Lake People G109S: The Wonderful World

Disclaimer: Violectric USA was so kind to supply us this loaner/review sample.

 

First off, if you are a headphone enthusiast who tries to walk that line of maintaining a budget while trying to get a taste of some higher end gear (a difficult tightrope, I know), here is your amp. Enjoy! To those of you who require more than just the word of some guy to plunk down $600, read on, as we explore the wonderful world of the Lake People G109S.

If the Lake People has a slightly familiar ring to it, that’s because they are the people who make the Violectric products (much loved by L). Looking at the G109S, one can see the familial resemblance between it and the Vio amps, particularly in the two ¼ inch headphone outputs in front. The G109S looks a bit more streamlined on the outside. It is built with anodized aluminum and while lacking the tank like nature of the Schiit or Burson (forshadowing!) products, still feels nice and solid. Solid enough that you can say, “OK, that will do. Let’s see what else you have.”

The products released under the Lake People moniker are geared towards professionals, for applications in, according to the Lake People’s website, “broadcast, television, airports, exhibition halls, festival venues, theatres, large-scale installations, private studios and more.” Their Violectric gear is aimed directly at audiophiles. The original intent towards professionals might explain the biggest weakness of the G109S, the gain selection. There are three levels of gain to select from, but you have to remove the top of the unit in order to get at the switch. Now, it isn’t that difficult to remove the top, but it can be time consuming and is kind of a pain in the bass (see what I did there). That might not be a big deal for an audio professional who is using the same monitors all day, but for a headphone enthusiast like you and I, it could be a pain. I say could be, since I haven’t actually had to switch the gain from the default since I got the unit. It was able to handle both the high impedance HD650 and the love efficiency HE-500 with aplomb. So, it is a notable issue, but for me, not a big deal.

The origin as a device for professionals might also speak to the G109S’s chief strengths as an amp, mainly its cleanliness and transparency. It is these two things working in tandem that creates the wonderful sound of the G109S. Or, I should say, it is the source, music and headphones that creates the wonderful sound. What I mean by that is that this is, by far, the most transparent amp I have heard. The sources I am using for this review are the Matrix Mini-I and the Resonessence Labs Concero HD (and I am never going to finish my review on the HD, because if I never finish my review, I can keep it forever). I actually think I underrated the Mini-I in my review. Although its bass detail isn’t great, it has a wonderful, warm, smooth sound that is extremely enjoyable, and not too laid back either. I know this because the G109S let me know.   Switching to the Concero HD, the change in source is extremely obvious as the warmth of the Mini-I is replaced by the manic electricity of the HD. It takes the source, amplifies it, and passes it on. I am trying to keep this from becoming a DAC review, which is hard since it has such an effect of the sound.

So, what does the G109S bring to the table besides transparency? It has a very neutral sound signature. The bass is full, goes deep and has good detail and impact. The highs are perfectly in line with what has come before. It sparkles when the music calls for it, but is never screechy or sharp (even with an energetic DAC and a more treble happy headphone like the T90). The width of the sound stage is also excellent. If there is something people might take issue with, it is the midrange. It is very clear and transparent (I promise, last time I will say that word), and they are never overpowered by the bass or dominated by the treble, unless the phones you are using are very bias toward one direction. The mids, however, don’t have huge body. So, if you want a real fat body to your midrange, this isn’t the amp for you. Also, the depth of the image is only so-so. The depth can vary greatly from DAC to DAC, but overall, that should be logged as a weakness, albeit a very small one.

Now, the only other solid state amp I have handy is the Fiio e9k, which, though fantastic for the price, just isn’t in the same league as the G109S, nor is the Torpedo (not SS, but I had it at hand). The G109S needed proper competition, so I turned to the current gatekeeper of $600 amps at Headfonia, the Soloist SL. I had spent some time with the SL last summer, and knew it was an excellent amp. How would it fair in battle with the G109S? I figured I should go all out on this showdown, so I procured (along with my trusty HD650) the Hifiman HE-500, Audeze LCD-2, Beyerdynamic T90 and the Mad Dog Pro by Mr. Speakers. I would go through each of these headphones, one by one, and see how the different amps faired. The thing is, as I was doing this, and writing down my thoughts, I realized this had become pointless. The simple fact is the G109S is a better amp, and I didn’t need to waste the space. The Soloist SL is a wonderful amp, but it has a very definite opinion on the music it outputs: forward, fast, a little bright. No matter the DAC or headphone, this was the SL’s sound. That means that some headphones had excellent synergy (the HE-500 pairing is absolutely divine), others… not so much. I’m not sure I have ever heard anything as sterile and lacking in musicality as the SL/LCD-2 pairing. The G109S, on the other hand, sounded very fine with the HE-500, wonderful with the LCD-2, quite enjoyable with the T90, fantastic with the HD650, and so on. Plus, switching the DAC to something more neutral or more laid back will have a dramatic effect on the sound, giving you a lot more options. The Mini-I made for a great time with the HE-500, while the Concero HD made the LCD-2 sound like a god of rock. It is the superior transparency (damn it!) of the G109S made this possible. With the G109S and a good source, if you don’t like the sound of your headphones, you simply don’t like the sound of your headphones.

And that is why the G109S is the clear winner. No matter what headphone you pair it with, you won’t be wrong. It’s not that the SL isn’t a great amp, far from it. It just doesn’t have the amazing versatility of the G109S, and that is that. Via Violectric’s USA distributor, the G109S runs $615. Should you need an amp with a balanced input, you can move up to the G109P, which will set you back $680.

After spending some time with the G109, I emailed L telling him that I finally understand why he loves the Violectric products so much. I am now very much on that bandwagon.   If my wife will let me (and the jury is still out), I will be buying this amp for myself. It will be very useful to me, both as a writer at Headfonia.com, and as a lover of music. What higher recommendation can I give than that? If you are cultivating a large headphone collection and are looking for an amp in the $600 dollar range), this is the amp you have been looking for. I dare you to find a better one for the price (but if you do, for the love of all that is good and holy, please tell me about it).

Violectric’s USA distributor: http://violectric-usa.com/

Technical Data

Balanced inputs:2 x Cinch (L / R) with priority
Impedance:10 kohms
Amplifier Channels:2 (Stereo)
Nom. input level:+ 6 dBu
Amplifier Gain:+8 dB
… with PRE-GAIN:-4 / +8 / +14 dB
Frequency range:0 Hz … 150 kHz (-3 dB)
Slew Rate:> 8V / usec
Dynamic range:> 129 dB (A-wtd)
Noise:< -101 dBu (A-wtd)
THD+N:< -100 dB @ 10V in 100 Ohms (1W)
< -100 dB @ 18V in 600 Ohms (5W)
Crosstalk:< -110 / -100 dB (@ 1 / 15 kHz)
Max. output level:> 18.8 Veff in 600 ohms = 590 mW
> 13.8 Veff in 100 ohms = 1900 mW
> 10.7 Veff in 50 ohms = 2300 mW
> 7.8 Veff in 50 ohms = 1900 mW
> 3.7 Veff in 16 ohms = 410 mW
Outputs:2 x 1/4″ phone jacks
Power supply:230 / 115 V AC 8 VA
Dimensions:168 x 49 x 145 mm (W x H x D)
Case Material:Black anodized aluminium

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51 Comments

  • Reply June 12, 2014

    dalethorn

    The Technical Data says balanced inputs but the rear photo says unbalanced inputs.

    • Reply June 12, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      That is a goof from the Lake People website, from where that is taken.

      • Reply June 12, 2014

        dalethorn

        So it’s just the normal inputs then?

        • Reply June 12, 2014

          Lieven

          Yes it is

        • Reply June 12, 2014

          L.

          yes

      • Reply June 12, 2014

        L.

        Corrected

      • Reply June 13, 2014

        Chris Lilley

        Its the specs for the G109p, which has both balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA connectors.

  • Reply June 12, 2014

    spencer_chan

    Maybe I’m confused, but “After spending some time with the G109, I emailed L telling him that I finally understand why he loves the Violectric products so much.”

    So you sent an email to yourself? =p

    • Reply June 12, 2014

      L.

      You are confused indeed. But it is my fault. Dave wrote the article but I forgot to change the author. Appologies. Will adapt in 15 minutes time. Thanks for noticing

      • Reply June 12, 2014

        Dave Ulrich

        Darn it L! Are you trying to steal one of my reviews again? 😉

        • Reply June 12, 2014

          L.

          Percs of being the boss I guess 😉

  • Reply June 13, 2014

    Henry Ma

    Nice review.
    Wondering how G109s compare with Violectric V90, which is priced a little lower than the former but has the convenient gain switch knob.

    • Reply June 13, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      According to my Violectric guy, the G109 should be roughly equivalent to the V100. I do know that the G109 does use a superior volume pot to the V90.

  • Reply June 13, 2014

    Vaibhav Pisal

    Hello Dave,

    great review.

    how does it compare to beyerdynamic a20 (read its review here as well)

    also what kind of hps you prefer ?

    • Reply June 13, 2014

      L.

      Different amps. Vio/lakepeople have more power arw aound more audiophile. The a20 ia warmer has more bass and is the fun one. Sonnically this one might be better but the a20 is all about enjoying your music

      • Reply June 13, 2014

        Vaibhav Pisal

        can I use my audinst hud mini with a20? or do I need to step up.

        in your words a20 sounds perfect for me.

        • Reply June 13, 2014

          Dave Ulrich

          I do feel the need to say, that I enjoy the heck out of my music with the G109.

          • Reply June 13, 2014

            Vaibhav Pisal

            of course.

            so did you liked t90 with it?

            • Reply June 13, 2014

              Dave Ulrich

              The T90 made for a good pairing. However, the “T” in T90 doesn’t stand for Tesla like some people think. It stands for “Tubes”. I agree with L in that respect. It is best on a tube amp.

              • Reply June 13, 2014

                Vaibhav Pisal

                darn it. looks like I need to bite the bullet and build crack or save up

              • Reply June 13, 2014

                dalethorn

                • Reply June 13, 2014

                  L.

                  It was a joke, Dale 😉 of course it stands for Tesla

                  • Reply June 13, 2014

                    Dave Ulrich

                    What’s more, it was a joke cut out of an early draft of this review. So, I had it at the ready!

                    • June 14, 2014

                      dalethorn

                      On an only slightly related note (speaking of Tesla), I can remember a few years ago when Tesla was highly regarded only by fringe people, but by now apparently they’ve dug up enough of his art and inventions that he gets credit far and wide. Well, when my anniversary T90 arrives Monday we will see just how much there is to the Tesla driver headphones (ignoring those little 1350’s and T51’s).

  • Reply June 13, 2014

    Sasmit

    Hi Dave,

    I really enjoy your reviews a great deal. You mention that G109s is superior to the torpedo. Can you go in more detail about the differences and also does your torpedo have all the latest improvements?

    • Reply June 13, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      I have not upgraded the Torpedo in any way. The G109 is clearer, more transparent, more detailed, has more power, scales up more with a better source. Both are fairly neutral in their sound.

      Thanks for the compliment. I thought the Torpedo deserved more recognition than it got. It’s a very nice amp. I just feel the the G109s takes that next step.

  • Reply June 13, 2014

    Chris Lilley

    I have been super happy with my G109p, used for mix monitoring and for music listening. (Phones are AT M50s).

    • Reply June 13, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      It is a great amp.

  • Reply June 14, 2014

    Michael

    Dave,

    For Sony MA900 (12 ohm) sourced by HRT Microstreamer, which of the mentioned amps you’d recommend?

    • Reply June 14, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      Well, I haven’t heard the MA900, but, as I said in the review, the G109 should match well with just about everything.

  • Reply June 15, 2014

    brant mann

    Dave
    As a owner of the lcd2 sl pairing would you consider the g109 an upgrade in sound enough that I should sell the sl and get the violectric?

    • Reply June 15, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      Well, do you like the LCD2/SL pairing? I hated it. The reason I think the G109 is the better amp is that it will work well with just about anything, where I find the Burson sound signature makes the SL more hit and miss with what it might work with (like I said in the review, the LOVED the SL/HE500 together). I thought the G109 was extremely nice with the LCD-2, much better than with the SL, but if you really like the way your LCD-2 sounds with the Soloist SL, then we might have very different opinions on the subject.

      • Reply June 17, 2014

        brant mann

        Well my experience with different amp/headphone combinations is quite limited and I want to get the most synergy possible from my system. Currently I use the musical fidelity m1dac which I think sounds great. But can I get better synergy? I’ve heard great things about the v200 and lcd2. Is their anything else I should try with my cans?

        • Reply June 17, 2014

          Dave Ulrich

          I know Mike really liked the LCD-2/Pan Am pairing. I haven’t heard that one.

  • Reply July 3, 2014

    rob

    I’m looking to purchase the LCD-2 at some point, and i can imagine that it would sound too “buttery” with my WA7. I have been looking for a a “solid” solid state amp that i could maybe pair with different sources.
    Anyone take stab at what this would sound like with an HD600?

    • Reply July 4, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      Well, it sounds quite good with the HD650, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it sounded good with the HD600. And, by crazy random happenstance, I am listening to the WA7 right now. It isn’t a very “buttery” sounding tube amp. I believe the Woos are known for their clarity and balance and for not being very tubey. I would give the LCD-2 a try with the WA7 first before you make any crazy left turns. I would try it for you, except I no longer have the LCD-2.

      • Reply July 4, 2014

        rob

        Fair enough, i just assumed that the laid-back presentation from the WA7 and the LCD-2 richer sound maybe too much together. Of course i love my WA7 so i’l always have it around. Thanks for the offer and insight.

  • Reply July 21, 2014

    genedel

    LCD-3 w/ G109 or V200? This may be more of a “better value” question.

    • Reply July 22, 2014

      L.

      Lakepeople vs Violectric is like Pro vs consumer. Better value might be the V100, but personally I would go for the V200

  • Reply July 22, 2014

    Peter

    I’m a big fan. I just bought the Audio GD NFB-11 for my HE-560s and am looking for a new amp/dac combo around $1000 that provides good listening for me. I’m a big bass guy (hip hop and electronic) and wanted to know your opinion on an AMP/DAC under $1000 for a desktop. It doesn’t have to be a combo AMP and DAC (I can buy the amp and dac separately), but I can’t spend more than $1100 for the combo. Can you please advise? Thanks.

    • Reply July 23, 2014

      L.

      Resonessence Labs DAC (Herus?) + V200 (second hand maybe)

      • Reply July 23, 2014

        Peter

        What are your thoughts on the Burson Soloist SL instead of the V200? The V200 is a bit pricey. I see some other AMPs on the site. Is the V200 your best bet for HE-560 hip hop/electronic?

        • Reply July 23, 2014

          Dave Ulrich

          Well, I compare the Soloist SL to the G109 in this review, and generally prefer the G109, however, I loved the HE500 with the SL. How it would far with the he560, I don’t know.

          • Reply July 23, 2014

            Peter

            Hmm, how’s a $600/$700(amp) and $300/$400(dac) split for the HE-560? In your opinion to achieve a good bass sound, should I be spending more on the amp or the dac? Like I said, the v200 is a little much and would like to buy NEW equipment AMP and DAC for 1000. Also, thoughts on Audio GD products??? Thanks again.

        • Reply July 23, 2014

          L.

          The 560 which is very neutral can use the extra body of the bass and mids of the V200 in my opinion, the Burson would make it even lighter sounding probably

  • Reply May 31, 2016

    lysingur

    I love the review. Just wondering what a good Amp/DAC combo under $700 for AKG K812 would be? Thanks!

    • Reply May 31, 2016

      dalethorn

      I’d get a tube amp for the K812. It would tame the highs a little and make it less grainy.

  • Reply January 11, 2018

    Eduardo

    Congratulations on the review. I am looking for an amplifier to use with two HD650. I’m between the 109S and the Beyerdinamic A20, could you tell me which one would go best with the HD650?
    I’m looking for more to enjoy the music, rather than the analytic

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