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Catching up with the company one notices the same return-to-the-roots emphasis on value with the new Corvina battery-powered headphone amplifier. Adopting the Signature 15's new cheaper enclosure it strips away the big Isabella's DAC function but otherwise maintains identical headfi innards. Then there's a $100 optional 5V/12Vdc output to take products like the Wadia i170, Onkyo ND-S1, Pure i20 and similar digital-direct iPod docks off the grid and for $500 there's a fully balanced output stage. The basic Corvina sells for $1.000.

Pushing the envelope on the other end are the forthcoming 100/200wpc into 8/4Ω Liliana monos. Like the Signature 15 those run on class A/B FET outputs and batteries. If we were into myth making we'd simply speculate. Vinnie Rossi got tired of competing against (particularly Chinese) T-amp clones and also the ongoing attitude around class D. The Signature 15 and Liliana monos indicate a clear strategic response to either. Really? To find out for sure I asked the designer to tell this story in his own words.

"During the design of the Liliana monoblocks I was very much blown away by using our larger higher-voltage LiFePO4 pack feeding a discrete FET output stage (8 FETs in the case of the Liliana). This allowed for the serious DC-direct output current of the battery pack to be utilized way beyond what we were able to do with our Signature 70.2 Tripath-based monoblocks. It wasn't even close. The execution of the Class A tube input stage and discrete Class AB Mosfet output stage with LiFePO4 was in a whole other class (no pun intended)!

"I wanted to retain most of the Red Wine Audio house sound but bring about a more extended top end which would improve micro detail; and more dynamics. This is what the Liliana design is all about: taking the Red Wine sound and bringing more extension in both directions along with the power to drive most speakers available today. You get huge dynamics, very articulate bass response, a beautiful midrange and that sweet and detailed top end but with vastly improved micro detail.

"The Signature 15 brings this new 'enhanced performance' (no, this is not a Viagra pitch!) Red Wine Audio house sound to a smaller lower-power offering that is in reach of the budget of most audiophiles. At $1.500 it is only $100 more than the original Signature 30 released back in 2006 but delivers much more value. Compared to the original Signature 30, the Signature 15 contains all-new features that we've developed since 2006:  
• Class A tube input stage
• Discrete Class AB FET output stage
• Our LiFePO4 battery pack instead of SLAs
• 3 inputs selectable on the front panel
• Our latest generation SMART board 
• Remote volume control
• Higher quality RCA jacks and speaker posts
• Tube-buffered preamp outputs 

Audez'e Edition headphone amp with switchable 24/192 hi-rez/NOS DAC and balanced outputs

"I dream for the Signature 15 to not only be considered a 'one-of-a-kind' integrated (what other product has this feature set regardless of price?) but to perhaps someday also be considered a 'classic' even. It can be your gateway drug into the real high-end and/or your final destination point. Choose your own adventure! I say "gateway drug" because we offer a 100% trade-up policy for the Signature 15. When you want to upgrade to our Isabella preamp, Liliana monoblocks or even change gears to something like an Audez'e Edition System amp/dac combo for serious headphone listening, we apply a 100% trade-up credit. For select products like the Signature 15 this removes the inconvenience of having to sell online and take a loss in the sale to fund the upgrade. But it also does something that completes the circle. It allows us to sell the trade-in unit (reconditioned, with new 5-year warranty) at a discounted price. This makes it more attractive for someone who is on an even tighter budget but wants in. We always want to maintain long-term relationships and trust with our customers and would like to see them reach their goals in completing their system with RWA components. Everyone wins and this type of program is what we have been offering for a few years now. It continues to be a very attractive approach.

"Getting back to the Signature 15, I have always loved the lower-powered Tripath sound and with the 2010 release of the LFP-V Editions really brought out the best in them. But yes and from the very beginning there has always been some discrimination against Class D and Tripath-based amps—even by those who never heard our implementation—and numerous cheap and inferior sounding amps from China using Tripath at the core of their design have flooded the market. But the Signature 30.2 and 70.2s have always risen above all that. It's like saying "I don't like 300B or EL84 amps" after hearing one or two. Just because an amp uses a specific tube does not mean it is going to sound like another amp using the same tube. There are many other design variables involved. The same is true with 'Class T' or Class D. 

"But with the Signature 15 it's all linear power now which doubles into 4 ohms to deliver 30wpc RMS. It feels like there is more power than what the rating states. This is what the FET output stage does so well - deliver more current. Some may think that we eschew AC power only because of the benefits of reduced noise and getting away from power conditioners and power cords. That is not the case. This battery technology can output serious current on demand. Large storage capacitors to compensate for the current choking in the AC/DC conversion process via transformer, rectification and regulation stages need not apply. With such low output impedance as our LiFePO4 pack, high-current DC is just waiting to be modulated by your source to feed your speakers.

"Like any amplifier in this power range the Signature 15 is not about bringing rock-concert SPLs into your room unless you are using high-efficiency speakers. The Signature 15 is about delivering more nuance, more texture and more extension to the Red Wine house sound that has had such a strong and loyal following which we are most honored and humbled by. And it is about doing it at an entry-level price all right here in the state of CT, USA in a simple but very solid enclosure that doesn't try to draw much attention to itself but really wants to draw you into listening. As always this is the true test. With a 30-day refund policy just like every Red Wine Audio component—and the trade-up policy mentioned above—you simply can't lose. - Vinnie Rossi