Red Wine Audio Isabellina HPA

General Information

Isabellina HPA pulls you into the music and doesn’t let go!

Isabellina HPA (HeadPhone Amplifier) delivers a highly-resolved and seductive headphone experience. Engineered for the avid music lover, it couples warmth and tone, while uncovering subtle details and delicate spatial cues hidden deep within your music collection.

Two highly acclaimed products. One cost-effective solution.

Isabellina HPA combines the headphone stage used in the Red Wine Audio Isabella preamp, with a full-featured Isabellina digital-to-analog converter. One listen and you’ll know it delivers a level of sonic performance discriminating headphone users will find hard to beat at any price!

A simplified, yet flexible upgrade path

Standalone DAC: Isabellina HPA has a line-level output, so its internal DAC can also be used with your two-channel system at home, or even a computer-based system at work.

Linestage for digital sources: If you want your digital music to go directly to a power amplifier, we can configure your unit with variable (line-level) output. Then it can control volume and digital source selection, saving you the expense of buying a separate linestage.

Home, office or patio?

Like it’s sisters Isabellina and Isabella, Isabellina HPA runs off-the-grid using high-current battery power. Battery operation coupled with compact packaging make it transportable, so you can enjoy great sound wherever you want. And the remote volume control makes enjoying your music collection that much easier.

More... http://www.redwineaudio.com/products/isabellina_hpa

Latest reviews

Pros: Musicality, build quality
Got my Isabellina delivered as promised, about four weeks after ordering. Fast shipping (to Europe), nicely packaged. Excellent service and communications from Vinnie, btw. Big package, smaller than expected amp
Build quality is excellent, everything feels tight and solid. Don't look inside the amp, not so very much there - but as everybody knows, small stuff is more difficult to develop
Installation couldn't be easier, running it via USB from PC and Macbook. Runs my (also brand new) LCD-2 with no problems, although the usual volume setting is around 3 o'clock, sometimes almost at the limit. Still burning in, both of them, but already showing great potential. Fantastic musicality, nice big stage, good separation. I'm a big electric blues fan, and this really makes it shine. Going to do some tube rolling later, but already stock sounds great. Very different from my O2, not as tight, not as precise - but fuller, more voluminous, bigger stage, always makes me feel like "more"
  Great stuff, IMHO, very much recommended for anyone looking for a sound like that. But not cheap...

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Update: After about 150 hours of burn-in, put in a 1959 Valvo CCa Tube instead of the stock JJ - woah! More room, more bass, more of everything... :-D And running it as DAC into my BHSE as well, sounds fantastic.
Pros: AWESOME SOUND!
Cons: A bit pricey for some.
 
So where do I begin? I say this because my file with my impressions was lost when my  Dell computer took a dump a while back. I have since transition to an 21.5 iMac so I am having to do a new write up of the Isabellina HPA ( http://www.redwineaudio.com/products/isabellina_hpa ) and the Signature 30.2 ( http://www.redwineaudio.com/products/signature_302 )
 
My first Isabellina HPA was purchased in the summer of 2009 right after they became available and I enjoyed its sound tremendously. So much that I sent it back to Vinnie to have it modded to provide power to a Wadia 170i a combo that brought a lot of smiles and good times. Note: I had Ken of ALO ( http://www.aloaudio.com/ ) build me an IC to provide the power from the Isabellina HPA to the Wadia 170i.
 
However, at the time I chose to move into a different direction and sold that set-up. This was a decision I soon regreted, specially when I got my first AKG K1000. So off I went and bought a second Isabellina HPA and it is my source to the Signature 30.2 which I use with both my AKG K1000 and an Stax SRD7/Pro modified by Birgir (spritzer) which in turn drives an Stax Lambda Pro also tweaked by Birgir.
 
Currently I am feeding the Isabellina HPA via an USB cable from the iMac, I have found no difference in sound perhaps an slight advantage to the USB in smoothness and in the ability to draw you in to the music. This may be placebo or not, suffice is to say it is my preferred method. Needless to say I am using Apple Lossless files and iTunes. BTW, I am using a pair of Signal Cable’s Silver Resolution with silver bullets 2 feet long between the Isabellina HPA and the  Signature 30.2. You can read more about them at: http://signalcable.com/silverresolutionanalog.html
 
I do not expect this to be a full impression report since honestly the best evidence of how much I like the sound is in the fact I re-purchased the unit. Not only that but currently I am in the process of securing the funds to upgrade the unit to an Isabella w/ Isabellina and HPA. However there are some elements of the sound presentation that I will discuss, hopefully they will provide a frame of reference and although I realize we all hear differently and have different headphones, music, and expectations it will be useful.
 
There are certain words that come to mind when listening to dynamic headphones via the headphone out of the Isabellina HPA. These are: Engaging, from the first note the sound grabs you and does not want to let you go. I guess another way of saying it is Musicality, the sound is very pleasing and its presentation makes you want to stay tuned for the next song and then the next song until you realize  you have been there for hours. I could go and use all the words you see in reviews/impressions like punch, detail, clarity, impact, soundstage, depth, etc. Although they all apply I truly feel that engaging and musicality cover it.
 
Next would be the Signature 30.2 and that is one beast of an unit. It is hard to imagine that such a simple design can deliver so much but those two 12 volt SLA batteries can provide a lot of amps when needed for a music transients. I find the K1000 response is extremely fast yet it never gets harsh or wanting. Similarly for the Stax energizer, which I was extremely surprised how good the Lambda Pro sounds. The word that first came to mind was involving. Yes, I am sure a Blue Hawaii and other high end amps would sound better but I do not have one so I can not compare them.
 
Here are some pictures.
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Pros: ORGANIC AND NATURAL SOUNDING WITH PITCH BLACK BACKGROUND NOISE
Cons: NONE
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 my isabellina hpa is the 2nd hpa that i have purchased from vinnie! the 1st unit i upgraded to isabella pre-amp which i use with rwa 30.2 power amp and my harbeth hlp3-es2 speakers (system) what makes the isabellina hpa better than "ALL" previous amplification that i have owned in the past is very simple, and here are the ingredients 1-discrete circuitry (no opamps) 2-high current sealed lead acid batterys 3-highest quality parts inside 4-highest quality of cabling inside(yes premium cabling does make a difference) 5-16bit r2r nos dac (giving a very organic & natural sound)(not a washed out sound like most upsampled dacs ive heard) the above mentioned portrays richness in tone unlike any other the sla batterys provide a dead black background unlike anything out there the bass is tight,deep and full the highs are all there,and the mids "WOW" you have to hear them to believe it! ok here is the most important feature for me! my isabellina hpa as well as all my rwa products i own is the most non-fatiguing listening to my ears! it doesnt matter how loud or soft i play my music. i can listen for hours & hours & hours!!! no fatigue for me!

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