Violectric HPA V340 Headphone Amplifier / Preamplifier – German Musicality
Germany has been the home to many technological wonders, and audio is part of that as well. The Violectric HPA V340 is priced at 1800 EURO, or roughly 2000 USD, and it is a full sized AMP, with PREAMP functions, high damping factor, and will be compared with Smyth A16 Realiser (4000 USD), AudioAnalogue AAdac (4000 USD), Wells Milo Solid State Amplifier (2200 USD), and Feliks Euforia Tube Amplifier (2000 USD). Since we’re talking about such an interesting AMP, we will be including pairings with Audeze LCD-XC (1800 USD), HIFIMAN Arya Stealth (1600 USD), Sivga Peacock (1500 USD), Spirit Torino SuperLeggera (2000 USD), and Kennerton Thror (3000 USD).
If you ever tried German products, you will understand why your father and more acquainted folks are always trying to get some of the older vintage stuff made in Europe. Violectric and Lake People are companies that extend considerably above the level of a country, and Lake People is a company established in 1986, having been developing solutions for recording studios, demanding the highest standards of quality and reliability for their products. Since Violectric is a sub-brand of Lake People, you can count on the over 30 years of development and refinement to have gone in making some of the finest products, and the support, warranty plus quality all show the experience of the company. You can expect all their products to be professional, and as we’ll see today, pretty technical as well, HPA V340 being the only amplifier I reviewed this year that comes with such a complex and thorough map of its electronics. Lake people as a company was established in 2009, and was coordinated by Mr. Fried Reim, who is the architect behind both. The principle behind Violectric is to use real-world advances, engineering marvels, and actual scientific approaches, rather than esoteric marketing and over-the-top promises. They state that “Our products are aimed at pragmatists”, so their approach is reflected in the simple but elegant designs for their products.
The company is also known as the first German company to develop a 20-Bit DAC, and ADC, making them a backbone of both the listening and recording industries. Even if this happened in the nineties, it still stands as a proof to show their proficiency as a hardware developer.
It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Violectric or Lake People. I’d like to thank Violectric for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with Violectric HPA V340. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it. The purpose of this review is to help those interested in Violectric HPA V340 find their next music companion.
First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:
The package is rather basic, and it includes the AMP, and paperwork. Given that this is a full sized desktop amplifier, this is normal and unless it needs certain accessories, no other amplifier comes with more extras. I would be curious to see some headstands for headphones made by the company, but for the operation of HPA V340 you probably have all the cables needed already.
We should start by saying that HPA V340 is a really technical product, with lots of attention being given to everything audio-related, but since it is aimed at pragmatics, the design doesn’t try to go over-the-top and it is a sleek, slightly industrial but elegant and sleek-looking AMP. We have the volume control at the front, and it is a stepper volume control, with minor bumps between volume steps, having the advantage of being usable from the first steps without any channel imbalance. Speaking of the volume control, it is offered by Alps, and it is Alps RK27.
You can select between the two RCA inputs, or mute them (in between). It is also possible to select the output, and use either the headphone outputs, line outputs, or use both at the same time. The best quality is achieved if using one at a time, as well as having connected just the headphone output, or just the line output. Out of the factory, it is possible to use HPA V340 with both 115 Volts and 230 Volts, for both Europe, USA as well as the rest of the world. You can open the unit to change the Ground-Lift jumper, an option to tune its sound, but this is a risky operation and you have to do it carefully.
We have two analogue inputs at the back, both gold plated, the inputs have a 10 kOhm impedance, with a selectable sensitivity. I recommend using high-quality DACs and using HPA V340 at the lowest sensitivity useful to you, as it will reflect the quality of the DAC used, and if the DAC has a noisy signal, HPA V340 will show it. For example, Cyrus One Cast, a DAC/AMP/Streamer that I enjoyed greatly over the past weeks, tends to have a baseline noise that I can hear, but the Astell & Kern SP2000T is completely silent, even if the input is set for a higher sensitivity. The Pre-Gain attenuation can be set between -18 / -12 / -6 / 0 / +6 / +12 / +18 dB.
The power amplifier design uses 4 Discrete-design power AMPs with 16 transistors per channel. The output impedance is noted to be extremely low, and <1 Ohm, which I can confirm, as HPA V340 is completely and entirely silent with IEMs, even with sensitive IEMs like Campfire Atlas, Campfire Ara, Moondrop Illumination, and Metalure Wave. The maximum impedance recommended for headphones is noted at 600 OHMs, while the lowest is noted at 16 OHMs, with the power reaching a maximum of a whooping 5000mW. The funny thing here is that contrary to the usual setting, I recommend setting the Pre-Gain sensitivity to the lowest level acceptable, while I usually set gains at the highest levels for the best overall resolution and dynamics.
We have a total of 49 Transistors, and 16 High-quality Op-AMPs in the signal path, with 0.1% and 1% Metal Film resistors. The filter capacity is higher than 26.000 uF. The power-on is delayed for the headphone output, via a relay, so it doesn’t burn your headphones from the initial pop, but the power off is instant. HPA V340 has protective circuits for overload protection. The front panel is made from 6mm massive aluminum construction, while the entire case is also made of rugged aluminum, to minimize interference as much as possible.
There are 3 headphone outputs in total, and two of them are unbalanced, 6.3mm, while the center one is balanced and XLR in type. The balanced amplifier has better power and better sonic performance than the single ended (unbalanced) ones, along with better overall refinement and dynamics. Using HPA V340 as a preamp, I recommend using the XLR connectors if possible, they are also slightly better than the RCA ones. The headphone outputs are different for the single ended (unbalanced) ones, and the right one is in-phase, while the left one is a 180 degrees phase-shifted (inverted). You can hear the differences, and this is because each channel has its own dedicated separate amplifier path. While the company doesn’t note a warm-up time, I like the sound of HPA V340 a bit better after it has been running for half an hour or more, and the unit gets warm during usage.
HPA V340 has a nice block circuit diagram in the manual, and it also has detailed explanations about each operation part in the manual. All in all, this is one of the most proficient and technical manuals I’ve seen in years, with detailed explanations about its usability. HPA V340 also has the advantage of being the main Amplifier that I reviewed recently where the company is so sure that no one could make it better and cheaper that they tell everything about the inner workings. They simply made it so that even if you knew what they made, you couldn’t make it better or steal the design, and that’s engineering mastery at work right over there.
As we’re talking about an Amplifier / Preamplifier, I want to mention that I combined the HPA V340 with a multitude of DACs, including Cyrus One Cast, Astell & Kern A&Futura SE180, Astell & Kern A&Ultima SP2000T, Keces S3, iBasso DX300, allo Audio Revolution, and others while testing the HPA V340. I also used it to power a multitude of headphones, including HIFIMAN Arya Stealth, Audeze LCD-XC, Moondrop Illumination, Campfire Ara, Campfire Holocene, Sendy Audio Peacock, and Crosszone CZ-10. HPa V340 has perfect power and ability to drive and control all of the above, with zero background noise, zero hiss and zero issue. It is perfect for both IEMs and full sized headphones, and even if you have something that’s picky about the AMP, HPA V340 should be perfect for the job. Thanks to Sendy Audio and their Peacock, I was able to test HPA V340 with all of the above, as it comes with an XLR to 4.4mm adapter, along with a 6.3mm to 3.5mm high-end adapter. Speaking of the driving power, HPA V340 at zero pre-gain can drive the Sivga Peacock louder than I listen to, at about half of its volume (DAC volume set to maximum).
I mentioned this above, but some DACs will have a noise that is audible with external amplifiers, and this is not a problem with HPA V340, but any AMP will reveal it. Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, for example, has a digital noise that is audible while no music is playing, if it is working via USB. You can actually hear that while using its own headphone output too. With HPA V340, especially if you have the pre-gain set high, you will get a good image of how well implemented and clean your DAC actually is. This is not something to worry about, and most DACs will be completely silent if used via optical, while some well implemented DAPs will be perfectly silent, like Astell & Kern A&Ultima SP2000T. I recommend to always set the DAC volume to maximum, and use the Pregain switches as well as the volume setup on HPA V340 to select the listening volume. For most of my testing, I have used the XLR output, with an adapter to 4.4mm, and 4.4mm balanced cables.
The general signature of HPA V340 can be described as really detailed, natural and transparent. It is an amplifier able to drive any headphone without zero pregain, but with a really clean and natural sound. Although I mentioned this before, there are those AMPs that can draw the advantages of a well implemented solid state design without all of the brightness or dryness associated with such design, and HPA V340 has the perfect balance of clarity, but also musicality and resolution. The sound is musical, wide, well separated, detailed and powerful.
The bass of HPA V340 is really clean, deep and has the right substance for any music style. The bass can reach as low as 5Hz (in their manual), but I can totally hear 20 Hz with V340, both in music, and on tone sweeps. It is so deep and well controlled that you’d be surprised to hear rumbles in songs that are usually not so deep. I’m talking about acoustic and classical tracks, where certain instruments can have reflections in the sub-lows, and you don’t usually hear those, especially if the AMP isn’t capable of showing them. With songs like Eminem – We Made You, the impact is clean and clear, with voices being really natural. The treble is natural, with a smooth texture and the general sound is wide, holographic even.
We’re looking at a really clean and natural midrange that resembles the musicality and overall resolution of Tube AMPs. If you ever heard me bragging about Tube AMPs and their really organic presentation, HPA V340 can totally catch some of that, without having the higher distortions usually associated with the Tube sound. In fact, HPA V340 is one of the cleanest, yet musical sounding AMPs out there, especially if you’re listening to a wide selection of music. It is also really dynamic, to the point of being scary dynamic, and really well separated. There’s a clear difference between instruments, and everything is presented in their unique space. You can pinpoint the direction from which everything comes, every instrument is well defined, but you never lose continuity. For example, listening to Eskimo Callboy – Hypa Hypa, I can hear all of the micro details, and mini textures in the Chorus, there’s a sense of space between instruments, and the guitars are presented clearly in their own space. Voices are natural, and HPA V340 has no problems with the louder passages, being fully capable of presenting the raw energy, enthusiasm, as well as impact of this German Band.
If you’re scared of treble fatigue, your fears won’t come true with HPA V340, and this AMP is able to present the full extension of the highs music, without lagging behind in resolution. This usually means that the signature is potentially bright and harsh, but HPA V340 is the kind of Amplifier that is able to smooth the texture of the treble to the point it is enjoyable. You enjoy the air and resolution in music with HPA V340, and you love hearing the treble, without ever thinking that it is bright or harsh, sibilant, or fatiguing. In fact, HPA V340 has one of the best extensions I’ve heard lately, with the treble being clean and airy. Searching for an iconic song, I stopped at Alesana – The Thespian, one of the capodopere in their “Annabel” series. The treble, and cymbal crashes are presented cleanly, but without ever coming as fatiguing. The voices are presented naturally, and you can feel shivers running down your spine while going together with the Artist in his journey towards madness, all the way to the point where he meets with the Thespian and confronts him. You can feel your own heart swing with every guitar string that’s being hit, and HPA V340 is like an open window exposing the emotion, raw anger, denial, and ultimately regret that Alesana intended to express in their song.
Surely, comparisons should be done with pretty much everything, but since we have limited space here, I selected to compare Violectric HPA V340 to Smyth A16 Realiser, Audio Analogue AAdac, Wells Milo and Feliks Euforia. If you’re curious about other comparisons, I would be more than happy to help and even add them to this review. It is a good idea to read every review you find interesting, even contradicting opinions can help you understand the whole picture better and help you make a decision, depending on how much you agree with each particular reviewer in general (judging from previous works). The one AMP I can’t really add officially to the comparison is Audio-GD Master 19, but you don’t have to worry, HPA V340 will be an upgrade to it, albeit being almost 1000 USD more pricey, hence the reason I haven’t added it to the comparison list.
Violectric HPA V340 vs Smyth A16 Realiser (1800 USD vs 4000 USD) – We have a really pumpy DAC there with A16, and the main reason I wanted to add this comparison was that I noted A16 as having a really wide soundstage and good bass presentation, so many will naturally be curious how well it stacks up to HPA V340. In terms of driving IEMs, HPA V340 is more silent and has less hissing / background noise. In terms of hard to drive headphones, the peaks are also better delivered by HPA V340, and really hard to drive headphones are better driven by HPA V340. But when it comes to the sound of both, A16 alone manages to deliver a surprisingly good soundstage, a clean and fun sound that’s really engaging, and that transparent, huge, wide, deep stage that everyone has been raving about. Since HPA V340 needs a DAC to work, I used Smyth A16 to see how it would scale up, and the results are good, the control and overall dynamics improve, along with the depth and the general punchiness for every headphone tested. I would consider using an external amplifier with A16, since it is a clean source, and a better amp can deliver more driving power, better control, and a more rounded sound.
Violectric HPA V340 vs AudioAnalogue AAdac (1800 USD vs 4000 USD) – We also have the new AAdac to brag about, and it delivers a beautiful, organic and smooth sound, with extreme dynamics, but comparing its built-in headphone amplifier to using it as a DAC for HPA V340, I reached the conclusion that HPA V340 sounds more open, more controlled and with a better bass presentation. As a DAC, AAdac is one of the best you can get in the whole world, but as a headphone amplifier, HPA V340 can help with driving IEMs, where it has less background noise, and better punchiness, a more rounded sound. The dynamics are even better when adding HPA V340 to the mix, and I think it is a great high-end headphone amplifier to add to a high-end DAC.
Violectric HPA V340 vs Wells Milo (1800 USD vs 2200 USD) – For this comparison, I have used AudioAnalogue AADac and Denafrips Ares II Balanced DAC for powering both, and did some volume matching, to see which I liked better. The volume wheel implementation is better on HPA V340, as the one on Wells Milo did a thing where it would jump to max volume in between volume steps, where HPA V340’s high-end volume wheel works as intended. Both are granular enough, but there’s far more volume control on HPA V340, as you have multiple levels of pregain. The final result is that HPA V340 has less noise when paired with IEMs and sensitive earphones, but for full sized headphones, both do a great job. The overall resolution, dynamics and soundstage of HPA V340 are higher, and even when compared to a more expensive headphone amplifier, HPA V340 is able to deliver better overall sonics, more impact, and better bass extension. The treble is also more airy on HPA V340, although Wells Milo is smoother, more fluid and deeper as a general signature. Especially with really loud and really quiet tracks, HPA V340 doesn’t struggle to present finer details, where Milo is best at its medium volume, with normal headphones (32 – 300 OHM).
Violectric HPA V340 vs Feliks Euforia (1800 USD vs 2000 USD) – Euforia is magical, and it is a unique tube amplifier, since it has a neutral presentation, clean and crisp, which is rare to see in a Tube AMP. The general driving power is higher in HPA V340, and so is the driving factor with IEMs, where it has less hiss, but then again, Euforia is not made to drive IEMs or harder to drive headphones either. The general physical presentation surely is more impressive with the towering tubes of Euforia, but in sonic presentation, it is slightly more ethereal, with less bass, less substance, and a more neutral presentation. The HPA V340 is more controlled in loud passages, with more impact and low-end extension, substance and more overall punch. Euforia is great with dynamics, and has a lighter presentation, whereas HPA V340 is harder, deeper. Euforia is faster in terms of speed, and has that pleasing tube harmonic in the midrange, but HPA V340 is generally better with harder to drive headphones like HIFIMAN HE6SE.
We need to make as many pairings as possible with HPA V340, especially as its price is just perfect for recommending it as a driver of high-end Headphones and IEMs. I selected most pairings with Headphones, although it is perfectly capable of driving IEMs too, and with no noise, it just felt more natural to recommend a larger desktop amplifier for Headphones. Since most IEMs usually come with shorter cables, I imagine most folks will use a desktop AMP with full sized over-the-ear headphones. The ones I selected for today’s pairings are Spirit Torino SuperLeggera, HIFIMAN Arya Stealth, Kennerton Thror, Sivga Peacock, and Audeze LCD-XC.
Violectric HPA V340 + Audeze LCD-XC (1800 USD vs 1800 USD) – Starting with a pairing I experimented a lot with recently, I love the LCD-XC, it is a bright, open and detailed headphone you can easily EQ using the Reveal+ plugin, but it likes a lot of power if you have to give, and using them with HPA V340, I found that the sound is really clean, deep, and has better bass-treble balance than with most AMPs, as HPA V340 is able to fully control LCD-XC, and power them fully. The bass is really deep, clean with the midrange being crisp and detailed, and the treble being clean and fatigue-free, with a smooth edge to the textures. All in all, this pairing is totally worth considering if you have LCD-XC and want to hear the most detail they’re able to give, along with the most natural tuning they are able to give.
Violectric HPA V340 + Spirit Torino SuperLeggera (1800 USD vs 2000 USD) – Super Leggera has generally been hard to drive, hard to control and even harder to master, so finding that the pairing between HPA V340 and SuperLeggera is perfect brought a smile to my face. They are able to get really loud, distortion-free, clean and controlled now. Especially using the Balanced XLR output, I am hearing a new level of SuperLeggera now, with tons of details, a clean and fun presentation, a deep and controlled bass, and a smoother, yet detailed treble.
Violectric HPA V340 + Kennerton Thror (1800 USD vs 3000 USD) – To break the feeling that HPA V340 is smooth in any way, I come to the Thror, where the difference between HPA V340 and most AMPs is that HPA V340 gives more bass, more depth and better control to Thror, but keeps their really bright and open presentation, wide soundstage and extraordinary dynamics. The sound is impressive at both low and high volumes, with a slight preference for orchestral, especially thanks to the natural and organic way HPA V340 presents the mids.
Violectric HPA V340 + Sivga Peacock (1800 USD vs 1500 USD) – I could never understand why the Peacock had such a hard time finding a spot in the heart of some, but it may be that most aren’t expecting a midrange-forward headphone to sound great. The reason some have a problem with the Peacock is probably because they never heard it properly powered, especially as it sounds from Astell & Kern DAPs, and HPA V340, where the Peacock becomes an entirely new monster, with a deep, rumbling and impactful bass, a clean, crisp midrange, a wide, holographic soundstage, and the dynamics that would make most 10.000 USD Speakers cry. The best part here is the treble, where HPA V340 is able to take on the edgier presentation that the Peacock has, and turn them into detail masters, powering their sparkle and peaks with an airy yet controlled presentation.
Violectric HPA V340 + HIFIMAN Arya Stealth (1800 USD vs 1600 USD) – This is the last pairing I am adding to today’s review, but the one I spent the most time with, as Arya Stealth is a headphone so great I decided to keep around my desk for a while. The overall sonics of the pairing are impressive, with Arya finding the deepest, cleanest and most controlled presentation I heard to date in this pairing. The overall dynamics are also explosive, with the deepest rumbles being painted perfectly, and the overall treble being airy, slightly warm, and clean. There’s no trace of harshness or fatigue, and the differences between Arya Stealth and Arya when using HPA V340 are minimal in soundstage, HPA V340 being so wide that you can notice the stage being perfect between them.
Value and Conclusion
For the price of 1800 EUR, we’re presented with an Amplifier that can do things most other Amplifiers can’t, and just the raw possibility of driving both IEMs and Headphones with zero hiss and zero noise is special. The way HPA V340 presents music is special, and having Pre-Grain switches rather than gain switches is special too, allowing the users to enjoy HPA V340 at its maximum ability, even if they’re using lower pre-gain levels. At the end of the day, pricing and value is personal, but HPA V340, from an engineering, build and overall performance standpoint alone, is totally worth its asking price.
It is hard to find a piece of hardware that’s capable of showing so much emotion, being so transparent, and be clean and clear at the same time. I think that Violectric managed to create something really interesting with their HPA V340, a sound that’s not just natural, but actually real. It is sad that their marketing can’t reflect how good their products sound, but sticking to the professional side, they show that they’re a proper company who doesn’t care about selling out as much as they care about refining and designing proper audio products with extreme performance levels.
Before the end of today’s review, I know I have to add Violectric HPA V340 to Audiophile-Heaven’s Hall Of Fame, and make it one of the toppers, especially as its performance is sweet, yet presents raw emotion impeccably.
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a really clean, dynamic, wide, well separated, transparent and emotional sound that highlights just how good solid state tech can be, how musical, yet how clean it can be, and how fatigue-free a clean treble can be, then Violectric HPA V340 should be at the top of your Amplifier list.
Once it will be available on Amazon, you should be able to find HPA V340 here:
You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3qGU2Id
If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3Cn7Qd4
And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3oroMKw
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Full Playlist used for this review
We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature. PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality are all revealed by those songs. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music!
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