Rosson Audio - RAD-0 - Official Thread

The RAD-0 is a full-size, open-back, planar magnetic headphone, with unique presentation (every pair is different) and customization options and is the first release from Rosson Audio Design:

From the Rosson Audio Design web-site:

Our Story:

Rosson Audio Design (RAD) was born out of Alex Rosson’s love for music, art and engineering. The team is on a mission to improve the way that people listen to and create music, while inspiring a simple appreciation for beautiful sound.

Our Craft:

We make over-ear, planar magnetic headphones for discerning music-lovers. Each pair is custom made by hand, and no two headphones will ever be the same. If you’re looking for mass-produced, plastic audio equipment, these are not for you.

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Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: Planar Magnetic
  • Transducer Size: 66 MM
  • Frequency Response: 20HZ - Beyond Audible Range
  • THD: <0.1%
  • Impedance: 29 Ω
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB/mW
  • Headphone Connections: 3.5mm (1/8") TRS
  • Weight: 735g

Power Requirements:

RAD-0%20-%20Power

This thread is the spot to discuss the RAD-0 headphone, while a broader discussion of Rosson Audio Design can be found here.

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It was very difficult to let the RAD-0 Graffiti go! If I had my way, every pair would have to pass through our office for a minimum of one month before it’s released into the wild.

The RAD-0 currently only ships with the 2m cable with the 3.5mm connections and we had issues with grabbing a pre-made balanced cable for it in Canada. I’m curious if you have the right sized connectors around since we found the hole was a little too small for the ones we tried along with @Resolve’s balanced cable.

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That’s picture is a MUCH better reproduction of how these look in person than the one I lifted from the headphones.com listing! You should (or I can) replace the one I used in the intro post with yours!

They look amazing!

Yes, I have some premium connectors that’ll work with these. I’ll turn those into a balanced connection for the RAD-0 with my modular cable system, probably tomorrow. And then I have to order some more … and hopefully the current version can use the latest barrel options that I’ve been using on SR1a cables (I’ll know sometime tomorrow).

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So … thanks to @taronlissimore and @Andrew, headphones.com and “The HEADPHONE Communitypreview program, I have the above-pictured RAD-0 sitting on my noggin right now.

I’ve been listening for about the last 4 hours or so.

Some initial thoughts …

Sound

They sound excellent! It’s too early to say exactly where they fall in my overall spectrum of headphone experience and preference, but they’re clearly serious performers as well as being extremely enjoyable.

Bass has real growl and rumble. It’s typically planar-linear. The mids are really nicely balanced and are fully present, without seeming emphasized, unlike so many bass-capable planar flagships. And the treble smooth, even, airy, extended and sibilance free.

For the first 20 minutes or so I would have sworn the bass was coming from behind my ears, and everything else adjacent to them. That effect has abated. Maybe it’s post SR1a adjustment, maybe it’s placement, maybe I need a nap.

Given that I’m coming off almost a solid month of listening to pretty much just the SR1a and the Vérité, that’s fairly high praise.

Comfort

They are heavy. More so than I expected. They weigh in at 714g, which is the exact same weight as my personal pair of LCD-4. I dare say this is more noticeable after the 425g of the SR1a than it would otherwise be. And it does NOT bother me (Audeze cans were my daily-drivers for years). It did take me off guard a bit, though, initially.

Clamp pressure is quite high. Again, coming off the SR1a this may be exaggerated somewhat (the RAAL-requisite cans pretty much float on my head with the merest pressure near my temples, and I barely feel them). The upside of this is that these things stay put … where the LCD-4 would tend to slide off my head if I leant forwards or backwards too far.

Extending the arms helps a bit here, but that puts all the weight on to the cup/clamp/head interface and is less comfortable for me than just letting the band take the weight.

The pads are surprisingly deep and thick. They’re also very soft and supple. I doubt even glasses wearers will have any issue getting a perfect seal every time. In fact, they seal so well you can feel the pressure on your ear drums when you first put them on (that fades in a few seconds).

When dealing with planar cans, and very-solid seals, it’s not uncommon to hear some “diaphragm” crinkle. There is NONE of that here. Even pushing vigorously on the cups excites no such thing.

Raw pad comfort is excellent, though they are a fair bit warmer (temperature) than anything I’ve had on my head in the last year. Not to the point of being uncomfortable, but it’s noticeable.

Build

These things are both gorgeous and solid. Compare the RAD-0 to the Audeze LCD series and the yokes, arms and sliders are both more nicely finished and more polished feeling on the Rosson unit.

The band on the RAD-0 looks more substantial, and is also very well executed, but the extra width of the Audeze’s suspension design may be more comfortable in the long run. I say that on the basis that the headband is not giving me any hotspots so far, but wider is usually better in my experience. Still, the RAD-0 has a much more polished, less “agricultural” seeming design and implementation.

Driveability

Yes, made-up-word … but still …

The RAD-0 are surprisingly easy to drive. Just coming off the single-ended tube output from the Cayin N8 I don’t need full power nor max gain, have plenty of volume left, and even with massively bass-intensive music, at higher-than-normal listening levels, they are composed, dynamic, punchy, hit hard, with lots of appropriate rumble and slam.

These are WAY less demanding, power wise, than my other planar cans (LCD-4, AB-1266 Phi CC).


Obviously I have a lot more listening to do, including extensive back-to-back comparisons with the LCD-4 and the AB-1266 Phi CC (the only planar cans I currently own). The LCD-4 and Abyss may just have the edge, so far, with bass-tunefulness at sub-bass frequencies (again, more listening needed). But so far the RAD-0 are encouraging, enjoyable and quite compelling!

One hell of a first release …

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Here’s a thermal shot of the Cayin N8 driving the RAD-0, with fairly bass-heavy music, after several hours:

This speaks pretty well of both the N8 and the RAD-0. I’ve had the N8 hotter with IEMs! And the N8 has PLENTY of headroom left even without switching to high-output or high-gain.

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I went ahead and updated it with Andrew’s favourite picture that I took (of the Orange Sapphire). It is really difficult to convey what they actually look like through pictures though so seeing them in person is completely different. Especially once you get some light shining on them.

We forgot to do that before sending the pair out to you so I am glad they got weighed. I am curious if there is a little variability in the weight when certain wood materials are used among other things.

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I haven’t been able to complete a written review yet, having been a bit crazy busy with work over the last few days. But in general I really liked it and have been compiling my thoughts. Here’s another photo for now:

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Both are gorgeous!

I am really surprised how good this “Graffiti” set look in person, though. Your shot captures it well, as they’re much more rich, varied and vibrant than other pictures have shown. I thought they were kind of “meh” until seeing that shot and putting my grubby paws on them.

Weight wise, 714g without cables.

I have been gravitating far more strongly towards dynamic headphones since acquiring both the LCD-4 and AB-1266 Phi CC. Those are both excellent. Fussy … and demanding … but excellent. Hadn’t found anything else I liked as much.

Much further down he spectrum I had, recently, found the MrSpeakers ÆON Flow Closed to be very good indeed. I liked the Ether 2 as well, but it was very hard to know if what I heard was “how they were supposed to be” (which was a bit dark, but very coherent, entirely enjoyable and a much more agreeable tuning for me than the prior “Ether” line) or if they were broken.

I’ve enjoyed some of HiFiMan’s cans, but still can’t get behind the price/quality equation there, and below their flagships they sound a bit on the relaxed/slow side to me (not that that’s bad, but it’s not “my thing”).

So these RAD-0 are the first really compelling, high-end, planar cans I’ve heard since the LCD-4 and Abyss. Which is several years now. That they’re amazingly easy to drive (I know that’s been getting better, rapidly), is even more interesting.

Anyway, quite impressed so far, especially for something that doesn’t need special accommodations to drive (even if my love-affair with the SR1a continues to escalate)! More to come, of course …

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Yep, that’s them! :wink:

VERY pretty and illustrative shot!

You’ll EASILY beat me to any review on these … I’ve got at least three more to do before I get to these. But it’s going to be a fun one to do!

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Clearly the last few days watch-shopping-while-travelling have skewed my brain … I only just realized there are options for metal-work in colors/finishes other than black!

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Excepting the Abyss, which float off, and ahead of, the ears, at least as I have mine setup, these probably have the best (and most expansive) stage portrayal I’ve heard yet from a planar headphone.

The LCD-4 are very intimate in comparison.

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Some more time listening with the RAD-0 this morning … and a couple of comments specifically on their bass:

Bass extension doesn’t quite match the LCD-4. Not very surprising, given the 2.5 times greater surface area the LCD-4 driver carries over the RAD-0. But also not much of an issue unless you’re listening to something with lots of sub-bass energy (big pipe-organs and electronic music, especially EDM, for example). And even then, it’s bloody close.

Both the LCD-4 and Abyss do a marginally better job with the tunefulness of the bass, as well. The RAD-0 is definitely not “one note” bass, and it is fast, taut and hits plenty hard, but tunes rendered in the lowest bass registers are just a hair easier to follow with the LCD-4 and Abyss.

Occasionally, today, I was able to excite the RAD-0’s bottom end into exhibiting a hint of boominess. I think this is down to the raw depth of the pads and their firmness. I had extended the arms of the headband to reduce the clamp pressure a bit, which also results in less pad-compression when I was noticing this (and it was with some EXTREME bass test material … stuff that over-pressures my normal listening room on speakers). Putting the yokes back where I would normally extend them to, and accepting the increased pad pressure, completely eliminated this slight boominess.

Remarkably, though, the RAD-0’s bass-performance remained consistent regardless of whether I was driving them off the Cayin N8 (SS or tube mode) a Hugo 2 or a Hugo TT 2.

Why remarkable?

To get that same level of bass performance out of either the LCD-4 or the Abyss requires at least the Hugo TT 2, or something with similar grunt. To put it another way, the RAD-0 are happy off batteries, the LCD-4 likes a small coal-fired power-station and the Abyss wants dedicated nuclear fusion-power.

Yes, that’s a significant exaggeration … but I’ve yet to find a portable, or transportable, device that can drive the LCD-4 or Abyss in a manner that shows them at their best. Even some desktop amplifiers run out of juice before truly “getting there”. The RAD-0 is kicking-it even with a DAP on it’s middle power-settings.

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More random thoughts (looking like it’ll be “that” sort of day) …

Back-to-back with the LCD-4 … once can’t help but notice the treble dip/scoop on the Audeze unit. The RAD-0 just sounds more natural, and neutral, overall, with no need to mess about with EQ, plug-ins or Roon DSP.

Very encouraged here … a capable planar headphone, that can run properly off a portable device, but still does justice to something far more potent, costs significantly less than my two planar reference cans, and is far more comfortable and conventional to boot …

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In between listening … here’s a couple of quick/dirty shots of the “Graffiti” RAD-0 (remember, every headphone will be unique in how the cups are finished and choice of metal finish):

This first shot is probably the more representative of the two in normal viewing. Though @Resolve’s and @taronlissimore’s might be more accurate still …


Oh, yes, those are the same pair of headphones … just the first shot is lit from above/behind, and the second from the front (natural sunlight).

But as the light changes … it’s amazing how much the look differs … and from certain angles, at least with this pair, you can see some colors floating well beneath a clear layer, and others right up on the surface … while the degree of irridescence alters with every shift in angle:

I wonder how they’d look in a different metal finish …

Actually, that might be the biggest issue I’ll face with the RAD-0 … being an aesthete … all the ones I don’t have may wind up having traits/looks that I want but don’t have on mine!

Maybe I’ll have to keep these until I can make/customize a pair myself that I like better …


Oh, yes, those two pictures are of the same pair of headphones. The first is lit from behind/above, and the second from the front (natural sunlight).

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I was playing around with some selective color stuff with these. Kinda fun. Maybe someone else can do a better job - I’m not much of a photo editor haha:

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They are a lot of fun to bring out in the light! Although it is very hard to capture the layers of colours in the design.

Those are great shots and really illustrate how different they can look with different backgrounds and lighting though.

For the record, the Graffiti is Alex’s favourite of the initial run. He was having some separation anxiety when we said we were buying it.

I agree with you there. I did some back and forths with the LCD-4 in the office and found myself reaching for the Rosson more often than not. I still enjoy the LCD-4 immensely and probably a bit of new toy syndrome but I can’t get the sound of the RAD-0 out of my head.

We may or may not have an Empyrean coming in next week. Might make for an excellent comparison headphone… :wink:

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Just in case you guys have the same sort of separation anxiety when I want to buy these, just let me get this in first:

Oh, NO!!! While I was out taking a quick walk, it seems someone “snuck” in and made off with the very same “Graffiti” pair that you’d sent me!

This is a tragedy!

I do hope the police are able to recover them! Even if they were absolutely stunned that nothing else was taken…

In the mean time, here’s a check to cover their loss …


I could get behind that idea …

Mutters something about “So much for rationalizing my collection …”

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Some measurements … taken the other night, just have a few minutes to post before hitting the water again …

The big peaks around 4-5 kHz are artifacts of the rig. The CUST calibration attempts to dial that out to something closer to what I hear. The mid-dip isn’t as audible as it looks (possibly an artifact of my custom calibration, as it has shown up on other cans and not been as audible there, either).

Five, averaged, passes, with different placement. These seem relatively insensitive to how they are placed, through the smaller ear-opening, relative to pad-size, limits placement variability here somewhat anyway.

The green trace is an average of the averaged RAW, HEQ and CUST measurements. An “average of averages” if you will.


MiniDSP EARS continues to be frustrating in its artifacts. Haven’t found, or been able to create, any calibration that properly dials them out.


The connectors on the standard RAD-0 cables are highly irritating. They’re too large for all but one of the 1/4" adapters I have, and the recesses on the headphone end are too small for 95% of the nice connectors available there. I have good, audiophile-grade, ones that fit, but it’s not nice to be so limited, and they’re longer than they need to be.

On the upside, if the standard cable works for you, it’s pliant and non-microphonic. Works great with my DAPs and the Hugo TT 2. Pain in the arse with everything else.

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Just out of curiosity, what’s the takeaway from doing an average of raw and compensated curves? Also, I had a very similar result to my measurements of the RAD-0, so it’s good to know that my suspicions about the EARS rig are confirmed here as well.

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I just did the average-of-averages across different compensations as an experiment. The deviations in curves are so big between RAW and HEQ that it skews a three-way average too hard. Probably not something I’ll show in the future (or in a review).

It’s really between 3-6 kHz that’s the most challenging, especially with the big spike of the EARS around 4-5 kHz. But if I reduce that further in my curve, it has a bad habit of flipping the other way with headphones that I know don’t have a dip there.

I think I am at a point where I will stop fiddling with it and either just go with it and hope people don’t try and compare to other measurements done on other rigs/compensations and come away with the wrong idea. The realistic alternatives are either, don’t post measurements at all or invest in a five-figure lab-grade rig (tempting, on its face, but I won’t have anywhere to put it, let alone use it, a few months from now).

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