Red Wine Audio Audez'e Edition Headphone System
You can't listen to a headphone without plugging it into an amplifier of some kind: an iPod, portable device or a maxed out home amp. It's really the combination of the two we hear, so when we talk about the "sound" of a headphone, it's more about the sound of a headphone/amp system.
Lets get started.
The Combination of the Two
I first heard the Audez'e LCD-2 headphone with a Red Wine Audio Isabellina HPA LFP-V Edition amplifier ($2,500) at the 2010 CANJAM at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver. I was totally knocked out by their sound, and later separately reviewed both products. Since that time I've listened to the LCD-2 with a variety of amps, and the Burson Audio HA-160 and Woo Audio WA-6SE, are among my favorites. But the memory of the LCD-2/Red Wine combo was the one I could not shake. Man, they were good together, but now there's something better, Red Wine's new Audez’e Edition Amp. Like all of the company's products, the new amp was designed and built in Vinnie Rossi's small factory in Durham, CT.
The amp shares a number of features with the Isabellina, but the new one is a balanced output design, so you can't use it with headphones with 6.3 or 3.5 mm plugs. The Audez’e Edition Headphone System includes an ALO balanced cable, terminated with a 4-pin XLR connector. The Audez’e Edition isn't just a headphone amp, it also sports two digital-to-analog converters: a high-resolution Wolfson 24-bit/192-kHz and a N.O.S. (no oversampling) Philips "Crown" DAC. Each DAC has its own sonic flavor, and you can choose between them with a flip of a switch. Philips stopped making that DAC in the 1990s, but Rossi still loves their sound. There are three digital inputs -- USB, Coax, and Optical -- but no analog inputs. With the Wolfson DAC you get up to 24-bit/192-kHz resolution over the coax or optical inputs, and 16/44.1 and 16/48K over USB. That input provides “galvanic isolation” to block computer generated noise from the Red Wine DAC chip, and intruding on your tunes. The Audez'e Edition is a fully-discrete FET output design. There are fixed-level stereo analog RCA outputs, which allow you to use the Red Wine Audez'e as a DAC for your hi-fi system.
The Red Wine Audez'e runs off a state-of-the-art 25.6 volt “Lithium Iron Phosphate” (LFP for short) battery power supply. No need to buy powerline conditioners for this system; the battery-powered Audez'e Edition is off the A.C. power grid. The low-impedance battery pack is manufactured exclusively for Red Wine Audio and is designed for long battery life. The pack features a built-in, custom-designed cell management board that balances individual battery cells, for improved reliability. A full charge lasts approximately five hours, for longer sessions you can run the Audez'e Edition from the A.C. power supply. The battery gets charged whenever you play the amp with A.C. power and when you turn off the amp.
The Audez'e Edition can deliver 5 watts into 32 ohms, and 10 watts into 16 ohm headphones! Rossi can also custom build the balanced amp optimized for AKG K1000 headphones. It has power to spare! The amp also works with Sennheiser HD-800, 650, and 600 'phones wired for balanced operation. The Hifiman HE-06 and HE-500 headphones are also suitable candidates for use with the amp. If you have any questions about compatibility with other headphones, check with Red Wine.
The nicely machined, anodized black front panel and brilliant red volume control look sharp; the unit measures a scant 12 inches wide, 9 deep, and 3.5 high. It weighs 9 pounds, light enough to take with you, but too heavy for truly "portable" use.