I'm looking for a new headphone amp, so I took the liberty of PM:ing our fellow inmate Fried Reim who is the CEO of lake people and ask him if the much rumored Violectric v282 is coming out anytime soon. This is the reply I got:
V281 or V282 or maybe both will come !!!
But not this year, we hope to be ready spring 2012.
Until now we made some design studies.
The technical side is relatively clear, we found that the V200 amps are performing perfectly in a balanced design.
At the moment we are voting for a V281 with the same input architecture that can be found on V100/V181/V200
As the amps inside need more space the case will be as high as 2 "normal" units put on each other. So it is easy to build a "cluster" of Violectric gear on top of each other and/or side by side.
V282 is planned to have double transformers to power each channel individually. Also it should feature some switchable inputs to act more like a pre-amp. Additionally provisions should be made to add a optional relais controlled volume instead of Alps RK27pot.
We will NOT add any circuitry that renders sound (equalizer) or channel balance (crossfeed).
Finally we are thinking about a V284 which shall incorporate 4 individual amps with their own mains transformers. Analog signals are input via audio transformers so the amplifier channels are fully floating as they are not forced to have a common ground. Volume will be controlled by relais, V284 will have some switchable inputs to act a bit like a pre-amp.
This amp will not be out before 2013 !!
So it seems they have no less than 3 new amps in the works that they are considering!!!
v281: a fully balanced version of the V200 similar to the v181 in function.
v282: a fully balanced (I assume) amp with separated channel amplification and also pre-amp capabilities.
v284: a fully balanced "ultimate" model that will be the best head amp they can build (revealed in later email exchange)
While I had him I also took the opportunity to ask him some other questions which seem to be relevant right now:
Question 1: People are becoming more interested in op-amps and I think some people complained about the ones that were used in the V100 since they thought they were too cheap. If you see this thread here you can see lots of op amps that people seem to like: www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/432749/the-opamp-thread. Are you testing these kind of op amps back to back during development to find the ones you think are the best? It could also be an interesting idea to make it easy for people to switch between op-amps and market it, maybe "recommend" a few and sell them on the website. I think more and more people are getting interested in this.
Also (my opinion) there are only a few reasons to go for discrete op-amps as these are build with the same
circuitry that can be found in the integrated ones. But they will have temperature and/or aging problems in the long run.
All the op-amps we are using are situated in sockets so they may easily be rolled if someone is expecting advantages.
Nobody did until now !! Or he didn't posted it.
Unfortunately most "sophisticated" op-amps ask for a minimum of gain to run stable and without hazardous oscillation.
Most of the op-amps in our circuitry are designed for impedance matching. Some even perform reciprocal gain e.g. when Pre-Gain is set to -4 dB this means a voltage loss of -12 dB (a fourth) over the complete amp. This can't be done with most "sophisticated" op-amps !
Our overall gain in our amps is very low to achieve a black background which is often very positively noticed by our customers. It is much harder to design an amp with low gain compared to one with high gain. Because the lower the gain the more the chance for oscillation and vice versa. And I don't know if you will find any other amp with reciprocal gain in the market.
A very interesting reply I think and it shows that these guys know what they're doing, at least they know a heck of a lot more than I do about amplification circuits. I think it's sobering to see that we as laymen think about "op-amps rolling" as a simple fix to get a better sound, but these professional electronic designers are much concerned with the overall design, such as low gain, low risk of oscillation, low noise floor, aging problems, temperature etc etc. I think it shows that maybe we as enthusiasts sometimes should be a bit less vocal about what components are used unless we are very experienced and know exactly what's going on, sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing...
Question 2: About your DAC - a lot of manufactures are starting to use jitter correcting circuits now (correcting the input signal), is this something you plan to incorperate?
Using a sample-rate converter means unpacking the data from a (jittered) source and packing it again with a completely new time base inside the DAC.
I'm not knowledgable enough to fully judge this reply but it seems to me that Fried thinks upsampling the signal is a better way to go about restoring the source signal than to try and correct the Jitter. Certainly an interesting reply since jitter correction is something several DAC manufactures are marketing as their cutting edge technology right now.
Overall I was very impressed with how approachable Fried was and it has certainly made me much more interested in their violectric products!!!
I've also been researching researching the Violectric v181 vs Burson HA-160 and so I emailed Robert of "http://aphroditecu29.com/" since I saw that he sells both these models. This is the reply I got:
The Violectric V181 and V200 are far superior amplifiers. I personally prefer the V200. It performs as good or better than units costing 3 times it's asking price. The best amp at any price=) Yes, the V181 sounds excellent in balanced mode, but when listening SE it only has half the specs or power. Because you are then only using 2 of the 4 amplifiers. Unless you are really dedicated to terminating your entire headphone collection to 4 pin xlrs, the V200 is the way to go.
The Burson is highly overrated. Where the V200 easily outperforms it's asking price, I don't feel the Burson lives up to it's asking price. The reason why there are so many positive reviews, is because one of the dealers in the USA was offering a $30 discount on the amp if the customer wrote a review of the amp. So needles to say, most of what you read about it is unreliable. I do realize that on paper the Burson looks really good, but in reality it doesn't sound very good.
Add to that the outstanding review that the v181 recieved in headphonista: "www.headphonista.com/lake-people-violectric-hpa-v181" and I think it becomes clear that violectric are to be taken seriously! But for the v181 to really shine you apparently have to use the 4-pin xlr connector, no big deal since most of us here will want to use the balanced output anyway! But you should know about it.
I hope some of this information interest you guys here at head-fi since it certainly gave me a lot of answers! All the best!
Edited by TwoEars - 4/4/11 at 11:45pm