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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. lambdastorm
    Thanks a lot for the explanation Alex. A few questions:

    1. 85db/mw is with the impedance box attached right? From what Danny told me, for the same power the headphone should get at least 20dB louder with without the impedance box.

    2. What's the F0 of these drivers? And since they don't need any enclosure, what's the lowest register they can go in an open air environment under +/-3dB threshold?
    alphanumerix1 likes this.
  2. Aleksandar R.
    You’re most welcome, Lambdastorm!

    1) The driver itself has 85dB/mW. That’s “raw” sensitivity and it holds true for with or without the box attached, but...

    ...In practice, only the specs with the Amp Interface box actually matter, as we can’t drive this thing directly as it wants to kill amps.
    It turns out that the raw sensitivity of the driver is just a fun-fact, a curiosity, that has no usable value.

    Anyhow, after we connect the cables and the resistor (Amp Interface box) that loads the amp, we get this:

    Amplifier loading: 6 Ohms
    Sensitivity: 91dB / 1W
    Max SPL: 111 dB (excursion limited, reached with 100W/8ohms amp)

    Basically, the usual rating for headphones that uses dB/mW, goes out of the window. Now, with the kind of power we’re using, we’re in speakers realm and it is practical to use dB/W.

    2) The resonant frequency is ~36 Hz. Initialy, we set it to 40 Hz, but it settles at ~36 after a little use. The response goes lower than that, so the frequency range is 33 Hz – 30 kHz.
    Bill13 and Zhanming057 like this.
  3. lambdastorm
    Man, I get a sense that burn-in might be real with these headphones. If loosening up the drivers can make them go a few octaves lower, I'll probably have them on 24/7:o2smile:
  4. Zhanming057
    I just pulled the trigger on a Spectral DMA150s2 and a DMC30SS that's going to be used mostly for driving the SR1A. General synergy on Spectral amps is actually better with the Mysphere 3.2, but the Raal's are an absolute blast when paired with Spectral setups for electronic music. If you are heavily into electronic music and looking at TOTL cans you need to experience this pairing. I thought the Spectral was fast with the Susvara and faster with the 1266 phi's, and the Raal just takes the response speed and dynamics into a completely different realm. It's too fast for anything other than synthesized music on these cheaper Spectral setups, though. Something like the DMA240 or DMA400 in monoblocks, the presentation is more composed and the midrange deficiencies mostly go away.

    One thing about the SR1A is that it's extremely source revealing. The reward for good recordings and good files is high but if you put poor files through them, both in terms of bitrate and processing, you will be punished. In this regard, the Mysphere 3.2's do a great job of being tolerant toward defects in the production chain while not taking away from the resolution, everything is kind of good but the "wow" factor is a bit diminished. The SR1A's make you marvel at good recordings and irritated by bad ones.

    Technical accomplishments not withstanding, the heightened clarity is a real issue if you listen to stuff produced by small-time bands (e.g. my friends) or remixes that have questionable production value. Something to keep in mind if you want to use the SR1A without a second, less discerning pair of cans.
    alphanumerix1 likes this.
  5. wuwhere Contributor
    Congrats, Spectral amps are nice.
    Zhanming057 and alphanumerix1 like this.
  6. Lord Rexter
    Congrats, happy for you. Looks like you are living the dream. :gs1000smile:
    Zhanming057 likes this.
  7. Zhanming057
    Thanks :) A quick plug for Goodwin's High End, who was kind enough to set up Spectral systems a couple times for me to demo and worked out a deal with me for the preamp. They have lots of cool stuff and if you're passing through the greater Boston area, I would highly recommend a visit to their showroom.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2019
    Lord Rexter likes this.
  8. Lord Rexter
    Thank you so much for the details as always, will plan on it.
    Someday I'll get the chance to visit Goodwin's store fingers crossed :beerchug:
    Zhanming057 likes this.
  9. Zhanming057

    Another day, another system for the SR1A :) Waiting on my production version for the big group photo.

    On the trip to pick up the preamp I had a chance to try the SR1A with a few "cheap" systems. The cheapest 100w+ integrated at the store is the NAD C368 (MSRP $900, street price $700-ish). The build-in DAC on the C368 is awful and borderline unusable (or it could have been broken, it was seriously that bad). However, moving to a Berkeley Alpha DAC series 2 resulted in a surprisingly listenable system. The pairing compared not unfavorably in resolution and has superior dynamics to driving the Abyss 1266 phi's through a WA7 or nx03 with a similarly strong DAC. A sample size of one is not quite representative but I would expect the SR1A to be very listenable on most power amps in this price range.

    The Hegel H190 is a much more expensive unit, but incorporates a DAC that seems to punch at or above its weight with a light, clean and smooth signature, if a tiny bit lean and indecisive compared to stronger stand-alone power amps. The headphone jack is actually driven by the same circuitry as the taps and does fairly well with both the Ether C Flow and LCD3. The SR1A is pretty good on this amp - transparent, clean, with pretty good resolution for the price of the system. If you're looking for a simple, no-fuss solution for the SR1A that also works with normal headphones, the H190 seems like a solid value proposition.

    The Hegel Rost shares the H190's signature but has less grunt. On only 75 watts of output at 8 ohms you can feel that the SR1A is struggling a little with bass extension, although loudness was not an issue for me. For the price difference I think that the H190 is clearly the better option, but I wouldn't mind using the Rost with the SR1A's on a day-to-day basis.

    Having spent time with the SR1A's on the Spectral setup, my views on the SR1A's midrange have become a bit more nuanced. Conventional wisdom on headphone midrange performance values clarity of imaging and "lushness" which is associated with slightly warmer tuning. Even if midrange frequencies are not emphasized, the slower response speed of dynamic and planar drivers is what we are generally comfortable with as headphone enthusiasts. And the fact that response speed slows with lower frequencies helps with perceived clarity of vocals relative to bass outside the vocal range.

    The SR1A's are not part of that comfort zone. Is a neutral, accurate, hyper-fast, and almost too revealing midrange worse than a slower, thicker, lush, more "emotional" midrange? If you're someone who likes to pair headphones with 300b amps and enjoy that kind of euphoric, darker vocal signature, the SR1A on a strong solid state amp is the absolute opposite of that signature, and you probably won't find the pairing pleasing. For someone more receptive toward a neutral signature and leaner imaging, I do think that the SR1A's have the capacity to be a vocal powerhouse, especially with extraordinary well-mastered files.

    Assuming that everything is being driven exceedingly well, the Mysphere 3.2 is still my choice for the strongest midrange imaging and doesn't trade off much resolution against the SR1A's on any system. The Abyss 1266's midrange is arguably a tiny bit better in imaging, thicker and more full-bodied but isn't quite as revealing as the SR1A. And while the LCD4 is the least resolving, thickest and most "lush" of the bunch, I don't think that resolution or imaging is a substantive concern with any of these headphones, if you can drive them to their full potential.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2019
  10. anach
    Thanks for sharing your impressions! Is SR1A your preference for electronic music?
  11. Zhanming057
    They do perform particular well for electronic music because of the superior speed and bass quality. The fast and punchy Spectral amps works particularly well for the genre, but you will notice how fast the ribbon drivers are with just about any amp.
  12. Thaudiophile
    How does it fair in technicalities compared to Utopia and Stax 007/009?
    BreadMaster and HoloSpice like this.
  13. Zhanming057
    I have owned the Utopia and it's not quite as good in terms of speed, soundstage, resolution or dynamics as the SR1A, if you can afford a sufficiently good power amp. As I see it the Utopia as a design that allows for some drivability at the cost of not being at the very cutting edge of performance. They sound fine out of strong portable amps (e.g. Woo WA8) which can't quite be said for something like the LCD4. In terms of the whole system I like the Utopia's on the Leben CS600 and the Woo WA5, but neither pairing could compete on technical performance with the SR1A out of something like the Octave V110SE. The big difference is that the Utopia is very intimate and has a higher level of density, while the SR1A is completely open with lower density throughout the frequency range.

    I did a side-by-side with the SR1A and a few 009 setups. The 009+ Mjolnir Audio KGHSSV Carbon has exceedingly good upper-midrange imaging and lot of detail. However, the SR1A holds its own on detail and treble speed and absolutely pounds the 009 system into the dirt on bass extension and bass quality. I have not tried the HE1 but I have listened to both versions of the Shangri-La and the HE90, and I am mostly convinced that it's not possible to achieve the SR1A and Abyss 1266 phi's level of bass extension in an electrostatic system: the drivers can't deliver enough energy or deliver it fast enough at those frequencies. I can see someone preferring the 009's if they are extremely bass-sensitive or want something more intimate and "closed-in", though.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019
  14. Articnoise
    Interesting headphone. Is there a place where I can listen to it in Sweden, Rom or Brussels?
    BreadMaster and HoloSpice like this.
    Will this headphone make it to CANJAM NYC next month?
    HoloSpice likes this.
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