Best or Most Interesting Speakers

I am starting to think that the best speakers I have ever heard are maybe the RAAL-Requisite SR1a Ear Speakers. The listening experience with these things is incredible. I have some $3k Meze Empy headphones that I really love but the RAAL Sr1a is a totally different animal. The 2 channel like sound right on your ears gives a sound that is so satisfying for someone like me that is room challenged.

I have a 2 channel rig that sounds amazing and maybe better than the RAAL but the RAAL is currently a more interesting listen. The SR1a has uber detail retrieval so that can be a fatiguing sound. The RAAL designer used the Benchmark AHB2 and DAC3 HGC to test and develop the SR1a so I was thinking this is perfect for me since I have an all BM stack.

It turned out that the all BM stack was too fatiguing on the SR1a. However, on my 2 channel system the all BM stack now sounds perfect. The SR1a has so much detail retrieval that fatigue is a problem with the wrong gear pairing.

So here are the things I have tried and learned. I used ROON to stream (using Fibre) and also added some ROON Parametric EQ. The DSP I setup had a slightly lowered treble and I also gave a small boost to the bass. I am waiting on some professionally calibrated DSP for these headphones in the future. I spoke with an engineer about this and he has the SR1a on his road map for DSP using some propriety sauce, I think using Convolution files.

1) The new RAAL-Requiste Silver cable is better than stock cable and you would think would make things even more fatiguing. Not exactly the outcome with all the gear pairings. It was bad with my all BM stack.

2) The RAAL-Requiste HSA-1b headphone amp is excellent with this SR1a. However, it has only 2 source inputs and cannot drive any 2 channel speakers I would be interested in. I cannot rate this yet because I was not able to use XLR sources when I had it in the house. I may try this again in the future.

3) I tried a single AHB2 in an all Benchmark stack was not good, Way too fatiguing even with the DSP enabled.

4) 2 AHB2’s in mono in an all Benchmark stack was not as fatiguing as the single AHB2 but was still a bit fatiguing. The SR1a like a lot of current so maybe that was the reason it was better than a single AHB2. DSP was enabled.

5) 2 AHB2 in mono but this time with the BM DAC3B replaced with the AudioMirror Tubadour III SE DAC (tube). This was not fatiguing at all and sounded very good. It has the uber detail as the DAC3B but softens up the SR1a top end. I tried with and without DSP. I liked both variants but in the future I will likely use DSP with this DAC. I give this combo a 8/10 in terms of sound quality.

6) CODA CSiB integrated Version 1 (first 18 watts in Class A, 150 watts @ 8 Ohm) + Benchmark DAC3B. This is what I was using for a few weeks and it was my best combo until the AMT3SE DAC showed up. There was a tiny bit of fatigue but I was enjoying the heck out of this combo. I give this pairing a 7/10.

7) CODA CSIB + AMT3SE DAC. This was pure perfection. A 10/10 and I crazily sold the CSiB today because I have no more space on m rack for the next integrated that is expected soon.

8) A Krell K-300i is expected soon and it will have 90 watts in Class A and 150 @ 8 Ohm. I hope it is in the class of the CODA.

Whenever I needed to use the RAAL amp interface box I used Audience Conductor SE speaker cable. A long one about 3 meters and then a shorter one about a meter. On the Benchmark AHB2 test I used a 6 foot Benchmark SpeakON speaker cable to the amp interface box. Of course with the RAAL HSA-1b headphone amp I did not use the amp interface box.

Check out these "Ear Speakers" they are something else. They are not like headphones and not like 2 channel. They are sort of in-between the 2. Put in a DAC like the AMT3SE and a clean warmish amp and you are off to the races.
Maybe I could raise my Quad 57's about 3 feet off the floor and sit between them?
A 10/10 and I crazily sold the CSiB today because I have no more space on m rack
Man, screw the rack.  How often do you get a 10/10?  I sincerely hope the Krell measures up for you.
Got the Krell today and will fire it up later in the evening. If I had know how good the CODA + AMT3SE + RAAL combo sounded I would have kept it and not ordered the Krell. In fairness the Krell was for another room but the wife got in the way of that plan. So I am keeping the 2x more expensive Krell for now (Coda was bought used and Krell new). If I go crazier and buy the Coda again it will be after I sell the Krell and then buy the 2021 version of the CSiB.

Anyways, I created this thread so that more people have a listen to the SR1a with some warm gear. I am echoing the comments that are on these reviews.

- from the founder of AudiophileStyle web site
" The RAAL-requisite SR1a headphones are unequivocally the most sensational audio product I’ve ever heard"

I am saying about the same thing as these 2 reviewers. The RAAL SRIa is one of there very best listening experiences, even compared to the best of 2 channel. HOWEVER USE WARM GEAR. I am a Benchmark guy so this warm gear is a different path for me.
@jasonbourne52 These "ear speakers" do give you the Princess Leia look but got to do it for these results
I got the Krell K-300i directly from Krell 2 days ago. It was a dealer demo model that needed a repair on the display so it came directly from Krell. I must say I am very impressed by the packaging for this unit. Perfectly done and nice instructions on the wrapping tape so as to not tear the plastic wrap.

The first day of playing the unit was pretty bad with a lot of fatigue via the RAAL SRIa headphones. I thought I would need several days of non-stop playing to make the sound right so I got my KEF LS50's out from retirement and hooked it up to the RAAL amp interface box with the 3 metre Audience Conductor SE speaker wire I had lying around. I have no room to place the LS50 in the office floor so I put it up on the closet shelf. I have not updated my virtual system with this crazy setup but I will soon because I really like the LS50 3 feet above my head angled down. I am not going to hook up the Krell to my Thiel CS3.7. It is too much of a hassle now. My system is really geared for a preamp and amp with the placement of the rack.

So after another 12 hours playing on the LS50 the sound is now really good. This was a demo unit so I likely do not need a ton of hours to make it sound it's best.

The Krell is very heavy and very deep (20 inches). It runs warm but not hot. I have a tuner on top of it and the AMT3SE DAC on top of the tuner. I would not have been able to do this stacking with the CODA. The CODA would have gotten scratched and the CODA is too tall to make this 3 unit stack fit in my rack. The CODA also runs a little warmer.

The custom Krell remote is so much better than the generic crap remote that CODA provided. The Krell also has a web server embedded in the electronics so you can control it with a browser.
After the sound settled down with burn-in I decided to compare 3 DACs that I now have available on the office rack via ROON READY. The AMT3SE and Benchmark DAC3B are connected by fibre optic streaming. The internal DAC on the Krell is connected by RJ45 Ethernet CAT5. I listened to all 3 via ROON with my ROON CORE Parametric EQ settings enabled for the RAAL SR1a. As mentioned before these settings are minor adjustments to the digital signal before it hits the DAC.

The internal DAC in the Krell sounded OK. I was a little bummed that the loudness of the DAC (maybe called GAIN?) was set so high. I have to lower the volume whenever I used this DAC. Compared to the Benchmark DAC3B it seemed a little more congested and slower. An OK DAC but one where I would be thinking of upgrading. I had 0 fatigue listening to the internal DAC, which was a huge win. I was also using the internal DAC to play the unit for burn-in. I will once day connect HDMI on this DAC to a TV that I recently salvaged.

The Benchmark DAC3B connected to a RCA input on the Krell was a bit surprising. Compared to the internal DAC, the soundstage seemed bigger, the sound harder hitting, and faster. I really liked this combo. The same combo with the CODA was a little bit more fatiguing. The Krell and Benchmark seemed to work in better harmony than the CODA and Benchmark. There was also 0 fatigue with Krell. 

My main goal for all of this testing was to find something that is not fatiguing with the RAAL SR1a. So I had decided to listen to Heavy Metal music. The same albums and tracks from Black Sabbath (Heaven and Hell), Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and some BeeGees just for the heck of it.

With the tubed based AMT3SE DAC the sound was a little softer on top than the Benchmark DAC3. Everything else seemed the same. With the CODA the AMTSE was a match made in heaven. I thought that was the best I had heard the CODA. The Krell and the AMTSE was very similar in greatness but the Krell seemed to sound a bit smoother while the CODA sounded richer (if that is a proper way to describe sound). Maybe like a richer or moist cake. The Krell was not dry but I kept thinking "like butter", real smooth. I loved both of them with the AMTSE. I also loved the Krell with the Benchmark DAC3B, not the CODA.

Another difference I noticed between the CODA and Krell was that the Krell seemed to have a bit more detail or clarity. I generally like that but I also loved how the CODA sounded with the AMT3SE. However, both seemed to fall a bit behind in the clarity or detail department to the Benchmark DAC3B | HPA4 | AHB2 system, my reference.

Long term I will keep the Krell. Even though it is a big over spend for my RAAL SR1a needs. I may move to a more accommodating house in the future and the Krell will be very useful then. The LS50's sounded excellent (given the placement) with the Krell.

I should also mention that I think there maybe more bass on the Krell over the CODA. I should really test this out on the Thiel CS3.7 to be certain. 

I am listening to some Emmylou Harris as I type this and damn it sounds so good. One good and bad thing with the SR1a is that when it sounds right I have to stop and listen. I cannot work with them on. I have the Meze Empy for late night work. I cannot do that with the RAAL, it is just too good.
@yyzsantabarbara  Thanks for the details. If anything, makes for an interesting read chronicling your journey from someone who didn't care much for headphone listening not that long ago to someone who is now exploring possibly the outermost limits.

So far from what I gather, here's how you're ranking the amps ...
Benchmark > Krell > Coda CSIB

And for DACs...
Benchmark >> AMT3SE >> Krell built-in

BTW, if you want to continue to use Krell's built-in DAC take a look at accessories like Network Acoustics ENO Ethernet filter, or uptone EtherRegen. You don't need these crutches with the opticalRendu, but might be useful when it's not in the digital chain.

Also, any plans to update your LS50s to the new meta model?
@arafiq I am not ranking the amps at all. It really depends on the application and my listening preferences. I tend to like detail and clarity in my sound, especially on my Thiel CS3.7,  so the Benchmark stack for me is as good as it get in this regard at ANY price. Many other folks may not have this preference for clarity and detail. I have mentioned before the BM stack makes me feel like I am in the studio with the musicians (that is if musicians are used).

The BM stack is awful with the RAAL SRia, unless I add the tube AMT3SE DAC, then it becomes pretty good. So there is the "it depends" comes into play.

The CODA and and Krell are truly amazing integrated amps. I think they both had a much bigger positive impression on me than the Luxman 509x that I demoed at a store. I think these 2 units are relatively quiet which I value highly. Not as quiet as the BM stack but quiet in a very appreciable way.

The KRELL seem to play nice with all my sources, tuner and DAC3B and AMT3SE. I have not tried my Sony SCD-1 SACD player yet. I want to get another Audience Au24 SE XLR for that for a true test. All my non-BM gear use Audience Au24 SE XLR and RCA. The CODA was not as great with the DAC3B but was a 10/10 with the AMT3SE. Not just saying that because you have the AMTSE :).

I am still not that happy with the AMT3SE with my amazing Thiel CS3.7 connected to the Benchmark HPA4 and 2 AHB2's. Replace the AMT3SE with the DAC3B and the sound is great.

At this point I have confidence that keeping the Krell over the CODA was the right choice. It fits better into my room and the sound is comparably great as is the CODA.

I should add that it is so nice to get the LS50's back into the mix (you need to see the photos I will try to load today). I am not going to get the Meta. If I get another KEF it will be the Blade 2 with Meta. However, the big issue on that is the wife. U know what I mean?

I just realized I now have surround sound on using my Tuner or my DAC3B. Just turned this setup on now for a lark. That is 4 speakers playing the same tune at the same time. 2 speakers above me and 2 behind me. Pretty nutty setup and sounds a bit dumb.
My final word on the Krell K-300i. It is now 3AM and I have been saying one more album for a few hours now, I think I need to stop listening to the Krell + SR1a + AMT3SE. A phenomenal combo. I am very happy with the choice I made to go with the Krell.

What the reviewers say about this integrated is on the mark at least with the SR1a and even to some extent the KEF LS50 (not in a good location).
Thanks for the update. So I'm assuming you prefer AMT3SE over the DAC in your Krell. Happy listening!!!
I think the following DACs that I own all sound better than the internal KRELL DAC

- Benchmark DAC3B
- Matrix Audio Mini-i 3 Pro

The internal Krell is good and I would always get it just to get the HDMI parts of that DAC. 
The sale of the CODA fell though so I will now do an extensive test with the Krell to see which one stays  (1 month). I have figured out a way to rearrange my space to accommodate an integrated for both the Thiel CS3.7 and the RAAL SR1a. I know the sound difference with the RAAL SR1a. Now I want to compare with the Thiel. The Benchmark gear will still be the main amps for the Thiel but I will flip them around occasionally with the integrated that stays. The new placement will allow easy switching of amps to the speakers.
My rearranging of my gear turned out better than expected. I can now have 3 sets of amps in this room if I really wanted. Though I will keep only 2. The idea being able to use the Thiel CS3.7 or the RAAL SR1a without having to move any gear. With this new arrangement I can do that. All I need to do is switch speaker wire if I want to toggle the amps hooked to the Thiel.

The all Benchmark system is so unique sounding that it will always stay with me. The interesting thing is that the Benchmark DAC3B with the HPA4 preamp and 2 x AHB2 amps, to the Thiel CS3.7 is not fatiguing at all. Just incredible sound.

However, the minute I put the DAC3B to the CODA CSiB or the Krell K-300i there is some harshness and I can feel with the Thiel and RAAL. I do not understand that but the easy solution is not to pair them up that way.

I took out the DAC3B from the Krell K-300i and now put in the Audio Mirror Tubadour III SE DAC. What a change, so smooth and relaxing. It is a different sound from the Benchmark but something I think I will want long term. Both are not fatiguing. The Krell sound is like butter as I said earlier. Very smooth with more bass impact than the Benchmark. My Benchmark is not really officially rated for my Thiel’s (2 Ohm). I was given some unofficial advice that it would work with the Thiel. It does work really well except for not matching the bass of the Krell.

I am listening to some Suede on the Krell + AMT and it is a brilliant sound. I have about 4 days before the CODA comes back home so I will have a very long listen to this setup. Then I will replace the Krell with the CODA to compare apples-to-apples. Damn this sounds so amazing.
Spent some time listening to the same tracks as I had with the Krell + AMT3SE, but this time with the internal DAC on the Krell using RJ45 Ethernet streaming. The AMT3SE was streamed to using my best fibre optic streaming.

The Internal DAC is rather good with the Thiel CS3.7. I did not care for it as much with the RAAL SRIa. There is a very tiny bit of harshness with the internal DAC that was not there with the AMT3SE but that is really nit picking. I do think the internal DAC sounds better with the Krell than the Benchmark DAC3B did with the Krell. Likely because it is less resolving or some synergy issue. The DAC3B is a better overall DAC. Just doesn't play well as well with my Class amps as the AMT3SE and now the internal DAC in the Krell.

I am very impressed by the Krell and see my self keeping this long term. The lack of a rotary volume control on the Krell is a problem for me. However, with internal DAC the ROON volume control can be adjust the Krell's volume. This is a great feature. There is also the web server built into the Krell to allow some control of the unit by a web client.

Great bass on the Krell. I can see myself using the internal DAC on the Krell over the AMT3SE to free up the AMT3SE for the CODA CSiB. 
In my previous post I meant to say, "Just doesn’t play well as well with my Class A amps as the AMT3SE and now the internal DAC in the Krell.".

Now listening to the same combo as before, Krell + Internal DAC + Thiel CS3.7, but this time streaming with fibre optic into USB instead of Ethernet into RJ45. That trace of harshness is now gone. A very relaxed sound. Sort like the AMT3SE sound which was also tested with fibre streaming.

Fibre streaming is the way of the future. I am steaming from a cheap DELL computer connected by a TP-Link PowerLine adapter in another room. So nothing fancy in the computer streaming department, except the fibre. i do not think I need anything more fancy for the server since I have fibre.
Yeah that opticalRendu is a great product. I recently tested the Lumin U1 in my system, courtesy of my neighbor, and we both agreed that the opticalRendu does a much better job of reducing the noise floor at half the price. 
The opticalRendu and my Ubitquiti Networks switch with 2 fibre cages is tremendous. In fact I will be setting up a friends system with 2 opticalRendu's and the same Ubiquiti Network switch as mine, but this guy will have 100 feet of fibre to 1 DAC and 40 feet of fibre to another DAC. The Sonore guy told me that the longer wire is actually better. I have 10 feet runs in my office. My friend has a warehouse so he needs a long run.
I cannot do a test that I mentioned I would do earlier. That was the CODA CSiB with the AMT3SE. I sold the CODA again today so that won't happen.

I should add that the AMT3SE + Benchmark HPA4 + AHB2 x 2 + Thiel CS3.7 sounds much better that last week. The DAC must have need more burn-in hours. Today that veiled sound is not longer there. It is detailed and warmish. A very nice combo.

Only bad thing about the AMT3SE is that I cannot have the RCA and XLR outputs connected at the same time to the Krell and Benchmark HPA4. It was not recommended by the AMT3SE designer, Vlad, and my listening to that setup showed something was not right. So I have to connect the ANT3SE to one amp at a time.
I wanted to update this thread because I am trying something old again and now it sounds very good.

In the past I was saying the Benchmark AHB2 was too harsh with the RAAL SR1a. At that time I tried both the Audience Conductor SE and also Benchmark speaker cable (with SpeakOn termination). Tonight someone was asking if better speaker cables matter with the RAAL. So that got me thinking (always a dangerous thing).

I have a pair of Audience FrontRow speaker cables with SpeakON termination, so they only work with my AHB2’s. These cables are excellent and are easily my best cables. I had never tried them with the RAAL. So when I did so today I was treated to a sound that had a lot of the harshness I was complaining about removed. It is super clean and smooth sound, I like it a lot.

My setup for the RAAL SRIa is the following (keeping this for a while):

- AudioMirror Tubadour III SE tube DAC
- CODA 07x preamp
- Benchmark AHB2 mono
- Audience FrontRow speaker cables

I also decided to sell my KRELL K-300i integrated which is really amazing with the SR1a to but the CODA #8 amp. The CODA 07x preamp supports dual XLR outputs, so it is perfect to use with the RAAL SR1a. The CODA #8 for my 2 channel and the Benchmark for the SR1a via the CODA 07x.