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Lake People G103-S MKII

Compact, powerful headphone amplifier with RCA inputs

In a nutshell

The Constance-based manufacturer has been producing high-quality tools for the professional sector for more than 35 years, and this is undoubtedly evident in devices such as the Lake People G103-S MKII. If you are looking for a powerful headphone amplifier for studio and stage use or private listening pleasure, you should buy it without hesitation. This handy desktop device offers an excellent price-performance ratio!

Pros:
  • sound
  • compact, handy format
  • high-quality aluminum housing
  • high power reserves
  • very low noise
  • switchable amplification with five levels
  • supports impedances from eight to 600 ohms
  • two headphone connections
  • suitable for continuous operation (does not get warm)
Cons:
  • internal setting of the jumpers a bit awkward
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With the G103-S MKII, Lake People, the long-established manufacturer of professional audio technology from southern Germany, offer a high-quality, powerful headphone amplifier at an extremely attractive price. Characterised by a handy shape, the desktop unit can fit in small studio spaces or on a desk, while the internal five-step switching allows the amplification to be adjusted from low- to high-impedance headphones.

From the moment it is unpacked, the G103-S MKII gave an impression of high quality with its housing, which is made entirely of black anodised aluminium and weighs 730 grams. The impeccably crafted unit looks considerably more expensive than it is, looks robust enough for use in the studio or on stage and can be effortlessly integrated into the home hi-fi landscape thanks to its visually appealing design. The front panel measures 108 x 45 millimetres in width and height, while the cabinet itself is 105 millimetres wide, 42 millimetres high and 165 millimetres long. Including the four rubber feet, the height of the case is 48 millimetres.

Lake People G103-S MKII features

A power button for switching the G103-S MKII on and off is located on the front, with power being supplied via an integrated mains adapter. A green LED below the button indicates that the unit is ready for use. Two 6.3mm headphone jacks are located in the centre of the front panel, and these can be used in parallel but cannot be controlled separately. Therefore, it is suitable for models with comparable impedance if two headphones are to be connected at the same time. On the left, the volume can be adjusted via a rotary knob made of solid aluminium, and thanks to an Alps potentiometer, this allows for exact adjustment. On the rear, there is also an IEC/CEE socket for the mains cable with a Schuko plug and an RCA input on the standard version, which is indicated by the “S” in the name. Alternatively, Lake People also offer a headphone amplifier with balanced XLR inputs under the designation G103-P MKII (“P” for Professional).

Switchable gain

With five setting options (-6/ 0/ +6/ +12/ +18 dB), the gain of the G103-S MKII can be adjusted to the needs of each pair of headphones. This ensures that sufficient reserves are available and that the control range is not too small, so the volume can also be finely adjusted, and this is a very practical feature! Our rule of thumb is that a normal playback level is reached at the 12 o’clock position serves as a helpful orientation so that, depending on the source material, it can be adjusted in both directions without any problems. Since the adjustment is made via jumpers on the circuit board, a 2.5mm Allen key for the front panel and a T10 Torx screwdriver for the rear panel are needed to open the cabinet. Access from the outside would have been more convenient; this seems acceptable in view of the price.

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The G103-S MKII comes with a gain of +6 dB, which seems quite high and could be intended for louder environments. A Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro and DT 1990 Pro, the HD 660 S from Sennheiser or a Hifiman Sundara normally have an ideal control range at a gain setting of 0 dB, which can also help you to avoid turning them up too loud and damaging your hearing.

In practice: sensitive to demanding ears.

According to the manufacturer, the G103-S MKII is suitable for operating headphones with impedances between eight and 600 ohms. The available power reserves of up to 1,240 milliwatts are impressive and clearly superior to standard headphone connections and mobile solutions such as an Apogee Groove. The powerful output makes it easy to drive power-hungry magnetostats or high-impedance headphones, and the G103-S MKII does not get warm, so as a professional device, is also suitable for continuous use.

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For sensitive IEMs, the control range shortens somewhat, which on a Sennheiser IE 100 Pro, for example, is between 7:30 and 11:00 when the lowest gain level is selected. Otherwise, no limitations were noticeable. On the contrary, this headphone amplifier excelled with top values on paper, meaning that possible problem areas, such as perceptible noise, were not an issue. By the way, according to the company’s own information, this little powerhouse is manufactured in the traditional way in the company’s own factory on Lake Constance.

Sound

What impressed us immediately on first listen was the G103-S MKII’s spotlessly clean midrange with an immense amount of detail that could easily compete with much more expensive models. An HPA V202 from Violectric, the Lake Constance-based company’s high-end brand for hi-fi, has a more homogeneous, transparent sound and puts this much cheaper model in its place in terms of spatial imaging. The G103-S MKII, however, is outstanding in the illumination of voices. Due to its more direct reproduction, the G103-S MKII offers a razor-sharp close-up field for assessment, and on top of that, it sounds really good. In combination with headphones with an affinity for voices, such as the Sennheiser HD 660 S, the double vocals of Dave Gahan and Martin Gore in “Wagging Tongue”, “My Favourite Stranger” or “Before We Drown” on Depeche Mode’s recently released album “Memento Mori” are a real treat for the ears. The two voices seem more precise, tighter and differentiated than when listened to in combination with the Apogee Groove.

Although both headphone amplifiers harmonised wonderfully with the HD 660 S, the G103-S MKII conveyed a more neutral sound impression overall and seemed “cleaner”. In the Trentemøller remix of “Moan”, the Groove had a somewhat richer bass range with more fullness in the low bass and also sounded a bit warmer and closer in the midrange. The G103-S MKII, on the other hand, had a little more presence in the upper registers, which were more contoured and could clearly bring out more details. The first few bars of Yello’s “Electrified II” also vividly demonstrated that the G103-S MKII provided the larger listening space and offered a more open, spacious reproduction, which was confirmed with a DT 990 Pro or DT 1990 Pro from Beyerdynamic. This was true for studio productions as well as for live recordings, where the entry-level model from Lake People’s headphone amplifier series placed the stage noticeably deeper in the room. Another striking feature of the G103-S MKII was that it did not require high levels to reveal its sound potential. In this respect, it was possible to work or enjoy music at moderate volume settings for longer periods of time without getting tired.

10 months ago by Maike Paeßens
  • Rating: 4.75
  • Sound
  • Handling
  • Price/Quality
  • Function

Technical specifications

  • Ear couplingAmplifier
  • Weight with cable920 g
  • Weight without cable720 g

What's in the box

  • power cable
  • manual

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