Violectric v281

I see a lot of love for this on here - but not much comment about its successor…

I’ve found one of the last in stock but am unsure whether buying it makes sense or whether buying a newer model might be better. However, the newer ones seem to come with a DAC, and are more, so unless I seriously upgrade the new bedroom headphone setup, I’d not use the DAC as I’d come out of the Rossini…

so does it make sense? (it’s just over €2k which in £ is just over £2k… :grinning:)

V380 is the replacement (available for a bit less than this - about €2.1K).

I bought the FINAL edition of the V281 from the North American importer. It included the DAC option and cost slightly more than the V380.
If you compare photos of the V281 with the new V380 you will notice that the V281 has a balance control and that there are significant differences in the quality of the two. The V281 has the quality of the $6K Nimbus.
The V281 is the best HP amp I’ve owned and that includes a Chord Dave stack.

The V281 will sound best driven from the DIN A/V or Tape output from your NAC 552.
I compared doing that to using the RCA output from my ND555 and despite using a cable costing a fraction of the RCA cables, the DIN out of the 552 clearly sounds the best.

If it’s really one of the last ones it is probably the Final Edition (unless it’s old stock) which has a DAC anyway. I ordered a standard version earlier this year and received a FE - though they were still building the last ones then.

both appear to be available from the source - only a few tho - will go for the + DAC option, but am trying to find reviews of the 380, which I can’t… (think it’s released in Nov).

Might be worth a quick note to the manufacturer regarding the final edition. It could be that’s all they are all building now, in which case no point paying to add the DAC. I paid for a standard unit at a discounted price and upgraded to the 128 step volume. They sent me the FE so basically threw in the DAC…

My dealer knew nothing about this, it came straight from the manufacturer that way.

Like you I have a rossini and 552.
I found going direct from the balanced out on the rossini to the balanced in on the V281 certainly was the best way, a true balanced signal and balanced headphones was a great combo, and running through the 552 only lessened the listening experience.
I got my V281 secondhand for under £1k, great buy and they do come up for sale, now and again

Not if you have rossini it doesn’t, as see above

I was talking about coming from an ND555. BTW, the V281 converts all input types to balanced.

Yes but the guy has a rossini and not a nd555, so he would find it better using the balanced outputs from his rossini to feed the V281, as like me he is probably using a rca ro din, to connect his rossini to his 552.
Then use a true balanced headphones and cable to fully exploit the 4 amps in the V281.

I like a few others since, that have the same combo as myself, have tried running from the tape out on the 552 and it certainly doesn’t perform as well, as going direct from the rossini.

Thats another advantage the rossini has, as you can use both its outputs at the same time, even with different loads, as they are completely separate and it doesn’t hurt the quality off them both doing so.

So, the Violectric 281, the newer Violectric 380, the RME ADI-2 DAC FS, and Matrix Audio Element I are all in the box. All happen to come with a DAC so when not used with the Rossini can work well in the office or bedroom.

Which would you choose, and why?

If your not after a DAC you could look at the Heed Canalot with either the Q PSU or the Obsleik PS, which is a delightful set up and purportedly on par with the v281.

I think it all varies very much on the headphones you are driving.
If you are driving power hungry (either voltage or current) headphones then the v281 or the HPA4 will help and provide the power needed. For regular phones or light load phones such as the Meze Empyreans then in my experience the most initimate and lifelike performance is achieved using a high quality unbalanced headphone amp like the DAVE which uses its dedicated single ended (unbalanced) headphone amp with an ultra low noise ground plane and power rails.

If I was wanting to run balanced then I’d seriously consider either the v281 or HPA4 as they are both highly regarded and relatively transparent, albeit the v281 is slightly warmer and the HPA4 is straight down the middle. (Downside with v281 are the LEDs are rather bright - I don’t know if this was addressed in the last iteration of the device)


Agree with what Simon has said above. I’m a v281 user and convert.
I bought it before buying my new cans. On the list of cans were some well known difficult loads. And I wanted a gutsy amp that most likely would spend most of its life driving easy loads. But, if presented with difficult stuff would cope. Me bring me insisted on researching the power supply and amp design. The v281 ticked the “ proper traditional amp design “ box. And yes, the leds are a bit bright.
I use it to drive a number of cans including my Focal Clear Pros. Which are driven via the balanced output to use the full capabilities of the amp.
Is the amp warm? Perhaps, but not that I notice. And some silver cables could help fix it if it was an issue.
If you spend a lot of time using cans then you will not be disappointed with a v281. It has a lot of fans on this forum, many of whom can be a challenging bunch!


I really enjoy my 281 and agree with the comments about it being slightly warm. It makes it very easy to listen to for extended periods and the warmth in no way makes it less engaging. However, if neutrality is at the top of your priority list, thats not where the 281s strength lies.

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all very intriguing. Reading the head-fi forum it seems the new model is similar, with a few tweaks and possibly a better DAC module. But not out yet - most of this is based on trickle down from their flagship v590.

What’s the headphone to amp & DAC £ split reckoned to be, roughly? I can tell my £150 Topping DX3 Pro is outclassed by the Meze 99’s already, but if I go up so much in amp do I need to be spending a big chunk on 'phones too? Wish I could out and listen more but it’s just not practicable…

If I recall, the DAC was around 10% of the retail price of the 281 but I didn’t order it. Since they sent me a Final Edition, I got it for free. Never used it so no idea if its any good.

I have never listened to the 99s but they seem to be very well regarded. My instinct is that a retail priced 281 might be overkill and probably not necessary to get the best from the 99s but I couldn’t say that for sure. There do seem to be discounts around though - there is 20% off currently where I purchased mine.

The head-fi forum is probably one of the best places to look for amp recommendations to partner with 99s if you can’t audition. I was in the same situation (unable to audition) and thats how I partnered the 281 with Empyreans; they perform pretty much as expected.

EDIT: I just realised your question about the split isn’t what I answered. I don’t know what might be recommended, but the Empyrean:281 split is about 3:2 and it seems to be a well accepted combination. I added the optional volume control to the 281 and with discounts to both amp and phones, the ratio was closer to 1:1

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