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Violectric HPA V281 headphones amp and preamp

19.05.2016..
Violectric HPA V281
..

ReMusic Spark Award

Preamble

Maybe the big audience of the Hi-Fi enthusiasts do not know Lake People, a company founded in 1986 (Ed. - a brand specialized in pro), but the followers of the headphone listening must have some experience with their Violectric line for sure. This German brand deserves to be mentioned for the top quality of their products.

 

Spark in the Dark Violectric HPA V281

 

Munich High End 2016: from left to right, our Ex. Editor Castelli, Herr Fried Reim, Lake People CEO, and your humble reviewer at the ReMusic’s award prize giving….

 

Out of the box

Together with our strong and monolithic Violectric HPA V281, we find an IEC mains cable and a thorough user’s manual. Yes, I know, no one reads the manuals. Nevertheless, I suggest you reading this one: the flexibility of the apparatus and all the possibilities it offers are worthwhile. Inside, you can find a small hexagonal hex key and a note saying that if during the transport the volume knob has slackened, you can fix it. A finesse indeed!

 

From the technical point of view

The first impression is of an object very well thought and made. It is solid, compact, well balanced. Connectors, knobs and buttons are all of top quality.

Very few are the unoccupied spaces, both on the front and on the backside. The apparatus is very flexible, complete and further enlargeable. The line inputs are two: XLR balanced and RCA unbalanced. To select them, there are two dedicated buttons on the front. One of the six D/A converter boards can handle the third input, called DIG, if it is provided as an optional. You can choose among the required typology of inputs - S/PDIF, TOSLINK, USB – and at the maximum velocity of sampling.

The headphones outputs are three: two 6,3 mm Jack stereo unbalanced and one balanced XLR. The HEAD button placed on the front enables the output towards the headphones. On the back the line outputs: RCA and XLR enabled by the LINE button. Lastly, on the front there is the big volume knob, the balance knob and the ON/Off button with a Blue LED light.

DIP switches what a passion! We can find many of them inside and outside the apparatus. Let us see what they are for. Those on the back are to increase or decrease the gain of the headphone amp. This is very useful to adapt the device to the different sensitivity of the headphones. Inside you can change the gain of the preamp stage. In case of sources with a higher or lower output voltage than the average devices, you will appreciate this possibility.

Furthermore, we can make floating the mass. This modality is useful to use the apparatus in balanced mode as both signals and headphone output. Anyway, do not open the machine unless you know how to do and, in any case, not if connected to the mains!

 

The manufacture, the quality of the components and the layout is exemplary. Look at the photos of the inside to realize that. The components are not only of top quality, but is their use that makes the HPA V281 exemplary.

 

Listening impressions

I want to start this paragraph in a strange way. I will not speak of the Violectric HPA V281 as headphones amp, but as a preamplifier. Two analogue inputs - RCA+XLR - and the possibility of acting on the gain – internal DIP switches –, make this device flexible and functional. As usual, I suggest using a source of quality, good recordings and a well-known audio chain. Only with these prerequisites, you can judge properly. After many years of listening sessions and tests, with the Violectric HPA V281 used as a preamp, I am surprised. It does not happen very often. It is simply amazing. It is one of the best solid devices I have ever listened to, in a still “human” price range. An admirable equilibrium between transparency and linearity. The low range is deep and articulated. The mid range is perfect with the male and female voices. There is no listening fatigue. In the high range there is everything, in a refined way and without any roughness.

We are not dealing with something made only to convince the purchaser. The use of the Violectric HPA V281 also as a preamp, I think, comes from a technical reasoning: if the water springs clean and limpid from the source, it will be easier to satisfy the “thirst” of music of the listener.

 

When the headphone is connected, how do things go? From a certain point of view, bad! If I cannot find any detail to make a reasoned critique that makes half-reveal a chance of improvement, the risk of a love at first ear is high. Substantially, what I said for the use as a preamplifier is linearly repeatable for the headphone listening. There are no problems in driven headphones with low or high impedance and sensitivity. For the low impedance, the HiFiMAN HE400 and the HE400S – the latter more sensitive – have given the best performances I ever heard. For the high impedance, I have made the tests with the AKG K260 (600 ohm) and with the Sennheiser HD 800 (300 ohm). The tonal and dynamic differences, the virtual scene, the detail are what each headphone can give to you. The amplifier works without batting an eye. The possibility of changing the gain of the headphone amp, both in attenuation and in gain, makes easier to find the right balance to drive quite all the headphone available on the market.

 

Conclusions 

I must consider the price of this HPA V281 preamplifier and headphone amp. Well, is quite expensive. However, the sound quality, the manufacture, the versatility and the satisfaction I had using it, make me convinced that it deserves our Spark in the Dark.

 

 

Selection of listened music

Supertramp ‎- Breakfast In America (SACD-2013)

Stevie Wonder‎ - Songs In The Key Of Life (SACD-2000)

Dave Matthews Band - Away From The World (CD-2012)

Pink Floyd - The Wall Experience (CD-2012)

Orchestral Spectaculars - Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Erich Kunzel (Telarc CD-2002)

George Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue / West Side Story, Bernstein & Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Deutsche Grammophon (LP)

Alice In Chains - MTV Unplugged (2LP-2010)

Mumford & Sons - Wilder Mind (LP-2015)

Peter Gabriel - UP (SACD)

Ben Harper - Fight for your mind (CD-1995)

Joe Jackson - Jumpin' Jive (LP-1981)

 

 

SCHEME SUMMARY

top score ✳✳✳✳✳ ReMusic Sparks

Tone colour: ✳✳✳✳✳ | Very classy, both as preamplifier and headphone amp.

Dynamics: ✳✳✳✳1/2 | If you match a pair of headphones with good dynamics it will not let you down.

Detail: ✳✳✳✳1/2 | I have found out “new things” in tracks that I knew very well. What else I have to say?

Versatility: ✳✳✳✳✳ | Great. The Violectric HPA V281 is a “centre of permanent gravity” for a system of high level. No fear in driving headphones with low and high impedance and sensitivity.

Image: ✳✳✳✳1/2 | The same of the headphones’. The headphones themselves made it. Meant as preamplifier the image is amazing: extended and coherent in all the space directions.

Rate: ✳✳✳✳1/2 | Nothing and nobody are left behind!

Look and functionality: ✳✳✳✳ | It is not very beautiful. The look is austere, like in the pro apparatus. The functionality is impeccable.

Price/quality ratio: ✳✳✳✳ | Quite high cost, repaid by the overall quality.

 

Official technical specifications

All Measurements RMS unwtd., 20Hz-20kHz, Pre-Gain set to 0dB
Inputs: 2xXLR female, balanced / 2xRCA, unbalanced /1 x digital (Option)

Max. input voltage: + 21 dBu
Input impedance: 10Kohms
Line outputs: 2xXLR male, balanced /2xRCA female unbalanced
Nominal input sensitivity: +6 dBu

Amplifier gain: +8 dB unbal. / 14dB bal.

Pre-gain: -12 / -6 / 0 / +6 / +12dB

Frequency range: 5Hz-70kHz (- 0.5dB)/ 3Hz -200kHz (-3 dB)
Output impedance: < 0.1Ohm unbal. / < 0.2Ohm bal.
Damping factor (Load 50Ohm): 500 unbal. / 250 bal.
Dynamic range: > 129 dB (A-wtd)

Noise: < -95 dBu (A-wtd)
THD+N 1kHz/2x10V/100R = 1W: <-102dB / <0,00079%
THD+N 1kHz/2x4V/32R = 0,5W: <-100dB / <0.001%
Crosstalk: -105dB (1kHz) / -103dB (15kHz)

Headphone outputs: 1x4-pol XLR / 2x1/4“ (6.3mm) Phone Jack

Max. output level:1kHz / 0,1% THD+N:
>40,2V.eff into 600ohm = 2700mW
>23,7V.eff into100ohm = 5600mW
>14,5V.eff into 50ohm = 4200mW
>9,5V.eff into 32ohm = 2800mW
>4,9V.eff into 16ohm = 1500mW
Power supply: 230 V AC / 115 VAC max. 40VA

Dimensions: 170x112x320mm (WxHxD)

Versions:

  • Front silver or black
  • Feet silver or black or gold
  • Volume control manual or remote controlled with motor potentiometer, or remote controlled with 128-step relay attenuator.

 

Official Italian dealer: to Audio Azimuth website

Official current price in Italy: 1,799.00 EUR street price from PlayStereo website

Associated equipment: to Mauro Cittadini’s system

 

 

by Mauro Cittadini
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