SR1a & Magna. The profiles of wear and imaging aren't separate but interdependent. The floating open baffles make no contact around the ear. Magna creates constant tactile pad awareness. The SR1a can't help but stage more obviously beyond our skull cave. Those married to that peculiarly liberated sensation may get stuck on pad interference. But it's actually amazing how well the clever vent zones of Magna's chambers undermine the usual air-lock sensation of pressurized ear drums, compression resonance and ear-muff aka hot ear syndrome. It's why any perceived pad stickum for SR1a arrivals really has a big psychological component to it. It's like thinking that broad-shouldered speakers can't image as freely as mini monitors. To the eye that's perfectly rational. A wider physical object blocks more of the virtual stage than a narrow one. Yet eyes-closed listening often finds that some broad speakers can image just as freely. We must only short-circuit the conflicting messages between eyes and ears. The usual habit is to close our eyes; or dim the light. That won't work for SR1a arrivals to Magna. Pad contact remains a constant reminder. If we adore the open-baffle contactless hover profile, we must learn to listen through/beyond the contact patches to cancel the psychological barrier. If we do, is there still a difference? That should depend on how far we angle out the SR1a wings. I'll simply say that as an early SR1a adopter and enthusiast, I transitioned to Magna seamlessly. Will others? I couldn't possibly know. And it's really a non-issue. The SR1a remains in the portfolio and no current owners are obliged to change to Magna. Get or keep the one you prefer.

Wiring my Pasithea DAC's 4V XLR into Jotunheim R, its attenuator set to high noon, the DAC's lossless volume sat at ~30dB down for mega headroom with Magna. With Jot's volume in bypass, I barely got the DAC out of first gear. The SR1a required considerably more voltage. I also wired the Laiv Harmony DAC through the Vinnie Rossi pre into Jot's RCA input. Because both DACs had the same signal simultaneously off the USB bridge, one I²S, the other AES/EBU, I could switch sources and compare transistor/tube paths on the fly. On the low-rent comment, this pure transistor path plainly was less sophisticated than the earlier Kinki version. As a result, Magna sounded a bit more conventional. Lesser tyres and low-octane benzine will on any racer. It all depends what one comes from. Here the ribbon tech's advantage of ultra-low mass without energy storage but copious excursion in a deliberately lossy leaky cup builds in more performance headroom than narrower technology. The delta between sounding fine if conventional to great to outrageously brilliant is wider. Performance keeps scaling as we load up on the quality of what comes before.

 It's how new contributor Simone Ragionieri can justify kit of dCS, LampizatOr, Riviera Audio Labs and Taiko Extreme calibre on his Immanis and Valkyria.

What looks like overkill becomes logical progression when transducers keep scaling. Back in my sandbox, the direct-heated triodes caused a more wall-of-sound densifier action to even out the left-to-right materialization instead of greater centre fill. But this was a mere echo of the THR-1 so not a full rerun. With that Schiit table set, how did these stablemates differ past looking radical versus domesticated, steampunk versus luxurious? I heard different bass textures. With my angle of splay, the open baffles hit the mid 30s. Only synth bass really goes lower. There Magna had the advantage. But the difference went beyond reach. Compare a frame drum to a sealed drum. The latter's enclosed volume generates different tone when the beater hits than the open-backed version that's just skin stretched over a frame. This closely tracks how SR1a and Magna diverged. Is an Irish bodhrán drum better than a Cuban boku? It's as silly as asking which headphone had better bass quality. On raw quantity it was obviously Magna. On quality the path split into two equally valid but distinct flavours: open baffle vs vented pad chamber. Lovers of electronica who identify with maximum physicality Massive Attack style will favour Magna. If you're a fan of the "Paganini of the bass" Renaud Garcia-Fons and his big 5-string acoustic upright, you could prefer the SR1a. Unplugged and amplified bass are fundamentally different to nearly require opposing tech to optimize to the nth degree.

The other key difference came higher up. The open baffles injected more white into the colour palette, the cupped parallel ribbons more black. Depending on material, the SR1a felt more percussive or staccato like spitting out ts-ts-ts-ts many times fast with much air speed behind the teeth. Magna felt a tad more legato so closer to rapidly saying di-di-di-di instead. The floating ribbons emphasized treble energy and upper harmonics whilst the touching ribbons folded those energies in to lose their explicitness. The SR1a felt airier, Magna earthier. If your soundstage perception is triggered by airiness in particular, the SR1a would seem to stage wider. To avoid skewing into the minorly zippy, the SR1a also preferred the mild 300B injection. Magna even on hotter albums was fine with the more direct transistor path. Purely subjectively as a function of relative HF prominence, the floating ribbons seemed more detail obsessed.

Actually, Magna was no less resolved but embedded the same details more organically. To overwrite for emphasis, separationist met integrator. With carefully matched SPL, these differences were less than they read but real enough. By the same token I was crystal about listening to the same transducer tech. Its trademark signature remained intact throughout these swaps. In the end I saw Magna as seamless continuation and refinement of the SR1a concept structurally, cosmetically and sonically. I somehow expect that most current SR1a owners would agree. How would Immanis factor into that equation? "I just sent Immanis with a Star-8 MkII Silver cable. You will have a much clearer picture of both SR1 and Magna with that cable and a so much cleaner midrange." I'd forgotten about the final cable variable. Magna + Star-8 MkII vs Immanis + copper cable? Immanis of course only sells with the Star-8 MkII. This A/B only an owner of both would do. Still, should Magna shoppers feel persuaded to spring for the €1'000 silver upgrade?