The V has a look which would be at home in a recording studio:. Last edited: Oct 15, Thread Starter 3. You know you are getting something for your money Fluffy Addicted to Fun and Learning Oct 9, Joined Sep 14, Messages Likes 1, Does that low end roll off also present in the amp section? This is a pretty massive downside. That will get you a very good power amp. Thread Starter 6. Fluffy said:. Thanks amirm for reviewing this unit.
I'm really happy this unit measures pretty well as I'd hoped! My only real issue with it was the loose volume knob as mentioned, but that can hopefully be fixed with a bit of Loctite. Willem Major Contributor Oct 9, Joined Jan 8, Messages 2, Likes 3, It is decent, but no more than that. The price, however, is not. Eirikur Senior Member Oct 9, Joined Jul 9, Messages Likes I will do my best to answer those questions.
First I will fill you in on how I decided to use the V as my reference amp. I started reading every review I could find on amps and DACs.
The difference after a short burn-in was night and day over all of my other DACs, as it should be based on price. To say a veil was lifted is an understatement. As for the amps I wanted a versatile solid state that would play well with all of my current and future headphones. In a perfect world the DAC and Amp should be totally transparent letting you hear the music as it was recorded. Having said that, I personally like a little warmth to my music. I chose the V because it gave me better transparency, power, and a slight tube like warmth when compared to the competition.
With all of my headphones, with the exception of the HE-6 and sometimes the HE, I kept the pre gain at 0db. Most of my headphone can get crazy loud at -6db but there is pitch black background at 0db so I just keep it there for my constant headphone swapping. All music was lossless.
I will list all of the artist at the end. Unless you are using the exact source and DAC there will be different input levels being amplified. The only reason I posted the db and volume setting was strictly to compare the different volume levels vs the other headphones on my setup.
Keep in mind I listen to my headphones at a rather high volume. It's also to give you guys an idea how much power is needed vs headphones you may already own or at thinking about buying. Here are the Headphones I tested in alphabetical order. At this volume level there is no audible background noise. The LCD 2. Simply put the 2. One of the things I like about the 2. On some amps it can get a tad bloated with some spill-over into the mids.
The V hits hard and fast but keeps everything reined in. A fun song with fun headphones that made me smile. The LCD-X edged them out ever so slightly for my taste in music. I want to thank Ray Samuels for letting me use his.
Even better, the vocals. The LCD The treble laid back, never fatiguing. The V pretty much leaves the treble alone on the Audezes. The warm tilt to the V accentuates the dark Audeze sound I like, so if you like the Audeze house sound you will love the V pairing.
The bass on the LCD-x is fast and tight. The answer is NO, not even close. If you own headphones in this price range the odds are you have or will have more than one pair. A lot of high current headphone amps will have some audible hiss on a sensitive headphone, not the V I love this pairing! Think of the V like a Bugatti, you may never use the hp but the rest of the car is better, performance wise, than the car that only has the power you need.
The Nighthawks, due to their recent release, have the least amount of ear time compared to the rest of the headphones tested.
I will however integrate a mini review of the Nighthawks. I burned them in for hours with the balanced cables per the manufactures recommendations. The first thing I noticed about the Nighthawks was the warmth. The V has a slight tube like warmth to start, the Nighthawks are a warm sounding headphone. The Nighthawks paired with the V sound really good, much better than the abundance of warmth and claustrophobia the more expensive Denons have. I would put the Nighthawks in the same class as the HE but polar opposites as far as sound signature.
The Nighthawk is very comfortable headphone with a very nice suspension system for sizing. I would like to thank Skylar for sending me these headphone and the balanced cable to try. On a side note, a friend of mine who knows nothing about all of these headphones but put a lot of time listening, picked the Nighthawks and LCD-X as his favorites.
What the heck did he test these for? He got me a pair and I still have them. The Denons and the Alpha Primes are the only closed-backs tested. They are so damn dark that everything has bass, they are claustrophobic, and sound very unnatural. The simple answer is YES.
Takes 10 seconds not a big deal. I have the habit of turning the volume down anytime I switch headphones. The speaker amps have too much background noise for critical listening.
The V has both the power and quiet background to make the HE-6 sound great. The HE-6 is more neutral than most of the headphones here but the warm tilt of the V gives them a sound more to my liking. This is the only other headphone of the group, along with the HE-6, where I took the amp off of 0db.
I like the HE, especially at its price point. It should go without saying then that the HE has awesome detail and soundstage, however with several amps, the HE is a tad bright for me with weak low end punch.
Again, I much prefer the Niimbus for all but a few very specific configurations, and even then I think you can do better with one of the other tube-based offerings in this roundup. I do seem to recall hearing much better sound out of a WA5 several years back, so this may just be a poor choice of tubes for my preferences. It doesn't match a single thing in my audio rack, and that's just fine. To me, this amp really captures the traditional "tube sound" in a positive way.
It's got excellent detail, a very black background, and somehow manages to tame treble harshness while remaining highly articulate - the balance in the treble region is very well done. The weak spot seems to be low-end performance, where it is good but not great.
Niimbus is comparatively more dynamic, with an even blacker background though again, the Stratus is already excellent. The solid-state amp comes across as more linear, more even handed, but also more punchy and bombastic. And that bass? Control, texture, extension, all go to the Niimbus by a large margin. Treble on the Niimbus is a touch more prominent, doing less favors when playing poorly done material but exhibiting more clarity when playing quality tracks.
I also note the solid-state amp successfully drives a wider range of headphones, from sensitive IEMs to difficult planars and everything in between. Stratus does well enough but isn't the greatest at these sensitivity extremes. Still, there's something magical about the sound of the Stratus. I could absolutely see headphone nuts owning both amps, alternating between the head Niimbus and the heart Stratus as the mood strikes. It launched about 10 years ago in limited quantities, and is the precursor to the slightly more well-known Apex Pinnacle.
Both models are largely neutral, with similar tonal richness and excellent speed. Both have superb micro-detail and a correspondingly well-defined soundstage. The main difference seems to be at frequency extremes, where the A manages a silkier treble and the Niimbus has more low-end solidity.
But this is an illusion of sorts, and more focused listening reveals the amps to be much more similar than different. The A is a potent amp that actually does quite well with difficult loads. Yet Niimbus is even more versatile. Something like an HE-6 or Susvara played at really high volume has the A losing just a bit of composure, while the Niimbus feels effortless. And with more sensitive headphones like the Utopia or K, the A comes on a bit strong at low levels - you really don't get much usable travel on that volume knob.
Niimbus, with its adjustable pre-gain and step attenuator, offers much more range and thus a more enjoyable experience. There doesn't seem to be many A amps in the wild. So this comparison perhaps isn't very useful. It's not an exact match, but comes surprisingly close considering the variance in topologies. The version used for this comparison used some extremely costly tubes though again, I didn't write down the specifics. I believe this one had the Electra-Print transformers but I could be wrong on that I had not realized how many variations of this amp existed, or I would have paid more attention.
The resulting sound was stunning - liquidity, air, finesse, and just a totally organic experience that made me want to forget all about the evaluation. Hours later, when I snapped out of my daze, I was able to spot some things that I liked, and a few which I didn't, in relation to the Niimbus. On the positive side, the Balancing Act has a more credible sense of air on the top end.
It outperforms the Niimbus and even the A in this regard. Cymbals are spectacular on both of those devices but the Balancing Act is about as close to perfection as I've heard.
The other thing Eddie Current's machine gets right more than perhaps any other amp is the sense of flow. It's a transient response thing, where sound is simultaneously quick and yet relaxed The resulting sound is very fluid and articulate whilst avoiding any sense of artificiality or fatigue. That probably explains why I didn't want to stop listening. For one, Niimbus has an absolutely jet black background.
I had no complaints about the BA until I listened back to back and heard how inky the Niimbus is in comparison.
This, combined with the explosive dynamics and clearly articulated bass textures make the Niimbus feel more "full-range" for lack of a better word. I also note the Niimbus is more comfortable driving a wide variety of headphones.
When the Balancing Act finds a good dance partner - HD and Utopia being my favorites, with Elex and K not far behind - it sounds magical. But when tasked with a difficult load such as Abyss or Susvara, it simply runs out of steam. Even moderately difficult planars such as LCD-2 and HE can sound a bit uninvolving out of the BA, particularly when playing quiet jazz or classical recordings.
Meanwhile Niimbus drives all of these and more to their fullest potential without breaking a sweat. It looks like the Balancing Act is now discontinued. So again, perhaps not a terribly relevant comparison. Nonetheless, I consider this a benchmark amplifier if ever there was one, and I know multiple folks who continue to use it as a reference.
Judging by this particular example, I wouldn't say the Niimbus totally blows it away by any means, but the solid-state options ends up being my preference more often than not, and with all but a few headphones.
Conclusions So there you have it - countless hours spent listening, not to mention swapping configurations. Dozens of headphones, a collection of DACs worth more than my car which isn't really saying much , and at least a dozen top-class headphone amplifiers.
That sort of overly-simplistic comparison doesn't reflect the complex realities of comparing excellent gear. Most of the amps in this roundup have strong points where they lead the pack. None of them does everything the best. Which means choosing comes down to preferences and priorities. The high points of the Niimbus amp are plentiful: strikingly silent background, robust power output, and a wonderfully balanced signature with excellent detail retrieval and superb tonal accuracy. Then there's the finesse of that unique volume control solution which just works like a dream - perfect level matching at all volumes, plenty of steps for fine tuning, and quiet operation unlike its predecessor.
It's a joy to operate, and frankly makes most other amps feel underwhelming. If I'm wearing my metaphorical audio reviewer hat, the Niimbus is probably my number one pick overall. It has the greatest "headphone bandwidth", meaning it works exceedingly well with every single headphone I throw at it.
Other amps may have greater synergy with a specific headphone or two, but as a whole, the Niimbus is the most versatile amp here with the possible exception of the Simaudio, which is similarly versatile but just doesn't sound very good to me. In addition, the Niimbus has among the best clarity and insight of this entire group. It allows me to hear the character of each source to a degree no other amp can quite match, though a few come close.
Areas where the amp doesn't shine as brightly include the somewhat polarizing appearance which, again, isn't quite finalized, but I doubt will stray too far from the prototype , the high price, and a relative lack of emotion - chiefly compared to some of the tube-based competitors. In tube land, the Balancing Act might tempt me away with its stunning treble, organic flow, and retro good looks. It's been discontinued but used examples aren't too hard to come by.
The A is more of a rare beast but might be worth tracking down - it's similar to the Niimbus in many ways, but has a slightly more ethereal presentation which is, at times, preferable. I might strong emphasis on that word actually like the A better than the newer, more expensive Apex Pinnacle that superseded it.
Lastly, the DNA Stratus offers a pleasingly stereotypical "tube sound" that I could easily fall in love with - at a significantly lower price than Niimbus.
Speaking of lower prices - in the solid-state world, the Pass labs HPA-1 is a tough competitor, and hobbyists certainly must take value into consideration. True, the Pass lacks some features like balanced mode, and doesn't do as well with really difficult planars.
It also gets bonus points for being far more available when it comes to listening before you buy, as Pass Labs probably has better distribution than anything else here in terms of brick and mortar shops. Beyond that, the Violectric V remains a very relevant option. Yes, the Niimbus is better in several key areas, but the price differential may be larger than the performance delta. Unless the user owns an absolutely top-notch source or plans to acquire one in the near future , I would hesitate to write off the V Probably not.
But for those chasing the "ultimate" experience, Niimbus Audio offers a worthy contender with a unique skill set. After extensive listening, I put it in the running for best amp out of the dozen models at my disposal, and certainly the most useful as a reviewing tool. I realize the price is very high, and obviously don't recommend it for everyone Reactions: alekc , vonBaron , lator and 26 others.
View previous replies…. I don't have the energy to mess with my own site I get paid for my submissions to Darko. Audio and InnerFidelity, and that's enough for me. Plus I always enjoy contributing to HeadFi just for fun. The V had excellent detail retrieval and was so quiet you could hear explosive recordings with startling clarity. Fried Reim is an avid listener and is directly involved within the headphone community.
Many people were asking for a true balanced design and for over two years Fried went to work on designing one. The challenge was to design an amplifier to have a more extended soundstage while maintaining the same black background that V was so well known for. The challenge was also to produce an amplifier that could be powerful and dynamic.
The amplifier would also have to be fully balanced with its inputs and outputs and have upgraded protection circuitry. After two years of research and development the V was born. Design: The main design principal Violectric employed in the V was low internal gain. According to Fried, the amplifier needed to operate under stable conditions without unwanted oscillation. Gain reduces the dynamic range of an amplifier and adds noise.
The V, with low gain of 8db, is a stable design. The results are a black background of pure silence and free from any noise or grain. The settings are user adjustable and can be changed by adjusting the switches in the rear of the unit. The pre-gain setting will allow users to tune their headphones to their liking the amplifier must be turned off to make these adjustments. The V employs a Watt toroidal transformer. The V has a high supply voltage and offers more than 40 Veff RMS into a ohm load making it a world record, according to Freid.
Inside the chassis of the V you will find two Violectric V amplifiers, thus, a true balanced design. The V can also be used as a high quality pre-amplifier in a home system. There is also a stepped volume control option available for additional cost.
Sound: I have found that the HD paired with the Nordost Heimdall balanced cable to be incredibly revealing. The V used at the factory default gain setting was extremely neutral as there was no tipped presence in either the midrange or treble. The V actually has a similar sound signature to the V The character of the amplifier was smooth and the background was silent. There was definitely no unwanted noise or grunge coming from the V The first thing I noticed was a wide and deep soundstage that had the Minnesota Orchestra spread out an layered in a well focused stage.
The explosive start and stop of this recording was very special on the V
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