Violectric V226 Review
Pros: + Utterly musical
+ Natural timbre
+ Top tier technical performance
+ Super powerful and very dynamic
+ Full bodied
+ Dead silent
+ Expanded and holographic
+ Embedded USB DAC
+ DAC line out
+ Analogue preamplifier
+ Pre-gain settings
+ Massive aluminium volume knob
+ Three headphone sockets
+ Excellent build quality
+ Made in Germany
Cons: – DAC section is not on par with the amplifier
– No XLR inputs
– DSD limited to 256
– No MQA (if you care)
– Side panels and lid could be more thick
The V226 was kindly provided as a loaner in exchange for my subjective and unbiased review.
The selling price is €1399 and you can order it directly from the Violectric website.
Coming from Germany, the Violectric brand, founded by the legendary Fried Riem, is a milestone in producing some of the best high end headphone amplifiers and DACs in the market, that are highly favored amongst the community for their top sound performance and the excellent craftsmanship albeit the high selling prices.
In the past few years their portfolio of products has been radically revamped to include a lot of new models while some of the legendary ones like the V280 and the V281 have been discontinued.
Violectric DHA V226
The DHA V226 is the newest and most affordable Violectric amplifier.
It is a balanced headphone amplifier with a competitive DAC and a preamp function.
The DAC section is based on the Cirrus CS43131 with typical 130 dB dynamic range and THD as low as -115 dB.
It comes with a USB type C input and supports PCM signals up to 32 bits and 384 kHz sample rate as well as DSD up to 256.
The V226 seems to be the long awaited successor to the legendary V280/V281 since the roots of the headphone amplifier circuitry can be found in them.
According to Violectric the V226 offers the lowest possible noise through a very small amount of internal gain.
This makes the amplifier’s self-generated noise inaudible.
The high output voltage through 50V internal operating voltage is ideally suited for high-impedance headphones deserving high output voltage swing.
At the same time the high output power, thanks to powerful amplifiers, offer far more power even the most demanding headphones would ever need.
So it is equally best suited for headphones with low
impedances as well as difficult to drive magnetostatic headphones.
It has a high damping factor due to lowest output impedance, therefore is the ideal match for difficult to drive headphones without negative side effects and with the guarantee for an uncompromising frequency response.
The amplifier is differentially balanced with four output power transistors per phase, a total of 16, mounted in aluminium heat sinks.
A Talema toroidal transformer is the heart of the linear power supply which features separate, low noise, local regulated supplies for all critical digital and analog stages with more than 22.000 uF of filter capacity.
The four powerful amps offer 3500 mW Pmax into 100 Ohm and 23 V RMS into 600 Ohm.
The volume is adjusted through a high quality Alps RK 27 attenuator with a big 38 mm massive aluminum knob.
The volume is adjusted through discrete steps, rather than a freely rotating potentiometer.
Channel balance is excellent, even at the lowest possible setting.
There is also a delayed coupling of the headphones to the amp after power-on to protect the headphones.
Inputs / Outputs / Operation
The V226 is really versatile when it comes to inputs and outputs.
At the back of the unit there are 2 analogue stereo inputs, unbalanced, via RCA and an analogue RCA line output that can be operated with or without the volume control by the simple press of a switch.
The following options are available:
If RCA 1&2 inputs are selected as the source, then the RCA line output can be used either as a pre-amp or as a simple passthrough.
If the DAC is selected as the source, then the RCA line output can be used either as a fixed or variable level output.
At the back there are also located the micro – switches that are used for the famous Violectric pre – gain adjustment system.
+/- 18 dB pre – gain for a perfect match of the DHA V226 between source and headphones with separate adjustment for each channel at 4 steps each (-18,-6,+6,+18 dB).
The front panel is dominated by the massive aluminium volume knob which is located at the left.
At the middle there are the three headphone sockets (4.4mm, 4-pin XLR, 6.35mm) and at the right, the ON/OFF push button.
At the top center there are two switches that are used to select the desired inputs and outputs plus eight LEDs that indicate the various operations.
Build quality and design
The V226 case is entirely made from aluminium with a thick, brushed, front face and thinner side walls/lid, unlike the V550 where these parts are made from thicker aluminium.
It seems that some cuts were necessary in order to keep the cost down.
Build quality is just excellent, a fine example of the famous Teutonic engineering.
The design is industrial minimalistic with a luxurious feeling.
I love it and I wish that all my gear was designed the same way.
The V226 is very powerful and from the balanced output can drive with ease all the headphones on the market, including the Susvara and the rest of the capriciously inefficient planars.
With my regular sensitivity headphones I used the -6dB setting to allow better adjustment of the volume range.
The single ended output is less powerful but still can drive most of the headphones.
The V226 is a power house but at the same time is dead silent and perfectly suitable for sensitive earphones as long as you set the pre-gain switches to the -18dB position.
Be careful not to fry them.
During the listening sessions I used various headphones from the Sennheiser HD660S/650 and HiFiMan Sundara to the Focal Clear Mg and Meze Elite.
The sources included the Lab12 dac1 reference, SMSL DO200 and Mhdt Audio Toucan.
Two iFi power stations are used for the analogue and digital components.
As per usual practice I left the amplifier playing music for more than 200 hours before commencing into critical listening sessions.
I didn’t monitor the burning process and I don’t know if it was beneficial to the sound or not.
As a long time owner of the V280 I can vouch that the V226 is the real successor to it and not the previously reviewed V550.
The sound is big, bold and lush with the famous “tubey” warmth of the V280 but this time with much more improved technicalities.
The V226 is slightly less warm and it takes from where its predecessor has left to offer improved transparency, greater control, better clarity and more air between the lines.
Frequency response is reference linear with deep bass, open sounding mids and well extended treble.
The warmth and the tubey character are related to the colorful harmonics and the sophisticated overtones, that add greatly to the naturalness of the timbre and the lifelike characteristics of the sound, and not to frequency response deviations.
The V226 is like a musical instrument, it plays music rather than merely amplifying sounds.
It is not that it is lacking in transparency, on the contrary it is precise and accurate like a scientific instrument but then it possesses this rare ability to reconstruct the music and add the missing life, reinstall the timbre and rebuild the texture that were lost during the engineering process.
The usual frequency analysis is rather vague in the case of the V226 because all the usual qualities apply at the greater extent.
Yes, the bass is full and visceral while maintaining excellent control and great layering, it is tight and clear, fast and pacey with some of the best dynamics in the industry.
Muscular and hard hitting it will ransack all your headphones to offer the most realistic impressions during large scale symphonic works.
And yes again, the mids sound open and spacious, with the most natural timbre and the finest articulation, they flow like spring water filling your ears with playful notes.
As for the treble, yes it is smooth and perfectly controlled yet fully extended, fast, agile and speedy.
No listener fatigue here, no treble harshness, no brightness but still luminous, detailed, finely nuanced but never analytical.
If you are interested in ultimate analysis, tons of detail and ear bleeding sharpness, then you better stop reading, you are wasting your time.
The case with the V226 is radically different, it feels like sitting in front of a live concert, listening to the music rather than using it as a microscope to analyze the recording.
Don’t be mistaken though to think that the V226 is lacking in detail, you will be proven wrong.
The black background helps a lot in letting all the details emerge from the depths of the recording but then they remain an integrated part of the musical event rather than being forcefully projected to the forefront.
It is a matter of different gusto.
The amplifier is fast and well defined with excellent staging abilities.
From the balanced output, the head stage experience is amazing with a grand and holographic presentation, squeezing out every last drop of the headphone staging abilities.
With a top tier headphone the listener is rewarded with an out of the head experience with great communication of the ambience especially when listening to recordings made outside the studios.
One of my favorites is the following recording made in the Abbey Church of SS Mary, Romsey UK where you can hear the galleries echoing the music.
One thing of criticism in the V280/V281 had to do with the single ended output which was of lesser quality than the balanced one.
Somewhat slower, thicker, less defined, more congested and with a shrunken soundstage.
Not this time though because the V226 single ended output is equally on par with the balanced one, retaining all the sound quality characteristics, minus the slightly less expanded sound stage.
The V226 is very versatile when it comes to pairings and you are going to enjoy all the headphones of your collection, no matter if they have balanced or single ended cables.
The internal DAC
Well, I am not going to lie nor abuse your time with a lengthy analysis.
The internal DAC is sufficient enough and up to the modern standards, with good transparency and satisfying sound quality to be enjoyable when there is not something else better available.
Thus said the V226 is a TOTL headphone amplifier and as such it certainly needs a top tier partnering DAC in order to unfold its virtues.
The embedded DAC is a great option for the budget conscious audiophile who can’t afford a separate one.
But in order to truly enjoy the remarkable performance of the V226 then you should start saving to invest in an equally good source.
In the end
The V226 might be the first step into experiencing the famous Violectric sound but it is not an entry level amplifier under any circumstances.
It is one small step into the Violectric catalogue but one giant leap into the high end amplifier market at a sane price.
It is not cheap but then you are buying one of the best made and most musical headphone amplifiers with top tier technical performance, tons of power, an internal DAC and multiple I/O options.
A stairway into musical heaven, the Violectric V226 might be your end game headphone amplifier.
Copyright – Laskis Petros 2022.