Audio: Listen to this article.
Members of the Audiophile Style community are well aware that I absolutely love my RAAL-requisite SR1a true ribbon headphones. I was floored by them in my initial review, and fell in love with them even more after using an FIR correction filter developed by Mitch Barnett (@mitchco) of Accurate Sound. Two years later, I believe we're at the absolute peak of SR1a and SR1b performance because of a new FIR filter just released by Accurate Sound.
Earlier this Spring I was exchanging emails with Mitch Barnett about the RAAL-requisite CA-1a headphones and the fact that I was using a new product (TI-1b) from the company that enabled me to use a "traditional" headphone amplifier, rather than a full blown loudspeaker amp with the inefficient power amp to headphone interface box. During this conversation I mentioned to Mitch that I could also use this new TI-1b interface with the SR1a headphones, but the configuration required use of additional open baffle compensation adapters. After trying this I was somewhat underwhelmed with the sound quality.
That's when Mitch told me he wanted to get the SR1b headphones in to measure and that this would enable him to develop a filter with open baffle compensation built-in. Whoa, talk about a giant win-win. This would open up the SR1a and SR1b to the world of high end headphone amps without the need for the less than stellar OB adapters! A couple weeks later Mitch received the headphones from Danny at RAAL-requisite, and went to work.
In early May, Mitch sent me some filters to test. He made sure to remind me that developing filters was an iterative process, and that a couple of them were probably on the edge of acceptability. In other words, in addition to a neutral filter, he wanted to create one that would extend the SR1a/b's bass a bit further and the only way to know when a filter has been taken too far, is to take it too far.
A couple days ago I finally had time to sit down with four new filters that Mitch designed. After some critical listening and listening for pure enjoyment, it was easy for me to select the two winners. The new neutral filter and the one Mitch calls neutral plus bass extension, were easily the best. Don't take that solely from me, Mitch had settled on those two as well, but didn't tell me until after I rendered an opinion. The two filters that didn't make the cut, pushed the bass beyond the limits of my own taste and likely beyond the taste of everyone except the guy who rattles my house when he drives by every day.
Where It's At
To recap where we're at, I'm using the new SR1b neutral convolution filter that has open baffle compensation built in. This enables me, and anyone else, to use the SR1a and SR1b headphones with the TI-1b and almost any high end headphone amp, without using the open baffle adapters. Based on my personal experience, this is a huge deal! Let me tell you how I came to this conclusion.
My current headphone setup is absolutely stunning. A full review of components is coming after the Munich show. I'm using the full dCS Lina stack, including the Lina Network DAC, Master Clock, and Headphone Amplifier to feed the RAAL-requisite SR1a and CA-1a headphones. The TI-1b enables the Lina to drive these headphones perfectly. Feeding power to all three dCS Lina components is a new Shunyata Gemini Model-4 high performance power conditioner and advanced ground noise reduction hub. I just received the perfectly-sized Gemini and have only enjoyed the power conditioning to this point. I look forward to taking advantage of the ground noise reduction in the coming weeks.
I loaded the new neutral SR1b filter into Roon, connected my SR1a headphones and let the Boston Symphony Orchestra's performance of Shostakovich Symphony No. 1 rip. WOW! The sound is not only "Next Level" it has reach the pinnacle. No more loudspeaker power amp(s), speaker interface box, or XLR open baffle barrel connectors required. Removing these devices is truly removing impediments to better sound quality. Baffle compensation built into the new convolution filter, combined with a summit level headphone system, delivers performance at an Everest level.
I conducted far too many A/B/C comparisons between the new neutral filter and the "old" ways of doing SR1a business. Every time I put either the OB XLR adapters into the Lina system or went to a system using the speaker interface box, I was extremely let down by what I heard. Keep in mind that the speaker interface box and some top quality loudspeaker amplifiers brought my listening to new heights a couple years ago. Now that I've heard these headphones at their peak performance, I can't un-hear the coloration and dynamic range constriction of the open baffle adapters or the speaker interface box. I never want to go back to system with these physical barriers to better sound. Such is life. The best system is only the best until something new knocks it off the hill.
Listening to Andris Nelsons / Boston Symphony Orchestra performance of Shostakovich Symphony No. 1 through my headphone system with the new SR1b filter, delivers an unforgettable experience. From the opening horns and delicate strings to the bombastic percussion that ranges from low to booming levels, with varying degrees of transient attack, it is all reproduced with as much perfection as I've ever heard. I've literally listened to the 9:27 Allegretto - Allegro non troppo fifteen times in the last few days. It offers everything from delicacy to texture to tone to transients that open one's eyes. This new custom filter designed by Mitch Barnett is what enables me to hear each aspect of this recording individually and as a whole, on a level I can only call the pinnacle.
Details: The new filter works with both the SR1a and SR1b. It's available now for $200. Lucky listeners who previously purchased the original SR1a filters from Accurate Sound can pick up the new filters for $50. Reach out to Mitch and he'll take care of you.
Here's a link to the new filters at Accurate Sound (link)
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