Grado RA-1 Headphone Amplifiers

RA-1

Headphone Amplifier

User Reviews (20)

Showing 1-10 of 20  
John   AudioPhile [Sep 28, 2016]

I've been reading these reviews and based on these reviews I bought a used RA-! for just a little over half the retail price. Prior to this I have been using a Creek OB-11 with Grado 325's.
Since the RA-1 is designed for Grado headphones I figured I'd give it a shot.
Let me start by saying that I really liked the Creek. I was fast, lots of punch, but with some slkight glare in the upper mids that was intolerable if I pushed the amp too much. Which, by the way, was easy to do since the Grado 325's are very efficient. When played with the limits, the Creek did a very respectable job. As soon as I connected the Grado amp I could tell a difference. I listened to several CD's before coming to any conclusion on what I was (or wasn't) hearing. With the Grado amp it had a less forward presentation than the Creek. The bass was deeper and cleaner, vocals were smooth, and highs were higher and more extended and the decay and attack was nicer. Listening to the Creek I was engaged by the music but listening to the Grado I was taken away. By the fourth CD I was lying down and just listening to the music not the amp. Then it hit me, but for this I need to back up a bit. My source is a Rotel 965bx CD player which has served me well since the early 90's when I bought it. I added an outboard d/a converter made by Ack Industries a couple years after I got the Rotel. The Ack dAck is also battery powered. It has a deep cell battery which charges as soon as you turn the unit off. With the Ack in the system the bass was deeper and cleaner, vocals were smooth, and highs were higher and more extended and decay and attack was nicer. Wait a minute this sounds familiar. The creek had altered the signal. Perhaps what some of these cloth-eared nincompoops that gave this amp a bad review are missing is that it's not what the amp does to the music but rather what the amp does so well, and that is to just get out of the way of the music. After all isn't that what we're in this hobby for in the first place? If your system sounds bad, check your source. The amp is designed with Grado headphones in mind after all. (Don't bring your Honda to a Harley rally and then bash Harleys) It is said the magic happens with the RA-1 and RS1 headphones. I have plenty magic with the 325's. Perhaps I'll upgrade to the RS-1 later.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
finesound   Audio Enthusiast [Nov 19, 2010]

I went for the AC-powered Grado RA-1based on some of the positive reviews on this site. It was Grado's Reference series cartridge that draws me to Grado's headphone amp. I connect the RA-1 direct to my CD player and listened with a Sennheiser 600 headphone. The sound was no better than listening direct from the CD. The RA-a sure amplifies the sound, but not in a fine way. In fact the sound is finer direct from the CD player to the Sennheiser without the RA-1. Who wants volume without fine qualities? The wooden box probably is the best thing of the RA-1. Other than that, the unit is cheaply made. It seems that Grado just put its name on a piece of equipment in order to sell more. For that reason I no longer consider Grado's Reference series cartridge. I lost confidence in Grado products.

OVERALL
RATING
1
VALUE
RATING
1
jseibert   AudioPhile [Jun 03, 2006]
Strength:

Beautiful, simple, and a perfect (cosmetic) match to the RS-1 and RS-2 headphones.

Weakness:

Sound (which is what we are all here for). Grado releases some outstanding products, but I feel that they quickly threw some parts together to release a product that would be a 'match' for their RS-1 and RS-2 headphones. Im sure that Grado can do a MUCH better job than this and Im surprised they would put it on the market.

This is my first offiicial review at Audioreview.com and please keep that in mind. I felt that a review was at hand for this product since it has been getting so much great press. First, I don't come to bash Grado products (I own RS-1 Headphones and a Gold Prestige cartridge and couldnt be happier), but there is something to be said about the the RA-1. The RS-1 headphoens are astounding in every way possible and I also cannot go on about the price vs. value of nearly all of the Grado phono cartridges, but I find it upsetting that Grado would release the RA-1 and demand the price that they do for it. I have the AC version as I didnt want to constantly be changing batteries and wasnt worried about AC interference, as I have plenty of power filtering available.
I initially hooked up my RA-1 preparing myself to be amazed by the astounding difference they would make on my RS-1's, but no go. They did increase the gain somewhat, but I could simply do that turning up the voulme on my source. I thought that Id give it another shot and do some A/B comparisions with my Pioneer Elite PDR-19RW headphone jack alone (which was the source unit used for the RA-1). The headphone jack without external amplification (the RA-1) actually sounded better. The Grado added some shrillness to the CD's that almost made my RS-1's unlistenable.
I recently bought a tube headphone amp from Opera Audio (a small Chinese company) and the differnece between it and the Grado is astounding. I paid around $350.00 for the Opera amp (tubes and all) and it actually does something to the music. I feel more involved and I feel that the money I spent is actually improving my music, instead of lessing my enjoyment of it. I was hoping that the RA-1 would liven up my music, make it sound 'live,' or put me 'right in the center of the action' like so many of the reviews have stated, but I felt that it did none of these.
After doing some research on the web, it appears that the RA-1 is made up of around $30 worth of internal parts. This really disturbed me seeing how the retail of the unit is $425.00. Mind you, the mahogany is very impressive and the unit matches the RS-1 (and RS-2) perfectly. I think it is beautiful in it's simplicity, but it doesnt really do anything other than increasing the gain a minor amount.
Ill stand behind Grado and most all of their ventures, but I really feel they dropped the ball on this one.
Grado has made some outstanding products (Ill probably never buy another pair of headphones that arent Grado), but I feel that they were playing to the emotions of the RS-1 and RS-2 owners out there to have a mahogany matched 'set' when they released this headphone amp and quickly came up with a sub-par product.
I own a decent amount of high quality 'hi-fi' equipment and the RA-1 just seems like it can't measure up to any of my other components.

Similar Products Used: Opera Audio Consonance Cyber 20
OVERALL
RATING
2
VALUE
RATING
1
Kelly   AudioPhile [Oct 22, 2003]
Strength:

sound, portability, simplicity, price and build.

Weakness:

You have to replace the batteries, but no big deal.

Ok, I don't write reviews..much, but here I sit listening to my RA-1 and my RS-1's. I mix it up alot with different sources. High end CD players, Tuners, some not so high end when I travel. But I've got to say this is one GREAT sounding product and I've heard alot of what I and I'm sure you would consider high end equipment. I'll find my self just totally into the music, not even trying to find the perfect system anymore. I've given up on that. I own a $10,000 plus system and perfer to listen to my RA-1/RS-1 combo. I know what I like and I'm considered by my friends to have a good ear, and this is what sounds the best to me.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
hop ham   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 17, 2003]
Strength:

portability...can take it with me from my room to the bathroom to take a crap. Battery life is approx 35-40 hours. Its the sound.

Weakness:

none

I usually don't write reviews but I will with the exception that I believe this product is exceptional. Lets start by telling you that I don't have a pair of RS-1's or HD600's...nah, I gots me a cool pair of $95 SR-80's hooked up to a sony dej1000 discman. I have had my headphones for over 2 years now and had them hooked up to a decent sony reciever. The sound was ok but I knew it was limited even though I would never use my SR-80s's without amplification. So anyways I bought the RA-1 and I love it. The reason you are reading this is probably becuase you want to know if you should buy it or not...well, I will try to persuade you. There is no sort of equalizer or tweeking knobs, just a volume but you don't need it, its the way the music was recorded and the way its supposed to sound. Even with my sr80s I can hear the dynamics in the sound...it really changes the way you listen to your music. I listen to all kinds of music but mostly electronic music and I am always constantly paying attention to every little detail in the music and now that I have this amp, I have to listen to all my old cd's again to make sure they were as good or as bad as I previously thought. Don't listen to the idiot that said his amp was messed up because if you buy it from a good site and pay maybe 15 dollars more, they check it before they ship it.

Similar Products Used: creek (wasn't as cool)
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Ebonyks   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 01, 2003]
Strength:

Sounds decent with grado phones, although better amps exist for grados (Emiline, Melos, etc)

Weakness:

Overpriced, doesn't sound all that good, battery operation. AC mods cost 70 dollars, also unaccecptable.

To be fair, i don't own this amplifier, and have only borrowed a friends for about a week, however, i just find this thing dissapointing. The parts in this amplifer costs about 30 dollars, and to some extent, the sound reflects this. It sounds decent enough with grado phones, it helps take off some of the highs, however, given the price of this thing, there are so many better amplifiers out there. Battery operation at this price range is simply unaccecptable. Build yourself one of these amps, and safe yourself the money.

Similar Products Used: Melos SHA-1, RKV, OBH-11, Wheatfield HA-2, Emiline amp, Meier prehead, Twinhead II.
OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
1
HarryE   Audio Enthusiast [Feb 24, 2003]
Strength:

Nice mahogany box. Must have been made in China instead of Brooklyn, NY.

Weakness:

Poor quality control at the factory. Cheap power switch and headphone jack. It should have gold-plated jacks to match the quality that this unit is supposed to have.

Upon hooking up my brand new RA-1 amplifier, I found that it didn't work. Just a weak, distorted signal out of one side. Tried different batteries, headphones, cables, and CD players. Nothing changed. I find it inexcusable for a company of Grado's status to ship out untested units. My advice? Buy someone else's product.

Similar Products Used: Sennheiser HD600 headphones.
OVERALL
RATING
1
VALUE
RATING
1
Cary Watmore   Audio Enthusiast [Nov 18, 2002]
Strength:

Battery powered, magic with Grado headphones

Weakness:

Battery powered, RCA and on/off switch stick out of the back Drives Sennheiser HD 580 adequately but there's somthing missing.

The product year is 2002. The RA-1 brought out little nuances that was missing on my Creek OBH 11 SE WITH the Grado RS-1 headphones. A different flavor if you like but still heavenly. Yet it is somewhat portable. ›

Similar Products Used: Creek OBH 11 SE, Headroom Max, ¨
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
pbubny   Audio Enthusiast [Mar 07, 2002]
Strength:

Dynamic, spacious presentation; battery power means exceptionally clean sound

Weakness:

Battery power also means needing to change (or recharge) batteries every 30 to 70 hours of listening

The Creek OBH-11 headphone amp I''d been using for the past couple of years is a fine entry-level HPA, but even after spending 100 clams on the OBH-2 power supply upgrade, it was still notieceably thin and confined-sounding compared to an old integrated amp I had for comparison. The Grado, being battery-powered, is cleaner-sounding than the Creek (and that''s saying a lot), as well as more dynamic and detailed, and conveys a wider and deeper soundstage. Used with the right source and interconnects, it''s also quite powerful--I can''t imagine listening at a higher setting than about the 8:00 positon on the knob. I''ve managed to get about 70-plus hours out of each pair of 9-volt batteries, but I''ve recently opted for rechargeable batteries--on the suggestion of a fellow headphone geek on another Website. I imagine that using this amp with Sennheisers, which need more power to drive ''em than Grados, would eat up battery power more quickly than I''ve found to be the case

Similar Products Used: Creek OBH-11, with & without OBH-2 power supply; assorted integrated amps with headphone jacks
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Robert   Audiophile [Apr 24, 2001]
Strength:

Makes any source sound better on headphones. The best of lower-priced headphone amps. Portable.

Weakness:

none for the price.


To provide some background....The RA-1 has just replaced my Creek OBH-11. I have used Grado SR125 phones with both amps as well as the others I have auditioned.

I chose the Creek over the Musical Fidelity XCAN and the Headroom Little. It sounded better in nearly all respects. I ived with it for over a year and was very satisfied. However, my main reason for owning headphones was to have music on the raod. The Creek's 110V AC power supply limited it's usefulness in many areas of the world. So I was looking for something portable really.

With the RA-1 I got that and a whole lot more.....

The RA-1 exceeds the Creek in every way sonically. It is more extended at the top and bottom ends and smoother in the midrange. Voices and accousitc instruments have a palpability that is uncanny comming from headphones. Images fill a very wide space that runs from outside of the earpesices on either side. On some recordings there is a quasi-surround sound effect with ambience ques and background sounds seeming to come from well outside of your head. The Creek did not produce anywhere near this level of soundstaging. Oh, and the bass is killer...the Grado phones are known for their surprising bass and this amp only improves on that quality. It goes lower with more control than the Creek.

I really can't come up with any critisims for the amp...I know some have complained about it being battery powered, but to me that is a plus.

It may well not be in the same league as the Stax systems or more expensive amps like the Cary or Wheatfields, but I have heard my Grado's on a freind's Maxxed-out Headroom and the RA-1 sounded better than what I remembered of the Maxx (my freind and I are supposed to have a showdown with these in the near future!)

Also, I have heard the RA-1 with the RS1 headphones and it is pure magic....I never knew this level of performance could be had with headphones. There is an obvious synergy here...I wonder if these products were desinged around each other. If your budget will allow it, put this combo at the top of your list

All of this is not to be taken as a put-down of the Creek...it really is a fine amp. But please, if you can afford the extra $100 -$150, do not hesitate to pick up the Grado...it is well worth the slightly longer green.

While I am giving it 4 stars overall (I have not heard any of the truly top flight amps)it is definetly a 5 star value!

Very enthusiastically recommended!!

Similar Products Used: Creek OBH-11, Headroom little & Maxx, MF XCAN
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-10 of 20  

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