share any sound with the rest of the house. A live sub would defeat that purpose. I also have a hard time believing that either the Rhythmic [I've owned their stuff, and it's good] or the Tzero can keep up with the SR-1a.

Not sure why you're adamant about powering your headphones with tubes. Don't get me wrong. Between the Trafo, the T2, and the LTA Z10E, I've got plenty of bottle rockets in the rack. But tubes were not a goal; music is the goal. That's one reason this is a great hobby; we each get to choose.

Not sure why you're worried about socket placement on the HSA-1a. I used the XLR inputs, but unless someone can demonstrate a noise floor or loop problem with the socket placement, I just don't see why it should matter. My HSA-1a has zero discernible noise.

Good luck to you! You've got lots on your plate to soft through.:beerchug:
I apologize for not seeing this sooner. I've been off Head-Fi for a few days as I've been spending more time with my speaker system. In my view, you simply cannot go wrong with the SR-1a, whether with the JotR or the RAAL HSA-1a. Do I think the HSA-1a is 4x better than the JotR? No, and that's just one reason the JotR is an amazing bargain. Do I think it is .5x better? At least. But SR-1a and JotR is truly TOTL quality, and for the price, you just can't beat it.

I'll throw in a couple of observations here. I have tremendous respect for Torq. He's probably forgotten more headphone knowledge than I will ever know. But I must respectfully disagree with his assessment that bass with the SR-1a is qualitatively better [my term] than the Abyss. Yes, what bass the SR-1a has is faster than the Abyss could ever hope to be. But to my ears, and I am not a fan of the Abyss, the Abyss has legitimate deeper bass. But forget the Abyss for a second. The Susvara has more bass than the SR-1a. Does it matter? It does to me, and I listen to almost no hip-hop and only a smattering of electronic. But I do listen to classical, and many other genres that have legitimate bass in them. There is an authority in the Susvara on the Trafomatic that is absent from the SR-1a. Does the Sus have the same speed? Nope. And if speed and transients float your boat, as they do mine, then you will love the SR-1a.

While I applaud others who have addressed—notice I did not say "solved"—the thinness of bass by adding subs to their room, that's not an option for me. The very purpose of my headphone rack is not to share any sound with the rest of the house. A live sub would defeat that purpose. I also have a hard time believing that either the Rhythmic [I've owned their stuff, and it's good] or the Tzero can keep up with the SR-1a.

Not sure why you're adamant about powering your headphones with tubes. Don't get me wrong. Between the Trafo, the T2, and the LTA Z10E, I've got plenty of bottle rockets in the rack. But tubes were not a goal; music is the goal. That's one reason this is a great hobby; we each get to choose.

Not sure why you're worried about socket placement on the HSA-1a. I used the XLR inputs, but unless someone can demonstrate a noise floor or loop problem with the socket placement, I just don't see why it should matter. My HSA-1a has zero discernible noise.

Good luck to you! You've got lots on your plate to soft through.:beerchug:
Well, I appreciate more info and I took a trust plunge a month ago and ordered the SR1a and HSA1 to replace the headphone tube amp and Utopias. It may be mid-summer before I receive the RAAL stuff, as I have no idea of the ETA.
 
Jun 19, 2020 at 2:00 PM Post #2,318 of 4,496

Thenewguy007

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The SR1a's, being open baffle, would already leak sound, no?

It does leaks sound, but I feel it's much less loud than the Sennheiser HD800 & HE1000 to other people.
When I took it off my head, the loudness was closer to a semi-closed back headphone. You hear sound, but it isn't blaring throughout the room.
The HD800 & HE1000 on the other hand were as loud to people around you as they are on your head.
 
Jun 19, 2020 at 2:30 PM Post #2,319 of 4,496

DelsFan

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...While I applaud others who have addressed—notice I did not say "solved"—the thinness of bass by adding subs to their room, that's not an option for me. The very purpose of my headphone rack is not to share any sound with the rest of the house. A live sub would defeat that purpose. I also have a hard time believing that either the Rhythmic [I've owned their stuff, and it's good] or the Tzero can keep up with the SR-1a.

Not sure why you're adamant about powering your headphones with tubes. Don't get me wrong. Between the Trafo, the T2, and the LTA Z10E, I've got plenty of bottle rockets in the rack. But tubes were not a goal; music is the goal. That's one reason this is a great hobby; we each get to choose.

Not sure why you're worried about socket placement on the HSA-1a. I used the XLR inputs, but unless someone can demonstrate a noise floor or loop problem with the socket placement, I just don't see why it should matter. My HSA-1a has zero discernible noise.

Good luck to you! You've got lots on your plate to soft through.:beerchug:

Thanks @Pale Rider for your reply! Looking back, I think you were the very first person I PMed, late in 2017, for some advice.

1) The only reason I would contemplate a sub, on occasion, would be because I plan on utilizing a small-ish one for the center channel of my Home Theater system and it would be pretty easy to "haul" it from my family room to my study. It wouldn't be the Tzero, probably the T/7i because it has a forward firing speaker and the T/5i does not. So I wouldn't actually be purchasing anything extra. There is a space for it across from my recliner, along with a duplex receptacle right there, so it could face me. (I know bass isn't directional, but we're talking about a sub trying to "keep up" with ribbon speakers in my headphone system, and its main purpose in the television room would be for dialogue, so I don't really need mid-bass firing down towards the floor in either situation.) And, my study is on the opposite end of the house from the bedrooms so "probably" the sub wouldn't affect anyone who is sleeping - that would have to be determined!

2) I've loved the warmth and spaciousness of tubes ever since, thirty-five years ago, my local high-fi guy ("on the curve, in Homewood", Alabama, he's actually still a friend although he moved to Home Theater well before the end of the last millennium) lent me a Conrad Johnson PV-7 to listen to with my new Mirage speakers. I've promised myself ever since that if I ever really went to spending serious $$ on a system I'd purchase a real nice tube-based amplifier. I've gotten over some of that requirement, in part because solid state has come a long way, and in part because I think the Raals will give spaciousness and accuracy, and hopefully won't be too clinical. Later I might try a tube-based preamp or tube buffer, but I'm out of rack space. Plus, each time I add a new component it costs me at least $1500 for vibration isolation, power cord, interconnects; at some point one gets tired of adding more components!

3) It is a pet peeve of mine that
a) L and R RCA input/output sockets are often placed too close to each other, many times when there is plenty of "real estate" to space them wider apart. When this is the case, it makes the use of some high-end interconnects difficult or impossible. (Very prevalent with interconnects as "quality" increases, many tend to have overly thick "plugs"; on the back of my Home Theater DAC the RCA connectors actually touch; I place a piece of cardboard between them... and
b) I'm using ribbon-based interconnects, so I have four ribbons I'm trying to keep separated from each other (by two or three inches anyway). And I especially don't want them near my power cord. Giving me a bit of consternation, on the back of the HSA-1a the RCA interconnects are extremely close to the IEC plug, making for yet another problem (photo below). There is no shielding on the ribbons; the whole point is to utilize a material that is not dielectric. (On my headphone system's digital interconnects, the Mylar-like sheathing is actually perforated to further reduce this problem.)
However, I've got the HSA-1a on order and I'll do the best I can as I try and run power cord and interconnects in a way that doesn't detract from the sound. It doesn't help that my interconnects need to run above the power cord (or below, or one of each) in order to come from my Streamer. But that isn't the fault of Raal; it is just very inconvenient for me to swap the location of my Streamer and Amplifier so the power cord could go one way and the interconnects the other - which would reduce the problem significantly.

It may be that I can run the left pair of ribbons above the power cord and the right pair below; I'll figure something out. The ribbon-based interconnects are a pain, but they sure do sound good.

HPA-1 Pass Labs amp from rear.jpgBack of Raal Amplifier.jpg
 
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Jun 19, 2020 at 2:49 PM Post #2,320 of 4,496

DelsFan

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Well, I appreciate more info and I took a trust plunge a month ago and ordered the SR1a and HSA1 to replace the headphone tube amp and Utopias. It may be mid-summer before I receive the RAAL stuff, as I have no idea of the ETA.
Ooooh!, @Kirklandia, I see you have the Focal Utopias (which I seriously considered) and the Dragon Inspire tube-based headphone amplifier, which was top on my list a couple of years ago (along with the MicroZotl MZ2, this was well before the MZ3 was released). I'll be very curious, after your Raal system arrives and you've broken it in for 100 hours or so, to hear your impressions. I'd imagine, for the $$, the Utopia/Dragon Inspire setup is spectacular?!
 
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Jun 19, 2020 at 3:45 PM Post #2,321 of 4,496

FLTWS

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Thanks @Pale Rider for your reply! Looking back, I think you were the very first person I PMed, late in 2017, for some advice.

1) The only reason I would contemplate a sub, on occasion, would be because I plan on utilizing a small-ish one for the center channel of my Home Theater system and it would be pretty easy to "haul" it from my family room to my study. It wouldn't be the Tzero, probably the T/7i because it has a forward firing speaker and the T/5i does not. So I wouldn't actually be purchasing anything extra. There is a space for it across from my recliner, along with a duplex receptacle right there, so it could face me. (I know bass isn't directional, but we're talking about a sub trying to "keep up" with ribbon speakers in my headphone system, and its main purpose in the television room would be for dialogue, so I don't really need mid-bass firing down towards the floor in either situation.) And, my study is on the opposite end of the house from the bedrooms so "probably" the sub wouldn't affect anyone who is sleeping - that would have to be determined!

2) I've loved the warmth and spaciousness of tubes ever since, thirty-five years ago, my local high-fi guy ("on the curve, in Homewood", Alabama, he's actually still a friend although he moved to Home Theater well before the end of the last millennium) lent me a Conrad Johnson PV-7 to listen to with my new Mirage speakers. I've promised myself ever since that if I ever really went to spending serious $$ on a system I'd purchase a real nice tube-based amplifier. I've gotten over some of that requirement, in part because solid state has come a long way, and in part because I think the Raals will give spaciousness and accuracy, and hopefully won't be too clinical. Later I might try a tube-based preamp or tube buffer, but I'm out of rack space. Plus, each time I add a new component it costs me at least $1500 for vibration isolation, power cord, interconnects; at some point one gets tired of adding more components!

3) It is a pet peeve of mine that
a) L and R RCA input/output sockets are often placed too close to each other, many times when there is plenty of "real estate" to space them wider apart. When this is the case, it makes the use of some high-end interconnects difficult or impossible. (Very prevalent with interconnects as "quality" increases, many tend to have overly thick "plugs"; on the back of my Home Theater DAC the RCA connectors actually touch; I place a piece of cardboard between them... and
b) I'm using ribbon-based interconnects, so I have four ribbons I'm trying to keep separated from each other (by two or three inches anyway). And I especially don't want them near my power cord. Giving me a bit of consternation, on the back of the HSA-1a the RCA interconnects are extremely close to the IEC plug, making for yet another problem (photo below). There is no shielding on the ribbons; the whole point is to utilize a material that is not dielectric. (On my headphone system's digital interconnects, the Mylar-like sheathing is actually perforated to further reduce this problem.)
However, I've got the HSA-1a on order and I'll do the best I can as I try and run power cord and interconnects in a way that doesn't detract from the sound. It doesn't help that my interconnects need to run above the power cord (or below, or one of each) in order to come from my Streamer. But that isn't the fault of Raal; it is just very inconvenient for me to swap the location of my Streamer and Amplifier so the power cord could go one way and the interconnects the other - which would reduce the problem significantly.

It may be that I can run the left pair of ribbons above the power cord and the right pair below; I'll figure something out. The ribbon-based interconnects are a pain, but they sure do sound good.

HPA-1 Pass Labs amp from rear.jpgBack of Raal Amplifier.jpg

I'm wondering how its layed out under the hood, perhaps a partition to block any electrical interference?
 
Jun 19, 2020 at 4:26 PM Post #2,322 of 4,496

DelsFan

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I'm wondering how its layed out under the hood, perhaps a partition to block any electrical interference?
I looked briefly for a photo of the HSA-1a with the cover off, but didn't find any. I emailed Danny just in case, asking if it would be feasible to (somewhat simply) swap the balanced and SE inputs which would help me a little; he kindly replied and said there is a Daughter Board behind that makes a swap impossible.

I'm not so worried about interferences on the inside (although if the chassis was 2" wider I'd not care); I assume the guys doing the design came up with a design they are happy with (or, were they a bit restrained with the need to keep the width of their new amplifier to about 8.5", so they didn't have to re-design the carrying case!). My problem is more that my ribbon interconnects need to pass over and/or under the power cord, which is a bit of a pain. But, I'll deal with the problem and it will work out. I'm sure later this summer I'll be thrilled...
 
Jun 19, 2020 at 4:32 PM Post #2,323 of 4,496

mimaximax

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@Pale Rider Thank you for sharing your experience and perspectives!

- What do you think is a better upgrade when already owning a JotR with internal DAC : A/ buying HSA1a or B/ buying a better DAC?

- If even a Rythmik servo-driven subwoofer can't keep up, what could? Which Rythmik model did you owned? Do you think combining several much smaller servosubs with lower inertia would work better being tighter and faster? (Rythmik got a dual 8" drivers said to effortlessly sing up to 250Hz that was tempting me)
 
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Jun 19, 2020 at 5:52 PM Post #2,324 of 4,496

AnaKinDV8

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I looked briefly for a photo of the HSA-1a with the cover off, but didn't find any. I emailed Danny just in case, asking if it would be feasible to (somewhat simply) swap the balanced and SE inputs which would help me a little; he kindly replied and said there is a Daughter Board behind that makes a swap impossible.

Care to share the photo of the inside? Would be good reference in assessing the value and tech of the amp compared to others in the same price range.
Sorry misread that, thought you were able to open one up.
 
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Jun 19, 2020 at 9:03 PM Post #2,325 of 4,496

Jon L

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That Omega Micro ribbon active power cord is one of my favorites.
Haven't tried the Mapleshade ribbon interconnects in photo but have tried/made many ribbon cables.
Having said that, after you try the Raal SR1a, I wouldn't be surprised if you end up wanting to try some other cables because many of the strengths of ribbon cables are actually the strengths of Raal SR1a, and many of the shortcomings of ribbons cables are the the shortcomings of Raal..
 

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