The sound of the V100, and there for the RS 02 and 08, is a known quantity, and on that front, I don’t have too much at add to what has already been said. The RS 08 is wonderfully balanced and clear. It probably comes as close to a neutral sweet spot as is possible. It is very linear from top to bottom. The bass is tight and hits hard. The mids are clear and detailed. The treble is extended and sparkles. The width and depth of the soundstage are good (not exceptional, I suppose this is the “weak” point. It isn’t really forward in its sound, but it also isn’t laid back. It isn’t warm, but no one would call it cool either. It just is. Natural is a good word for it.
As with all amps, there will be some combinations that are better than others, but I defy you to find a headphone that doesn’t at least sound good with this. The Curve universal IEM (dual BA) had a black background with no hiss. The Hifiman HE-6 was driven easily with power to spare. The Sennheiser HD-800S sounded very musical. I have yet to find a combo that is any less than very good. It is certainly a jack of all trades, but still a master of some.
I have to admit, at first, I was disappointed that the RS 08 was going to be based on the V100 circuitry and not the V200, as they already had something along those lines with the G109, but after talking to Violectric’s American distributor, it made sense. The Violectric V200, and those that followed, have a darker, more laid back sound to them, which is loved by many. For the more professionally geared, Lake People brand, for the Reference Series, they wanted to maintain a neutral sound. A reference sound. This amp certainly is that.
So, what improvements does the RS 02 ($649) add to the G109 to make it worth the extra 30 bucks? The big one is that it now has its gain control switches on the back of the unit. If you recall, the G109 required you to open up the unit and change a jumper in order to lower or raise the gain. I gave the G109 a pass on that, because I believed in the value of the sound. Not anymore! Is that worth the extra few bucks? I would say most definitely! Also on the back are unbalanced inputs and unbalanced outputs, so you know.
To those who want to use the RS 02/08 as a preamp, there are some new options given to you as well. Should you want to connect a source to the RS, and output the source to something else, but you don’t want to have to turn on the RS, you can set an internal jumper (yes, you will have to open the case for that) to passive feed-through. If you want the RS to be active in this process, you set the jumper to active feed-through. And if you want to use the RS to control the volume of the downstream gear, set the jumper to active feed-through with volume control. As I am solely a headphone person, this feature doesn’t affect me, but I always favor more options as opposed to fewer, and this could be a dealer maker for some.
Now, the RS 08 ($879) adds a balanced output to the party. If you have read any of the things L has written about the difference between balanced and single ended output, you will know what I am about to say. The balanced output offers noticeable upticks in the size of the soundstage, and in clarity, but at the expense of some bass body. So in that way, the balanced output of the RS 08 is actually slightly less neutral, as it can come off a bit bass light, depending on the headphones. The Sennheiser HD650, however, has some bass body to spare, and I instantly discovered by the balanced HD650 is legend. It still kind of stuns me how much detail this “old” headphone can put out. When you have great upstream components, and the RS 08 amp and RS 06 DAC a certainly great, the HD650 can still compete with the best of them.
The RS 08 and the RS 06: a wonderful stack that sounds is as beautiful as its looks are ugly, and they are pretty ugly. Still, I don’t think it is worth the money to make fashion statements with your audio gear, but that is just me.
Now, suppose you wanted to get the RS 08, but the $879 price tag is still a bit steep. Is there anything you can do? If you act fast, there is! The RS 08 will be Massdropped for under $700 starting tomorrow November 9, 2016. Price will be $699.99 for two orders and starting from seven the price will drop to $659.99!If you are interested in pulling the trigger on one of these, now is your chance. I can’t say enough good about this amp (in a way, this is the third review we have done in praise of it), and I can’t imagine anyone looking for a great sounding; cover all-of-your bases amp, being in any way disappointed with this.
The MassDrop drop is now live: https://www.massdrop.com/buy/lake-people-hpa-rs-08