I owe an apology to Danny McKinney and David Laubacher of RAAL requisite.
I missed trying out their products at last year's High-End Munich and also at the subsequent CanJam in London. Ok, in London I was in the hotel on the 2nd day of the fair with a fever of 40 degrees, but still - ashes on my head.
Thanks to a very interested customer, I have finally ordered a demo set from RAAL, consisting of your top receiver SR1b, the new "smaller" model CA-1a and their HSA-1b headphone amplifier, which was specially developed for their headphones.
Well, headphones isn't quite right - yes, these things sit on their heads, but actually they are technically mini ribbon speakers that you put on like headphones. Head speakers, so to speak. RAAL themselves also speak of "earspeakers" here.
Yesterday the doorbell rang and a UPS man who looked a bit exhausted stood there with a hand truck and two huge boxes.
The contents consisted of 2 cardboard boxes and a hard-shell case, which is so big that it would just about pass as hand luggage on an airplane - but not in terms of weight! 😅
After the packaging of the Spirit Torino Valkyria, for sure the most impressive packaging I've ever seen...
The case contained the SR1b and the HSA-1b amp, the boxes the CA-1a and the associated interface, with which the "earspeakers" can also be connected to conventional (very powerful) amplifiers.
I'm not saying a headphone amplifier here, because most devices may not have enough power - the RAAL "Earspeakers" can be operated directly on an integrated amplifier (with interface) like normal loudspeakers.
Picture: TI-1b interface for connection to normal (headphone) amplifiers.
But first, let's see what's in the suitcase:
Secured in foam we find the HSA-1b amp, the SR1b "Earspeaker" and RAAL's "STAR-8" premium silver cable.
As soon as you unpack it, you immediately notice the excellent workmanship and feel - and how light the SR1b is. I had imagined it to be much harder! This is because, of course, no conventional drivers with neodymium magnets are installed here, but RAAL's True Ribbon Baffle drivers, which are very light themselves. In addition, the chassis is made of carbon, which reduces weight and ensures robustness and rigidity.
Somehow these things look futuristic and a bit crazy - and also uncomfortable...
Fortunately this is not the case, because the low weight with the well thought-out headband or headbands ensures a very comfortable fit.
Headbands? So more than one?
Yes exactly, because one headband sits on top of the head as usual and a second one on the back of the head with the task of being able to adjust the position of the SR1b vertically and horizontally.
As already mentioned, the SR1a are not conventional headphones, but head speakers. And as is usual with loudspeakers, the "setup" or in this case the position relative to the ears is extremely important for the sound experience.
There is another adjustment option: A hinge ensures that the "earspeakers" can be angled relative to the ears - just like floor-standing loudspeakers are angled relative to the listening position.
And just like the big model This changes the focus, stage and frequency response of the SR1b.So there's a lot to tinker with here, because it's possible to adapt the sound to your own needs - no normal headphones can do that!
The proof of the pudding is in the eating
Of course I read a number of reviews in advance and watched YouTube videos to know how to "put on" the SR1 correctly, but it's not all that wild! So I just put the things on and started listening to music straight away without changing anything.
I don't believe it!
Ok, you shouldn't always listen to what others say, but form your own opinion. Because "forewarned" by the reviews and videos, I already had very clear ideas about what to expect: Great details, big stage but little mid-bass let alone sub-bass due to the construction. At least that's what the YouTuber "Resolve" reports, who tested the SR1.
But what comes to my ears from the SR1 is miles away from this description! Coincidentally, I had a track open on Roon that had a lot of bass, and that bass was reproduced so impressively by the SR1 that I was immediately reminded of the Empire Ears Odin.
Anyone who knows the Odin knows that these IEMs probably have one of the best bass reproductions ever. Fast, punchy, controlled and very, very deep if you have to.
And the SR1 deliver exactly that - and as far as the bass speed is concerned, maybe even a tad better. The SR1 only reached its limits with a few moderately recorded hip-hop tracks with excessive bass, but I guess very few customers would buy these "earspeakers" specifically for hip-hop.
How does it sound now?
I assume that the problem with "Resolve" was the Schiit amp used, because the SR1 is an absolute stunner with RAAL's own HSA-1b amp!
The sound is extremely spatial, almost three-dimensional, the presence of voices is intimate and yet haunting, the highs have details that I have never heard personally - without it being exhausting - and the bass is as already mentioned fast, crisp and goes deep.
There are many really good products on the market - and then there are these few very special products that make the hair on your arms stand on end and give you goosebumps.
One such product is the RAAL SR1 in combination with the in-house amp HSA-1b. I'm sitting late in the dark office, listening to music of the highest quality and I'm just happy! 😊
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