I mainly used the V850 in combination with the V281 I got last year and the combination is really good as expected. The V800 + V200 combo was also pretty magical but I feel this combination is even better. Before the V850 arrived I was constantly switching between DACs like the Chord Hugo, Resonessence Labs, ALO CDM, Stoner EGD, Chord Mojo and even DAPs like the AK240 and Fiio X7 which have excellent DAC chips. While I quite like several of those – and especially the Sabre based DACs – the V850 plays in a different league, both in versatility and sound quality. The two main setups I have downstairs are the V281 + V850 and Stoner’s End Game stack. While Stoner’s End Game Dac is quite good – it does DSD, nicely displays the bit rate it is receiving, and has an extended options menu – I don’t think it sonically can compete with the V850. I like my DACs to be clean, very clear and detailed with a wide and deep sound stage with great layering and separation. If needed or preferred, I’ll add a warmer amp to it to adapt the sound signature.
The V850’s sound stage is pretty wide (yet it isn’t the widest I’ve ever heard) and it is wider than the EGD’s. The V850 sounds more spacious and less concentrated than the balanced EGD. What struck me most is the combination of detail, naturalness and musicality that the V850 delivers. It’s not the kind of DAC that WOW’s you with one or two specific things, it’s a DAC that just always performs on the highest level. That is most noticeable when you after a few weeks replace the V850 with one of the before mentioned DACs. You immediately hear the inferior level of detail, depth, separation and clarity. The V850 in that regard is resolving, transparent and clean and isn’t adding anything to the sound signature itself, it just brings out the best.
Bass sounds precise, tight and fast, the mids are nicely layered and the treble is sparkling but not too much. A lot of people don’t like how the latest top Sabre chips make the treble sound a bit overly sparkling but I kind of do, in that regard I find the V850’s treble – and actually its whole presentation – more on the soft side but it still is lively enough overall (it’s just not the Sabre type of edgy/hyperactive sound). I love how the V850 sounds and disappears in your system. Next Saturday if all goes well, I should have the Resonessence Labs Mirus with me and I after a few weeks will be adding a comparison to it in this review. I have a feeling the Sabre chip will have even more detail and better precision but it might be more on the analytical side where Violectric seemed to have gone for a perfect combination of detail and musicality. We’ll see.
Over the next few weeks I’ll also be publishing my full review on Stoner’s balanced setup but I can tell you already that my preference – not looking at budget – easily goes to the Violectric setup. The EGD does deliver excellent quality for the price it is going for though and the DAC alone only costs $450USD while this V850 cost 3 times as much. Same goes for the V281 that goes for like 5 times the price of the End Game Amp. The Stoner gear performs really well but I personally wouldn’t have called it “End Game”.
The V850, in combination with the End Game Amp in balanced mode, still sounds good but to me the amplifier is holding back the performance of the DAC. The EGA only has a balanced input but I have to say that I hardly noticed any differences between the RCA and XLR connections on the Violectric setup. The V850 will show you the difference between a 256kb MP3 and a 24/96 version of the same song but it won’t make you delete your lesser quality file as it is quite forgiving. The V850 has never given me the impression of sounding harsh, too soft or too sharp. It just makes you enjoy your music with a very good level of sound presented in a very musical, Violectric kind of way.
The V850 is a higher-end DAC and its price is set at €1.176,47 when you’re outside the EU. Inside the EU we of course get to pay taxes and the price here is €1.400, the optional Motor RC does cost you €210 more. I have enjoyed every bit of the V850 and I feel this DAC has a more than correct price. In exchange you get a very good, musical sound with a good level of detail and depth with a presentation that is hard not to like.
Overall I mostly enjoyed the V850 in combination with the V281 and other solid state amplifiers. The V850 also did well in combination with my smooth OTL amplifiers but the synergy wasn’t as special as with the V281, except for with my Glenn2359 300B amp. I also have a feeling this would have been a perfect DAC for the WA2, which I unfortunately no longer have in my possession.
The original V800 still is available at the date of publication of this review and it in fact is heavily discounted at this time. The V800 goes for €750 Outside the EU and more or less 800 inside the EU. If the new V850 is out of your budget, I would not hesitate and order one of these lovely V800s right away. You won’t regret it. Me, I’m thinking of buying this V850…