Review: oBravo Ra C Cu – Top of the line

Looks & Build Quality

 

Because of the huge 16mm driver, the monitor is quite a bit bigger than the Eamt-1A monitor. Where the cable connector first was at the end/below the unit, it now is at the side of the unit as well. oBravo uses a special type of MMCX where the connector is more recessed, that unfortunately means it won’t be easy to find an aftermarket cable.

The outside of the monitor (when wearing it) is made out of wood and it has the oBravo logo engraved in it. It also has 8 tiny holes for the sound. The chassis, if I may call it that, of course is made out of beautiful brushed copper and it looks pretty and classy at the same time. On the inside of the monitor you have typical ceramic enclosure with a nice little grill to prevent any wax from entering the unit. According to Phil and oBravo, the ceramic version provides the ultimate in style and substance. The level of sonic details improves yet again with the ceramic version, increasing the texture of the bass notes and giving an outlandishly lavish soundstage.

The Ra C Cu looks beautiful and it’s level of finish is exemplary. The only thing I can point out here is that it isn’t easy to get the monitors in to the carrying box because of the leather straps but it’s top quality all the way.

“Smooth details, firm outputs and the live-like experiences are those qualities giving the WOW factor. Quality and design worth of same importance, oBravo not only offers audio quality but is also a feast for the visual with the sense of art, metallic and the fine workmanship of the exterior give a hint of mystery. Our research and development team at oBravo is continuously dedicated to explore and discover new techniques and improvements on all products.”

Comfort

As I said these aren’t the smallest monitors on the market because of the huge driver but at the same time they’re not that big either. Because of the materials used however they aren’t the smallest and a single unit without tip weighs around 12gr.

With the tips installed the monitors perfectly fit your ears and they don’t have the intention to fall out. Because of how the cable connector is set up, you can both wear the Ra C Cu over the ear or the regular way with the cable down. I myself prefer the latter but I have seen people putting the cable over the ear.

Comfort-wise these IEMs for me are really good as well. You can use them for hours without taking them out of your ears and the whole experience is comfortable and painless. Isolation-wise these of course aren’t the top performers as this isn’t a closed design IEM. Sound will leak in and out and I don’t recommend using them in very noisy environments.

Cable

As said, the cable that comes with the oBravo Ra C Cu is a 3.5mm terminated stock grey cable with a 1.2m length. It’s an ok looking and sounding cable, terminated with oBravo’s proprietary connectors. The balanced cable has a white sleeve and 2.5mm connector.

I’m quite happy with these cables as they perform really good but at the same time I wished there was an aftermarket cable in there, for using these IEMs with a balanced desktop amplifier. These IEMs need power to sound their best, so a desktop amp is something you will use.

The oBravo connectors are freely available but if you’re willing to sacrifice a cable then I’m sure one of the aftermarket cable companies can build you something nice for the Ra C Cu. As a matter of fact I think Marcus over at Headfonics did just that.

Price

Now this is where things get impressive as oBravo has priced these IEMs at a very high level. The Ra C Cu model goes for £8,999.00 GBP over at Audio Sanctuary, that’s about 10.200€. I actually think they’re a tad cheaper in the USA where they’re being sold for $9,999.

So yeah, that’s a hefty price and that means this monitor obviously isn’t for everyone. A question people keep asking me is if it is really worth the money and that of course is a difficult question to answer. Is the Sennheiser Orpheus (HE-1) worth $50K? Is the Hifiman Shangri-la? These clearly are statement products for the brands and it’s less of a “Is the sound worth the money” kind of IEM. At the same time they seem to be selling pretty well all over the world, so there obviously is a market for 10K IEMs. Now don’t get me wrong: these IEMs sound absolutely divine when properly driven.

With a 10K price tag one starts to wonder if you want to take these out on the go. I myself have done just that and it didn’t really bother me, so I’m sure audiophiles buying these will do the same. First of all if you can afford these, then 10K probably isn’t a lot of money for you, so in case something does happen with them, you can most likely buy new ones. Second, no one really knows these IEMs cost so much, unless you know what you’re looking at. So safety-wise I don’t see an issue taking these out either. Of course you’re extra careful when you’re listening to IEMs with such a high value, but it shouldn’t matter if it’s $10 or $10K, you always have to take the best care of your gear.

Sound Intro

With an impedance of 182 Ohm and a sensitivity of 105dB the oBravo Ra C Cu seems reasonably easy to drive but oh boy, it is difficult.

The Ra C Cu needs power but not too much, overdo it and it will sound forced. Underpower it and you’ll be very underwhelmed. Get it just right and you’ll be blown away. The Ra is a very difficult IEM to pair with DAPs and amps and we can without any doubt say that this IEM really needs good amplification, portable or desktop sized.

If you know how heavenly the Ra C Cu sounds when correctly powered, it will be extremely hard going back to a non “amped” DAP and Ra combo. With 90% of the DAPs in my collection the Ra C Cu simply doesn’t sound especially good, you either get a dark sound, too much treble, uncontrolled bass, etc. With DAPs it’s basically a hit or miss, but with only a 10% hit rate. We’ll go into detail on this in a bit but I can already say that you can basically forget about pairing it with most of the usual TOTL DAPs which normally excel, and which we all love so much.

I regularly see people who demoed the Ra C Cu at a show for 5 minutes say it sounded bad, underwhelming or even crap and that really gets on my nerves. I feel shows and 5 minute listens aren’t the place to base a “review” or “impression” on and taking into account this Ra is so picky, it’s plain wrong to say it sounds bad. If they’d been listening to it properly matched, their opinion would be completely different. Is that the Ra’s fault? It probably (partly) is as it’s so difficult to get right, but do that and prepare to be amazed.

Balanced vs Single ended

And it doesn’t stop there as there is the balanced vs single ended “thing” as well. We often say how much better our headphones and earphones sound in balanced mode but even that isn’t the case here. I do still feel a balanced output sounds better in general but to the Ra C Cu, old habits mean nothing.

On some amps and sources the Ra C Cu simply sounds best in single ended mode, where you would expect the balanced output to make it shine more, like it does with a whole lot of other head- and earphones. But no. It’s all about the power delivery and how the Ra’s NDD and AMT driver handle this.

The very best sounding Ra C Cu for me in fact is when I use it in single ended mode, hooked up to the Audiovalve Solaris. Yes, that’s that €4500 tube amp from Germany.

I can’t say the Ra will sound good on your specific amp as it is such a particular behaving piece of gear, and therefore I – in this review – prefer to describe its sound in combination with a whole series of amps, DAPs and DAC/AMP combos.

The part on Sound starts right after the CLICK

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

3 Comments

  • Reply May 16, 2018

    Dave Hutchinson

    I guess a couple of good comparisons might have been the Audeze LCD-i4 or the Shure KSE-1500?
    Of course, they aren’t the same price but they are TOTL IEMs and with the law of diminishing returns it would be a very interesting comparison.

  • Reply June 18, 2018

    Guy Lamaar

    If you look at the price delta between the Ra-C-Cu and the “standard” Ra-C, that’s some pretty expensive copper. I think I’ll wait until oBravo release the -Pt or -Au variants; hopefully, they’ll be priced a little more realistically …

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