Disclaimer: The V800 unit came directly from Violectric in Germany and it is a temporary sample that will be going back after the review is done. Mike’s store is also selling Violectric products and therefore I will be doing most of the review so there can be no doubt of partiality. Of course I have already reviewed both the V100 and V200 amplifiers, so I’m familiar with the brand and the house sound.
This is a double review. Black text is Lieven’s, Blue is Mike’s.
This is the third review already of a unit made by Violectric by LakePeople, “The HiFi brand with pro-audio roots” as everyone knows by now . This time it is the V800 Digital to Analog Convertor that’s up for review, a unit you’ve been asking us to review for quite some time now.
Ever since I first got in contact with Violectric to discuss a possible V200 review sample, they were honest and asked if I wouldn’t be interested in reviewing the V100 first. All units are made in Germany and they want to make sure the quality is always at the best level and as a result it is not always easy to keep up with the increasing demand of units. For the same reason Violectric promised to send me the V800 right after the Munich fair as they would be more easily available by then.
And so the V800, in the usual Violectric shipping box, arrived a couple of weeks ago right after I posted my Rein Audio X3 review on here. These are both closely priced and European so I’ll certainly be comparing both DACs later in this review.
I’ve heard so many good things about the Violectric V100 & V200 amplifiers so I had a good faith that they will sound good somewhat even prior to importing the amplifiers to be sold on the Headfonia Store. The V800 DAC however, was more of a blind buy for me as I absolutely have no idea how the DAC will sound and if it’ll give a good performance for the price. Just because Violectric has PRO-roots and just because they’ve been making good amps doesn’t mean that the DAC would be good.
When the unit arrived I put the V800-V200 pairing for display at the store and they do look good when paired together. Over the next couple of weeks I took time to audition the pairing while at the same time doing other DAC reviews including the Asus Xonar Essence One and the Muses Edition, Burson’s new PCM1793 DAC, alongside the Lavry DA10, Fostex HP-A7-A8, Neko D100 Mk2 and the Benchmark DAC1 that we happen to have at the store. The store does sell Fostex, Neko, and Violectric gear (everything else I used here are 2nd hand units from customers), so if you want to discount the impressions, just discount mine as everything Lieven wrote are totally his own.
The Unit – Extended Version
As you can see in the pictures this DAC looks “busy” and both front and back panels are full of buttons, dials, connectors and leds. Size of the DAC is identical to the V100 and V200 and so it makes for a great slick looking stack. Build quality and look and feel is the same as with the amplifiers: excellent! If you want more info on that I advise you to read our earlier reviews of Violectric products.
On the back panel you will find a AES/EBU – XLR balanced input, an optical input, a coaxial input and of course the USB input. (Inputs are 24-192 aside for USB and opto (24-96)).You also get a digital out and an analog balanced and unbalanced output. And of course there’s the power connector, who would have guessed! On the front you get a digital volume control which I will come back to later, you have the power button and the typical Violectric blue LED and several different LEDs and buttons to show you what input you are using and what re-sample rate. I couldn’t find any info on the internals itself and so I contacted Violectric again, to get a non-surprising reply: “I just heard from one of our HK dealers that the Chinese guys have copied our V800, so in the future we have to be careful with the details of our gear”. A serious problem not only Violectric is suffering from, a few weeks after I reviewed the X3 from Rein Audio they confirmed me their X3 DAC had been copied in China as well. “Small” companies spend a lot of money developing a new DAC or amp and to see their investment get ruined by cheap Chinese copies is awful and the worst thing is these Chinese companies can hardly be touched. And on top of that, just because someone copied schematics doesn’t necessarily mean you will get the same quality (Quality of PCB, components used, transformer, etc), therefor we at Headfonia suggest to go for the real thing and not put your faith in a cheap Chinese knock-off. But back to the V800 as we did get the green light to share some things after all.
For re-sampling the V800 uses a SRC4392 chip. Of course not everyone is a fan of “up-sampling” (check the comments later for more info) and so the V800 gives you the option to use it or not. The USB receiver chip is the Tenor TE0722L so that’s how it will show up when you connect your pc. The D/A convertor used is a PCM1792 as they feel there simply is no better one around. They have checked other famous and hyped convertors which have really impressive dynamic range like the ES9018 but being from the professional division they know that distortion counts higher than dynamic reach and so the PCM1792 was chosen as it scores better in that field. The V800 gives you the choice to re-sample once (original sample rate), twice (if >110kHz the original rate is used) and 4 times. There’s also a best setting that uses a sample rate of 96kHz, the rate the convertor performs best at. (What I’ve mostly used for the review). As Violectric says “Most people don’t know that beyond 100 kHz sample rate a D/A convertor will half its internal oversampling – resulting in about 3 db performance losses”
The upsampling options, I find mostly adds a tiny bit of brightness. For me who favors a darker tonality, I’m most happy with the resampling set to off. I find it gives me not only the darkest sound but also the darkest background and (surprise!) best depth.
As promised a last comment from Violectric on the Digital volume control before we get to the sound part: “Analog output level is controlled by means of a potentiometer on the front panel. Its setting is translated in the digital domain only, thus excluding any kind of scratching, crosstalk or gang errors. Since the potentiometer affects data word length (and so: signal accuracy), a setting closest possible to the right end stop should be chosen to achieve the maximum desired loudness.” I’ve been playing with the volume control in the beginning but I’ve always kept it at 95% ever since. Standard analog output volume is set at +15dBu for balanced and +9dBu for unbalanced.
Click and read how it sounds on the next page!