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Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by fullbright1, Jan 29, 2015.
  1. FullBright1
    Wanted to post a short review of the RAL-KEB02ip.
    Heaphones im using:
    HiFiMan He400i's
    Sennheiser HD600
    Fostex TH500RP
    Adam F5s (Bookshelf speakers)
    Music i used for the review?
    Everything but rap.
    Bluegrass, Classical, Acoustic Fingerstyle guitar, Celtic, 70s-80s-2015 Pop, Hard Rock,  Miles Davis - Movie Soundtracks..,Keane, Keith Urban, Imgen Heap, Hillary Hahn, Tine Thing Helseth, Winger, Lana Del Rey, Sarah Jarosz, The Staves, Jimmy Wahlsteen, Dexter Gordon.....Paul Desmond.
    I purchased the RAL-KEB02ip because i wanted something that was potentially (reviews) a much better point and shoot type of DAC experience after owning most of the plug and play type.
    Including the NEW Meridian v2, The cE DacPort, The DragonFly v2, Cambridge DacMagic, rCam rDac and others.
    I wanted something that was just a lot better, but not necessarily $1000 more to get me there.
    And yes, ive owned the Woo Fireflies and the Resonessence Concero.
    Ok, of the plug and plays in that group, the Cambridge Audio DacMagic is the boss because of its sound and its Vol control, the DFly v2 is tied for 1st, the Dacport is 3rd and in a tie with the warm sounding rCam Dac.
    The Concero by REsonessence offers 18%  more refinement &  detail then the Fireflies, and the Fireflies offers a great sound, looks cool,  + it has a nice Big Volume control that actually works.
    The Concero can work with your Apple remote.
    Now, all that groundwork is laid to tell you that the RAL sounds better then all of the $2-$300 plug and plays, and not by a slight margin, and i would say the overall sound of the unit, including its ability to look deeply into the music is equal to the Resonessence Concero, and sounds as good as the Fireflies.......in my opinion.
    Simply put, the RAL KEB02ip  its an amazing gear.
    It has it all.....Resolution, clarity, wide soundstage, beautiful separation of instruments.
    It can deal with low or high impedance Phones.
    It has a cut or "slow" setting (Analog Filter curve) switch that allows the  9018 Sabre Dac to offer you a sort of very slight softening of the tone, which is exactly what AKG headphones need., whereas the normal "sharp" setting adds that touch of dynamics and focus thats missing in a lot of open Senheiser headphones, like the HD600s.
    And the RAL-KEBo2iP has a very very good volume knob that actually turns off "click" the unit when you are finished.
    The RAL KEBO2ipworks off USB <or> internal battery if you need to use it on the go, ...and the only thing that i dont like about it, (and yes, it can deal with DSD music streams and LPCM up to 24bit 384 kHz).....so as i was saying, the only thing i dont like about it is that it does not have soft "feet" pads on the bottom of its 3.2 X 5.3 metal case.
    I can live with that.:)
    Moon Audio sells this gear wunderkind.
    Thats where i bought mine, and im thinking about buying another one as its so rare when you find something that is GREAT and its affordable.
    Something else you might be thrilled to learn, is that this incredible sounding gear is Made in Japan. (Osaka).
    Not China.
    s4tch likes this.
  2. Mike S
    Great review - and very influential in my decision to purchase one recently. I listen to ALAC files ripped from CDs and stored on a 160 gb iPod classic and played through a Moon Audio Silver Dragon cable, and I also listen to high-res downloads (aiff) from HD Tracks stored on my 13" MacBook Pro (retina) played through the Amarra 3.0.3 player and output through a Moon Audio Black Dragon USB cable. My headphones are Beyerdynamic DT-880s (the 250 ohm version).

    I have listened to high-res downloads through the Audioquest Dragonfly (both versions) and the Meridian Explorer (both versions). Of those devices, I like the Explorer2 the best. It is very resolving and engaging. But compared to the RAL, it still sounds "electronic." The RAL just takes the music listening experience to another level.

    The best word to describe the sound of the RAL is organic (that is, not so obviously electronic). I have a recording of Michael Collins playing clarinet, and it sounds like someone playing an instrument made of ebony. There is a heft and solidity to the sound that reminds you that there was a real person blowing air over a reed and resonating through a wooden pipe when the sound was recorded. I don't find myself thinking about "air" or "extension" or other audiophile words. I find myself listening to the music. That is what sets the RAL apart for me.

    The other thing I love about the RAL is the volume control. With most other pieces of equipment (the Explorer2, for example), increasing the volume by a notch simply makes the sound louder. (Duh, I guess.). With the RAL, turning up the volume knob a little bit makes the sound richer, or fuller, or brings out a little bit more - but it takes a pretty big turn to make it subjectively louder. I imagine that's just a factor of the sensitivity of the volume pot - I can turn it past the halfway mark without it getting too loud for me to listen to comfortably, whereas with other amp/dac combos, I can't go above 1/4 without it getting too loud for me to listen to comfortably. With the Explorer, I often want to hear just a bit more (hear further, deeper, into the recording), but turning it up even just a little ends up making it too loud. The RAL is the first amp I have ever owned where I can turn the knob and just hear more without hurting my ears or getting tired.

    It sounds very good with my iPod Classic too. It does reveal the differences between recordings. As with most audiophile upgrades, the result can be that the list of recordings you enjoy listening to gets shorter because you hear too many of the shortcomings of the recording and not enough of the music. That said, the good recordings become that much more enjoyable to listen to.

    The only problem I have with the RAL is that I can't use it to listen through sensitive IEMs. There is just too much hiss. But with over-ear headphones like the DT880s, the music listening experience is wonderful. I especially enjoy female vocals - Norah Jones on "One Flight Down" is incredible.

    This is an easy piece to love. For the price, it is astonishing. Drew says that the balanced output makes it even better. I may just have to have my DT-880s modded to find out.

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