Let me start by explaining how I decided to try a Red Wine Audio product. I've owned audio gear at all ends of the spectrum. High dollar, low dollar. Tube, Solid-state. Integrated, Separates. The one thing they all had in common is they sounded different based on what time of day I listened to my system. Early morning was always the best. It got to the point where I would tell my family I'm getting-up early to listen to my system. And, yep, they thought (probably still do) I was crazy! I've used all kinds of power conditioners, voltage regulators, power plants and when I moved into a dedicated stereo room I added dedicated lines. The sound would change but it still was best in the wee hours of the morning. I finally decided I must be imagining it or there was simply something wrong with the power being supplied to my house, which maybe there is.
Earlier this year I bought a Sony HAP-Z1ES. I reviewed that component on Audiocircle and I won't go into detail about how I feel about that machine. What that review did is "introduce" me to Vinnie Rossi. His intellect and enthusiasm for exceptional sound quality was evident in how he responded to my Sony HAP-Z1ES review, by his instant willingness to help with everyone's questions and ultimately working to make sure the HAP-Z1ES meets its full potential.
I have Philharmonic 3 speakers that have a sensitivity of 85db that IMO sound best with solid-state power. I didn't think battery powered amps could properly drive them. I started reading about Vinnie's Signature 57 (Sig57) integrated amp and when I saw that he could build the equivalent of his Liliana Monoblocks (115 watts/8ohm, 230 watts/4ohm and 230+watts/2ohm) into the Sig57 plus have a battery powered headphone amp, phono stage and dual mono tube input stages - I decided to go for it. I also liked the cherry finish faceplate because it matches my rack and speakers. I discussed the Sig57 with Vinnie a couple of times and then placed the order. As it turned out, this was during the time Vinnie was sick for a couple weeks yet he was turning out new HAP-Z1ES mods and getting a lot of orders including mine for a fully decked-out Sig57. Of course, Vinnie delivered on-time and with a flawlessly working product.
After letting the amp burn-in and doing some tube-rolling (I settled on Amperex 8416) I did some serious listening via digital and vinyl. My first concern was easily put aside - the Sig57 had no problem controlling the bass and, in fact, the low end was very detailed. The microdynamics of a good bass line is easily heard. Its the nuances of good bass/lower midrange that are hard to replicate. Anyone can play a note but only a true musician can make those same notes convey the emotion and understanding of the composer. If your sound system can't produce what the musician put on the recording then its simply not the same performance or even music that the composer intended!!
The same is true for the midrange and treble. The Sig57 presents the natural leading edge attack of a note and keeps the natural decay and soundstage - just like you hear with live non-acoustic music. The sound is not fatiguing with one part emphasized over the other. The are no spikey or edgy SSSSSSs or TTTTTTTs coming from singers, guitars sounding like tin boxes, pianos sounding like they have keyboards only one foot long or trumpets sounding like machine-gun fire. With a good amp they should all sound REAL, as if the musician was standing there playing for you. The Sig57 gets it right!!
How does the Sig57 do this? My best guess is..........battery power!! It completely takes the power issue out of the equation. Vinnie has refined his design to where its a simple matter of always running off batteries. My system sounds the same during every hour of the day.......and, needless to say, my HAP=Z1ES will be going in for the Level 3 battery-powered mod!!
Here is a pic of my system: