About Raal 1995, "it's my all-solo effort but Danny McKinney of Raal-Requisite will again be my distributor/dealer for North America. I'll supply all other markets directly from Zajecar in Serbia. I still need to update my Raal Ribbon website and book a professional photo shoot." A joined-at-the-hip brand separate from Raal Ribbon the OEM tweeter supplier might signal a future home for turnkey speakers? "Correct, the plan is to eventually start producing complete speakers under that brand." World, watch out. Back on headfi, ribbons like electrostats need special amps, the latter to generate high stator voltages of typically ~550V, the former to drive ultra-low impedance at the necessary SPL. Together with planars, these driver types all are thin-film designs not classic dynamic domes 'n' cones. Alex's original ribbon was far narrower than ortho or e-stat membranes but particularly Immanis narrows the gap on raw surface area. What sonic consequences would that have?
At left is my Schiit/Raal combo for more affordable and compact ribbon-direct drive without impedance interface box. Given its niche appeal—this $799 amp only worked with Raal headphones—the Jotunheim R model is long discontinued. The classic Raal ribbon tweeter at right with its transformer housing reminds us how you'd not want to wear two of those canisters on your head. Leave their transforming job to the amplifier or interface box.
A ribbon-ready amplifier from Serbia's SAEQ. Plug in and go.
This 2nd-gen TI-1b interface connects to the XLR4 of a conventional headfi amp that delivers from 2-6wpc into 16/32Ω. The ITI-TRS cable makes said connection when an amp only carries a 6.3mm output. No longer must one dedicate a speaker amp to headfi. With the newer interface not available when I got my SR1a, even potent but otherwise standard headfi amps like my iFi iDSD Pro Signature, Enleum AMP-23R and Cen.Grand Silver Fox can become debonair ribbonators. Perhaps even one of my €699 FioO R7 might pass enough voltage through that transformer? "The new headphones will come with a 32Ω interface which works for all our models. For you I'll add the open-baffle compensation barrel adapters so you can compare directly with your SR1a." As circumaurals, Magna and Immanis don't need baffle-step correction. Thankfully my Jotunheim R can switch it off to embrace these newcomers as well.
As this photo also shows, Raal-Requisite already have a circumaural model in the CA-1a. With outré looks of a different style than the more Klingon-esque SR1a, it too doesn't fit the normal mould. Given the first Immanis driver photo, I suspected that quite apart from next-level sonics, Alex had crafted for this new range objects whose aesthetics fall more in line with established high-end expectations. Those naturally always want shinier shekels. Going more upscale simply seemed evident also with the gold finish. And why else bother with a new brand beyond Raal-Requisite? If the latter was Škoda, would Raal 1995 become its Audi even Porsche equivalent?
How much higher Magna and Immanis would price was the question which traumatized or merely titillated first observers just then. After all, some people feel entertained when they get to ostracize manufacturers for creating goods which are wildly beyond their own means. If you can't afford it, call those who can or make it misguided tools, outrageous materialists or worse. With Raal Ribbon having started in 1993, I was far more curious what Raal 1995 signifies when Alex was just 25 years old. What event had marked that year which the new brand means to celebrate, memorialize or manifest?
"I started learning about transducers in 1993, producing different prototype ribbons to measure and experience. But my first completed speaker only exhibited two years later at May 1995's Belgrade International Tech Fair. It was built by commission for Dragan Solaja as a 2-way with 8" bass-reflex mid/woofer and a 400mm open-baffle ribbon. We demoed it with his hybrid Mosfet power amp and a tube preamp. So 1995 was the year of my first formal audio work. It marks the moment when I decided that this would become my professional career." Next year Alex will thus celebrate 30 years on the beat.
To familiarize myself with today's lay of the lira in lush can land, Camerton's Binom-ER is €5'499 so a bit more than Focal's Utopia and T+A's Solitaire P. HifiMan's Susvara still wants $6K, the Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC slightly less. By my head count, ~€6'000 seems to be 2024's virtual ceiling beyond which only float extremists like Spirit Torino's $11K Valkyria Titanium, HifiMan's $18K Shangri-La and Sennheiser's $60K HE-1. Diamond-studded 18K gold-plated bling commissions exist for Focal and Onkyo. When encrusted in 126.5 carats of diamond and rubies, the Beats Pro can fetch $750'000. Meanwhile a quasi glut of 'best from' hovers right around the €5K mark. It includes the Audeze LCD-5, Stax SR-009S, Warwick Sonoma M1, Yamaha YH-5000SE, Final Sonorous X and Meze Elite Epoque. $4K buys a Dan Clark Expanse or Stealth, €3.6K a Kennerton Rognir, €3K a Meze Empyrean II. Where in this landscape would Magna and Immanis touch down? Alex was certainly aware of the status quo. Would he decide to set Immanis at about twice the SR1's ask? If so, he'd catch up with 2024. If to his ears Immanis leads that pack on performance, why would a Serbian entrepreneur price them much lower when he already has the Raal-Requisite models? Because he's a patron saint to headfi? St. Paddy McRibbon? Time for some Irish levity.
A Brit, a Scot and an Irishman wander into a Kildare pub. They each order a pint of Guinness. After being poured and placed onto the bar, in each man's glass lands a blowfly. Disgusted the Englishman pushes his pint away to order another. The Scot reaches in and plucks out the insect. The Irishman reaches in, picks his out, holds it up close then shouts, "spit it out yer little bastard." There'll always be people wanting replacements or demanding extra droplets. Others simply drink up without a fuss. Then there are those who dive in fully. The doorbell rings at Mrs Molloy's. When she answers, her husband's manager at the brewery stands outside. "Where's my husband? He should have been home hours ago." The man sighs. "I'm sorry to be the one telling you this, Mrs Molloy. But there was an accident over in the brewery. Your husband fell into a vat of Guinness and drowned." "Oh my God", she replies. "Please tell me it was quick!" ‘Well", the manager coughs, "it wasn't. He climbed out four times to take a piss." That seems to be the properly enthusiastic attitude towards today's gig? In which case, cheers or ziveli no matter what!