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Violectric HPA V200

Violectric headphones amplifier flagship review

Violectric HPA V200

Introduction

The most hardened and serious audiophiles would never seriously let their imposing and expensive speakers be driven by an amplifier the size of an external hard-drive, which may have been bought at a hi-fi supermarket. This taboo however does not seem to exist at all in the world of headphones, provided however that in order to express their potential, they are driven by an amplifier designed with qualities suitable for this purpose.

This is where the Violectric HPA amplifier comes into play. The V200 belongs to a line of products created by Lake People for the high fidelity market. Lake People, based on Lake Constance in Germany, is a company that for more than 25 years has produced high-level appliances for the world of professional audio. Their milestones were 20–bit depth analog to digital converters and headphone amplifiers for studio and live sound engineers. The technicians of Lake People have transfered their entire experience on this new line of products aimed at the consumer market. Their design and constructive philosophy has always been based on two fundamental principles.

On the one hand they provide users with high professional products, which are functional and sturdy like a tank. On the other hand they do not give any sound coloration to their creations in accordance with their no sound belief. These features have enabled Lake People to establish itself over the years as a company and as a brand within major studios as well as television and radio recording facilities. The Violectric brand has also allowed Lake People to publicize its own know-how to an increasing number of users inside that difficult and crowded world that is the market of high-end hi-fi.

Design

Front panel

Front panel

The HPA V200 is designed, developed and manufactured entirely in Germany with the aim of achieving the highest standards of quality. Its development has required time and started four years ago. The origin of the project took inspiration from an excellent and robust Nakamichi amplifier made in the seventies characterized by high damping values and extremely low levels of noise and harmonic distortion. The HPA V200 comes with eight transistors per channel and operates internally, via a transformer, at a voltage of ±30 Volts, which allows it to efficiently drive high-impedance headphones like the Sennheiser HD 600, the HD 800 and Beyerdynamic T1. The high output power value also allows it to drive low impedance headphones such as the demanding Audeze LCD-3. Thanks to the high damping and low internal resistance, the V200 can in theory adapt smoothly to the impedance loads produced by different types of headphones connected to it. The external chassis is very robust and is made of aluminium combined with a material called Nextel.

The amplifier is small, compact, but quite heavy for its size. All connectors are of good quality and made by Neutrik. On the front there are two inputs of 6.35 mm to connect two headsets simultaneously. On the right side there is the power button while on the left side there is the volume potentiometer. The rear presents line inputs for both balanced and unbalanced line connections. The latter can also be used as a buffered output to send the signal to a second amplifier. The Violectric also provides the possibility to equip the V200, through an additional card, with a digital USB input and optical or coaxial interface, allowing the user to use audio signals of up to 24–bit / 96 kHz. To compensate for possible differences in the output volume from the equipment that you can connect to the V200, Violectric has added dip switches on the back of the device, so you can adjust the incoming volume at values going from -6 dB to + 12 dB individually on both the left and right channels.

Listening test

Back panel

Back panel

In our test we wanted to use use two headphones that are well-known for their sonic value but very different from a technical and constructive point of view. We are referring to the Sennheiser HD 800 and the Audeze LCD-3. The high impedance of the first and the low impedance of its American rival with its’ magnetic planar technology, represented the testbench for the V200 Violectric. With its 45 Ohms impedance to the transducer, the Audeze LCD-3 requires a surge of quite strong current. A surge that has to be delivered quickly to make the rhythm of the music move the transducers without sacrificing the clarity, precision and detail of the sound message. Those who know the LCD-3 know that you need a very precise frequency control to allow the headset to return stable sound with deep and powerful bass. The LCD-3 also requires a rather wide resolution and a very low level of harmonic distortion to perform better. For this it needs an amplifier without any particular coloration that allows it to express its own naturalness. In this regard the V200 succeeds quite well. The amplifier features a somewhat neutral tone. The boost on the low frequencies appears to be clear and precise. Transients’ articulation leaves no room for doubt and gives us back the sound source in its full dynamic range. The macro-dynamics are really good as well as the micro-dynamics. The soundstage is rather large. In addition to the V200, its own neutrality does not attempt to hide or mitigate those defects on less refined recordings.

With its 300 Ohms impedance, the Sennheiser HD 800 is a real challenge for amplifiers that do not offer an appropriate output voltage value, as often happens on the headphone amplifiers built into CD players or in common integrated amplifiers. Though less meaty, especially in the lowest octave of the sound spectrum when compared to LCD-3, the HD 800 manages to express its full potential. Certainly it takes us into an entirely different musical world, with its crystal clear highs, mediums and lows of greater speed and accuracy than the Audeze. Thanks to the high output voltage value the HD 800 returns to the listener transparency and exact location of the instruments within the soundstage. The dynamic and transient speed is emphasized even more with the use of this product by Violectric. The V200 seemed a well balanced amplifier in every aspect of its sonic rendition. The tone seems to be equally consistent throughout the entire sound spectrum. This consistency allows the V200 to express a uniform and natural tonal balance with plenty of resolution and detail. The Violectric is at the same time dynamic and relaxed when returning emphasis to the weight and impact of the instruments, which they fully deserve. The macro and micro-dynamics never appear to be congested, in steps from pianissimo to fortissimo V200’s ability to provide adequate power to the attached headset is clear and effortless.

Final thoughts

HPA V200 front-side

HPA V200 front-side

The HPA V200 Violectric is a product that has benefitted from all the know-how gained in recent years by Lake People within the professional audio field. Indeed, we suspect that it is a professional amplifier that has been disguised aesthetically as a mass market product. Our theory can be reinforced by the fact that on more than one occasion and with different musical genres, the V200, especially if connected with balanced line inputs, quietly held head to head with the far more famous Bryston BHA-1, although, to be honest, the BHA-1 is equipped with a balanced headphone input that is one step above the V200 and other similar products as regards quality and resolution. We believe, however, that the V200 has the capacity to unravel a complex sonic landscape with equal ease and safety. Rhythms and musical paths are linear and consistent. Even with more elaborate songs, you feel distinctly that the instruments are defined, focused and separated. However, it is not an amplifier that wants to impress or provide emphasized listening.

The no sound sonic philosophy of Lake People engineers remains an integral part of this product that is the top of the Violectric range. Finally, we can say that the V200 is able to drive different types of headphones of low or high impedance without any particular problems. Perhaps the tendency not to color the sound that comes from the various sources connected to the V200, means that it is mistakenly considered to be a product with little or poor personality. As it was created and designed in this way on purpose, the V200 makes the most of its job by disappearing down the sonic path in an almost entirely natural way.

Personal opinion

HPA V200 back-right

HPA V200 back-side

The V200 Violectric is one of the best solid state headphone amplifiers that I have tried. It can safely give more expensive products a run for their money. Knowing the design philosophy and qualities of Lake People, it is certainly the first choice of amplifier that I would recommend,not only to an audiophile enthusiast but also to a sound engineer, who are both looking for a reference source that puts no emphasis on the incoming source. I believe that in unbalanced mode, and I emphasize the word unbalanced, the V200 is slightly superior to the Bryston BHA-1 in overall perfomance when driving headphones such as the Sennheiser HD 800 and Audeze LCD-3. The transients and the speed of macro-dynamics on low frequencies have greater precision, consistency and impact. If only it could be equipped with a balanced input for headphones and current driving technology I would recommend it in a heartbeat. For this reason I would prefer to leave Violectric the task of surprising us in the future.

Score

  • Scoring110
  • Sound quality [1]9
  • Bang for the buck [2]8
  • Measures [3]8
  • Build quality [4]10
  • Versatility [5]9
  • Overall rating9
  1. 1. Sound quality allows you to return the source without coloration whatsoever
  2. 2. Price makes it a medium-high-end product suitable for multiple users
  3. 3. Measures show all the technical know-how of Lake People and Violectric
  4. 4. Quality of construction is very high but the aesthetics and design offer room for improvement
  5. 5. Versatility allows the product to unleash the potential of a lot of headphones
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