RAAL-requisite SR1a - Earfield™ Monitor/Headphone - Official Thread

Checkin in … still LOVE my SR-1a with HSA-1a … Definitely a unique headphone that provides lasting enjoyment beyond flavor of the month. Since I bought the combination when the HSA-1a first became available 2 years ago, I have made several tweaks to my chain (DAC, Preamp, Tubes). Every time the SR-1a has scaled up and improved and reflected every little tweak I made.

If you consider buying SR-1a and building a system around it, that’s definitely an approach to take you very close to the best possible listening experience on any personal listening device (excluding floor standing speakers); as long as you are fundamentally OK with the SR-1’s peculiar form factor.

I am currently listening (this is 4 hours non stop with the SR-1a) to Lloyd Cole - Antidepressant (just a great album!). Right before enjoyed a focused session with Verdi - MacBeth (Muti) - the magnificent stage offered by the SR1a works amazingly well with this material (further aided by the ability to tweak its shape with 2 Goodside plug-ins, see below).

My “guilty pleasure” setup for tonight consists of
Mac mini M1 - Audirvana Studio(*) - Wavedream Net - Wavedream Signature XLR - Woo Audio 3ES Elite (as preamp; tubes: Takatsuki 300B and 274B, RCA 5692 Red Base) - HSA-1a

(*) DLNA; 4 Plug-ins: DMGAudio Equilibrium, HG-2MS, Goodhertz Midside 3, CanOpener Studio 3

Biggest smile in the world, makes it easy to wait for the SR-X 9000 a while longer :slight_smile:

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I have the SR1a with HSA-1b amplifier, driven by the dCS Bartok+HP amp - just about perfect. Being someone who is always looking for the “next step” in music reproduction, I have added a KEF C62 subwoofer to “fill in” the very bottom of the bass. What? you say? Why would you pair “ear speaker” headphones with a (subwoofer) speaker? First, the SR1a’s are (very) open. And previously, I tried a subwoofer before with my AKG K1000/First Watt F1 setup, and enjoyed it. Adding low-end frequencies to the SR1a/HSA-1b setup rounds out the presentation. I am really liking it, so far. Now to determine if it is fatiguing over time. Of course, as always, YMMV.

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Yes, it was fatiguing. Returned the subwoofer.

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I added a Kef KC62 subwoofer to my SR1A. Here is how I did it:
My Topping D90 DAC feeds both the SR1A amp and the active sub. The XLR outputs feed the SR1A’s amp, and the single-end RCA outputs feed Schiit Sys passive preamp.
The Sys RCA outputs feed the L/R RCA inputs of the KC62. Using the Schiit Sys, I can control the volume of the subwoofer from my desk.
Your DAC doesn’t need two outputs, you could instead use RCA splitter cables (or XLR splitter if your sub has XLR in).
In my opinion, the subwoofer sound blends with the SR1A pretty seamlessly and really enhances the listening experience.
My room is pretty small, about 10’x11’, 9’ ceiling so the KC62 placed in a corner is plenty of output. I did not feel that I had to crank the sub volume up much to hear it with the SR1A.

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So, an unsolicited update on my journey. I’ve sold the CRBN, have now a STAX SR-009s to further enrich my e-stat experience. I personally prefer the 009s but in the end, nothing compares to the SR1a! Nothing at all! I’ll have some e-stat gear for sale soon.

Next week I should have the new VM-1a tube amplifier and will report back vs other methods of driving the Raal.

On a philosophical note: this endeavor forces one to really consider what represents an ideal sound, what is of priority. As a former musician, for me it is timbre. The way I listen highlights how different transducers and material sciences reproduce recorded acoustic sound. These are sounds I know from life experience. They are sounds reproduced differently based on the design and materials of the transducer, regardless of frequency response. Outside of measurement. An A440 bowed on a gut string vs a steel string on a violin will sound different, and yet still move the same air at 440hz. Well beyond staging, speed, slam, imaging etc. at the very core of an instruments sound is an essence, an identity, a spiral of DNA that makes it unique from other sounds. To my ears, the SR1a reproduces that unique identity with less of its own thumb print.

I find it remarkable we can put an orchestral hall (or bar, or stadium) onto our heads and be transported there to a musical experience. So far in all my quest, the SR1a is my favorite headphone for reproducing music.

Yes, this is a love letter to the SR1a and this is the place for me to write it I suppose. When I searched for commentary on headphones early in my journey, I came here for learning. I got so much of it too, from from many generous members. Sometimes there is also tribalism and vitriol for no good reason. But mostly, sincere sharing of impressions. That’s what these words are.

So, for those who just Googled the SR1a and landed here, this is my resounding endorsement for this incredible device. For all the new releases and heralded flagships I’ve tried, this is still home for me!

Happy Listening.

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Thanks for the update! I’m curious to hear the new estats too, but glad you continue to find the SR1a the right choice.

Let us know how the VM-1a sounds!

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Hey Raal fans or interested:

A friend over on Head-fi is selling an SR1a and HSA-1b for $5000.

FYI, I confirmed this is the new HSA-1b with the gain switch on the back rather than internal. This is a great deal IMO.

Mark,
This is the first I’ve heard of the VM-1a being available, and even though I own your former HSA-1b, I have been intrigued about the VM-1a since it was announced. What do you know about it as yet? I cannot wait to hear your opinion of what it brings to the SR1a sound.
Best regards,
Larry Segil

Hi Larry,

Great to hear from you, hope you are enjoying the HSA-1b, I regretted selling it in the end!

The VM-1a appears not to be on the website on the amplifier page yet, but you can find it by searching for it, link below. It is available to order and apparently they have them trickling in from Serbia for testing and QC. I had a long chat with Danny last week and took the decision to order one based on his description. There are not many in the wild so initial impressions are scarce but positive. This will be my 4th method of powering the SR1a and I will be sure to share my impressions when appropriate. Happy listening.

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Thanks Mark, looks pretty exciting, I am happy enough (more than, actually) to live with the HSA-1b until your and other reviews come in, though I have a feeling that I will take the leap in due time. I am still very pleased with the amp and sorry that you feel the loss. What are you using now? Have you tried the circumaural cans (or anything else that has excited you recently)?
Best,
Larry

I’ll keep the response here on the SR1a thread since it is pertinent. Right now I am listening the the SR1a through a Schiit Freya + in tube mode (I think +12db) and a single Aegir. On paper this would be insufficient for the Raal. In practice, for me, it sounds amazing! Maybe the pre-amp gain makes the single amp enough, although I will note that I think I may listen at lower levels than most. For me this set up is so good that if I do not keep the VM-1a (unlikely) I’ll add a second Aegir to run in dual mono. The benefit as well as that this set up is great for my 2 channel which the HSA1b was just a little underpowered for. This chain gives SR1a weight and substance I do not remember from the Jot R. It is a very natural tonality also, warmer, but maybe not as much so as the HSA1b (from memory).

I have not tried the Raal circumaural cans yet. I have tried the CRBN and STAX SR-009s recently, which was fascinating, but I still favor the Raal.

Almost 2 yr. follow-up, still using a MiniDSP SHD > Freya+ > Jot R > SR1a(w ZMF headband) and have gone the longest stretch in my life without getting another major Hi-Fi upgrade since I was probably 10. Next major purchase will probably be the CA-1a and the Ti-1a adapter.

I have found a “sweet-spot” with setting a high-pass cutoff @35hz(BW42dB/oct) through the miniDSP and a large 80hz bass bump with a master gain reduction in EqualizerAPO to avoid clipping due to gain increase on the bass shelf.

Without the 35hz cutoff I would get distortion at medium-high listening levels(Jot R past 2-O’clock) on bass-heavy tracks or video games with deep sound effects. Happy to answer any longer-term ownership related questions if someone has it.
Cheers, thanks to everyone on headphones.com who shared their experiences, it helped to piece my current setup together.


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After months of travel, I returned home to the SR1a’and HSA1-B driven by my dCS Bartok. I had forgotten just how good this combination sounded.

Once again, I was transported into a space with the performers and music that had that “live” feeling where you could almost reach out and touch it. I am continuously grateful for the experience.

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That was an enjoyable read. I’m glad you found your sound and that our journeys overlapped.

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