I bought the Isis for about ten weeks ago. In the WHAT hifi review it says the lower end is rather heavy handed and after a week continuous playing and listening to music at intervals i found myself comming tot that same conclusion. The lows can get out of hand at times and with some music. Note that i am using Tannoy Glenair speakers which have a 15 inch woofer which make a heavy handed lower end quite noticable. After 6 to 7 weeks of continuous playing and leaving the Isis on power i noticed changes to the lows. Now after ten weeks i am about to say the Isis is completely run in and i cannot find myself have any comments anymore on the lower end, even when playing trance/dance music like Tiesto. Because a lot of reviews leave units on and continuously playing for running in for about a period of two weeks, this would not be enough for the Isis. I was also very surprised to hear the lower end come into place after such a long time. I was not expecting this kind of changes anymore. Buyers should give Isis a long time to run in for initial judgements.
Ok, disclaimers out: I am a Rega fan. I use the Apollo and the Saturn at home -- ditto two pairs of Rega standmounts and floorstanders, a center channel and some speaker cables and interconnects among others, so this is going to sound biased.
Nevertheless, I have neither the space nor the extra budget to allow me to purchase the Isis at this time, so inasmuch as it isn't "my" system, I'll try to be as fair as I can.
Anyway, I heard the Isis in the context of a heavily treated room, VTL pre and power boxes, masive Dynaudio Evidence Temptations and around another $5,000 worth of associated equipment such as line conditioners, cables, interconnects, sniffers and what-not, and the result was amazing.
This is cliche-ish, but the Isis sounded "analog" in a really eerie way. The system owner auditioning the Isis played a Nat King Cole track (Walking My Baby Back Home?) simultaneously on his SME turntable, and save for a bit of difference in volume, (the Isis played around 5 db lower), we wouldn't have been able to tell the analog from the digital source. This alone is significant because as most hi-fi nuts already know, building a first-rate analog system is more expensive than building a comparable digital one.
How did the Isis make Nat sound? Well, as the tired cliche goes, like he was "right there". Every timbre of his voice was seemingly fleshed out, every nuance to his phrasing clearly evident...we were joking that we were probably close enough to feel Nat King Cole spittle.
Just to make sure, we went back to the system owners own cd player, (sorry, make and model escapes me), and then the soundstage collapsed. Nat still sounded great, but it seemed like he shrunk a bit. Sort of like listening to a still, (in fairness), life-like Nat King Cole who along with the rest of his session musicians, stood at around five feet tall.
In other words, this only served to confirm what we already knew. The Isis is Rega at the top of its game. The Isis is a product no longer meant to approximate the quality of other players at a fraction of the price, as other Rega products are so often marketed. It is no longer a giant-killer. The Isis my friends, is already a giant in and of itself. This is Rega coming to play with the big boys.
This thing makes me wish I had more space (not to mention more money!) to accommodate it. The build quality is first-rate, and the power switch is a clever, witty design statement Paul Smith himself would be proud of. (it's that shiny, vertical aluminum or stainless steel line right by the play button btw.)
As for the sound, well, let's just say it's good the Isis is WAAAY out of my budget, else I'd curse Rega for making me want the Saturn so much. Put it this way, the Saturn makes my cd's sound "near analog", subjectively 85-90% as good as their vinyl versions, as far as warmth is concerned. With the Isis, save for some differences in volume, (gain issues with associated TT equipment, I guess), I honestly could not tell it apart from the top-of-the-line SME turntable. It was that good. Now if only my wallet were as wide and expansive as the Isis soundstage
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