Relative to $2000+ B22 or Luxman Pu-1.
Relative to inter alia exchange rates (NOK / USD / EUR). E.g. the Burson HA-160D in Norway is now USD1800. The V181 and V200 is EUR714. That is in NOK significantly different.
Time for a trip to Sweden? Then you can buy one for less then 900 USD :)
I don't think there are many headphone amps that are not considered to be cheap compared to the B22 or Luxman...
I think he meant "relatively cheap" in the context of being good enough.... in contrast to spending the extra $900 for a Woo Audio 22, or $2000 more for the Luxman, or $1500 more for a Zana Deux, or $1000 more for a Phonitor, etc. The Violectric gets you into that top tier of performance for a fairly decent price. It might not be the equal of some of those, but it is not that far behind either.
there is no such thing as the V281. and xlr =/= better sound quality.
Are you referring to page 29 in the manual of the V181, where it talks about configuring balanced operation via jumper settings? Because that actually has to do with using both of the 1/4" headphone jacks at the same time in balanced mode. That would require a special cable, such as this one: http://www.diyhifisupply.com/node/575
So the jumper is to switch configurations between having 2 normal stereo output jacks, or a single output using dual mono jacks. And that's separate from the 4-pin XLR jack. So in normal operation this wouldn't really matter. You might have to switch cables on the back from RCA to XLR, but then you could plug in either a single ended headphone or a balanced headphone and never have to open the case. At least that's been my experience.
Aside from that, you make some excellent points. I haven't personally heard the Zodiac/V181/LCD-2 combo but I imagine it is the bees knees. It seems like there are lots of people out there who own and very much enjoy the Violectric amps, yet somehow they don't get as much exposure around her compared to others. Maybe that will change.
Sorry I got it wrong, should be v200. XLR doesn't mean ""better" but thats a another choice. Especially it has xlr ins, its bit pitty for having no xlr outs.