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New Isabellina HPA headamp + DAC from Red Wine Audio

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 
Vinnie has begun production on his new Isabellina HPA (HeadPhone Amp). This is a combination of the headphone output stage from his Isabella Preamp and a full-featured Isabella DAC. I use both these components as part of my Isabella preamp, and believe this headamp may be of interest to headphiers wishing to upgrade their listening experience.

In my case I sold my Wadia 830 in favor of the DAC, which IMO is top-shelf, and very analog sounding.

The first round of orders is now sold out, but Vinnie is taking orders for the next round of production. If you spend time on the RWA site you'll find great reviews for both the Isabellina DAC and headphone stage. The casing is similar to the Signature 30.2, with thick aluminum face plate. Naturally it uses battery operation like all RWA gear.

HPA includes USB inputs. And can can be configured with fixed outputs to be used as an external DAC for your 2ch system, or variable outputs so it can serve as a volume control / digital input selector (linestage) fronting a 2ch amp too.

Price is $2,500, which is what the USB version of the Isabellina DAC formerly sold for. The straight DAC now runs $2,000 and Vinnie added a non-USB DAC for even less. Watch here and under the ALO thread for user reviews, which I expect to be very favorable. Details here...

Products > Isabellina HPA - Red Wine Audio
post #2 of 39
Awesome news, mostly about the price drops. I've always wanted to try the Isabellina DAC but the price kept me away, now that the price has dropped and even cheaper if you don't need USB like me, I may give this a try :P
post #3 of 39
I hope I get mine by the end of the week. I had to send my non usb isabellina for trade up so I am without my dac. It will be worth the wait though.
post #4 of 39
Sure looks like a really nice DAC/Amp unit. Well done Vinnie!
Knowing the Isabellina and Signature 30.2 I have no doubt he have come up with a winner here.
post #5 of 39
I too have ordered the Isabellina w/ HPA and chose the fixed output to the RCAs. I sure hope it lives up to my expectations and it will be compared w/ my Monarchy Audio NM24 DAC which has a wonderful sound. It should be interesting comparing this to distinct units specially since I will either sell one or return the other since I do not believe I could keep both.
post #6 of 39
No balanced outs?
post #7 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by fdhfdy View Post
No balanced outs?
Correct! It has unbalanced outputs, both signal level (RCA) and headphone (1/4" TRS).
post #8 of 39
This one is different than the preamp with the headphone out.
I mean, this one is solid state where the preamp has tubes.

I think they will probably sound different.

If it had tubes, I would be interested.
post #9 of 39
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by fdhfdy View Post
No balanced outs?
I hear you. Prior to moving to RWA gear I was 100% balanced, both 2ch and headamp. I was using my Wadia via expensive balanced cables, even had the most expensive Vandersteen balanced crossover for my speaker system ($800 ). Then I put a bought a First Watt F1 and RWA Sig 30 to compare for my K1000s. That was the turning point. Now I'm completely single-end.

In the end what sounded best to me drove the technology decision.
post #10 of 39
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by arnesto View Post
This one is different than the preamp with the headphone out.
I mean, this one is solid state where the preamp has tubes.

I think they will probably sound different.

If it had tubes, I would be interested.
I'm lucky, I have the best of both. Tubes in the Isabella Preamp, with built in Isabellina DAC and headamp.

But I've heard the Amphora headamp (without tubes). And I tested the Isabellina DAC directly against my Wadia CDP prior to committing to the Isabella (... 30-day trial). Unless you already have a top-shelf CDP or DAC, this combo will be tough to beat for the $ (...just because having a good source matters).

I had a professional musician over yesteday. He owns 2000 record albums and has heard a number of pro / high-end systems (not to mention having performed live with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Linda Ronstadt).

His comment was that most audio systems are actually brighter than 'real' / live music. To quote, after hearing a number of cuts on my system, "... it was like I could reach out and touch the performers."
post #11 of 39
How well does the HPA stand against the competition from Lavry, PS Audio, Benchmark?

I like the idéa behind the HPA. Seems to be constructed as easily and good as possible, instead of making everything complicated. I'm very interested in this product, I like the philosophy.

Wonder how it will perfom with foobar + Asio, SPDIF & Alessandro MS-PRO & Moon-Audio Black-Dragon.

I have almost no 24bit music, but what will happen if I play a 24bit song to the 16bit dac? Or will foobar take care of any possible problem when setting the output to 16bit?
Edit: Found the answer on 6moons
Quote:
Originally Posted by 6moons
About higher-rez files: "You can feed the Isabellina DAC a digital signal that was sampled higher than 44.1kHz. For example, even if the music was sampled at 96k or 192k, it will lock onto it and use that sampling frequency. It does not oversample, however, so if you send in 44.1k, you get 44.1k out (not some integer multiple of this sampling frequency). With regards to word lengths, if the files were 18, 20 or 24 bits, it will truncate to 16 bits. So it always plays back in 16 bits but the sampling frequency depends on the music file."
post #12 of 39
Thanks, guys!

Quote:
How well does the HPA stand against the competition from Lavry, PS Audio, Benchmark?
Hi Bredin,

You might find this post helpful (from the new Isabellina HPA feedback thread started on the ALO forum):

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/5895039-post7.html

Quote:
have almost no 24bit music, but what will happen if I play a 24bit song to the 16bit dac? Or will foobar take care of any possible problem when setting the output to 16bit?
It'll play 24-bit music with no problem - and even files with higher sampling rates like 96k or 192k (but it does not oversample - it just plays at the sample rate that it is fed).

I haven't tried Foobar - I"ve been mainly using iTunes with WAV or Apple Lossless files - but I'm sure Foobar will be fine, too.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me.

Best reards,

Vinnie
Reply
post #13 of 39
it seems like there should be analogue inputs as well if its ALSO an headphone amp. then i would need 2 headphone amps if i had 2 different sources
post #14 of 39
Could it run on AC power ?
post #15 of 39
Isabellina HPA has no analogue input and cannot run on AC directly. The AC charges the SLA battery inside Isabellina HPA powers it. The SMART module inside Isabellina HPA will shut it down before the battery is completely depleted and will start to charge the battery again.
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