Advance Warning: RAAL VM-1a + SR1a

The new RAAL VM-1a tube headphone amp and SR1a ’ear phones’ are going to blow the socks of anyone who hears this. The reviews will be gushing. Shoot this is the very best sound I have every heard anywhere. It is better than my 2-channel system:

- Thiel CS3.7 ($6K) | CODA 07x preamp | KRELL Duo 175XD | Musetec 005 DAC | Fiber streaming with Sonore OpticalRendu = $25K+ (approx)

My SR1a is composed of the following;

Benchmark DAC3B | RAAL VM-1a | RAAL SR1a | Fiber streaming = $11.5K



This is the very best sound I have heard ANYWHERE. Have a listen at the next CanJam. I have this in my house today.


Prior to the Vm-1a the very best I have heard the SR1a was as follows:

SR1a | CODA 07x preamp | KRELL Duo 175XD | Musetec 005 DAC | Fiber streaming with Sonore OpticalRendu = $25K+ (approx)

I would say that is 75/100 and the combo listed above is 100/100. Though I have yet to try the Musetec 005.

Listening to Allman Bros, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. This sounds like something I never heard before (I have heard the some 100’s of times)


I’ve never had a chance to hear them, but I can say I’ve spent a little time talking to Raal and they are top notch. Know their tech really well and super nice people so I always wish them great success.

@erik_squires  I believe you are in Los Angeles.  If so, do a short drive up the 101 to Ventura and have Danny give you a demo with exactly what I have now at home.

I am going through my classic albums on this system and everything is at another level. Having no room to deal with is huge. 

This system is perfect for 2-channel people who dislike headphones (like me).

I just bought fresh of the press RAAL ’CA something?’ headphones. it is a closed back headphone unlike the great SR1a, which is open. It is more of a headphone sound, so a tiny minus for me. However, it also has the tone of the SR1a, a massive win for me. I can now listen to the RAAL sound with my head on a pillow. You cannot do that easily with the SR1a.

I am testing this on the VM-1a amp now (awesome). Later tonight I will put it on my used Schitt JR amp ($350). I paid $2000 for the CA because I did not need any extras to get the headphone to work. I had everything from the SR1a. Otherwise, I think it is $2500.

The last ’headphone’ I had was the Meze Empy. I sold that after I got the SR1a. This CA sounds much better to me than the Empy. I used the Benchmark HPA4 with the Empy (a great pairing).

I will re-post this final thought on the VM-1a that I posted on head-fi.


The VM-1a and SR1a has been an extraordinary setup for me. It is as good as my 2-channel office system, which I love, and also costs 3x more. I was thinking that the VM-1a + SR1 does not sound like headphones, nor 2-channel. It is a different class of sound. The sound is so thick and incredibly detailed. I tend to open the flaps on the SR1a a bit further out than with my 2-channel amps (AHB2 and KRELL DUO 175XD). The amount of engagement I have with the music (singing, toe tapping, totally distracted from work) is really unsurpassed with the VM-1a + SR1a. I was telling Danny that I spent a long time trying different gear to make my SR1a sound great. I think I reached a great level with my best combo being,

Musetec 005 DAC | CODA 07x preamp | KRELL DUO 175XD | SR1a + silver cable | optical streaming

The new setup I have is about 25% better than my previous reference 2-channel setup.

Benchmark DAC3B | VM-1a | SR1a + silver cable | optical streaming

Recently, I have gotten into the pattern of listening to Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run song to hear the reverb on that track. I had never noticed it until the Mustec 005 DAC | KRELL Duo 175XD | SR1 combo. I knew the song for decades but never knew that reverb was there. When I tried with the Benchmark DAC3B | VM-1a | SR1a I heard that reverb at a higher level of clarity. Today I was listening to the DAC3B | VM-1a | CA and that reverb is even louder than on the SR1a. I believe it is because the CA is closed, and I have the flaps open a bit wide on the SR1a. Nevertheless, I think I can say the CA is incredibly revealing like the SR1a. No fatigue from the listen nor any discomfort. I am wearing reading classes as I listen (no problem, maybe better than the SR1a for that).

The sound on the CA is not as wide nor projected forward in my brain as the SR1a. It is similar to the Meze Empy (with Benchmark HPA4) but the quality of the sound is off the charts better with the CA. The RAAL ribbon is likely making it an unfair fight. I do not like the CA as much as the SR1a because I like the open aspect of the SR1a. However, this CA is a great headphone. I do not love regular headphones, but the CA is heading to highly like level for me. Let me put it this way. If I never heard the SR1a I would say the CA is the best of the limited number of headphones I have ever heard.

I think I will skip doing my work (with the JR) and just listen with the Vm-1a tonight.