Best headphone under 10k$

The author claimed that Raal Sr1a give more details than Stax 009s.
He prefers Sr1a to Abyss 1266 TC(p13) on overall performance.

“You can argue about the rustic look of the SR1a, but not about the tonal qualities. The SR1a is therefore not only the best headphone I’ve heard to date, but also the new heir to the throne in my personal olymp. He replaces the ABYSS AB1266 PHI TC accordingly and from now on of course takes first place in my TOP10 on Musicalhead. And of course this decision wasn’t easy for me.”

Although, I pulled the trigger for Sr1a early this month, I am out of town travelling in Asia now.
I will find out whether Sr1a give more details than Stax 009s next January after I am back to my home.
I received my Sr1a on Jan 2nd.

Amplifier with more than 100 Watts for 6 ohm is recommended for Sr1a.

But I started with Marantz PM5003 which got a favorable review from Stereophile.

Even with 50 Watts available at 6 ohm, this one has no difficulty driving Sr1a with crisp high and reasonably tight bass.

But soundstage is not that wide or deep as I had tried with Chord Etude amplifier on last November.

I played "Autumn Leaves" sung by Eva Cassidy, " I am so lonesome tonight" by Elvis Presley

"Sound of the West and William Tell Overture " in Roundup Telarc CD and Schumann Piano Trio played by Pierre Fournier, Henryk Szeying. Arthur Rubinstein.

Also I played some old K pops that I am familiar with.

I used ripped CD's stored in SSD of Cocktail Audio X30 and Dac is Chord Dave and HMS.

Then I played same list of music using Rogue Cronus Magnum II fitted with Nos Telefuken 12Ax7 and Amperex 12Au7 (100Watts for 8 ohm)

Now Sr1a really sings with wide and deep soundstage with more refined treble.

This amp seems to work with Sr1a very well.

Then I moved to Crown XLS 2502 (This one has 775W for 4 ohm ).

I got this one to drive two 18 inch subwoofers of Scaena 3.2 speakers.

Wow this PA amp impressed me with lot of headroom and snappy transient but without hard edge.

Of course, Rogue sounds sweeter than Crown but latter does sound neutral not on the dry side.

I went back to Stax 009s driven by Kgsshv Carbon amplifier to play same list of music for comparison.

Stax give more relaxed and nuanced details although the absolute amount of details are on par with each other.

But Sr1a give much faster and open sound reminding me of Apogee Duetta Sig that I had used from 1989 to 1999.

Soundstage width is similar but Sr1a has an edge on depth of soundstage.

I think Raal Sr1a may be the best headphone under 10K$ overall although Stax 009s is musical with relaxed presentation.

Rogue Apollo monoblocks with 250 watts may work better with Sr1a with more headroom.

Also, Schitt will market "Jotuheim R", the dedicated amp for Sr1a forgoing interface early half of this year.

I will try it out with Sr1a after it is released.

Nice review on Sr1a by Stereophile's Herb Reichert .

He also made comparison between Abyss 1266 Phi and Sr1a.

Are the $3500 SR1a's better than the $4999 Abyss AB-1266 Phi's?

A: No.

But they are not inferior.

The Abyss AB-1266 Phi's remain my reference headphones. When powered by the Pass Labs XA25 amplifier, the Abyss 'phones deliver the most natural, lifelike audio reproduction I have experienced. The Abyss headphones are also quieter and more transparent than the SR1a's.

The RAAL-Requisites are more conspicuously open and dynamic than the Abyss 'phones. But . . .

Please understand . . . the Abyss and RAAL headphones sound more alike than they sound like any other headphones out there

I got the similar impression between them when I tried them side by side with courtesy of Torq last November.

Abyss sounds more accurate while Sr1a sound more open and exciting.

Herb noticed clipping with Rogue Stereo 100 which I also experienced with Rogue Magnum II while playing full volume of Pink Floyd's Wall.

He must be playing pretty loud since I did not notice clipping very often with Magmum II.

It is too bad he could not try Jot R on it.

Nevertheless Herb gave highest rating A+ on Sr1a.

I am listening to
Glazunov - Violin Concerto in A Minor
played by Jasha Heifetz through Sr1a.

Violin tone is sweet with marvelous details and wide soundstage.

I had lived with Sr1a for two weeks now.

This is a really amazing piece of musical instrument.

If you like ribbon speaker or headphone lover, you shall audition this.

They have unconditional 15 day’s return polity.

You need speaker amplifier over 100 watts at 6 ohm ( I feel that 150 watts is better).

I noticed occasional clipping with Rogue Cronus Magnum II (80 watts for 6 ohm) although it sounds sweet with tube amp at moderate level.

Crown XLS 2502 (600$, 775 watts for 4ohm) work well with Sr1a.
I had been listening to Raal Sr1a last two weeks enjoying its open an fast sound.

Today I am back to Stax 009s driven by Kgsshv Carbon for comparison.

009s is not a slouch in speed with more bass than Sr1a.

Both of them sound nice.

009s sound more analog with rounder and liquid texture.

Sr1a sounds more digital with lively and open signature but without harsh edge.

If I have to choose one, I will go for Sr1a.

But I will keep both since I also enjoy analog sound out of 009s.

Purist Audio Design balanced cable connected between Dave and Carbon amp help 009s sound rounder.
I got my Jotunheim R (dedicated amp for Sr1a) on Saturday.

Fresh out of box, it did sound veiled without enough bass

But it did not sound sibilant or harsh tthough.

I had kept playing it 4 hours then much of veil was gone with more bass coming out.

After having it on overnight, temperature on the top plate was around 90 degree, thus it appears to be fine to leave it on 24/7.

I had serious comparison between Jot R and Crown XLS 2502(775 watts for 4 ohm), using Dave and Mscaler and Purist Audio Design balanced cable.

To my surprise, they sound very similar.

Crown has slight edge on bass impact and speed.

Jot R has slight edge on clean treble and details.

Jot R has clear edge on soundstage width and depth.

With Chesky test CD, I could realize how wide and deep Sr1a can get with Jot R.

I have HD 800s, but it seems that Sr1a with Jot R give slightly more wide and deep soundstage than HD 800s.

With overall musicality and enormous soundstage out of Jot R, I can not recommend it too highly for Sr1a.

Combination of Sr1a and Jot R will be my end game headphone set.
As I type this I am listening to the RAAL SR1a with the Jotunheim R 

I will report on this in my next column 

If you have sufficient power to drive them, I strongly recommend the Hifiman Susvara as an end game, TOTL headphone.
I really don't think there is one single headphone that is the best at the $10k price point.  One reviewer will say one thing, another will pick another, depending on their individual preferences and associated equipment.

I don't think I'd ever buy anything at this price point based off of what some stranger on the internet is saying.  The best thing to do is demo for yourself, and pick what sounds best to you.
Post removed 

After further listening between Sr1a and Stax 009s driven by Kgsshv Carbon amp, I found 009s give more natural and sweet tone of violin.

But in general, I prefer Sr1a to 009s with more open and dynamic sound.

@ arelare7

I had not listened to Susvara but read some comparison between Susvara and Abyss 1266.

I had chance to compare between Sr1a and 1266 Phi.

Both are nice Totl headphones while Sr1a sounds more open and exciting and 1255 with deeper bass and more accurate presentation.

Now I am going to retreat my bold statement about Sr1a.

It will depend on personal taste.

Sr1a, 009s, Susvara and 1266 all has potential to be the  best Totl headphone under 10k$.

I had lived with Sr1a driven by Jot R for 3 months with Dave and HMS as source.

It sounds open and exciting but close to hot from time to time.

Thus I had pulled the trigger for Schitt Freya to be in front of Jot R.

I also placed an order of Nos quad Sylvania 6sn7 GTB made in 1955.

I hope it will give relaxed tube flavor to both Sr1a driven by Jot R and 009s driven by Kgsshv Carbon amp.

But Freya is backordered so that I may get it on next Thursday or later.

I also have quad Sylvania vt231 made in 1940's but two of them are in my 2 channel amplifier and I keep one more pair as spare

I had chosen Sylvania vt231 in Line Magnetic 508 amp after comparing with Nos Kenrad, Tungsol and modern Shuguang Treasure cv181-z.

Shuguang Treasure sounds warm and organic but falls slightly short of vt231 in details.

Sylvania "Bad boy" made in 1952 are hard to get with exorbitant price which I had not tried in my system.

But I am happy with Sylvania vt231 which give excellent details, nice dynamics, wide and deep soundstage.

I will also make comparison between Sylvania vt231 made in 1940's and GTB made in 1955 in Line Magnetic 508 and Freya.

I received Freya+ this morning

I skipped JJ stock tubes and inserted Nos Amperex 6sn7gtb in gain stage and Sylvania 6sn7gtb in buffer stage.

After running demagnetization tracks twice( 6min each) on Freya and Jot R, I started listening to Capricio Italian (Tchaikovsky) directed by Bernstein.

Wow, Freya with Jot R sounds much better than Jot R only with more relaxed and nuanced details but with minimal loss of transparency

While it sounds slightly thin with Jot R only.

Old Jazz recording by Benny Goodman sounds more relaxed with less hot edge from Freya and Jot R.

My digital source is Dave and HMS.

I use 20ft Purist Audio Design balanced cable between Dave and Freya and 6ft Synergistic Research balanced cable between Freya and Jot R.

I still have several choice of tube rolling with Sylvania vt231, RCA gray glass 6sn7gt and all quad Syl 6sn7 gtb.

Audio depends on personal preference, but Freya fitted with Nos tubes and Jot R sounds much more musical to my ears than Jot R only with overall nuanced presentation.

Although I had enjoyed fast and exciting sound out of Sr1a driven by Jot R for the last three months, I keep going back to 009s driven by Kgsshv Carbon amp to get more relaxed sound.

With Freya and Jot R, Sr1a move halfway between Jot R only and 009s with relaxed presentation.

I will also apply Freya to Kgsshv Carbon amp later today to find its effect on sound of 009s.

Out of curiosity, I am driving HD 800s out of Rca output of Freya using "Hosa TPR-257" adapter bought from Amazon.

Wow, Freya+ is also a killer amp for HD 800s.

I had driven HD 800s by headphone output of Dave and HMS.

It sounds transparent but with one note bass.

But with Freya in the chain after Dave, HD 800s sounds almost perfect with nice soundstage, clean details and full and textured bass.

@mglik said: "Good enough is good enough. $2500 ZMF Verites!"

I own the Verite Closed headphones by ZMF. These have garnered high praise from the headphone audiophile community. I am personally astounded by their sonic excellence. I own the HiFiMAN HE1000 headphones, which I prefer to the SR 009 (which is sorely lacking in bass, to my ears; I haven’t heard the SR 009s headphones). I believe that my Verite Closed headphones may be even better than my HE1000 headphones.

I haven’t heard the Raal Sr1a or even the Abyss 1266 TC, but I will respectfully suggest that any discussion of the best headphone under $10,000 should include the Verite Closed by ZMF. An EPIC review by Josh Mound explains the stunning excellence of both the Verite Closed and Verite Open headphones.
Underwood HiFI recently introduced a new headphone that has gotten a very good review

Final Thoughts

The LSA HP-1 is a spectacular planar design that Walter Lieberman had the insight to have developed and made under his own Living Sounds Audio brand. Made in Russia and designed by the folks at Kennerton with Odin as a starting point, this innovative new design with its unique headband design made me smile. No adjustment was necessary and the leather headband was comfortable. The cups completely sealed over my ears and the earpads were beautifully constructed with soft lambskin leather that made the marathon session memorable.

Soundstage lovers will love the wide and deep stage the HP-1 projects. Musicians appear in their own space and the imaging is rock solid and three dimensional and suitable for any type of music. A classical music lover will love the layering of the orchestra with the 3D imaging and you will be able to hear the remarkable inner detail in the recordings. Little details become noticeable that many lesser designs are unable to reproduce.

I am back to Rogue Cronus magnum ii fitted with Telefuken 12ax7 and Amperex 12au7 from Jot R.

It sounds much more gracious through Rogue than Jot R.

I believe Sr1a need dedicated tube amp.

I also have good result with two 18 inch Scaena subwoofers to complement bass of Sr1a.

But even without subwoofer, it still sounds good enough for most Jazz music driven by Rogue.

It has round midrange texture, clean treble and excellent separation of instruments through Rogue.

I also have Schitt Freya + fitted with Kenrad vt231 at gain stage and Sylvania vt231 at buffer stage in front of Rogue.
Nevertheless, I understood why so many engineering types would choose the AHB2 with the SR1a's: It played superclear, dug deep, and recovered much.
This is the comment from the Stereophile review.

Anybody else listen with the AHB2? I will have 2 AHB2 next month and this SR1a interests me. I read that the AHB2 was the amp used during the headphone design. I am hoping to have a listen to the headphone in the near future, hopefully with the AHB2.
Has anyone compared the SR1a and/or AB1266 to the classic AKG K1000 or either variation of the Mysphere headphones?
I'd like to add the STAX SR-Sigma Pro to that comparison list, it's pretty much between those five that I'm looking at to get a new pair of headphones.
I see I have commented on this thread about the AHB2.

Well I have the SR1a and tried it with a lot of amps, DAC, preamps, and integrated amps. I found a few gems for the SR1a such as the CODA CSiB and KRELL K-300i integrateds.

I did not like the AHB2 with every combo I tried (a lot) until recently when I paired the CODA 07x preamp with the AHB2 and the AudioMirror Tubadour III SE DAC + Audience FrontRow speaker cable. This combo is as good as my Thiel CS3.7 system which also runs of the same CODA 07x preamp.

The RAAL SR1a are incredible. I am fortunate to be able to listen each night to them. It feels like I am just continuing listening to my 2 channel floor standers.

Comparisons with other headphones can be found on this RAAL SR1a thread.
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