Pros: Sounds very clean, fast and detailed, works well with *any* headphones, high-quality build, very good value for the money
Cons: Unforgiving with bad material
Not that I needed another headphone amplifier, but you know, it is that time of the year :) I noticed that I am spending more money on hardware when it is cold outside.
This little gem has some history. Lake People is German company that was making high-quality studio gear until they noticed that HiFi enthusiast were buying their G100 headphone amplifier for home use. Few magazines did the testing and G100 passed with flying colors. I assume Lake People saw the business opportunity and created separate Violectric brand to cater to population with deeper pockets than musicians. Now, Violectric gear can be violently expensive but you have to admit - it looks gorgeous, both inside and outside. I was tempted for a while with their V100 or V200 models until I noticed that they look pretty similar inside compared to G100. After some digging I compared the measurements and they pretty much aligned between the models. In one of the forum posts owner of the Lake People commented how extruded aluminum cases of some Violectric amps cost more than the whole G100. This further pushed me to go for substance vs. appearance. I ordered one from US distributor (great service by the way) and it arrived quickly to Canada.
According to Lake People G100 FE is 'Final Edition' of this particular model and they issued it to commemorate the great thing that changed them. It looks like they limited production run to 100 pieces and the one I got has serial number 28.
After couple of weeks of careful listening with various headphones I can share some insights. Shortly, this amplifier is, along the Objective2, the least colored device I have ever used in my audio chain. Not surprisingly, they even sound the same, with definitive edge going to G100 which manages to extract more details in a more convincing way than O2. Both are dead silent and totally immune to electromagnetic interference at any gain level, with any headphones I tried.
One other amplifier I use is MOSFET / tubes / Class A contraption (Sonic Adventure Reality) that sounds pretty good and gave me many hours of happy listening. When I connected G100 my first reaction was "nice, but where did the music go?". It took me few hours of careful comparison to conclude that G100 simply does not have the seawall of injected even-number harmonics that were fondling my eardrums before. Now, some people may consider this a good thing and I don't want to open that debate again. Euphonic amplifiers are fun and they may actually recreate something that was lost in the recording process, but this one is not it.
I tried it with AKG K550, modified Fostex T50RP Mk3, Sennheiser HD600, Sennheiser Amperior (HD25 aluminum), Etymotic ER4S. All of them sounded great, totally unveiled and with their own character that I know from before. Bass is endless and completely controlled in each case. Some of them are brighter than others but none sounded shrill or unpleasant. If recorded material was crap, you get crap in your ears, no doubt about that, but if recording was of high quality you get pure unadulterated joy delivered with confidence.
Few more observations: case is made from stainless steel and it feels very solid and robust. It is pretty in its industrial way and I find it quite attractive. Gain can be pre-adjusted in 5 steps with internal jumpers and it worked fine with HD600 out of the box. I reduced it one step to make it easier to control the volume for more sensitive headphones.
In conclusion, if you want "wire-with-gain" amplifier that is exceptionally well made and is pretty good deal for money, get the G100 FE. Other option from Lake People is G109P which is just a "modernized" version of G100 from what I can tell. They replaced some components with SMDs to make soldering less expensive. I can only assume that they sound very similar but G100 FE is a better deal.