Sound. "I basically wanted a listening experience where nothing bothers us but we still hear everything in the right proportions. I've kept the SR1's midrange transparency but made it smoother. I extended the highs but removed the 'information overload' sensation that some people had with the open-baffle ribbons. There's no information loss but more refinement to maintain being-there presence. Magna refines the SR1's mid/high presentation and continues it linearly all the way down. It's a very neutral sound that will be right up the alley of SR1 aficionados but with more textured and extended bass than the CA-1a. With Immanis I used its extra surface area to tune the sub 1kHz bandwidth for a fuller richer sound with bass to match so extra weight and punch. I wanted more gravitas in the lower-mid/upper-bass transition for just the right amount of orchestral or choral body without overdoing anything. As with Magna, the CA-1a's low end merely resembles it but it's not a good comparison. The SR1's signature 'edge' feels softer now though isn't really. The shift in perception comes from the sub 1kHz region now having more body. If in this new tonal balance the original transient bite were really softened, we'd sacrifice its life-like energy and presence. A choir shouldn't sound dull or muted. We want to hear deep into individual rows yet the basses, baritones and altos should all have proper weight. The difference between Magna and Immanis is perhaps like two high-end speakers with 15-inch woofers but one with larger cubic volume. They're both correct but the larger one will sound bigger.
"Soundstaging for circumaurals exceeds their usual limits because of a large leakage zone right in front of the ear canal. The wide-open front of the ribbons sees the room to clean up the usual chamber reverb and compression of conventional circumaurals. It also creates far superior sound leakage to the other ear than if the vent zone sat behind the ear. This deliberate openness creates a sense of spaciousness that's more pronounced with Immanis. Now I can enjoy big symphonic music for two hours without any fatigue yet no information loss to make it so. It's simply a different perspective than the SR1. With modern music it depends on SPL and how much compression was applied during mastering. For example, I can listen to the Florence & The Machine Dance Fever album twice in a row or my Mark Knopfler playlist for hours on end. It's the red-lined constant dense banging of heavily compressed metal or rock which never lets up that has me seek out other genres after one album. Poor recordings still clearly signal that they're poor but don't become unlistenable. We can listen to them to the end because now there are fewer problematic playback areas in the headphones. Now inherent headfi issues don't compound with recorded issues. It's simply not because I obscure any information. It just presents better I think."
Detail x weight. Speed x comfort. Transparency x density. It's our old frenemy the either/or balance. Consciously or not, each listener treads then sets it with their selection of components. There's a world of difference between an original pre-fazor Audeze LCD-2 and a Stax electrostat. Many want to settle down somewhere between their polarities. They're hoping to overlay best virtues whilst blending out shadow sides. With the SR1a—I never heard the CA1-a—we've been on the Stax end of the line. Bolting on extra body was down to copasetic ancillaries. Now Magna and Immanis promise a built-in shift into enhanced density and weight without sacrificing the open-baffle ribbons' special strengths. Just so, Alex's earlier preference for a good valve amp plus interface over direct-drive transistors suggests that as always, our choice of amplifier remains an important tuning consideration. With Jotunheim R and VM-1a no more, it in fact seems that for direct-drive options at present, only the solid-state SAEQ HSA-1c remains. But the stablemate Hyperion Ge with rare germanium transistors does 2.7 watts into the interface's 32Ω and could be a worthy contender? I had high hopes for Enleum's AMP-23R whose 6.25wpc/32Ω rating seemed very well padded indeed.
Assuring a user of a 40wpc speaker amp with 16Ω output taps, "you won't have any problems with the 32Ω interface. You'll develop 20wpc at lower distortion. The problem with tube amps arises when you go below the load impedance their output transformer expects. Within reason so up to 4 x, there's never an issue going above it. If you have a SET that does 6 watts into 8Ω, it will produce 1.5 watts into 32Ω where Immanis generates the same SPL as the SR1 through the TI-1c's 8Ω input. Our new 32Ω loading is simply compatible with all decent headphone amps because that's the low end of possible load impedances which they've been designed for, high impedance being 300-600Ω. For a headfi amp, 8Ω would be out of bounds." This emphasizes again how via 32Ω default loading, the new interface is groomed for standard headphone amps of sufficient power. It's only users of speaker amps which will order the interface at 8Ω. Whilst possible, the emphasis is squarely on normalcy. There headphones power from headfi not speaker amps. Like the new looks and cirumaural MO, it makes the use of true ribbon headphones as non-exotic as possible. House-broken or salonfähig as my inner German would say. Plug'n'play. It off-boards a classic ribbon tweeter's transformer then styles its casing into a headphone stand for more normalcy. It reads simple but took 4 years of R&D past the SR1-a release. And that took about 12 years past the prototype I saw in Serbia in 2008. If you're the type who'd not decline taking a Ferrari on a short free test drive, Raal 1995 will be present at both the 2024 Munich's show's M.O.C. and parallel event in the Marriott Hotel, the NYC CanJam and a similar meet in Germany's Heidelberg.
Magna without headbank click-stop attachments installed. Close-up shows large leakage zone on the right so forward-facing side of the ribbon array.
On amp recos. "As for amplifier recommendations, it's not as clear cut as with the SR1. Magna and Immanis don't need a big warm amp to complement their tone balance. Now the choices are far greater. It's more about personal preference, about what camp you're in, not about what the headphones may need. Let me explain. As control amps during R&D, I used our HSA-1b, the VM-1a in pentode and at 32Ω my Benchmark AHB2. For voicing I used the Hyperion Ge and FirstWatt J2 both at 32Ω and the VM-1a in triode. Those latter three represented a group with very similar 'organic' sound in which the J2 sounds a bit bigger than the other two which are almost identical. Recently Solaja dropped by with his 300B² prototype which we tried with the 32Ω interface and Dragan from SAEQ with his new über-amp prototype which sounded really accurate, smooth yet lively. I liked both a lot. We also had an SAEQ HSA-1c which wasn't strictly developed to sound best with ribbon headphones like our Raal-Requisite HSA-1b but to inject more life into planars in general and to have more versatility. I listened to its XLR inputs and it was a bit too open for me like the Benchmark which is no longer my favourite amp.
"Now I wanted to explore the C version at more length so tried its RCA inputs and things settled down nicely. Then I used a smoother cable and that was it. Next my control group of four local speaker-based audiophiles commented on the Hyperion Ge vs. HSA-1c at pretty high SPL. The result was 50:50. My vote didn't count but I'm in the Hyperion Ge camp. So it broke out as you'd expect. Good low-distortion amplifiers can still have 2nd-harmonic or 3rd-harmonic dominant THD where it's well known that a general audience tends to split quite evenly in their preference. The HSA-1c is not a typical representative of the odd-order 3rd harmonic group but close enough, the Ge a typical representative of the even-order 2nd harmonic with an almost logarithmic envelope of the other harmonics up to the 5th and practically nothing beyond that. If you listen at low SPL, you won't hear much difference. It takes loudspeakers to really load beefy amps like these. At headfi levels particularly if you listen softly, it's more likely that an amp's general tonal balance influenced by its choice of capacitors, wiring type and layout will dominate. At the World of Headphones meet we'll premiere Magna and Immanis on the HSA-1c over RCA and the right cable but also have other amps to cater to show conditions where visitors want to try different things."