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Nimbus headphone amplifier by Lake People

JJB70

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#1
Lake People made good, well engineered headphone amplifiers that weren't hideously expensive. They noticed there was a market for audiophile headphone amplifiers which cost more so developed the Violectric brand. These were very expensive but at least they remained well engineered, well made products. Now it seems that the Violectric name is low rent and a premium line is needed for the dashing headphone fan about town and we have Nimbus.

$5000 for a headphone amplifier. We'll park the fact that the JDS Atom is all the headphone amplifier you need and costs about 1/50 of the price or for a bit more you can get the Massdrop THX amplifier with stellar performance. Even if looking at higher end headphone amplifiers $5000 is absurd. You could get the Sonoma system for that which gives you an excellent pair of headphones and a DAC as well. You could get a terrific Stax electrostatic system for a lot less. The Violectric amplifiers are already overkill, or you could buy an SPL Phonitor which is overkill and audio jewellery but at least looks cool with its analogue VU meters. You could buy a seriously good integrated or power amplifier for less.

For many years headphones were an island of sanity in the dysfunctional world of audio. For a long time the Sennheiser HD580 was recognised as being as good as anyone needed and it wasn't expensive (it was outright cheap relative to today's headphone market). I find it sad that the headphones market has become the new gold rush for audio manufacturers to sell audio jewellery at hideous prices supported by paid shills. Let's be honest, in many cases the headphone output of devices and DAPs work fine. If you want more volume then you don't have to spend much. The whole high end market works backwards from a price point set to appeal to a certain demographic.

To be clear, if people want a $5000 headphone amplifier then that is their choice. There are plenty of people for whom $5000 isn't even small change, it's a rounding error. Equally if people spend more than they need to or should then that's their choice (how many are going to claim that they have never spent more than they needed to on something?). If this was marketed as expensive jewelry it would be fair enough, but it isn't, it is sold on the basis of performance and being better and for some reason I just find there is something particularly dumb about the idea of a $5000 headphone amplifier. Especially when the same company's Lake People models are already perfectly good at a small fraction of the price.
 

Jimmy

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#2
Violectric/Lake People make good gear and also as I've read elsewhere pay good salaries to their employees, which is something to applaud for, but come on, 5000$ for a headphone amp like that is crazy, you can buy a Cayin IHA-6 for almost 1/10th of that price or a Aularic Taurus MKII for 1/4th (let's see how much their new 2019 model costs), even something like the Cayin HA-300 which is at least visually impressive, costs much less.

Prices in this hobby have just gotten crazy, 20 years ago the best you could buy was the Sennheiser HD 600 (I still have them), and it could be purchased back in the day for about 170-180€, nowadays TOTL headphones cost more than 10x that amount and in many cases for marginal gains (or even side upgrades), and salaries haven't increased at that rates.

The sad truth is that you can buy a great speaker setup for much less than a equivalent sounding headphone setup, the price markups in the headphone hobby have sky-rocketed in the last years, and we have to thank manufacturers like Topping, SMSL, JDS, Cayin, Schiit (lately they have improved), etc., for keeping things at least in the electronics department down to earth.
 
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JJB70

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#3
Violectric headphone amplifiers are justifiably very highly regarded for their excellent build quality, so are the cheaper Lake People headphone amplifiers. I think the LP models are probably about right in terms of performance/cost if you want or need a separate headphone amp, I think the Violectric models aren't justifiable based on performance but I do understand why people buy them as they are a very nice, well made product. The Nimbus models by contrast just look hideously over priced and an indulgence for the very wealthy (fair enough, I get that) or for gullible audiophiles being egged on to spend more than they should by shill reviewers (which I do find highly questionable even if I also recognise people are free to spend their money in whatever way they want).

The main reason I see for separate headphone amplifiers is the low output of many devices as a result of hearing protection regulations. Many DAPs and devices actually have excellent DACs (well, transparent DACs, any better than transparent is better in terms of measurement but a bit meaningless in terms of audible performance) and good headphone amplifiers if the output level is satisfactory. My Sony Xperia XZ Premium phone has a transparent DAC and the headphone output is good but it is a bit anaemic. With efficient headphones it is OK but with anything requiring a bit more oomph it runs out of steam at quite low volume. The Shanling M3S I am using can actually drive all my headphones to a volume I'm very happy with and really doesn't need a separate amplifier. I can however see why some people want headphone amplifiers or to connect to other hifi components, but even there $5000 strikes me as absurd when JDS can make a terrific amplifier which is as good as anybody needs for $100 (and its made in the US). Yes, I understand the appeal of nicer materials and premium build, so I do see why people buy Lake People, SPL, Violectric etc but if I look at the price of those products then $5000 for a headphone amplifier is still ridiculous. Especially when it is just an amplifier, not a DAC too. The RME ADI-2 is a top of the line DAC which has an excellent headphone output for an awful lot less than $5000. In a way I don't blame Lake People for making $$$$$$$$$s out of audiophiles but still.....
 

NTomokawa

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#4
Yikes, now Lake People/Violectric are in this too?

I always thought there was no need to pay more than a Violectric for a headphone amplifier. And I thought most of the price went to build quality and longevity/reliability anyway.
 
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