Lake People/Violectric Amplifiers

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Lyander, Apr 6, 2020.

  1. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    So I meant to make this thread maybe half a year back, but all sorts of weirdness and my being a forgetful bastard means that I only just now got around to remembering. I had another thread with fairly early impressions up on the headphones.com forum, which some others here might also visit, but I think it'd be nice to have one here too just so there's a place to talk about these amps.

    I had a much longer review of the Lake People G109A (the 2016 [Mass]Drop special edition of the G109S commemorating Lake People's 30th anniversary) with glamour shots and all prepared but somehow contrived to lose it. This is probably for the better because I can be a lot more neutral and offhanded about the thing, haha.

    Sources used: Micro iDSD (as a DAC) and Bifrost Multibit A1
    Other amps: Massdrop/Eddie Current ZDT Jr (RIP), Garage1217 Sunrise III.
    Headphones paired: Klipsch HP-3, Fostex TH-X00 Ebony, Beyerdynamic DT880[250] w/ felt disc mod, Sennheiser HD600/HD650/HD800 (w/ Anax mods), HiFiMAN HE-4XX, Meze 99 Classics.

    No I'm not a hoarder, I'm just listing stuff I've paired with/compared to this amp over the years, haha.

    Full disclosure, this amp was loaned to me by the same friend that got me back into audio about half a decade ago, back when I was under the blissful assumption I'd be happy stuck in entry-fi, which was the AKG K550 straight out of whatever phone I had at the time. He didn't mind letting me keep it indefinitely since he has a Senn HDVD800 that he prefers to the discrete amp, which probably says a lot about the G109A, really, price of the Sennheiser AIO notwithstanding.

    Personally, I don't hate the G109A; I just think it's pricey for what you get. I use this amp for measurements since it's leagues quieter than the Sunrise III even with the benefit of running it through a LPS, and the channel separation somehow seems much better than on the Sunrise or (from my notes) ZDT Jr.— hard-panned items seem angled further to the side, and sonic images are reasonably large, almost as much so as on the ZDT Jr. Hell, someone on a far more measurements-oriented site gave this amp a glowing review. This makes me feel kinda icky about it but affirms that it's good for measurements and pretty typical of solid state performance.... kinda.

    Probably my favourite feature of the amp is how great channel balance is with the pot near-zero. Maybe it's just that other gear I have to compare to is actually horrible relative to median performance, but considering my fave headphones are rather efficient this is something that makes me happy. The fact that the volume knob is detented with only 40 "steps" (the first 3/8ths of which are pretty coarse in adjustments, as you'd expect) may put some people off, but it's not like I don't leave the pot partway between steps when volume-matching for measurements, and the knob travel is actually pretty smooth with just the faintest clicks telling of travel. I like the tactile feedback you get, kinda makes me wish more amps had this instead of smooth pots.

    Headstage is actually reasonably open, far from claustrophobic. It's the flat imaging plane, the lack of depth contrast that I find really uninspiring. I have it written down in my notes as "wall of sound, but somewhat out of head", which makes sense to me. Center image is strong, almost to the point where there's a 3-blob effect; I actually think that imaging directionality is better than on the Sunrise+LPS combo, albeit at the expense of wiping out some sense of ambiance and there-ness.

    Tonal balance is actually slightly dark and warm apart from a bit of an accentuation around the lower treble area relative to other stuff I have lying around. Harsher recordings like Huggy Bear's Shaved Pussy Poetry are murder to listen to with less polite-sounding headphones like the HP-3. Not a lot of upper treble air relative to the "bite", but I'm always suspicious of my hearing in that range, lol. Bass control is a bit too tight somehow, lean but also seems very polished and untextured; great sub-bass rumble but bass proper seems to be lacking punch. Trailing decays seem less evident than on other amps.

    HAH! I actually have the bass at 6:46 in the video below as a reference in my notes! Very in-your-face and BIG on the amp.


    Mids, vocals specifically, are slightly boxier than what I'm accustomed to, but this became less of a problem as I kept the amp on for longer stretches of time. Never really went away though, still present on Sinatra's Song for Swinging Lovers and In the Wee Small Hours after keeping the amp running for a day. The treble "hardness" is pretty consistent, so it's a bad pairing with the HE-4XX— David Bowie's Width of a Circle and Peter Bjorn and John's Young Folks were genuinely irritating to listen to; the treble on this amp does vocal sibilance no favours. The Sennheiser HD600's mild "glare" is also exacerbated a bit, but it's not as painful as listening to the HiFiMAN; this usually manifests on big band stuff— the intro of Mood Indigo on In the Wee Small Hours is enough to make me wince with the Senns.

    No issue with low-impedance cans, IIRC the OI of the amp is about 1 ohm? No shortage of power either for moderately inefficient headphones, though I feel this would struggle with anything less sensitive than an HE4XX. Using the HD600 I find that the amp doesn't quite manage to cut through the "veil" many people attribute to the line, but that it has a decent amount of "grip" and sense of intent to the sound.

    In all I'd probably be very happy buying this amp if it retailed for about $100 (price pulled out of whichever end you prefer) since the build quality is tank-ish and having dual unbalanced output kinda works for comparing similar headphones, e.g. HD600/HD650. The amp went for much more than that, however, about five or six times the cost if memory serves. It could be a matter of non-TOTL amplifiers just having grown much more impressive in the years since the G109 line debuted, or CEO Fried Reim wanting to pay his employees a good wage and passing the cost along to end-consumer.

    Still, I understand that other Lake People and Violectric amplifiers are very well-received, so I'll not consider this as perfectly representative of their overall value proposition. In light of how many great amplifiers and AIO units you can get for less than $150 nowadays, based on trusted ears' impressions, I find it hard to recommend the G109A at MSRP unless you're really into how it looks or just want the dual 6.35mm outputs, but I'm pretty sure there are other, less sterile amplifiers that have a similar feature set for less money out there.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2020
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  2. TheIceman93

    TheIceman93 El pato-zorro

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    The Lake People / Violectric amps are certainly overpriced. No doubt about that. As a German, I guess I have a bit of a soft spot for the brand.

    A Lake People RS 08 has been my amp of choice for the past 4 years. I've thought about selling it on serval occasions to fund an "upgrade" but I ultimately keep it in my chain because of the clarity and neutrality (as I hear it). The build quality is insanely robust. The only amp I've directly compared it to was a Lyr 3 but I decided I preferred the Lake People. It just felt more lively to my ears.

    Maybe someday I will part with it but I haven't heard anything else in the sub $1K bracket that I feel soundly beats it. I did get it for a hefty discount through Massdrop. At MSRP, I would say it's not a good buy. That probably applies to their entire line.
     
  3. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    Haha, sentiments tentatively echoed due to how everyone seems to share them. I genuinely hope that more value-oriented makes come along to correct this, but who knows whether that's likely to happen given the state of the hobby.

    The V280, which I think some on here like, is going for about USD1,100 at the moment on [Mass]Drop. Not sure if that's PPP for this, but it's a nice chunk of change off MSRP at least. Have heard quite a lot of good things about the RS 08, hope to get ears on one soon if it compares favourably to the Lyr 3 (which I have also yet to hear but many here seem to enjoy it so... there's that to consider)!
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2020
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  4. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    I wonder if anyone here has gotten their ears on a Niimbus amp, which is the "high end" line of the Lake People/Violectric brand.
     
  5. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    @Zhanming057 got to, per the old thread. Not sure if these impressions still hold up following more reflection or exposure to the same, though:

     
  6. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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  7. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    The granularity of control over gain on input and output plus the pre bypass is pretty cool on that unit.
     
  8. Poleepkwa

    Poleepkwa Friend

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    I have owned the Voilectric V100 and the Lake People RS02. Fine amps, if overpriced for their sound quality. They where very nicely build. Not in a bling-bling way, more function over form (studio roots= big easy to read volume dial, dual headphone outputs,multiple gain settings. etc). I did really like their notched volumepots.

    Soundqaulity wise I do remember they never where harsh or bright sounding. Rather smooth sound overall with plenty of power. Kinda reminds me of the Schiit Heresy, but with a bit more bite.
    I guess this is to encourage longer listening sessions in studios.
     
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  9. TheIceman93

    TheIceman93 El pato-zorro

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    I agree, the build quality is pretty awesome. The RS series has 5 gain settings which makes it super easy to tune your volume pot to preference. I did hear a 789 this week and I still feel that the RS08 is the best sounding SS I've heard under $1K. The 789 was very clear and detailed but I felt that the RS was more dynamically engaging even though it was a hair less precise. The 789 sounded a little thin to my ears. The RS has a bit of pleasing warmth as well over the 789. From memory, the V280 is even warmer. With the RS08, there is definitely an improvement in sound when using the balanced output.

    I feel that the RS08 is the best amp in the Lake/Vio because it strikes the best balance between precision, musicality and cost. Cost is probably the biggest consideration with these because the brand's amps seem to get stupid expensive very quickly with only minor increases in sound quality. The RS08 does have a lot of power, around 2.5 watts into 300ohm if I recall correctly. Really the only drawback for me is that the unit is maybe $200 more than it should be and it lacks balanced inputs. Anyways, I've decided to keep mine permanently because it is a good point of reference for clean neutral SS with lots of juice. I'm saving for a ZMF Pendant but the Lake People is all I'll ever need for SS.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2020
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