Today we’re checking out the new Violectric Chronos portable USB DAC/Amp, which sells for €199,90 EUR.
Disclaimer: The violectric Chronos was sent to me directly from Violectric Germany. The review reflects my honest opinion.
It’s been a while since we reviewed some Violectric gear, but here we are again. This time though, the subject is a very different product than what we’re used to from the German brand. Headfonia readers would know we’re a bit of Violectric/Lake People/Niimbus fan. Lieven has reviewed tons of Violectric gear over the years.
Lake People (now part of CMA Audio) established the Violectric brand in 2009 to offer specialist equipment for the hi-fi market. Its goal is to offer music lovers with high standards in sound quality and design aesthetics the chance to enjoy the outstanding quality of audio circuitry engineered for the Lake People brand.
The architect behind these two brands is Fried Reim. All Violectric products are driven by real-world advances in electronics design rather than fantastical, esoteric marketing promises. “Our products are aimed at pragmatists,” he says. This approach is reflected in the aesthetics of the Violectric range and its simple yet elegant design.
Violectric is now being managed by CMA.AUDIO, a German company representing many brands.
Violectric Chronos is a tiny external USB DAC/Amp. According to the brand, ”this is a top-notch D/A converter combined with a powerful headphone amplifier, protected by a stylish miniature case.”
The Chronos supports a 32 Bit 384 kHz sample rate for PCM. DSD signal is up to DSD256. The amplifier inside the device powers low impedance headphones with up to 2 x 30 mW. The unit measures only 44,5 x 24 x 10 mm and the case is from solid aluminium. The top and bottom of the device are glass, which is a very nice design choice I think.
The device can connect to smartphones and PCs instantly without any required software. For smartphones, both IOS and Android are supported, as Violectric provides 3 different cables for every possibility. So Apple Lightning cable is included with the Chronos. The other two cables are Type C USB and old Micro USB.
Build Quality, Design, Operation
The design of the Chronos is somewhat universal when it comes to USB dongles, but still significantly European. It’s a tiny rectangular device that is amazingly small and light. The Chronos is a result of a minimalistic approach. No screens, no extra buttons. You can easily put it in your pocket on the go.
However, it still feels quite premium with the single aluminium block and glass finish. You have your lighting brand name and logo on the top and necessary information on a red background on the bottom. There is a Type C USB port and the 3.5mm headphone out on the sides. The sole two buttons are located on the right side, which is for adjusting the volume.
So this is a device that almost feels non-existent in your tiny audio system. Violectric claims that the Chronos doesn’t drain much battery from your devices, just a tiny bit that doesn’t hamper your device’s performance at all.
Operating the device is straightforward. Connect the USB cable and you’re ready to go. Yet, that only establishes a power connection. Strangely, the Chronos starts the data connection only when you plug your headphones into its 3.5mm jack. That’s a good feature though. When the headphones are unplugged, the data stops.
The top glass area lights up in white when successfully connected to another device. It lights up in green and blue depending on PCM or DSD signals respectively.
For a very tiny device, the Chronos’ sound performance is very impressive from the get-go. The sound is precise and clean from top to bottom. There’s excellent clarity and resolution. The presentation is neutral and flat, so it doesn’t add anything to spice it up. You may find the performance quite sterile but this is exactly how it should be in my opinion. A USB dongle should give you a high-resolution sound without any colouration.
In that sense, the Chronos is quite an impressive DAC/Amp, especially for its size. Violectric has done it once again when it comes to technicalities and high-quality sound. The sound performance is quite close to the entry-level DAP territory. Let me get into details.
Lows have good punch and kick, and the midbass area is quite full sounding. The Chronos is not shy in terms of bass, but it takes it under control at all times. What I appreciate is the overall fullness and control together. Dynamic driver/hybrid IEMs don’t sound boomy with the Chronos, which is always a good thing.
Overall the bass is tidy but it has a small touch of kick and rumble that would make you happy with your popular music. So you won’t have any bass deficiency with the Chronos. You will also have a nicely defined, textured bass with good quality. I expected a flat bass response from Violectric, but the Chronos is more of a mainstream device if you understand what I mean. So I guess they added some slight oomph since it goes well with mainstream tunes.
Bass has good resolution and definition, and again, the control of the bass is excellent despite that slight boost. And that boost creates just the right quantity of bass for most people who’re going to use the Chronos with their smartphones.