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Raal Ribbon Headphones - SRH1A

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by once, Oct 7, 2018.
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  1. protoss
    @RAAL requisite Alex @Zhanming057

    So how ready is this? I read that you mention theres still wires and banana plugs and even the amp that needs replacements? For example, If I buy it today, Is this product 100% ready and all fixed or in a couple of months the guy next door will have better upgraded parts to his pair?

    Take you time..... lol.... just say it! We at beta stage still!
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2019
    HoloSpice likes this.
  2. Zhanming057
    Headphone wise, what I know from Danny is that everything was finalized in January. Nothing new and everything functionally important is user replaceable anyways. If there are upgrades, I am certain that R-r will be happy to send the replacement part to existing users upon request.

    The box may receive the treble attenuation switch upgrade but nothing is fixed at this point. I don't think that Raal has any concrete plans of bringing it into mass production as opposed to a BTO kind of design for people who really want the option. The banana plug issues apparently was only related to my unit - everyone who ordered after me received the more user-friend straight bananas I think. The supplied bananas are pretty short as well and I prefer my own set of solid silver Stealth ribbon cables.
    HoloSpice likes this.
  3. Arniesb
    Well Abyss is ergonomic mess though too... Qc improving on Hifiman, but ergonomics on Abyss...
    Raal on the hand looks great, especially for me who loves great soundstage and neutrality HD800S of, but dem it probably requires same cash for amp... you wont run it from cheap speaker amp i suppose?
    HoloSpice likes this.
  4. bluesaint
    without reading through 33 pages, has any owners of 009/009S with say GG/Carbon/BHSE/T2 compared vs. SR1A? Interested in knowing whether its a sidegrade vs. being an actual upgrade coming from ToTL eStat system. Mainly there isn't a consensus alignment on whats considered good 2 channel speaker amp, but there's alignment generally that Carbon/BHSE/GG/T2 is considered top tier eStat amps.
    Tekunda and HoloSpice like this.
  5. HoloSpice
    Zhanming057 reviewhttps://www.head-fi.org/threads/raal-ribbon-headphones-srh1a.890603/page-15

    Jerseyboy's take on the RAAL SR1A vs STAX SR-009S
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2019
    Zhanming057 and bluesaint like this.
  6. Zhanming057
    It's not that much different from running the Abyss or Susvara on a cheap headphone amp. Very generally, you get what you pay for, a better amp is a better amp and it will reflect the quality of the headphones.

    I've tried the SR1a on the Ragnarok and the Hegel H190 and it was better on the H190 which puts out quite a bit more power. The Rag is a real headphone amp though. Both can be found at less than $1,500 used. I also know people who run it with a Vidar without issues.

    The really good pairings - the 135SST3, AHB2, used Octave KT88's for tubes, do indeed start at about $3,000. But that doesn't mean you need a $3,000 integrated amp to enjoy them.

    I did a detailed side-by-side with a 009, the Voce on a Shangri-La Jr. and the Mjolnir KGHSSV Carbon. The SR1a I used on my Nagra Classic INT, an Octave V80SE, and a Simaudio 600i. On those speaker amps, there really isn't much competition and the SR1a is the better can by a massive margin. On cheap speaker amps the SR1a's technical superiority is definitely there, but synergy becomes a bit more important. I have not tried the 009S myself but compared to the Shangri-La, you can put the SR1a's on just about any $10k speaker amp and it'll crush the Shangri-La.

    I never warmed to electrstats personally, but I think that there are reasons why someone might prefer a TOTL 009 stack (intimacy, preference for less bass quantity, less discerning of source material) but there are things that basically no electrostat does really well (bass extension and finer control at the lowest registers) that the SR1a absolutely excels at. And the soundstage is just that much bigger than any electrostat system I've ever tried.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2019
    HoloSpice likes this.
  7. protoss
    Got some bias going on here. Now the real question will be. Stax is most likely equivalent to the Sr1a.
  8. Tekunda
    What about resolution? With e-stats you are able to hear the finest details of a musical piece, so how is resolution in a well-powered SR1a system?
    HoloSpice likes this.
  9. bluesaint
    So to be clear, for sub $10k amp, the SR1a is not on the same level as the Shangri-La Senior?
  10. Zhanming057
    I don't recommend gear or adjust my comments based on my personal preferences. I mentioned that because I understand what attracts (most) people to electrostats - and if you enjoy that particular signature to the exclusion of all other signatures, and I know people like that, then you may want to stick with estats. The ribbons have a distinct signature to them because of the consistent response speed across the frequency range.

    The reason I never bought any electrostats personally is that they almost never have the bass quality that I'm looking for. You can put the 1266 phi's on a Viva 845 and the bass is miles better than the 009 on a BHSE. But that's not what Estats excel at - you don't buy the 009 for good bass extension, you buy them for treble quality and upper-midrange representation and that is something that I definitely appreciate. On most estat systems that I have experience the signature also felt a bit cramped, but I started out in the hobby with the K1000 with 8wpc+ amps, and my expectation of "good" soundstage reflects that.

    It's a bit hard to judge across demo sessions that are a few years apart, but it's either the Shangri-La (this was off a Da Vinci DAC, which I have no experience with outside of that particular session) or the 009+WES (off a Dave, which isn't my favorite $10k DAC but definitely a powerhouse).

    On a "great" SR1a system (my Nagra DAC+INT) they are much more resolving than both, by a not insubstantial margin. This is a bit cliche, but it literally forces me to re-evaluate how good the recordings I listen to are.

    When I got them I didn't even realize that the flaws that I heard were from the recordings themselves instead of the headphones. Because of the immediate response and control, nothing gets hidden. You realize that the flaws are there because the recording engineer probably used headphones that are not even close to the speed of the SR1a's, and he or she simply couldn't have heard the issues that you can clearly hear right now.

    I don't think that you have to listen to the most perfect recordings with them, but having good source material goes a much longer way in the SR1a's context.
    HoloSpice likes this.
  11. Zhanming057
    It's the other way around - the SR1a is the one that's doing the crushing :)

    IMO the Shangri La is seriously impressive but overpriced even at $35k, and leans a bit too hard into the 300b design for my comfort (and I love 300b amps!). It's the only electrostat system where I left genuinely impressed by the bass energy and dynamics of the whole system. When Hifiman wants to overengineer something, they can be damn good at it.

    But to also clarify - I meant my Nagra INT or something like the V110SE, so "sub $10k used" is more accurate since you won't find either amp at $10k new.

    Edit: I might have mis-read your post. To expand on the comparison a bit, I think that it'll depend on the amplifier and your tastes. I haven't tried the hyper-powerful Bryston's which are supposed to work incredibly well with the SR1a's. It's very possible that a $7k Bryston that does 450wpc will sound even better with the SR1a's than my Nagra, and the SR1a's scale quite well with amp power.

    The two things that holds back the SR1a's on cheaper amps is midrange imaging and bass speed which seems to be heavily dependent on amp design. Cheaper KT88's put a lot of color into the midrange but is grainy. The Shangri-La's midrange is silky smooth and I don't think the midrange performance on my “cheap” Spectral stack is quite as good. But switching out my power amp to the DMA240 improves the midrange by a lot, and the Nagra simply has a great midrange. Bass wise the amp has to be able to keep up with energy demands and a lot of $1k-2k amps that I've tried struggle in that regard if you use a higher volume and listen to bass-heavy tracks.

    The TLDR is that the SR1a is "decisively" better on super amps and goes down to "it depends" on cheaper amps. But even if you put it onto a Ragnarok they still have a huge edge over the Shangri-La in soundstage and treble control.

    One thing I will say is that the SR1a's are incredibly amp-transparent too - they let through both the good and the bad. There's a "totality" of experiencing summit-fi speaker amps that other headphones, not even the K1000/1266 phi provides. Putting them on the Spectral DMA240+30SV was a true "wow" moment for me because I've never heard music presented at that level of speed and control. Ditto for the "it's 300b's all the way down" Thrax and the kind of leisurely warmth that 300b's are known for. But that also means that if the amp has weaknesses, they'll also show up faithfully.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2019
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  12. HoloSpice
    Like @Zhanming057 said before, the SR1A crushes the Sennheiser HE-1 and Hifiman Shangri-La system. :grinning::kissing_smiling_eyes:
    Maxx134 likes this.
    I would like to hear them all first before I agree to that. Unfortunately, I only heard the Shangri-La Senior.
    HoloSpice likes this.
  14. Zhanming057
    I didn't say anything about the HE1! I have not tried them.

    Also, I added a bit to the Shangri-La response above.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2019
  15. HoloSpice

    "Finally, while I have not tried the HE1's, I have recently shared my SR1a's with a few people who have. The consensus seems to be that, if you put them onto a world-class speaker amp, the SR1a's are, at the very least, extremely competitive with the HE1 if not outright besting it on technical grounds. It would not be surprising that you can only push the electrostat design so far in terms of bass extension and bass control - and I did find the Shangri-La's bass not particularly competitive with top planars. The main difference between the SR1a's and something like the Abyss Phi is that the former scales up better with summit-fi 2-channel gear and is capable of fighting summit-fi electrostats on treble speed and treble extension. If I ever get a chance to demo the HE1's, I'll write up a comparison between it and the SR1a's on the DMA400/DMC 30SV, which is the strongest system, if judging on technical merits, that I have ever tried the SR1a's on."

    My bad.:kissing_smiling_eyes::v:
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2019
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