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Article: Part 1: RAAL-requisite SR1a Earfield Headphone Monitor &  HSA-1b Headphone & Speaker Amplifier Review


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While I disagree with Chris on a few things, this setup is not one of them.

 

As I sold my primary house in July, pretty hastily at that and moved to my other home in MT, I had to put my main system into storage. My speakers are Gobel Aeons which for a multitude of reasons just push all the right buttons for me. True holographic and non-distorted soundstage with incredible accuracy. All of the qualities of great ribbons (although a bending wave driver) and then some.

 

Unfortunately my MT house is too small for my main system and the Mrs. isn't ready for it to take over the main room. In the past I have tried different headphones but when I saw Chris's review and the return policy from RAAL I gave it a shot. I purchased the amp in this review with headphones and RAAL's 10 foot cable. Until I get my new DAC out here I am using my Chord Mojo. Lastly, I purchased Mitch's convolution filters.

 

I was more than surprised at how much I enjoy this system. I can't say they replace my Gobels, but, I have yet to hear any headphones I enjoy more than the Gobels and while I have not heard them all, nothing comes as close to a ribbon type speaker than these, IMO.  I agree with the reviewer that they take some time to get used to because they are so different and positioning on the head takes some time to get right, not just right for the music but right for one's preference. A remarkable difference in fact. I have them "dialed in" for my preference and while different than just about any headphone, to me they really are the closest thing to my reference system especially when considering I am wearing them on my head. 

 

Kudos to all that have reviewed these things, kudos to Mitch for making an amazing headphone system much better (although he claimed it would a "minor improvement) and Kudos for RAAL raising the bar for "head speakers" for those of us looking for such a product. 

 

Yes without Mitch's filters, the bass is shy however, with them I don't miss the lower most octave that it may be missing and the lower mid-bass is very taut and excellent. 

 

 

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9 minutes ago, Priaptor said:

While I disagree with Chris on a few things, this setup is not one of them.

 

As I sold my primary house in July, pretty hastily at that and moved to my other home in MT, I had to put my main system into storage. My speakers are Gobel Aeons which for a multitude of reasons just push all the right buttons for me. True holographic and non-distorted soundstage with incredible accuracy. All of the qualities of great ribbons (although a bending wave driver) and then some.

 

Unfortunately my MT house is too small for my main system and the Mrs. isn't ready for it to take over the main room. In the past I have tried different headphones but when I saw Chris's review and the return policy from RAAL I gave it a shot. I purchased the amp in this review with headphones and RAAL's 10 foot cable. Until I get my new DAC out here I am using my Chord Mojo. Lastly, I purchased Mitch's convolution filters.

 

I was more than surprised at how much I enjoy this system. I can't say they replace my Gobels, but, I have yet to hear any headphones I enjoy more than the Gobels and while I have not heard them all, nothing comes as close to a ribbon type speaker than these, IMO.  I agree with the reviewer that they take some time to get used to because they are so different and positioning on the head takes some time to get right, not just right for the music but right for one's preference. A remarkable difference in fact. I have them "dialed in" for my preference and while different than just about any headphone, to me they really are the closest thing to my reference system especially when considering I am wearing them on my head. 

 

Kudos to all that have reviewed these things, kudos to Mitch for making an amazing headphone system much better (although he claimed it would a "minor improvement) and Kudos for RAAL raising the bar for "head speakers" for those of us looking for such a product. 

 

Yes without Mitch's filters, the bass is shy however, with them I don't miss the lower most octave that it may be missing and the lower mid-bass is very taut and excellent. 

 

 

Great to hear. I’m totally with you on the dialed in part. Once you get comfy in the driver’s seat with these, it’s game on. Hard to beat, unless it’s with a full size system. 
 

Mitch and minor improvements don’t go well together :~) Everything he does has a major impact for the better. 
 

I’m glad Rajiv liked them in his system for this review because it’s quite different from my system. And, he’s a “headphone guy” with much more experience in this area than me. It’s always good to have 2nd and 3rd opinions, whether they jibe or not. 
 

 

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11 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Great to hear. I’m totally with you on the dialed in part. Once you get comfy in the driver’s seat with these, it’s game on. Hard to beat, unless it’s with a full size system. 
 

Mitch and minor improvements don’t go well together :~) Everything he does has a major impact for the better. 
 

I’m glad Rajiv liked them in his system for this review because it’s quite different from my system. And, he’s a “headphone guy” with much more experience in this area than me. It’s always good to have 2nd and 3rd opinions, whether they jibe or not. 
 

 

I am ever indebted to you. After reading your take on these I said to myself, if they are as good as he says, it may just be the perfect match for my needs and I have to say they are and them some. 

 

Just waiting on my Esoteric N-05XD to top it off. Meanwhile I am enjoying what I have.

 

AND YES Mitch greatly understated the difference his filters made. 

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I heard the HSA-1b again today after about a 10 month hiatus. I have also heard the SR1a on lots of 2 channel amps I have owned, CODA #8, KRELL K-300i integrated, D-Sonic M3a 800s, Benchmark AHB2 mono, and LSA Voyager 350 GAN. So I have gained perspective on what great sound is with the SR1a. The HSA-1b today belongs in that great amp class, in line with the best amp setups I have had. I will likely get a HSA-1b for a bedroom.

 

I currently use the KRELL K-300i integrated amp with the Benchmark DAC3B. The KRELL integrated has tremendous bass and really fills in the sound of the SR1a. The neutral DAC3B compliments the smooth and warm KRELL which are Class A on the first 90 watts.

 

My CODA #8 has power meters. Those meters were very instructive when I used that amp with the SR1a. The SR1a was drawing more power out of the amps than my floorstanders, Thiel CS3.7 (also power hungry). I noticed that amps with a lot of power make the SR1a sound the best. The CODA #8's meters proved that to me.

 

Mitch's filter made the Benchmark AHB2's + CODA 07x preamp sound great with the SR1a`. Otherwise, the AHB2 is not tolerable with the SR1a, even though the designer in Serbia is supposed to favor it. I am now debating whether to use the SR1a Convolution filter with the KRELL K-300i. I am leaning towards not using it.

 

BTW - the KRELL K-300i and CODA 07x | #8 separates and CODA CSiB integrated are the great SR1a setups for me. The AHB2 is also there but it requires the Convolution filter so I do not consider it at the top.

 

BTW2 - the CODA 07x is a perfect preamp for the SR1a. The sound is phenomenal with the SR1a and it also has 2 sets of XLR outputs for 2 sets of amps. I use 1 amp set for my floorstanders and another amp for the SR1a. Just turn the amp that is not needed OFF. This way I do not have to use the SPEAKER selection on the RAAL Amp Interface box (just HEADPHONES). I have 2 Amp Interface boxes so I have the KRELL with 1 box and the other box with a variety of amps.

 

BTW3 - I sold my Meze Empy and Benchmark HPA4 headphone amp recently. After, the SR1a, I did not listen to the Empy. 

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Thanks Rajiv.

 

Great work.

Especially like the way you link your evaluation playlist.

Looking forward to part 2 and your take on eq.

 

@PriaptorDoes RAAL offer a "better amp" than the HSA-1b?

 

"Of course, the "while I'm at it attitude" crept in and I decided, a system like this needs a "better" DAC as well as the better amp that RAAL sells and on and on."

PH SR7 > MacMini+Uptone MMK Mod > Audirvana 3.2 > re-clocked D-LInk switch/LPS1.1 > sMS-200Ultra/LPS1.2 > tX-USBUltra/PH SR7 > Chord BluDave > Focal Utopia(Norne Silver) or Voxativ 9.87/ Stereo REL G1 Mk II

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2 hours ago, HeeBroG said:

Thanks Rajiv.

 

Great work.

Especially like the way you link your evaluation playlist.

Looking forward to part 2 and your take on eq.

 

@PriaptorDoes RAAL offer a "better amp" than the HSA-1b?

 

"Of course, the "while I'm at it attitude" crept in and I decided, a system like this needs a "better" DAC as well as the better amp that RAAL sells and on and on."

Sorry, I didn't mean in my post to imply that there is a "better" amp than the 1b. That was the amp I chose to get with my "while I'm at it attitude". 

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1 hour ago, Sagittarius said:

Thanks Rajiv,

If I remember correctly from another review, you had a clock that synchronized the SOTM and Uptone Audio network switches and a USB interface. Did you remove it after adding the Taiko server?

 

 

Yes, there has been a sea change in my approach after I bought the Extreme, and more recently, due to my use of PGGB. I used to have a Mutec REF10 SE120 reference clock supplying a 10 MHz reference to the eR, the sNH-10G, and a tX-USBultra. The tX turned out to be unnecessary, and in fact an impediment, in the Extreme's USB chain. As for the network, I now live by the credo "no network is better than the best network." Since all my critical listening is with local PGGBed files, I just hit play and power down the switch chain. The only time my 3 switches as shown are active during playback is for non-critical discovery listening with Roon/Qobuz/HQPlayer. A reference clock is overkill for this use case.

 

For more discussion, see the section "Dispensing with the network" in my post from earlier this summer: 

 

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