Violectric HPA V281 - Vorsprung durch Balanced
Mar 31, 2017 at 10:21 PM Post #2,777 of 5,170

Pharmaboy

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What's the practical difference between v220 and v281?

 
from Violectric USA website:
 
"
V281 incorporates 4 times the award winning famous 8-transistor (per channel) amps from V200 for a smooth and relaxed sound stage and true balanced headphone outputs.​
"
 
The V281 has a balanced output. The V220 does not. I'm pretty sure the V220 is the amp/preamp upgrade of the V200 amp-only model (single-ended); whereas the V281 is the amp/preamp upgrade of the V280 model (balanced)
 
In balanced mode, the V281 has over 4X the output power @600 ohms than the V220. @100 ohms, it has double the output power.
 
I'm not sure, but I think there are more SS output devices in the V281 (there must be to account for all that add'l power).
 
Those are pretty big differences. But the similarities are also quite evident:
  1. the use identical cases
  2. the front panels are nearly identical, except for XLR output on V281, not on V220
  3. both can be used as a preamp
  4. both have options for a motorized R27 Alps pot + remote (this is the std stepped pot w/I believe 43 steps); or a 128-step pot + remote.
 
So both V281 and V220 are extremely versatile, powerful amp/preamps...but the V281 is balanced throughout and has considerably more power for ~$500 more (comparing the base models w/o remote control and/or upgrade stepped pot on either).
 
Mar 31, 2017 at 10:27 PM Post #2,778 of 5,170

Pharmaboy

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Forgot 1 point about V281 vs V220: both have XLR inputs on the back. That's pretty confusing, since the V281 has a balanced/XLR output, while the V220 has just single-ended/TRS output.
 
I believe the explanation is that both units were designed to be used in professional environments (as well as consumer), and in pro settings, signals are often routed via XLR cables. So the V220 allows connection to either SE or balanced inputs--but the headphone out in it is only SE/TRS.
 
What's really confusing is that both units also allow balanced preamp outputs via the back panel (ie, the input run through the volume pot, thus volume-controlled, in preamp mode). I guess that indicates the volume pots on both are capable of either balanced or SE operation. In other words, the V220 can pass a balanced signal to an amp, powered speakers, etc; but it can only output a balanced/XLR signal via the headphone out. Hard to get one's mind around this, but I'm looking at the specs, and it is so.
 
Apr 1, 2017 at 10:04 AM Post #2,780 of 5,170

3083joe

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Forgot 1 point about V281 vs V220: both have XLR inputs on the back. That's pretty confusing, since the V281 has a balanced/XLR output, while the V220 has just single-ended/TRS output.

I believe the explanation is that both units were designed to be used in professional environments (as well as consumer), and in pro settings, signals are often routed via XLR cables. So the V220 allows connection to either SE or balanced inputs--but the headphone out in it is only SE/TRS.

What's really confusing is that both units also allow balanced preamp outputs via the back panel (ie, the input run through the volume pot, thus volume-controlled, in preamp mode). I guess that indicates the volume pots on both are capable of either balanced or SE operation. In other words, the V220 can pass a balanced signal to an amp, powered speakers, etc; but it can only output a balanced/XLR signal via the headphone out. Hard to get one's mind around this, but I'm looking at the specs, and it is so.

Agreed. And confusing in lots of ways.
 
Apr 1, 2017 at 10:44 AM Post #2,781 of 5,170

watchdog507

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The V281 has a balanced output/bypass on the back.  I was originally running a balanced input to the V281 from my Mytek Brooklyn.  Then I was cascading a balanced cable output to my WA5-LE.  I was not really pleased by what I was hearing.  I then reconfigured the Mytek to provide a balanced signal directly to the WA5-LE and I then used the remaining Single Ended Mytek output to the V281.  This gave me a compromise but the sound was still exceptional.  I would keep this in mind when using the V281 output/bypass to another device.
 
Apr 2, 2017 at 10:26 PM Post #2,785 of 5,170

sandalaudio

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  I can't make sense of that diagram. Guess it doesn't matter, since I can make sense of the manual (& have the V281).

 
The diagrams explain that both V220 and V281 converts balanced XLR to single ended (using a summing opamp) as soon as the signal enters the chassis.
 
According to the diagram the volume knob works in singled-ended regardless of V220 or V281.
 
The rear XLR output and front XLR headphone output (for V281 only) are generated by the single-ended signal being converted to balanced once again.
 
Some people may argue that this is not "pure" etc, but the whole aim of balanced connection in the professional sector is to improve resilience to noise along the long cable lengths, and to have more headroom against noise.
 
Since the  V220/V281 has a "balanced to single-ended to balanced" conversion internally (with active circuits), it does make sense that it affects the sound when used as a balanced preamp. It is really a pre"amp", not a passive attenuator box.
 
Apr 2, 2017 at 10:36 PM Post #2,786 of 5,170

Pharmaboy

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More listening on the V281 today--as preamp, not HP amp (have been limited in HP use recently). And this unit is impressing the hell out of me...
 
I have a decent pair of powered speakers (Swan M200 MKIIIs) + a quality sub (SVS SB-1000). They sound pretty good, especially at low volume. But for some time I've felt the urge to upgrade: the Swans' 5.25" woofer just couldn't seem to give the mid- & upper-bass impact I want. So I've been researching various studio monitors for months.
 
But listening to these speakers today w/V281 as preamp (wav files/JRiver), I'm hearing things I never heard from them before. The entire bass range is now solid as a rock & hits hard. Dynamics are extremely good, better than I've ever heard on the desktop. Another big change is imaging/soundstaging: there's now a rock-solid center image (haven't had that before--at least not to this degree), and sounds are placed above and to the outsides of each speaker. When I turn up the volume, everything gets big is a hurry.
 
Listened to well recorded jazz cuts, where it's easy to isolate each instrument's contribution--string bass, drums, vibraphones, etc.; also a number of exceedingly well recorded studio pop cuts by Steely Dan & Donald Fagen. Volume was medium, at most, but sounds just jump out of the speakers now. It's suddenly very easy to hear different reverb characteristics on each cut.
 
I've only used the V281 for 2 days, with a little HP listening & the rest in preamp mode--and it's clearly in different league entirely from other amp/preamps (I have several good ones, too, such as the Audio GD SA-31SE).
 
This is turning into one of the rare & exciting audio products where there's a lot of "upside," many new performance aspects to explore and new ways to hear familiar music. I can't wait to hear the Ori via balanced cables on the V281.
I'll still likely upgrade the speakers, but now I know the V281 will push the limits of any studio monitor I select.
 
Apr 2, 2017 at 10:47 PM Post #2,787 of 5,170

Pharmaboy

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The diagrams explain that both V220 and V281 converts balanced XLR to single ended (using a summing opamp) as soon as the signal enters the chassis.
 
According to the diagram the volume knob works in singled-ended regardless of V220 or V281.
 
The rear XLR output and front XLR headphone output (for V281 only) are generated by the single-ended signal being converted to balanced once again.
 
Some people may argue that this is not "pure" etc, but the whole aim of balanced connection in the professional sector is to improve resilience to noise along the long cable lengths, and to have more headroom against noise.
 
Since the  V220/V281 has a "balanced to single-ended to balanced" conversion internally (with active circuits), it does make sense that it affects the sound when used as a balanced preamp. It is really a pre"amp", not a passive attenuator box.

 
Your post is really interesting. I can't read block diagrams and have, at best, a rudimentary understanding of the whole SE vs balanced thing--not to mention there are many ways balanced operation can be implemented in an amp (very confusing).
 
I have SE inputs only (DAC is SE) w/no plans to get a balanced DAC. Still, I got the V281, as well as the LC, primarily because a number of reviewers of each said these units sound different, and in some ways, better via balanced HP out. Apparently in each unit, the balanced HP output utilizes more output power devices than the SE HP output does.
 
And re the V281, I was very interested to see whether its performance as a preamp would be an upgrade. As expressed in my post above, that question has been answered resoundingly & positively...
 
Apr 3, 2017 at 4:21 AM Post #2,788 of 5,170

sandalaudio

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Your post is really interesting. I can't read block diagrams and have, at best, a rudimentary understanding of the whole SE vs balanced thing--not to mention there are many ways balanced operation can be implemented in an amp (very confusing).
 
I have SE inputs only (DAC is SE) w/no plans to get a balanced DAC. Still, I got the V281, as well as the LC, primarily because a number of reviewers of each said these units sound different, and in some ways, better via balanced HP out. Apparently in each unit, the balanced HP output utilizes more output power devices than the SE HP output does.
 
And re the V281, I was very interested to see whether its performance as a preamp would be an upgrade. As expressed in my post above, that question has been answered resoundingly & positively...

 
As a preamp, V281 could influence the sound because it is not a simple pass-through with a volume knob. Regardless of whether you are using XLR or RCA (I guess RCA for your Swan), the signal goes through a buffer opamp at the input, then the volume knob, then the buffer opamp at the output. V281 acts as a current buffer amp to condition the signal.
 
Some people will object to this, and will say a straight wire with a volume knob is the best, but it depends on what you are connecting to what, and most importantly, what sounds good for you.
 
 
As for the balanced headphone connection, like you mentioned, single ended headphones would only use half the amplifier circuit that inside the V281's huge box (effectively making it a V220), so it does feel like a waste of money. There are pros (reduced crosstalk) and cons (higher output impedance) of balanced headphone connection, so once again it is subjective. Basically, buying the V281 allows you to make that choice, case-by-case, which is not to say that balanced is always better in all cases.
 
Anyhow, technical facts are not as important as what sounds good for you, provided that the amp is not distorting significantly. This is where V220 and V281 excels at. It would be embarrassing to say that a particular amp sounds "hot and exciting" when it is actually distorting the original signal by 10% etc.
 
Apr 3, 2017 at 4:02 PM Post #2,789 of 5,170

Pharmaboy

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As a preamp, V281 could influence the sound because it is not a simple pass-through with a volume knob. Regardless of whether you are using XLR or RCA (I guess RCA for your Swan), the signal goes through a buffer opamp at the input, then the volume knob, then the buffer opamp at the output. V281 acts as a current buffer amp to condition the signal.
 
Some people will object to this, and will say a straight wire with a volume knob is the best, but it depends on what you are connecting to what, and most importantly, what sounds good for you.
 
 
As for the balanced headphone connection, like you mentioned, single ended headphones would only use half the amplifier circuit that inside the V281's huge box (effectively making it a V220), so it does feel like a waste of money. There are pros (reduced crosstalk) and cons (higher output impedance) of balanced headphone connection, so once again it is subjective. Basically, buying the V281 allows you to make that choice, case-by-case, which is not to say that balanced is always better in all cases.
 
Anyhow, technical facts are not as important as what sounds good for you, provided that the amp is not distorting significantly. This is where V220 and V281 excels at. It would be embarrassing to say that a particular amp sounds "hot and exciting" when it is actually distorting the original signal by 10% etc.

 
Again, a very interesting post. I'm learning from this. Your first paragraph really hits home because I have a long & tangled history w/passive volume controllers. I had one good experience (inexpensive box) & one bad experience (expensive box), finally deciding that in a system where interconnects & speakers occasionally change, I couldn't easily control the impedance & capacitance variables that affect passives. I turned to SS preamps/amps last year and never looked back.
 
1/2 the V281's power circuits = a V200, so even "just" single-ended, this amp is a monster, unfazed by any load. That's easy to hear via SE output (haven't yet heard balanced). The balanced cable I ordered (Forza AudioWorks HCP Noir) will have a "pigtail" made of the same wire (4-pin female XLR/headphone side & 1/4" TRS/amp side). So I'll be able to quickly/easily compare the SE vs balanced sound of the V281 using my ZMF Ori (an experiment I'm really looking forward to).
 
Subjective experience of sound doesn't always correlate to design of the audio component in question--but what I hear coming from the V281, both on SE headphone output and RCA-outs to speakers, is undistorted, dynamic & effortless (at all volume settings).
 

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