As I recall, you’re a fan of live opera. Perhaps you can tell us about some nice opera recordings with the RAAL.
I’ll certainly be able to do that.
So far, the only opera I’ve listened to with them so far is my Jessye Norman version of Carmen, which was absolutely exquisite. The SR1a really peels back the layers in this recording and while retaining an integrated and coherent delivery, lets you focus on anything you want to and hear it with a level of clarity that is only rivaled, at least in my experience, by more expensive cans and speaker systems.
But there will be more to come …
It has only been three-days-and-change and the SR1a are already presenting me with a couple of interesting conundrums.
The first is obvious - what speaker amplifier to ultimately pair them with.
The second is … which headphones in my collection will survive the SR1a’s arrival. I won’t know for sure until I’ve done all the relevant back-to-back comparisons, but off the top of my head, the only ones I am sure are safe at this point are the Utopia, Stellia and Vérité. Other candidates are the HD820 and either the AB-1266 Phi CC or the LCD-4 … though those are not certain. Everything else is probably toast at this point …
And, yes, the unstated but obvious implication here is that while I have the SR1a for audition I have already decided that they’re keepers.
Thanks for such a kind, detailed and illustrative explanation!
What and how you described was really compelling to me, for a person who loved (I started this doomed hobby by being amazed by SR-Omega) but gave up SR-009 years ago. Damn, I couldn’t fully get rid of my love for electrostat-ish sounding.
I couldn’t bear lack of weight, lean bass, and occasional off timbre in treble. Later found planar better, then Utopia showed me what dynamic headphones are capable of… but you know… that monster has its own nit-picking nature to exclude certain people. According to your assessment, Raal sounds like a worthy consideration.
Still ‘brightness’ (when not eqed – I never consider eq as an option these days) could pull me a bit. But maybe careful amp choice can alleviate it a bit?
They’re studio-neutral when not EQ’d. Which most people will interpret as being a bit bass-light and bright. Which is not to say they’re actually bright. But most will perceive them that way if run as-is.
I could easily listen to them with no EQ, and have done so for a good chunk of my time with them so far. But like the Utopia I enjoy them a bit more with the bass lifted a bit. I don’t find any need to EQ the top-end down at all, so it’s more a case of lower bass-levels than higher-treble levels.
But, at the same time, I find it hard to imagine any competent amplifier having a sufficiently tilted FR to shift the “studio-neutral” presentation.
I used to maintain an absolute “no EQ” approach to audio (and I get that some setups simply don’t allow for it in the first place). And I still review that way. But when it comes to listening to music for pleasure, it has proven to be a much more reliable way to get the results I want across an array of gear than doing “tone control by gear matching/synergy”. If I only had one pair of headphones, it would be a different matter.
To this point, I have been a bit cagey about which power amplifier I was initially running the SR1a with. This was mostly out of a sense of surprise that it sounds so good feeding them.
Because just using it to drive speakers (as a general test … this amplifier was purchased purely to provide a quick, entry-level, reference point for a relatively inexpensive way to drive the SR1a) had “not been the most rewarding experience in the world”. Not terrible, for the price, and certainly decent enough for basic home-theatre use or non-critical listening. But not something I would personally opt for in a 2-channel rig, even with relatively modest speakers - such as the the KEF LS50.
The amplifier in question?
So, again, not something I would recommend for 2-channel speaker rigs, but it had been more than holding it’s own feeding the SR1a. That’s a combination that I’d put above most of the high-end dynamic or planar headphones I’ve heard, in most scenarios. And if you wanted to get into the SR1a, don’t have a suitable amp already and do not break the bank right out of the gate, this is a viable way to do it.
… there is a better way …
… and it’l only cost you $100 (plus shipping) more.
These are initial thoughts with the Schiit amp … but Vidar is definitely a step up/forward.
I could not hear any noise or hiss, at all, out of the Parasound, even with the volume turned all the way up, with just a silent file playing, but still Vidar seems to present an even blacker background. Not really sure how that is possible, but that’s the sense I get.
The delivery is more refined with the “little” (it’s half the size of the Parasound, though is 80% of its weight) Schiit. Stage is deeper, and layering and imaging is more vivid.
Tonally the top end via Vidar is both smoother (and it was already smooth by most headphone standards) and seems less prominent and more natural. And I have backed off my bass EQ lift by about half a decibel.
More to come … but this is an immensely impressive pairing.
Thanks for providing those initial impressions. As usual, very informative. My interest has been stoked!
Being that RAAL is marketing these as “earfield monitors” that deliver " unparalleled accuracy and realism in a soundfield devoid of room acoustics and comb-filtering caused by work surface reflections," would I be correct to assume that isolation was not a consideration in their design and as such they leak quite a bit of sound into the external environment? In that regard how do they compare to other headphones that are known to leak quite a bit, such as the Focal Clear/Utopia? Do you essentially have to be in a room by yourself to use these?
You describe these as being studio-like in terms of neutrality but do they also exhibit other characteristics that one often associates with a studio-like presentation, such as dry and sterile? I also wonder about timber, does a piano sound like a piano, a saxophone a saxophone?
A D’Agostino era Krell would also, as you suggest, be a worthwhile consideration in the used market. Bryston came to mind as they are often associated with Pro gear, which is how RAAL seems to be marketing these.
The SR1a are completely open.
They don’t provide any isolation at all from external sounds, nor to do they keep any sound “in”.
They’re something you can use to get proper (or excessive!) volume levels in an environment where you couldn’t reasonably do so with speakers. But if you played them with someone else in the room, they’d hear everything, clearly. My wife can hear them in the next room, at my normal listening levels. Which is pretty much the same thing I get with the Abyss, for example.
I wouldn’t describe them as dry nor as sterile. They’ve very engaging. Their transparency renders them lifelike and natural sounding, so they reflect the source.
Timbre is as pure as I’ve heard in a headphone. Using my own piano recordings (so I know how those are suppose to sound) its the best I’ve heard them since I made them. Similar, other instruments sound the way I would expect them too, without coloration or other oddities.
Thanks, as I thought. These would be ideal for someone living in an apartment. With a 50 ft. microphone extension cable they would have a killer multi-room system!
Alright @Torq, enough said about the SR1a, I get it - financial crisis inbound once again! Lol.
Thanks for the very detailed first impressions of this masterpiece (I love the look)…I can’t wait to read the full review. Do you know if headphones.com will carry them?
Most importantly @Torq, what does the wife think about the stylish fashionable looks of the SR1a?
These are sounding pretty amazing. I hope I get a chance to listen to these at some point in the near future.
I’m not sure if RAAL-requisite are even considering a dealer-model. They’re just sold direct right now. And I’d expect that, unless they planned to go the dealer-route from the beginning, if they did now then the price would go up to accommodate the dealer’s margin.
Her first comment …
“Those are much less ‘Cyberman’ looking than these [points to the Abyss]. It’s more sort of a ‘Borg’ thing now …”
‘Resistance is futile’. This kind of thing springs to mind every time I see headphones and all its related gear.
They better not go the route that will lead to a price increase!
Is the SPL Performer S800 speaker amp on your list of amps to try with the SR1a? I’m thinking about sticking to SPL amps for now (blame it on the Phonitor X) and if or when I acquire the SR1a I would like to drive it with the Performer S800. The spec sheet shows 2x285W into 4 ohms / 2x185W into 8 ohms so it should be more than suitable to drive the SR1a with authority.
I highly doubt they’re going to do anything but sell direct, so I wouldn’t worry about the price.
The SPL Performer s800 was actually the first amplifier I wanted to try with the SR1a. Unfortunately when there was a black s800 in stock in the US I didn’t have the SR1a, and now that I have the headphones, we’re looking at a month of lead time on the s800 (in black at least, but I don’t want silver or red so …).
Though now I’ve heard the SR1a, even with modest amps (so far), and had a little time to think about what they mean to the rest of my headphone collection (and how much smaller that is likely to get now), I may go much further up the speaker-amplifier ladder as a final solution.
Also, it’s interesting to note that the difference in amplifier power seems to have as much, maybe more, of a qualitative effect than a level/drive authority one. The s800 is going to be more than enough juice for them … hell, a single Vidar sounds fantastic with them.
Anyway, we’ll see on timing with the s800. I am not keen on committing to an order for something that’s a month out. If it was on an evaluation basis … where I’d keep it if I liked it and could return it if I didn’t that would be one thing … which would work if they were stock-items, but since it’s a special order that’s different. And I don’t want to saddle the dealer with a multi-thousand dollar amplifier just so I can see if I like it with the SR1a.
I will say that it is unlikely, right now, that the s800 will be featured in my main review and will be probably be something I add here, and as an addendum, just based on timing.
Nice to hear confirmation that a single Vidar works fine. @Zhamming057 mentioned on SBAF the SR1a are noticeably better using two Vidars due to increased headroom. Still not that expensive for amplification but I believe two Vidars running in monoblock mode would require a Freya for balanced input. I have been considering the SR1a but buying a more powerful Nord NC500DM amp. At $1600 the Nord is still less expensive than two Vidars + Freya.
I would imagine imaging/stage improves as well, as the cross-talk numbers should go from -95 dB or so to, essentially, infinite (or at least will be limited only by the pre-amp or source).
You’ll need some kind of pre-amp regardless of what speaker amplifier you choose - though if your source has variable level output then you can skip the pre-amp.
Vidar doesn’t specifically require a Freya for dual-mono operation, it just needs a balanced feed. I’m running mine off an SPL Phonitor X and it works fine, same directly off the RME ADI-2 DAC.
Unless I’m mistaken though, the Nord NC500DM amp is balanced-input only, too, so you’re still going to need a balanced-output pre-amp or a source that has variable level balanced outputs.
Honestly they look like they would slot in nicely in the Mass Effect universe…even the naming convention lol
My mistake since I already have a Saga and Yggy the Nord One MP entry level amps are the ones with switchable XLR/SE input. If I do buy the SR1a I would most likely just try a single Vidar first, add a second and a Freya if needed. If the SR1a really blows my skirts up I would be selling off enough gear to cover the cost. I would rather buy from Schiit than Nord TBH.