Once these first Immanis images circulated, the initial run of 27 units allocated to dealers and reviewers had locked up. The next run was scheduled for Q2. Those who found the angled AKG K-1000 wings of the SR1 too steampunk, the exposed über-Grado foam of the CA-1a too DIY, will exult. Finally a house-broken ribbon headphone! Those who celebrated the SR1 for its un-headphone-like staging could fret over the 1995 models sacrificing it by morphing from actual earspeakers to standard headphones. Given very open construction with large leakage zones, Alex clearly anticipated such concerns whilst simultaneously pursuing lower louder bass than anti-phase cancellation of open baffles can generate without DSP or analog EQ. These first photos show well-perforated heavily angled earpads, circular wood-finish frames and nattily bent and curved steel for the bridge. The click-stop height sliders look classic Audeze. The wide nicely finished headband too is a departure from Requisite's raw bands and their hole+post adjustments. The two-tone black/gold-bronze plus wood styling and the very open grill's classy detailing are new and very different. As expected from its price positioning, already on appearance new brand Raal 1995 pursues a more 'classic' buyer than established brand Raal-Requisite. Of course looks and coin always divide. They split prospective buyers into persnickety pro 'n' con assessors. It's why two closely associated brands with shared core tech then visibly different executions are brilliant strategy. An armchair Nostradamus could even predict that with laudatory feedback for Magna and Immanis, the SR1b and CA-1a could get a lovely boost in cred and desirability beyond their currently more underground standing. And here's another Irish joke, this time from Wikipedia. "immanis – monstrous, terrifying, frightful with regard to appearance especially size, huge, vast, immense, tremendous in amount or intensity." Particularly in isolation some of these words seem to fit. Others rather miss by a country mile at least to my eyes. Or would Immanis, once on my noggin, really scare me to death? I could already see my tombstone. "Loved headfi to the end."
The exposed steel-spring bridge celebrates the same difference that exists between nude motorcycles and those fitted with fairings and plastic cladding.
At this stage of setting the stage for flagship 'phones, brief if generic small print remains instructive. By design, all headphones eliminate the room. This instantly cancels the by far worst offender of speaker-fi linearity relative to the amplitude and time response. All headphones also eliminate distance losses of micro detail. And, all single-driver headphones eliminate crossover and divergent driver distortion.
By virtue of these three points, headphones designed for linearity tell us what's on our music relative to recorded tonal balance and detail without room interference, distance and multi-way transducers extracting their distortion toll. If we prioritize resolution and fidelity, even modest headfi outperforms an expensive speaker system in a standard non-treated room sans serious digital room-correction and/or physical treatments. Once we scale to a cost-no-object headfi, what we must spend on a properly room-tuned speaker system for like bandwidth, resolution and linearity gets extremely disproportionate and to my mind, virtually Quixotic.
Clearly headfi is about solitary gratification. Social aspect and scale/type of imaging differ profoundly from speakers. The social angle's flipside is that with on-ear sound, we can indulge at times and with SPL and material where speakers upset others because it's too early, too late, too loud or the wrong music. Also, hi-rez headfi allows us to hear all of it at rather lower SPL than free-space speakers. None of it is exclusive to Raal 1995. But it remains relevant when weighing the practical payback on today's considerable investment. And, over headphones we can get state-of-the-art sound in spaces not at all conducive to setting up a classic stereo.
Finally, the big generators of floor- and airborne vibrations are loudspeakers and subwoofers. It's most profoundly their lot which caused the category of resonance attenuation in the first place. Don't unleash loud sound waves into your environment and said environment won't respond in undesirable ways. That includes your hifi kit. Hence headfi won't benefit or just marginally from costly mechanical isolators. Performance-obsessed listeners have one less thing to fret over and spend on. Our budget goes to primary sound makers. We sidestep having to silence secondary sound makers. It's part of the expert spin when we must justify Magna or Immanis with our accountant. I imagine that's everyone without a well-hedged sonic slush fund.
"I didn't want flashy CNC detailing because I prefer understatement wherever possible. For the soft-core headband, there's a folded edge on both layers and diamond-patterned cushioning on the suede for better grip. Even though it's rarely seen, the stitch colour matches the wood. The headband's looped attachment around the click-stop buckle can be replaced without any tools. Weight reduction was important with the heaviest drivers to market. Immanis is still 610g. The stainless steel bridge coats in non-scratch ultra-hard titanium aluminium nitride like cutting tools. After laser cutting, it takes three hours to brush and smooth the edges, then an hour to bend it precisely before we coat it. Now there's no need to add weight and hide the bridge under wrap. The coating itself is a 450C°/8-hour process so far costlier than leather wrap. It's an even harder coating than the bodies of luxury watches undergo. With our surface being far larger, we pay a lot for this. You won't see it on any other headphone. It won't discolour either so look the same with many years of heavy use. [That's very much unlike the equivalent steel parts on my HifiMan HE-1000 and Susvara whose 'stainless' claim hasn't held up to heavily discolour from skin oils. – Ed.]
"On headband comfort, the prongs self-adjust by ±6° to adapt to different skull shapes. Due to excellent ventilation, there's no trapped air to heat up and cause sweating. The default clamping force is mild. Users with narrow heads or those who prefer stronger side pressure can gently bend the spring steel inward. On driver reliability, we've had a pretty good track record and with greater efficiency for these new models and more surface area, there's less applied power and excursion so more relaxed drive. Should a ribbon need replacement, we'll have a nice dealer scheme to handle repairs or do it directly at the factory." If you're into 'noble' materials like wood, metal and leather so far less happy with plastics, composites or synthetics like pleather, the Raal 1995 models have your number. They've been designed for easy service which extends into built-in longevity not obsolescence. The styling champions honesty not fashion fads set by Apple & Co. "In general I don't like hiding how things work. I hate wrapping. I like the natural appearance and fine finishing of materials. I prefer brushed to bead-blasted metal, hence our hard coating to protect the brush finish. I'm certainly aware that norms differ. However, those follow manufacturing ease, something we don't adhere to. In the olden days, people made beautiful telescopes, sextants, compasses, barometers with blueing on brushed spiral springs to proudly show off what they were made of and how they operate. After working so hard to get the ribbon drivers made and dropped in, I felt that the other details should exhibit the same care."
To address the elephant on the head, a Heddphone 2 weighs 550g, an Audeze LCD-4 put 690g on the scale before the LCD-5 successor shaved off 1/3rd. An ESS Marei AMT packed 621g, a current Abyss AB1266 Phi TC still hits 640g, a Kennerton Odin managed 680g. At 610g, Immanis sits below them, below the original 718g Heddphone and 760g Audeze carbon-fibre LCD-XC. A forum poster reports that his modified Monolith M1060c packs 826g. Far from topping this short list, Immanis remains a heavyweight regardless. It explains the extra-padded headband's bulge to distribute the load across more skull patch.
On that score we still might call Immanis an earspeaker more than classic can even though it now does look like a classic posh headphone; and even can be driven directly off this pure valve amp. Surprised? Credit Belgrade circuit designer Dragan Solaja for clever output transformers. Perhaps Alex's earlier hint of Dragan's Sakuma-style 300B prototype amp with 300B driver might launch with Raal 1995 branding and styling? Wouldn't it be sensible to offer a complete package and push the TOTL boat all the way out to sea? If the brand will eventually have turnkey loudspeakers, why not electronics like Raal-Requisite commissioned? For any hear now, I asked Dragan [right] whether he wished to include a VM-1a loaner with this Raal 1995 gig.
"I've been pretty busy the last few years mainly focused on designing/manufacturing Raal-Requisite amplifiers. We remain great friends and business associates but today I'm focused on building my own brand. I'd of course be happy to send you a VM-1A for review but I decided last year to phase it out and design a new range of products, first of which will be a 300B speaker amp. Customers kept ordering the VM-1a and I have another three units to deliver. Then I'll stop making them so you can understand why sending one out for review wouldn't make sense. But I'll be happy to send you my future products when I have them. I have no firm release schedule yet." This would also seem to answer my question on a Solaja-commissioned Raal 1995 amp. With Dragan working hard on his own brand, why would he want back into the less profitable OEM business?