Vinnie Rossi's much anticipated battery-power tube preamp cum DAC is nearing its first official sighting at the upcoming Montreal hifi and home entertainment show.

Or as the man put it: "This has been a ton of work but it is coming out (and sounds) awesome! Hopefully we'll be in production soon. Realistically, probably not until the end of April. There are just a few more things to wrap up but I will have the prototype unit in use at the Montreal show next week. Just wanted to give you a peek :-)"

With the above the hand-out for the show, the stage is set for the Vinnster to make a splash with his first very own low-level active component. Needless to say, expectations are high based on his successful Signature 30.2 and 70.2 amps which forced his company to scale up operations significantly.

Hard-boiled cynics would counter that just because you've issued a killer amplifier doesn't mean you've got the moxy to do the same for a preamplifier. Especially one that contains glowing bits from a man who hasn't used them before. This merely makes this launch all the more exciting. To quote Hamlet, will it, or will it not, deliver what those who know and love his Signature amps anticipate it could, would or should? If Paul Candy can make it to the show, he'll be the first moon man to report back initial impressions. "On April 4th - 6th, we will be exhibiting at the Festival Son & Image Expo in the heart of downtown Montreal. Please visit us in Room 907, along with Omega Loudspeakers and Hudson Audio Imports. We will have a pre-production Isabella preamp (with DAC) running into a Signature 30.2 power amp and feeding Omega SuperHemp Alnicos! For sources, we'll have a turntable by Scheu Analog, a CD transport by Blue Note as well as a Macbook (running USB to the Isabella's built-in converter). We hope to see many of you there!"

The pricing is $4000 for the Isabella, $5,500 with the inbuilt DAC. "The pricing is higher than I was initially aiming for but I'm very confident that the Isabella competes with the finest sounding preamps regardless of price. The build-in non-oversampling DAC option is also stunning. Very "non-digital" sound and with the USB-direct-to-I²S interface, the DAC is a sweet dream for anyone with a music server such as a MacBook. Here are more Isabella details:
  • 3 analog inputs, 2 analog outputs
  • optional built-in DAC features USB, coax (via 75-ohm high-bandwidth BNC) and Toslink optical with a discrete active output stage sans opamps)
  • the entire circuit runs of off SLA battery power (no dc/dc converters, no transformers, no rectifiers)
  • separate voltage regulation stages for B+, tube heaters, input select relays and optional DAC
  • adjustable gain switch for 6dB or 12dB gain
  • toggle switch to select between pure SLA battery operation or AC power for non-critical listening (charging the SLA batteries and playing via the AC power can happen simultaneously)
  • new remote volume control stepped attenuator board - more details about this soon
  • high-quality Vampire PCB-mount RCA jacks and 75-ohm BNC jack
  • SMART board and touch-sensing power on/off switch with built-in LED as featured in our Signature 30.2 and 70.2 amplifiers
  • matching size and aesthetic of our Signature 30.2 and 70.2 amplifiers
  • rapid-speed SLA battery charger with universal input voltage (100 - 240Vac, 50/60Hz) and IEC power input jack and output cable featuring a heavy-duty XLR plug
  • sliding clear window on the top of the unit for easy access to tubes (no need to remove the top cover for tube rolling).
  • Accepted tubes include: 6922/E88CC, 6DJ8/ECC88, 7308/E188CC, 7DJ8/PCC88, 6N23, 6H23, 6N11. Included stock tubes are 6922/E88CC, one per channel."