With the DHA V226, Violectric introduces a potent headphone amplifier to the market that can simultaneously function as a high-quality D/A converter and even as a preamplifier. In view of the four-digit price, one should expect a sophisticated technical standard and audiophile sound, and the device we tested undoubtedly delivers.
Violectric may not yet have achieved much recognition as a name. It is the audiophile division of the German company Lake People, which has been manufacturing high-quality professional audio technology in Konstanz on Lake Constance for decades. With the DHA V226, company founder and chief developer Fried Reim has designed a high-quality combination of headphone amplifier and D/A converter with USB-C interface, which, with a recommended retail price of 1,399 euros, comes in well below Violectric’s other headphone amplifiers but is nevertheless supposed to deliver top sonic performance.
The design is straightforward. This compact and well-made floor-standing unit is a classic hi-fi component. Apart from the volume control and the power switch, which protects the output devices with a switch-on delay, there is a three-stage source selection for two pairs of analogue RCA inputs and USB-C, as well as another switch that defines the output (headphones, line). A total of eight LEDs are used for status indication.
Headphones can be connected in three formats at a central point: unbalanced via a 6.3 mm jack socket and balanced via Pentaconn or XLR-4 sockets. Multiple headphones can be operated simultaneously but not adjusted individually for level.
The stereo output with line level is located on the rear and uses the RCA format. With the appropriate button, you can configure it so that it is either in pre of or post the volume control. Depending on the application, you can work with a fixed output level, e.g. for recordings, or with a variable level for controlling active loudspeakers or power amplifiers. The connection for the internal power supply unit is also located at the rear.
Technology of the Violectric DHA V226
Technically, the manufacturer makes full use of its resources: Inside the DHA V226, four power amplifiers (3500 mW Pmax at 100 ohms, 23 V RMS at 600 ohms) are at work, providing balanced amplification at a high level. With this combination, the manufacturer promises a minimum THD+N, low crosstalk and high level of low distortion. The associated power is provided by a power supply with a toroidal transformer with a filter capacity of over 22,000 μF. Volume control is provided by a detented potentiometer (Alps RK27) with a large aluminium head.
In its function as a D/A converter, the DHA V226 receives signals via a USB-C interface. It supports resolutions up to 32 bit/384 kHz and DSD 256, which are then output to the analogue RCA outputs and the headphone outputs. The converter itself is the Cirrus Logic CS43131, which offers a dynamic range of about 130 dB and THD+N of only -115 dB (manufacturer’s specifications), truly setting the bar high.
A special feature: Beyond the powerful output of the power amplifiers, two rear banks of DIP switches on the rear panel make it possible to adjust the pre-amplification in seven steps between -18 and +18 dB in order to do justice to explicitly sensitive and particularly quiet headphones in a practical manner.
As a hi-fi component, the Violectric DHA V226 fulfils its task with convincing results. It effortlessly drives a wide variety of headphones, always delivering powerful levels when needed. The concept is straightforward: there is neither a balance control nor an equaliser, no cross-feed circuit, which is familiar, for example, from the competitor SPL with the Phonitor se. In addition, the unit does without a display and the option of remote control.
The rather basic output selector switch, which alternates between line-level and headphone paths and a central off position, was somewhat incomprehensible to me. I would have found it much more sensible to have separate on and off switches so that both outputs could be used simultaneously if necessary. Another question I had was why Violectric provides balanced headphone connections but no corresponding inputs and outputs.
However, it should be noted that the DHA V226 is the smallest headphone amplifier in Violectric’s range. With the DHA V590² (PRO) and the HPA V550 (Pro), there are also products with symmetrical inputs and remote control, but these are considerably more expensive.
The DHA V226 is not really suitable for headphone comparisons and is inferior to the RME ADI-2 Pro FS with its dual headphone outputs, which can be individually configured in level and other parameters. So it depends on your requirements. The target market for the DHA V226 is obviously the demanding music connoisseur in their own living room.
With macOS 12.2.1, the DHA V226 was immediately ready for sound output using Tidal. According to the manufacturer, operation with Win 10 should not require any separate drivers, but this did not work on our test computer. Upon request, however, the German distributor provided a driver with which the hardware was finally recognised, but in my case, only on a USB-3 port.
Sound of the Violectric DHA V226
It should be obvious that explicitly high-quality sound transducers benefit from the quality of such a headphone amplifier. It should go without saying that high-resolution audio files should be used. In my case, the sound test was carried out with a Shanling M3X DAP and via USB-C on a MacBook Pro.
Ahead of that, my personal assessment on the subject is that I think the headphones influence the listening tests by at least 90 per cent. In comparison, the amplifier stage (with non-critical headphones) and the quality of file resolution and even compression, as long as it does not fall below a minimum level, are of comparatively little importance. It is also all too easy to be misled by volume differences and interruptions when switching when making such comparisons. So does it make sense to invest in an expensive headphone amplifier?
The answer is absolutely, because the better the entire signal chain, the more clearly differences can be perceived. With the DHA V226, you can rely on cutting-edge DA converters and first-class analogue technology. Accordingly, the results in terms of detail, spatial and panoramic resolution, as well as dynamics, are outstanding.
Good level reserves were available. At the same time, the amplifier acted effortlessly and quickly. Percussive impulses came without a hitch, and basses were tracked in every frequency as precisely as the original demanded.
In combination with Sennheiser HD 800 S it turned out, as expected, to be lean, analytical and wonderfully airy in the highs, but also a little loud. The jump in quality compared to the good, low-priced AKG K702 was understandable. These headphones are at their best with +6 dB pre-amplification. This also applied to the Sennheiser HD 800 S when using an unbalanced cable, while the boost was not necessary when using the Pentaconn cable. Noise, by the way, was not an issue at any point during the test. Even at full gain, the DHA V226 remains whisper quiet. Only at +18 dB pre-amplification does one hear audible background noise, although this does not change depending on the position of the volume control.
The U6t from 64 Audio was satisfied at neutral gain and delivered a wonderfully balanced sound image via its six BA drivers each. In all cases, it was astonishing how unerringly the test device revealed the tonal differences between individual music titles and also between the headphones.
Another special feature: the Violectric DHA V226 allows music to be enjoyed even at lower volume levels. Often with smartphones or built-in headphone outputs, I get the impression that I need to bring the volume above a certain minimum level in order to fully enjoy the richness of detail and bass pressure. That was not the case here. At the same time, the DHA V226 sounded great even at mercilessly (too) high levels due to its low distortion – a hallmark of high-quality engineering.
Now, is the Violectric DHA V226 better than products from SPL, RME, Sennheiser or Focal? I don’t want to make a definite statement on this because for a reliable assessment, I would have to ensure switching without delay and complete level equality. However, I am tempted to say that the DHA V226 is justifiably in the four-digit price category. It fulfils its core task with audiophile bravura. I cannot and will not judge to what extent it is necessary to forego features and comfort. In this price range, I think you should take your favourite headphones with you and go to a well-stocked specialist shop; fortunately, these can still be found and they offer this very service.
The Violectric DHA V226 is more than a straightforwardly designed, powerful audiophile headphone amplifier. Depending on the application, it also functions as a D/A converter or a preamplifier with appropriate input selection. Violectric describes the unit as a compact control centre and is quite correct in doing so. The sonic performance was beyond reproach, and it should perform as desired with virtually any pair of wired headphones, equally doing justice to the price and to the headphones you connect to it.
- Ear couplingAmplifier
- Weight without cable3.000 g
- 2 analogue stereo inputs, unbalanced via Cinch
- 1 digital input, USB-C, with up to 32 bit and up to 384 kHz for PCM signals, DSD 64 - 256
- 32-bit D/A converter with typical -115 dB THD+N and 130 dB dynamic range
- +/- 18 dB pre-gain for optimal adjustment of the DHA V226 to source and headphones
- Volume control with RK 27 potentiometer, large 38 mm all-aluminium knob
- 4 powerful amplifiers, 3500 mW Pmax at 100 Ohm, 23 V RMS at 600 Ohm
- Delayed switching of headphones after power-on
- Headphone path and line-out path separately selectable
- Headphone outputs: 1 x 4-pin XLR, balanced / 1 x Pentaconn, balanced / 1 x 6.3 mm jack, unbalanced
- Stereo line output: 1 x unbalanced via Cinch
- Toroidal transformer, > 22. 000 uF filter capacity