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  • RAAL Tweeter

    Was browsing AVS looking for A5 reviews and came upon some evangelical Ascend fans raving about the RAAL Ribbon tweeter. Has anyone heard it? How does it compare with our favorite planar tweeter? Could their soundstage be as wide as ours?


    Will not change my mind as I am anxiously awaiting my chance to buy my new A5's (though Jon is teasing with the glimpses of the A7) but wondering if they are just being fanboys or their speakers are really good.

  • #2
    Originally posted by 1st Time Caller View Post
    Was browsing AVS looking for A5 reviews and came upon some evangelical Ascend fans raving about the RAAL Ribbon tweeter. Has anyone heard it? How does it compare with our favorite planar tweeter? Could their soundstage be as wide as ours?


    Will not change my mind as I am anxiously awaiting my chance to buy my new A5's (though Jon is teasing with the glimpses of the A7) but wondering if they are just being fanboys or their speakers are really good.
    This could be a big topic... :)

    Pet technologies and theories come and go. There will always be super drivers and special techniques that capture imaginations and like some audio dogmas, become a central motivation for both users and manufacturers.

    But the sound of a speaker is derived from too many variables to list. The design is foremost, and when it's right it could even transcend most of the natures of any of the parts in the box.

    Does any one driver constitute success? Never. Super drivers with enormous panels, lines dozens of inches long, exotic operating principles, fancy materials, trademarked descriptions, and hefty price tags infer superiority, but they are each only an ingredient.

    The sound of the entire system, including all the parts from the top of the audible spectrum to the bottom, is what moves us or leaves us cold. Personally I think there's insufficient attention paid to systems design (sonically, not technically) and too much paid to isolated portions of what's in it.

    It's worth noting too that the sound of any system ultimately has nothing to do with the objective, scientific, and presumed operation of any one component - we're on two separate domains when we discuss the organic, whole sound of a system as it relates to music on one hand, to the theoretical or even measured mechanical, electrical, and acoustical characteristics of a component in the system on the other.

    We can't drive a particular engine, for example, although we can speculate and theorize about how it might lend itself to driving. We can bench-race a particular suspension setup but we'll get wrapped up in a Sunday drive entirely differently than we can ever really analyze in a conversation. There's making a grand piano and then there's playing one.

    And so on. It's why we recommend listening to as much stuff as you can get your hands on and to take all conventional wisdom with a grain of salt. Conversations naturally gain momentum and there's no guarantee it's toward great sound, not away from it.

    Getting back to your question more specifically, any hand-crafted exotic driver that costs many tens of dollars to build could have characteristics that lend themselves to a successful system design. If so its presumably superior performance should elevate that design over others. It should be in the top tiers. But whether it really works in a truly, inherently musical sounding system is related to a very large degree how it fits such a system, or if it fits it at all.

    The Chane 'Arx' planar is presumably not of this tier. But how it allows us to do things in the design it's in is what really counts. You can make real music with a smaller investment in smart, good parts, and you can completely miss it in an expensive construction of boutique parts. The reverse is also true.

    This is not to diminish the potential really good parts have - we use them and in 2014 and beyond will use a lot more of them. But design is a delicate thing and if I had to choose, I'd take a smart, clean, minimalist design over making two or three exotic parts get along in a design they might better not be used in together.

    There's a lot of ways to lap a track quickly: Front V8's and even transverse fours, mid-engine V12's, and rear-engine boxer sixes. But for any of them to really work well - to rise compellingly above the herd - each needs a great deal of refinement, sometimes taking decades. And you cannot force any one technology, especially the more radical types, into compliance with a list of other parts and automatically assume success.

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    • #3
      Jon, thanks for the explanation that a speaker is the sum of all its parts ( hopefully) cohesed into a musically sound system.

      I have wondered why the interest in combining all of these uber tweeters such as a RAAL with uber woofers from Scanspeak, Accuton, and the like into these $1500-4000 and up monitors.......can this pairing be integrated well into a system that REALLY outshines other systems with lesser priced parts but better designed concepts and integration.

      I have tried such a monitor with a RAAL tweeter, and while the sound is great, it's not "better" than my Arx A1b's for music or HT.....let alone the A5's I now have ( at 1/3rd the price of the RAAL monitors!!)........nor is it preferred by myself......I keep wanting the Arx sound and have enjoyed it thoroughly for the past year or so now. I think that says it all...........

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      • #4
        Originally posted by padgman1 View Post
        ...can this pairing be integrated well into a system that REALLY outshines other systems with lesser priced parts but better designed concepts and integration[?]

        I have tried such a monitor with a RAAL tweeter, and while the sound is great, it's not "better" than my Arx A1b's for music or HT.....let alone the A5's I now have ( at 1/3rd the price of the RAAL monitors!!)........nor is it preferred by myself......I keep wanting the Arx sound and have enjoyed it thoroughly for the past year or so now. I think that says it all...........
        You may have answered your own question, padgeman1. Name brand boutique drivers aren't the only place to get important features, and design is always so important.

        By the way, the A1rx-c and A5rx-c, while a ways off, have us excited. With how well the A2 and A3 platforms responded, and with the sound of the A1 prototype running right now, I wish we had these yesterday.

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        • #5
          Thanks guys, kind of what I thought. New technologies are cool but a good design is required for a good foundation. I think some companies forget the most important piece of equipment is the ear.

          Jon you are teasing again. I hope the prototypes are going well and you are doing well on the x overs. I am monitoring the skunkworks several times a day :) hoping to get the new 5's. Can you leak a little ore on the 7's if you are far enough along? A planer tweeter, a Mid, and 2 or 3 woofers? Diva's the way they should be? I am thinking sub less 2 channel. Maybe a Chip Foose like sketch (Overhallin) to wet out appetites?

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          • #6
            I've heard all the RAAL offerings in several different speakers, including one that is only offered to manufacturers as an OEM part. They are wonderful drivers, but I wouldn't hinge the quality of an entire speaker on just one part.

            I plan on buying a pair of A3's and an A2 center. A pair of RAAL equipped (and many other extremely high end parts and pieces) speakers may be on hand for me to compare about that time. It will be fun, The A3's will get their chance to pull L/R duty, as well as surround.

            I have not had the chance to hear ARX yet, but am looking forward to it. I also have no reservations recommending ARX to my friends, I think Chane just shipped a pair of A3's to Maine, recently. :cool:

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            • #7
              I meant to add that I wouldn't use inclusion of a RAAL driver as the sole determining factor regarding a speaker purchase.

              Edit function is not working for me right now...

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by tesseract View Post
                I've heard all the RAAL offerings in several different speakers, including one that is only offered to manufacturers as an OEM part. They are wonderful drivers, but I wouldn't hinge the quality of an entire speaker on just one part.

                I plan on buying a pair of A3's and an A2 center. A pair of RAAL equipped (and many other extremely high end parts and pieces) speakers may be on hand for me to compare about that time. It will be fun, The A3's will get their chance to pull L/R duty, as well as surround.

                I have not had the chance to hear ARX yet, but am looking forward to it. I also have no reservations recommending ARX to my friends, I think Chane just shipped a pair of A3's to Maine, recently. :cool:
                Hey Dennis, nice to see you here my friend, I wish I could be there when you finally get to hear an ARX speaker, I know you have been interested for a long time. Talk again soon my man, I haven't been on this new site yet, just starting to get involved here. I know you've been a Chase man for a long time as well, I've been on the TAI site and it took me here, so this is my debut. I see you're a mod. Looking forward to your impressions when you get your speakers.
                Cheers Jeff:)

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                • #9
                  Hey Jeff, good to hear from you! Welcome to the new forum.

                  It'll be a while before I am able to make another massive change to my system, but will keep the community in the loop as it happens.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by tesseract View Post
                    Hey Jeff, good to hear from you! Welcome to the new forum.

                    It'll be a while before I am able to make another massive change to my system, but will keep the community in the loop as it happens.
                    Thank you my friend, I'm ready for a massive change and it will be from here. Keep us up to date when you do.
                    cheers jeff

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I think you hit the nail on the head, Padg.

                      Some companies seek to pair a woofer from some large name-brand company with a tweeter from an equally well known name-brand company. The problemw ith this is when the philosophy of the tweeter manufacturer with regard to driver phase, response slopes, distortion, impedance, and sensitivity don't NATURALLY fit together wirh those same parameters of the woofer or midrange being used.

                      Jon used a car analogy that I loved and will build upon.

                      To me, it seems that many of these people are simply buying (having built as close to their specs as the manufacturer can provide) the best: crate motor, transmission, suspension coil-overs and A-arms, rear axle w/ differential, tires, chassis, etc......that they can afford.

                      BUT, this doesn't not a race car make. The INTEGRATION of parts that meet a minimum performance standard is what makes a race care a RACE CAR (dragster, road racer, endurance racer, autocross, etc.). If you've ever been around a race team, comparatively little time is spent with parts selection vice SETUP of those parts. Entire race weekends are spent fine tuning essentially THE SAME PARTS in small increments. Smart racers and teams won't try to squeeze a straight-cut gear 6-speed in a car if it is too big when a helical cut 5-speed is lighter, smaller, and meets the needs for that track. Squeezing the over-sized 6-speed in can create all kinds of other problems and cause unknown disruptions (ripple effects) later on in the race weekend.

                      Just watch the 12 hours of Sebring or the 24 hours of LeMan for these examples (Example: a team uses a heavier brake rotor for better stopping power. BUT, this rotor has more unsprung mass and works the wheel bearings harder than intended. This wears the bearings out earlier and forces a pit stop several laps sooner than would otherwise be needed.).

                      Jon and I see this ripple effect in audio design all the time. Folks RARELY are willing to admit that a manufacturer like Scan Speak or Dynaudio simply doesn't manufacture a driver that fits the PROPER (and most natural) specs for a given project. This, of course, is not an indictment of the manufacturer....but a failure of the designer to ADMIT that another solution mist be sought. Instead, we have crossover schematics that look like a damn Rhube Goldberg mechanism....with some designs having nearly TWICE the number of crossover components that are necessary.

                      You can't force the signal to go through all these components and not expect electrical degradation. That's laughing in the face of physics to claim that...no matter how much you spend on the components.

                      So, back to the RAAL tweeter. It is not an inherently flawed or bad device, but it is also NOT a dome tweeter and is not as easy to work with. A recent redesign of a popular bookshelf speaker was actually necessitated by the transition to a RAAL tweeter from a dome. The midrange that was being sued in that design simply did not have the high end response to interface at the higher crossover frequencies necessary for the RAAL tweeter over the previous dome. Again, not an indictment of the RAAL, but that affects THE ENTIRE DESIGN. In this case, a new driver was developed, but bass response has since suffered (a hallmark of the original design).

                      Also, all ribbons must have an impedance matching transformer so it can interface with the amplifier. So, a small iron core transformer is mounted on the rear of each tweeter structure...the same kind of transformer that is used on 70-volt ceiling speaker systems in JC Penny....though I'm sure the RAAL uses a transformer of higher quality. Never the less, this cannot be eliminated...so we have more crossover components AND an Fe core transformer between the amp and the driver diaphragm that otherwise wouldn't be there with a dome tweeter, ring tweeter, planar magnetic, etc. Food for thought.

                      Every driver is a tradeoff...even if it is from RAAL or ScanSpeak. Jon just doesn't chain himself to name brands for the sake of doing so.....he has found several quality manufacturers of components that will build to his EXACT specs for his big-picture design philosophy for each model range.

                      The results speak for themselves in performance for price....nobody else is even close when people REALLY take the time to listen.

                      Knowing what I know about ribbon tweeters in general and RAAL specifically, they can't just be thrown into an existing design. If you see a RAAL as an upgrade...that loudspeaker must be so different in crossover design that it is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SPEAKER.

                      Originally posted by padgman1 View Post
                      Jon, thanks for the explanation that a speaker is the sum of all its parts ( hopefully) cohesed into a musically sound system.

                      I have wondered why the interest in combining all of these uber tweeters such as a RAAL with uber woofers from Scanspeak, Accuton, and the like into these $1500-4000 and up monitors.......can this pairing be integrated well into a system that REALLY outshines other systems with lesser priced parts but better designed concepts and integration.

                      I have tried such a monitor with a RAAL tweeter, and while the sound is great, it's not "better" than my Arx A1b's for music or HT.....let alone the A5's I now have ( at 1/3rd the price of the RAAL monitors!!)........nor is it preferred by myself......I keep wanting the Arx sound and have enjoyed it thoroughly for the past year or so now. I think that says it all...........

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        ^^^^ Good commentary, Buford. Good information on the concept of tweeter/ woofer integration into the whole design scheme and not just letting the crossover mechanism "fix" incompatibilities between parts.

                        Also didn't know the RAAL tweeter needed some "filtering" between it and the amp in order for it to "work".......suppose the quality of "filter" would also affect the sound quality therein.......


                        Is there any objective info out there on the net about the RAAL tweeter and "difficulty" or not integrating it into speaker design?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The best loudspeaker designs incorporate drivers that would likely play decently together if they were both laid on the floor in proximity and direct-wired to the amp.

                          Also, my concerns about the RAAL are really a commentary of all true ribbon tweeters....all ribbons need impedance matching transformers to function properly. Also, unless the ribbon is quite large, most can't be crossed-over as low as a 25mm dome or planar magnetic of average size.

                          As for the transformer having an effect on the sound, I don't see how it can't have at least some effect. Also, in 70v audio (I used to design these systems at a previous job), the transformer acts as a band-pass filter....rolling off both low and high frequency sounds. Then, there are also thermal effects of heat on the transformer's linearity, etc.

                          It's a deceptively complicated design that, for all of it's benefits (and there are benefits), nobody seems to be willing to talk about the trade offs, which are also numerous. Every device is a trade-off. EVERY device. Planar magnetic drivers have more driver mass and slightly less sensitivity than true ribbons...but they are vastly simple devices as well (trade offs, as I said).

                          When people or companies begin to speak about a singular device as being the penultimate regardless of price....that smack of marketing speak to me.

                          EDIT: The part of your post that I bolded and underlined perfectly sums my point. Perfectly.


                          Originally posted by padgman1 View Post
                          ^^^^ Good commentary, Buford. Good information on the concept of tweeter/ woofer integration into the whole design scheme and not just letting the crossover mechanism "fix" incompatibilities between parts.

                          Also didn't know the RAAL tweeter needed some "filtering" between it and the amp in order for it to "work".......suppose the quality of "filter" would also affect the sound quality therein.......


                          Is there any objective info out there on the net about the RAAL tweeter and "difficulty" or not integrating it into speaker design?
                          Last edited by BufordTJustice; 04-19-2014, 11:13 AM.

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                          • #14
                            I wouldn't dismiss the RAAL so quickly.

                            True ribbon drivers use a transformer to protect the amplifier. Without it, the amp sees an extremely low impedance, almost a dead short. A well designed transformer (RAAL excels here) shouldn't degrade the sound anymore than a voice coil, passives or cabling would.

                            The RAAL drivers are fantastic examples of what can be achieved with ribbons. On and off axis measurements are exemplary, with a nice, spherical output. Not all ribbons are created equal, RAAL is certainly worth the money, and are the nicest tweeters I've ever heard.

                            As discussed in previous posts, implementing that goodness into a well integrated, unified design is key to realizing the drivers potential. The same can be said when using dome tweeters...

                            I would also take exception with high order crossovers being inherently bad. Generally, we do want to minimize passives, but I've heard some wonderful sounds come from speakers using well designed, high parts count crossovers. Minimum phase errors (inter driver phase responses) are key, here.

                            Addressing the OP, RAAL vs. the ARX planar, it really comes down to value. Is the RAAL a value piece? Not at all, their least expensive tweets are $400/pair. The ARX planar combined with the XBL2 drivers and Jon's crossover work is probably the best value going. Can one do better than ARX? Certainly, but it is going to cost a lot more for little gain. Diminishing returns and all.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              A design is not made or broken by one technology.

                              A particular part is not the basis of successful sound, where success is defined by broadband system behavior and the complete, immersive experience of hearing it.

                              A particular part's abstract performance also does not constitute a design's technical, acoustical cornerstone. It has to first pass the test of whether those characteristics lend themselves to that design, and then, to that design's sound.

                              To borrow Buford's analogy again, we wouldn't go drag racing with an F1 engine or run a locomotive with a drag motor. The design goal must precede the sum of its technologies. The individual technologies must serve the design ... which is why the RX-C variants of our models hit another level while the "new" tweeter is not specifically superior to the previous one.

                              Conversely, some of the "best", hyper-expensive drivers made are unusable in great-sounding loudspeakers. They have wonderful objective, abstract performance of a kind that renders them only suitable for limited, odd, or less than fullrange of full-output designs. Driver makers are not always - or perhaps even frequently - systems designers.

                              I can think of one thoroughly fundamental driver characteristic where the better driver lends itself to the inferior design, and where the opposite is also true. No kidding: Design a particular kind of entirely superior driver and right away you're faced with having to use it - because of the nature of its remarkable response - in a design type that presents new problems. The inferior driver is more at home in the better-sounding design. Choices, choices. Who was it said it's all trade-offs?

                              A Magic Part may not suit a sound because it may not suit a design. It may not suit any design, at least natively, elegantly, and in a good-sounding way. Assuming a Magic Part is the be-all and end-all is confirmation bias.

                              There is good cause not to preclude nine good designs because only the tenth has a Magic Part, and there is equal good cause not to include a Magic Part in Design X when its behavior cannot serve that particular design.

                              None of this is meant to comment on any specific part. It's a general rule of thumb that in our case, has something to do with how our stuff sounds.

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