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Red Wine Audio Isabella


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I recently had the pleasure of listening to the Red Wine Audio Isabella Vacuum Tube Preamplifier/DAC. I was at a friend's place helping him set up a new Model Four, and I had a chance to listen to the Isabella through some very nice headphones. The Isabella setup was as follows:

- Macbook Pro

- iTunes/Amarra

- redbook and high res WAV and AIFF files

- USB connection to Isabella

- Sennheiser HD800 headphones with upgraded cables

 

That Isabella is a very nice sounding unit! Very detailed and open, yet smooth and silky in character. I could easily lose myself in there for hours on end without growing tired of listening. Well done Vinnie! Also, I personally have the Sennheiser HD650 headphones and have enjoyed them for years. But I was really amazed to hear how much bigger and more detailed the soundstage was the HD800's. Too bad I have such a small head ... I felt like they were going to swallow my face (ha ha ha).

 

Seriously, though ... I was able to hear the difference between identical files -- one ripped to AIFF and one ripped to WAV. The latter sounded better, indicating that WAV actually does sound superior. But that is a subject for another thread ...

 

 

 

Sanjay Patel | Ciamara Corporation | New York, NY | www.ciamara.com

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Hi - for better or worse we didn't take time to do comparisons as the Isabella is used for the off the grid headphone setup. However, I can provide some degree of perspective on your question having used the Weiss + Berkeley combo and now Model 4. Since the Weiss and Berkeley don't have direct headphone outs, it's not an apples to apples comparison as you need to use a separate headphone amp or in my case I would use the dedicated headphone output of the Cary SLP-05. I haven't done in depth comparisons, but playing the same songs in my main system using the Cary's headphone output or the Model 4's headphone output to the same HD800 headphones, none reach the level of sonic bliss I experience with the Isabella using it's in internal DAC and headphone amplifier (which is using a pair of NOS Amperex pinched waist or NOS Ediswan tubes). As I mentioned it's not apples to apples as there are few things going on: (1) USB interface on Isabella versus the firewire input of the Weiss or Model 4, (2) DAC stage of each respective unit, and (3) headphone amplification. (and one could add power source, which in the case of the Isabella is battery for DAC/tube stage/headphone amp, which is obviously not a minor variable). There's some improvement to be had using an async interface as I tried this out a while back with the Weiss feeding the unit. However the DAC is clearly a very nice unit. via USB directly on my Mac it's limited to 16/44.1 as a non-oversampling DAC, but is capable of passing through higher sample rates, up to 192khz with the SPDIF input hence hooking the Weiss a while back (i.e., up to 16/192, and although I'd defer to the experts who frequent this site, my understanding is that a higher sample rate is probably more important than a higher bit rate given the limited dynamic range of most music, being

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