After our last post about the RAAL SR1b and the HSA-1b dedicated headphone amplifier, I was wondering how the SR1b would work with a "normal" headphone amplifier...
...and actually that doesn't work at all, because the SR1b has a resistance of 0.1 ohms - much less than conventional headphones - and therefore requires a whopping 40W of power per channel - no "normal" headphone amplifier can do that!
RAAL were aware of the problem, because not every potential buyer or interested party would like to replace their existing headphone amplifier at the same time because of a new headphone.
Luckily, they had a simple but brilliant idea: They designed a "little box" that would quickly take the very low resistance of the SR1b (or CA-1a) into a little more "affectable" regions transformed - 16 and 32 ohms are available here. - And it works with the existing head-amp!
So far so good - right?
After listening to the SR1b and CA-1a with the in-house HSA-1b amp, which was specially built for these headphones (or head speakers), I had my serious doubts as to how well the whole thing would play on a "conventional" head amp
Yesterday the time had come: I was once again invited to my colleague Thomas P.'s "Mancave" to, as he puts it so nicely, "nerd around" a little. In other words, exchange the latest hi-fi achievements and insights. 😅
Luckily, Thomas has the great Ferrum OOR along with the Hypsos Power Supply and the equally good Burson Conductor 3XR at home. The perfect laboratory setup for a test with the SR1b + Interface.
Image: Ferrum OOR
Image: Burson Conductor 3XR
How does it sound now?
Thomas and I were skeptical about how two very good, but still significantly cheaper headphone amplifiers would stack up against a device that not only costs twice as much, but was also specially built for the SR1b and CA-1a...
...and after the first bars of Patricia Barber's "Regular Pleasures" it became clear: It works - and how!
The RAAL SR1b played the way I know and love it: with a large stage and unbelievable airiness and three-dimensionality. Nothing was missing here - all thanks to this "little box" from RAAL.
Yes, of course, the HSA-1a amp from RAAL got a little more verve and pressure out of the SR1b, which is to be expected given the effort and price involved. More bass, more air and more haunting voices characterize this dream combo.
But: It must be said very clearly that the SR1b plays in the top league even with a "normal" headphone amplifier and even stood up to a Hifiman Susvara (Thomas' headphones) without any problems - in terms of stage and airiness even outbid.
A little reminder: at 6000 CHF, the Susvara is about twice as expensive as the SR1b from RAAL - almost a "bargain" in comparison!
In general, the SR1b is great in terms of stage and details and three-dimensionality are hard to beat - at least I haven't personally heard any headphones that come close to this or even surpass the SR1b.
(No, I've never heard of the Shangri-La from Hifiman or the Sennheiser Orpheus for 50,000 CHF each, but the prices are beyond good and bad!)
What remains of this "nerd day" is the realization that if you are interested in the RAAL SR1b or CA-1a headphones, you can buy them without hesitation, as long as the in-house headphone amplifier has at least 2 watts per channel and is of good quality!
And later, if you want a little more, you can try the dedicated amps from RAAL yourself without obligation to really exhaust the SR1b or CA-1a 🙌😉
Thank you I would like to say a big thank you to my colleague Thomas, who is not only happy to make his "Mancave" available for testing purposes, but can always open my eyes to new things with little tips, tricks and recommendations.
MERCI Thomas! 🙏😊
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