Review of: Zed Audio Ra
First of all, if you haven't read the Zed manual yet, you should download it and give it a couple reads. There is SO much good info in there it is a real wealth of information on many audio topics.
On to the Ra review.
I will begin by saying that I had used the AudioControl Epic160 which is essentially bass "restoroation" circuitry with an SPL meter built in, so much of my review is comparing it to that. I liked that processing feature overall as it helped out a lot of older recordings. My main gripes were the mounting size and the fact that there was no pre-amp feature. The Epic seemed to have plenty of gain when mixing in the processed signal it would not add gain and bypass the processor, also it seemed like even adding the least ammount of the processed signal it could be overpowering and unnatural. Mounting size of it was, I found, too large to really mount in a lot of places, and just shy of standard DIN sized width so mounting above or below headunit in the dash was very ugly and complicated.
Ra, delivered on all the things I enjoyed (and better) with the AudioControl and solved the main drawbacks elegantly, plus added more features to boot (oh yeah and for a LOWER MSRP!)
Ra has the look and feel of a quality pro-audio processor with side brackets that can be removed for flush mount. The front plate is thick and clean looking and all the pots have a tight and smooth feel. LED illumination is "just right", not overly bright so my cabin looks like a UFO at night, but enough to give it a nice look and see where the controls are in the dark. The amount of real estate this takes up is tiny (less than half the space of the AC), and it could find a home just about anywhere.
The resotoration circuitry in Ra seems much more sophisticated than the Epic/Epicenter line. Having two frequency points of restoration is very nice and it has the ability to really fine tune down to almost un-noticeable while still being there to quite pronounced.
The pre-amp feature is also tremendous. Plenty enough to drive my amp from a modest head unit's output signal, and unlike most remote gains I have used (and I have played with a LOT of amps), this attenuates down to almost nothing and seems to be a nice even gain in output through almost the entire sweep of the dial. Most of the "phone cable" type remote knobs have their full range of attenuation in about 1/4 of the dial which makes fine adjustment very difficult and just has the feel of poor quality and design.
I have not yet experimented with the compressor feature. The nature of my system is such that I can achieve painful output levels without stressing the amp or woofers (more power than I really need on tap and very efficient and robust woofers). I have complete confidence that at some point when I scale down to something more sane it'll come in handy as well.
Of course it also has an adjustable LPF as well which is very accurate and I find it convenient to be able to dial up or down on the fly.
In summation, this does everything I wanted and more in a very compact and clean looking package. Like every other Zed Audio product for nearly 3 decades, technology is cutting-edge, performance exceeds expectations, and build quality should ensure a very very long service. Special thanks to Stephen and his wife for all their help. Their customer service every time I've dealt with them is above and beyond.