Select Comparisons

oBravo EAMT-2c

$2999

Technical

Our previous award winner from 2016 and still a top performer to this day. The EAMT-2C may have been overtaken now by more expansive and complex competitors such as the A18 or Mason V3 but it still delivers a very unique and open sound. The form factor is slightly different with that tear-dropped shape but it still used the same ceramic chamber and the intention is much the same as the Ra C-Cu, lush tonality and wide open soundstage.

Internally, the EAMT-2C uses a smaller 12mm NDD driver as well as the previous version of the AMT driver for tweeter duties. The rating is also more efficient at 16Ω and 105dB compared to the Ra’s 182Ω and 104dB specs. You may not have to adjust volume too much between the two of them on a good amp but the Ra is more demanding for quality power than the EAMT-2C. The sensitivity to higher noise floors on both is impeccable.

oBravo EAMT-2C

Performance

Both IEMs scale with better amping power and a higher quality signal in general. The Ra’s larger NDD driver will provide a much purer low-end and much better sub-bass presence and texture. If there was one thing I remarked on in my old EAMT-2C review was just a slight yearning for more sub-bass texture and power. The Ra delivers that and in much greater quantity without sounding overly physical at the same time.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the AMT 8II tweeter seems much cleaner and more extended than the 2C’s older AMT MK1. There is more energy in that final octave up to 15k with the Ra C-Cu. However, the Ra is pickier with the synergy than the EAMT-2C. You will get superior headroom and an airier treble performance but you do have to watch both the quality of power and the amount of power you feed the Ra. Too much, or too cold sounding and it can come across as sharper than the 2C. Too little and it tends to come across as more veiled, especially in the upper mids.

On initial impressions, most will say the EAMT-2C is the more forgiving of the two and true enough its top end is much easier to drive. However, even on relatively modest amps that match well with the Ra, the tonal quality is much more refined, particularly with vocals which sound sublime. On the EAMT-2C you get a little more immediacy and a more upfront vocal but not as silky smooth and as detailed sounding as the Ra.

Rhines Stage 7

Starting at €1599 ($1950)

Technical

Stage 7 is Rhine’s TOTL 7-balanced armature custom monitor with a 4-way crossover. This one has been with me for a while but yet to publish a review on it. Stage 7 is rated at 21Ω and 118dB and is miles more efficient and much easier to drive than the Ra. It will have some scaling properties in terms of quality of audio signal but desktop amps are totally unnecessary to sound optimal.

The Ra, however, will play better on higher noise floors and also jump over high impedance output hurdles without distorting its presentation. DAPs like the HiBY R6 and amps like the Tempotec Serenade iDSD will skew the Stage 7 low-z frequency response.

Much like the A18 is beautifully custom designed. Whilst the materials are not as decadent as ceramic and copper the fit is going to be that bit more precise and the seal is going to be much better. Then again, the Ra is a semi-open design so it is not really going to be competing for the utmost levels of attenuation against something like the Stage or even the A18.

Rhines Stage 7

Performance

Tonally the Stage 7 is dark sounding with a warmer but woolier mid-bass and thicker sounding and prominent lower mid-range. Instrumental timbre is decidedly euphonic and richer sounding than the Ra’s linear and cleaner signature but at the same time, it is also far woolier and less detailed sounding.

You will also notice how attenuated sounding the top end is on the Stage 7 in comparison to the Ra. There is simply next to no headroom and extension in the Stage 7 treble response which pushes down into the mids to such a level that it sounds veiled in comparison. The Ra has bags more upper treble energy and headroom with a far more open and spacious midrange.

All this helps cast a far more convincing and holographic soundstage on the Ra. The NDD driver digs deeper, delivers much better levels of detail and actually sounds snappier to my ears. The Stage 7 has decent sub-bass presence but it is more forward and intimate sounding and nowhere near as good in delivering nuanced low-level spatial cues.

This is really a chalk and cheese comparison with the Stage 7 and the Ra. The Stage 7 is so even harmonics dominant for a TOTL CIEM you could literally throw anything at it and it would sound quite smooth and musical. What the Ra offers is far a more resolving and accurate sounding with bags more clarity and articulation. Things you notice on the Ra will simply slip by you on the Stage 7.

64 Audio A18

$2999

Technical

The 64 Audio A18 is their top of the line custom made multi-driver IEM. This is an 18-driver masterpiece with a BA hybrid Tia technology design. Last year we reviewed this and gave it a whopping 9.6 for its tonality we were that impressed by its level of detail, control, and a big soundstage.

The APEX technology also played a valuable role in reducing potentially damaging consequences for your ears as well as offer a level of tonal tweaking with the M20 and M15 modules. We thought the M20 module was the more musical and interesting of the two and served to fatten up what is otherwise a largely neutral sound.

On a more superficial note, the packaging and accessory line up for the Ra just slays the A18’s neat and tidy but rather spartan presentation, but then it should right?

Performance

The A18 is rated at just 9Ω and 116db and is way more sensitive than the Ra C-Cu requiring much less power to be driven optimally. It will be more sensitive to higher noise floors and show up background hiss were gain is aggressive so for portable amping on a technical level it is a little pickier than the Ra. Synergy-wise it is less fussy than the Ra and will sound pretty good from most efficient amps.

Watch for output impedance on the A18. At just 9Ω it will have a low-z skew on the likes of the HiBy Music 6 and its tone will change as a result. The Ra, on the other hand, has no such issues at 182Ω. However,  to get the Ra sounding optimal you need a fine balance of good power combined with a source or amp that has a higher level of 2nd order harmonic distortion to keep the AMT 8II on an even keel.

64 Audio A18

Tonality

Tonally, the A18 has a natural to neutral quality to its timbre with a quick paced tempo, excellent clarity and very good control indeed, particularly with the Tia high driver. Using the M20 will also deliver a bit more low-end body and a fuller sounding vocal sounding presence than the more linear sounding M15 module.

As spacious and detailed it is you can tell it is a BA design once you A/B with the Ra. As I mentioned in my discussion on the bass performance and imaging of the Ra there are subtilties that the Ra can convey that get missed with the A18.

The low-end on the Ra is more natural sounding, hits harder and coveys more detail. The Ra’s bass texture and layering making the A18 sound just a touch one dimensional as a consequence. Little nuanced low-end spatial cues heard on the Ra do not catch your ear as much when you switch to the A18.

Imaging

The imaging on the Ra also has a more 3D-like or immersive presentation. The A18 may feel wide and yes, the control is excellent but it not quite as open sounding. That echo demo I used in the imaging description goes a long way to demonstrating how much better the Ra is with “painting” an accurate picture of depth. You get a better sense of just how exactly big that room is in the song with the Ra.

64 Audio A18

Tia vs AMT 8II

Both the Ra and A18’s treble performance is well extended into the final octave however they differ markedly in just exactly how far and how much energy there is until the final moment. With the A18 the 10k marker is decidedly lower than its peak around 12k. It then drops away fairly quickly around 14k.

The Ra is more sustained from 10k right up to 15k so the level of sparkle and energy is much higher than the A18. As a result, the A18 actually might sound a little more relaxed and more forgiving than the Ra. However, it does not deliver quite the same level of air or headroom which some people will definitely prefer.

obravo Ra C-Cu

Our Verdict

Before I started writing this review I checked in with Audio Sanctuary in London who sell the Ra and we spoke about the customers who bought it thus far. I had the impression that they would be rather affluent but it was simply not the case.

Yes, they could afford it but they tended to be more middle-class status with a fairly regular wage and normal budget levels in life. Perhaps my own relative poverty-stricken bias was clouding my expectations and I would caution you on your own when reading this. Whilst I have no doubt serious system buyers are among the customer profiles it is also true to say that other people who are buying the Ra are just like you and me. I did ask what was their compelling reason for buying it and I was simply told they said it was the best sound they ever heard. Fair enough!

Is it the best sound I have ever heard from an IEM? When the synergy is right yes it is, when the matching is all wrong perhaps not. And that is the crux of the Ra story. Think carefully about what it is you are pairing it with because it is not simply about power although power is part of the formula. It is also not just about the quality of source or genre though it helps. It is a balance between power and tone and what it is you want to listen to that makes the Ra so unique and compelling.

Personal Preferences

My personal preferences with the Ra veered to quality tube amps with silicone custom tips and genres with a firm focus on nuanced detail. Music that really stretched the stage and demanded pinpoint imaging in every possible dimension. There I felt it had an almost speaker-like quality.

However, this preference may not be yours. If you are into something less fussy, more laid back and easier to drive from DAPs there are plenty of excellent options that cost less than the Ra. I won’t sugar coat that part of the decision-making process because most people do see an IEM as a pick and go kind of headgear. The Ra is not that sort of IEM.

Also, I honestly do recommend you demo widely to find that perfect match before you buy the Ra C-Cu. I include cables, tips, and DAC’s into that equation. If you are prepared to do your research, and I suspect at 10k you will most likely will, then the Ra has the potential to be one of the most rewarding IEMs out there.

Ra Technical Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 10Hz~45KHz
  • Tweeter: 8mm Air Motion Transformer II Tweeter
  • Dynamic Driver: 16mm Neodymium Driver
  • Impedance: 182 ohm
  • Sensibility in dB: 105dB
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19 Responses

  1. Michael Vassilev

    Honestly at this price level an IEM with this sort of performance is an outright scam. Not only that, but it requires a few thousand extra to sound as it supposedly should, in amping tips etc. Aftermarket cables are a nightmare – yet another negative

    I met the owner a few days ago, and he opened up with “This is a 10000 dollar IEM” – he didn’t talk about the tech, didn’t talk about the sound – no, the most impressive thing about it is the price. Honestly would never go close to an oBravo product

    Reply
  2. Adrian Shelley

    I currently use Obravo EAMT-1C, plugged straight into an iPhone SE. If I did the same with an Obravo RA, am I likely to notice a significant improvement in sound quality, or would I need to match it with extra equipment?

    Thank you for your time (and great review)

    Reply
    • Marcus

      If you check with our page 2 matching we go through a lot of permutations and the 2C here in the office is pretty much the same performer as the 1C, justs lightly less bass. I think as a baseline yes the R is a setup in clarity and staging no doubt based on my comparison with the 2C but matching to get to the next level is more complex. It is not really about bigger setup equals better setup, just the synergy. My iTouch wasn’t the worst but the Ra does need more power. At the same time, big desktops didn’t always perform that well also. My sweet spot was actually the Sony D100 pro recorder and the ALO Continental Dual Mono using its OTG capability with a smartphone. I would suggest trying before you buy or demo a lot of different pairings before you make up your mind to upgrade.

      Reply
      • Adrian Shelley

        Thank you for replying. I’m sticking with the 1C for now – they are wonderful! – but accidents happen, and if I needed to replace them, I wondered whether it would be worth paying extra for the RA (though I’m thinking of the Lower price gunmetal version; copper is too pricey!) My health makes it hard to travel far, but maybe I’ll make it to Audio Sanctuary at some point and see what other alternatives are available. I’m far from an audiophile, just an ageing guy who wants the best sound I can get out of an iPhone. Cheers

      • Marcus

        Actually, the Ra range starts much cheaper than the C-Cu. I believe the aluminum version is almost half the price of the ceramic. Mind you I still love my 2C so I would not be getting rid of that either. Ha, I hear you, Adrian, I am technically middle-aged also and not getting any younger. Ping Phil a message if you can at Audio and maybe he can do a demo for you :)

  3. BC

    What a lovely 10k gift. I really don’t understand. I work for a multi-billion IT company that produces and sells hardware and I’ve never heard of a situation where we would leave a product of this price with the reviewer. It just doesn’t add up. If a company can “give” to it’s reviewers a 10k worth piece of kit, either this is a huge company or the cost of the product they are trying to sell is not worth nearly that and what we are paying is just IP (intelectual property).
    And yes, I do question the ethics of the reviewer/site accepting this kind of gifts.
    BC

    Reply
    • Marcus

      Well, I don’t agree with a single thing you said but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

      Reply
  4. Popo is a Marcus fan

    Btw Marcus, love your reviews but just like to have a constructive debate, hope you don’t mind xoxo.

    I do agree that if company survives then they’re doing it right however, it means that the shift in pricing trend would gradually move higher and higher and what I’m concerned of is general overvaluing of the product which results in higher average price than it should be. This would fend off potential audiophiles or make it hard for certain demographics to even own top-tiers.

    Reply
    • Marcus

      You should definitely read Andy Kong’s response to the value to price proposition and flagships in our Cayin Interview just published today. He can explain better than I could.

      Reply
  5. ike1985

    Great review! I know I will never buy these but I would love to hear them someday from my Hugo2! Ultimately the ones creating new technologies are the ones pushing things forward for everyone else, hat’s off to O’Bravo, I’m sure it’s an excellent IEM and maybe someday I will get to hear it! = )

    Reply
    • Marcus

      Awesome man, yeah I can’t afford these either but doesn’t mean you can’t sit down with the right pairing and enjoy them for what they are. That is part of the fun of this hobby.

      Reply
  6. Tawek33

    Great review oBravo Ra Cu :) I am a big fan of oBravo earphones I have amazing oBravo eamt2c, combined with Sony wm1z with a balanced 4.4mm I’m very happy and after this review I am very curious how to eat 2-c sounds from Sony D100:) also thank You Marcus for comparison
    Ra-cu vs eatm2c :)
    Anyway eamt2c is amazing eatphone and I do not doubt Ra – cu they are better maybe one day I will have them .

    Reply
  7. Popo Salmon

    At that price might as well just buy a car, makes absolutely no sense to make the product so exclusive not the mention the trend of HIFI equipment nowadays trying to exploit the generosity of audiophiles.

    Reply
    • Marcus

      So that’s a Skoda Citigo then for you? :) Me personally, I have an eye on a Ranger, the wife prefers it in silver and I want it in black. Naughty divisive Ford but they do have a nice speaker system!

      Reply
      • Popo the Legend

        You seems to drift the context of my comment onto your own interpretation, simply put, there’s a threshold that certain thing should be valued at, it hurts the consumer in the long run and I have no clue why you would otherwise feel amused.

      • Marcus

        No such thing, people are entitled to value anything at any price. The market and who buys it then decides if that was fair or not. If the company sells enough to make profit then they made the right choice. If not they made the wrong choice. That’s how the world has been working for centuries.

  8. Micah Rose

    I think the comparators are all wrong in this review. At $9999, and basically requiring desktop amplification this should be compared to the Susvara or the LCD4, not in-ears. Also, where the LCD i4 at in this review?

    Reply
    • Marcus

      There is no lcdi4 review because it arrived after the Ra review was completed, I may update it after I do the LCDi4 review.

      Also, I do not think the Ra should be compared to headphones because it doesn’t need a huge amount of power, it needs the right amount of power and good synergy to balance out the performance of the two drivers inside. That means a good tube desktop should be great but the Ra is not exclusively a desktop amp pairing.

      The ALO Audio CDM worked wonderfully with it using an OTG to my phone which is entirely portable. Something which the susvara cannot do. I originally thought more power equates to a better sound but the AMT is hugely more sensitive to power than the NDD hence thats why it gets peaky on big amps for me personally.

      Underpower it on daps and the NDD underperforms leaving the tweeter dominant. So it is a balance. For instance, I found out a few days ago the Sony D100 was beautiful with the Ra, something I did not expect. So it is actually more akin to a difficult matching process on an IEM level, but like the Vega can and will take more power. Hope that makes sense

      Reply

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