There are said to be people with a tendency to buy an unnecessarily large number of hi-fi devices. Yours truly has just welcomed its fourth turntable to the (at least partly professional) vinyl harem. Then a corresponding number of pickups want to be connected to a phono preamplifier – and that can be a space and budget problem. The Violectric PPA V790 phono preamplifier (3,990 euros ) is just what you need.
It does not do this because it would ostensibly save money – with its purchase resistance of almost four kilo euros it does not belong in the cheap home category – but because it allows the connection of up to six pickups at the same time. It doesn’t matter whether it’s MM or MC. With one restriction: “Only” three asymmetrical and three symmetrical cables can be connected. My goodness! The inputs are really symmetrical or really asymmetrical. As are the outputs, each in the form of a pair of RCA jacks and XLR jacks . So there is no forced (de)balancing at any point, according to Violectric.
The really nice thing is not the sheer number of inputs, but the absolute democracy in connection and operation – the PPA V790 makes this easier for the user than almost any other phono pre that I have had in my hands so far. Perhaps with the exception of the Linnenberg Johann Sebastian Bach (12,800 euros), which relies on a comparable operating concept. All settings can be made on the front of the device and during operation. There are no toggle switches or mouse pianos on the back or even in the base plate – very good!
What is actually new for me, however, is that you don’t have to decide whether to connect an MM or MC scanner to this or that connection and you don’t have to flip or press a corresponding switch. With the PPA V790, Violectric completely dispenses with the usual rough distinction between MM and MC systems with fixed preset gain factors. How now, what now, how that? Very simple: You simply select the desired connection (every time you press any button on the front, the amplifier automatically switches itself to mute briefly, which is indicated by a red LED next to the “CLIP” label) and then select the other values up or down.
A colorful bouquet
First of all, there is the terminating impedance in eight steps: As possible impedance values, the Violectricer offer a very fine grid of 10, 25, 50 and 100 ohms at the bottom, while upwards in the MC range there are at least 250, 500 ohms and 1 kiloohm and for MMs the usual 47 kilohms are available. The next step – which only makes sense if 47 kOhm, i.e. the MM impedance, is selected – switches the terminating capacitance in eight steps between a low 22 and an amazingly high 1000 pF. The amplification selection is practical in seven steps, with which Violectric wants to optimally do justice to all types of systems such as MC high-output or very quiet MM systems. Even very loud MMs should be at least 30 decibels deliver acceptable, non-clipping results, and 66 decibels is enough for almost all common MCs.
Then there is still the choice of DC-coupled equalizers between the standard RIAA curve, an NAB curve and the Columbia LP curve – everything should offer characteristic curves that are accurate to 0.1 dB. And last but not least, a switchable subsonic filter helps to eliminate low-frequency interference. Oh, and there are the boost settings with 0, +6 and +12 dB output amplification: In this way, the Violectric PPA V790, in combination with the many amplification options, should be easy to adapt to any subsequent equipment – even with extremely quiet exotic MCs and insensitive inputs of downstream devices. This is in the spirit of the inventor, as Fried Reim, the head of Lake People and thus the company behind Violectric, makes clear: “The goal in developing the Violectric PPA V790 was to
A not entirely unimportant side effect of the flexibility of the PPA V790 is that the many resistances and capacitances, the amplification stages and the subsonic filter, in conjunction with the generally easy switchability, satisfy the owner’s (and tester’s) play instinct. And you can see what you are doing: All displays – except for the red clipping LED, which works as a real warning lamp and not as a level indicator – are white LEDs, which I find very pleasant. Incidentally, in the dark they show a different “wave signature” for many pickups, depending on how the pickup has to be adjusted. Nerdy and though certainly not the reason behind Violectric’s design decision: nice.
Reinforcements on the way
For the actual amplification, Violectric uses self-developed, DC-coupled instrument amplifiers. These are preceded by cascaded bipolar and, according to Violectric, “super-fast” input transistors (seven per channel). This should ensure a high bandwidth and low noise, low distortion and unbridled dynamics at any volume – as well as maintaining the signal-to-noise ratio even with the highest amplification, says Violectric.
The power supply also promotes all of this: the Violectric PPA V790 comes in the form of an internal power supply unit with an encapsulated 15 VA toroidal transformer , which supplies two times 18 volts of symmetrical voltage for the analog circuit and five volts for the integrated processors. By the way, Fried Reim is skeptical about external power supplies, because he wants to keep the ground reference as close as possible to the circuits and therefore low-impedance – this is not the case with external power supplies due to the principle of operation. As long as a power supply unit in the housing doesn’t cause any problems (keyword: effective shielding), you don’t necessarily have to invest unnecessary effort without advantages and, in the worst case, even with disadvantages.
Make a virtue of necessity
The question remains: why a phono stage and why now? Violectric made a name for itself with headphone amplifiers at the interface between hi-fi and studio electronics. In addition, one does not jump on a vinyl train that has just started – it has been thundering through the audiophile landscape at high speed for quite some time. A thoughtless jump on it can quickly become dangerous – keyword “me-too product”. Violectric was faced with increasing demand from existing customers who were looking for a device that was optimal in terms of appearance and technology to complement their headphone amps.
At the same time, the vinyl renaissance also ensured in the studios of this world that there are more and more pickups sinking into the grooves – and not just one per studio. Professionals in particular want easy-to-use, technically flawless and, above all, highly flexible equipment that doesn’t make their life difficult with capricious “uncompromisingness” in search of the last tenth of a percent of sound, but rather works without pretense and doesn’t do anything wrong. Okay, let’s check this out…
Sound test and comparisons: Violectric PPA V70
The Sikora Initial Max (8,900 euros) with the Transrotor Figaro MC cartridge (2,500 euros) mounted on a Kuzma Stogi S12 VTA (3,000 euros) and the Pro-Ject RPM9 Carbon (2,700 euros) with the MM cartridge Ortofon 2M Bronze ( 430 euros) should provide a quite worthy framework for this test. Both pickups are quite “typical” representatives of their genre: The very balanced and finely neutral-sounding Transrotor Figaro has an intrinsic resistance of 5 ohms, which should predestine it for very low terminating impedances below 50 ohms. However, Transrotor recommends 100 ohms – and in fact it usually sounds a little too fluffy below 100 ohms. With an output voltage of 0.28 millivolts, it is in the midfield of high-quality MCs.
The Ortofon 2M Bronze has a similar linear-neutral character in terms of sound, but despite all the sobriety in the frequency response, it tends to give preference to coarse dynamics over subtly graded fine dynamics. Its 5 millivolts at 5 cm/s at 1000 Hertz are also not a phono stage for unsolvable tasks. In addition to the obligatory 47 kOhm, Ortofon recommends a capacitance charge of 150 to 300 pF.
I amplify the Figaro’s MC signal at 66dB because it is closest to the 67dB gain of my Linnenberg Bizet ($5,999), and the MM signal at 42dB, resulting in a result about the same as the Figaro .
One thing is immediately clear with the Violectric PPA V790: This phono preamp makes it very, very easy for me to hear differences. And indeed – despite all the similarities in character of these actually very dissimilar pickups – just as between the two tone cells as between the settings of the terminating impedance on the MC and the capacitance on the MM.
For example, the 50 ohms set as a test on the Transrotor Figaro sound a bit too dull. 100 ohms make the sound clearly fresher without making it too bright. The performance of the Ortofon 2M Bronze with a termination capacity of 100 pF is also a touch too steely and wiry around the corner – the pressure from below is missing. 150 pF seems to me to be a good compromise, but even 220 pF is still fun before it all falls into the dark. Short preliminary conclusion: The character of the Violectric PPA V790 is equally evident in both “connection modes”, which are actually none. In order to really exhaust the PPA V790, I carry out the sound tests with the Transrotor MC.
The bass foundation
The Violectric PPA V790 plays tight in the bass and tends to be slim. The deepest sub-bass in Nicolas Jaar’s “Colomb” from the album Space Is Only Noise works – depending on the talent of the connected loudspeakers (for me these are the large-volume ATC SCM50PSL , 15,500 euros, and the compact Magico A1 , 11,980 euros) more controlled and structured than with my Bizet by Ivo Linnenberg. The Violectric PPA V790 shows the individual fibers where the Bizet pads the deep bass carpet in a fluffy, fluffy way. Conversely, he pushes the groovy RnB basslines in Erika de Cassier’s seductive “Polite” from the album Sensationalnot quite as rich, powerful and punchy from the 25 packs of the ATC as the significantly more expensive North Rhine-Westphalian – or the Greek Lab12 melto2 (3,750 euros).
The coarse dynamics of the melto2 then appear a bit more weighty and impressive, but the impulse reproduction itself – speed and attack – the Violectric succeeds at least as well as the Greek. The Violectric PPA V790 traces, for example, snare impulses and toms like in “Take Five” from the album Jazz at the Pawnshop ( listen on Amazon ) realistically but not loudly – this is dynamics with a sense of proportion and not an exaggerated display of high level jumps, to impress “just quick listeners” at the dealer.
Honesty is the best
Incidentally, the fact that the impulse reproduction is so precise and convincing is not the result of an emphasized mid-range. The frequencies between about 200 and 2000 Hertz are almost exemplary neutral over the Violectric PPA V790. Neither Jarvis Cocker in the disturbingly intimate “Tearjerker” from the brilliant album Room 29 nor the elfin Agnes Obel in the chilling “Familiar” from the album Citizen of Glass can be colored over with a seduction – sorry, a discoloration. It’s interesting that voices in particular pull me out of “tester mode” again and again and just let me enjoy. Why? Well, when an analog component reads articulation details and intonation nuances so authentically and naturally from the grooves, that is – at least for me – a real wellness moment. Because that’s what it’s all about (again for me personally): To experience human expression, and that’s conveyed most directly by the voice. Here the Violectric PPA V790 plays far ahead, regardless of the price range.
In the presence range, the Violectric PPA V790 is a touch more extroverted and feels a bit more ungracious than the extremely talented Swiss phono pre Neukomm MCA112S (2,750 euros), with which I was allowed to listen for a long time and which for me can definitely serve as a “tonal standard”. – without being harsh about it. With the Violectric, you feel prompted to get actively involved in the recording with a cup of wake-up coffee instead of browsing through the magazine of the Berliner Philharmoniker (or Rolling Stone) in the twilight with a Dram Talisker.
The keyword “studio genes” also comes to mind when I consciously deal with the high-frequency reproduction of the Violectric. Here, without being overemphasized, he seems quite present and self-confident, makes drum cymbals jingle nicely and triangles shine. The fact that a lab12 Melto2 or, even better, the Linnenberg Bizet (5,999 euros) sounds a little cleaner, calmer and at the end of the day with the famous blacker background is more at peace – for free. Also the silky diction of the lab12 Melto2 in the treble or the fragrant airiness of the Linnenberg in the super treble, whose subtle fading away and hovering overtones of fine metal percussion, the Violectric does not succeed quite so convincingly. Which, I like to repeat myself, is absolutely no surprise in view of the price-equipment ratios of the devices involved.
In terms of character and quality, the PPA V790 is more in line with the uncompromisingly minimalist, straight-playing Neukomm MCA112S (where, however, you have to have resistance changes made by open-heart surgery in the manufactory): Dashing but not cutting, clear and detailed, without appearing aggressive, pragmatic and naturally informative – a real studio amplifier. The Violectric PPA V790 also does not need to hide its fine dynamic abilities in the treble from the Swiss Phono-Pre, even if it can’t get any highlight stars here – in contrast to the midrange: Here the PPA V790 proves the greater fine dynamic nuance talent.
The Violectric PPA V790 also remains true to its clear, uncomplicated and, in the best sense of the word, sober way when it comes to spatial representation. He places all the material around the speaker base in a space that is not overly spacious, but is nevertheless extremely tidy. Jarvis Cocker sits close to me, Agnes Obel’s voice and piano fade away somewhere in the middle of the room – well separated from the cello, who plays half right and plays crystal-clear, sharp-edged music. And Nicolas Jaar lets his electronics click, buzz and breathe pretty much exactly at the loudspeaker level. I can’t make out any preferences for “more in front or more in the back”.
The Bizet, which is much more expensive, can open up the room a little further in all dimensions, remains slightly more diffuse at the edges of the same and generally projects the stage a little behind the loudspeaker level. The violectric not only keeps the action closer, but also holds it together with a firmer hand. what is better That’s a matter of taste.
That’s quite a lot of comparisons – so I’ll try to classify the phono stages mentioned in a straight line.
The Linnenberg Bizet is – not surprisingly for 50% more money – in almost all respects the phono pre, sometimes more, sometimes less superior in terms of sound, with a more “audiophile” character. Above all, it sounds more powerful, cleaner, airier, more spacious and creates a blacker background for the music – but it can also only operate a single pickup, and it must be an MC.
With the Neukomm MCA112S and the fairaudio highlight Lab12 melto2 with its three inputs, we are entering the realm of fair duels. The melto2 is tonally similar to the Violectric PPA V790, but in comparison only offers a slightly higher resolution, a subtly silkier treble and a more spacious room in terms of dimensions. Like the Bizet, the melto2 appears “blacker” than the phono pre from Lake Constance in the lead-in groove and in quiet, sparsely instrumented passages, but cannot quite keep up with its nuanced voice reproduction. The tonal comparison with the Swiss precision instrument Neukomm MCA112S shows slight advantages for the Violectric PPA V790. The fact that the Violectric PPA V790, which is equipped with six times more inputs and is much more flexible, is an excellent-sounding 2nd
Conclusion : Violectric PPA V70
The Violectric PPA V790 is an excellent phono stage, especially for vinyl enthusiasts with a larger collection of turntables, tonearms and cartridges. She is able to play both matter-of-factly linear and appealing. When it comes to musical genres, I don’t see any particular likes or dislikes. Due to its balanced, neutral tuning, the Violectric PPA V790 should also fit into almost any component environment – only particularly slim or overly tuned chains could make the overall result a little too tendentious.
If you only have one pickup and don’t want to change that, you can find alternatives with one or two inputs for similar money, which do their job even cleaner, more mature and with an even blacker background. But in view of its convenient operation and the many inputs, the Violectric PPA V790 can be described without hesitation as a price-performance tip for analog lovers with the urge for variety, for which I know of no competition. It satisfies the urge to experiment and is at the same time an incorruptible workhorse that also cuts a fine figure in the recording studio.
The Violectric PPA V790…
- In my opinion, there is no real competitor that combines equipment, flexibility and sound quality to the same extent.
- draws the mids in an exemplary neutral way, with captivating authenticity and sensitivity, especially when it comes to voice reproduction.
- Plays very cleanly, but does not create such a “black” background as (sometimes significantly) more expensive phono pres are able to do.
- reproduces the bass deep, very controlled and structured. He tends to lean more towards the firm side than the full side.
- reproduces the highs concisely, but not overemphasized, and carefully resolves details. The PPA V790 doesn’t play quite as silky as some other amps, it seems rather straight.
- is particularly fit in terms of coarse dynamics, even if it doesn’t swing the really fat hammer, the very controlled and tight bass range is convincing. The precision and speed of the impulse reproduction is more than in line with the price class – even for similarly expensive phono preamplifiers with only one input.
- encircles a well-structured, tendentially compact stage at the position in the space dictated by the recording. It clearly delimits sound sources in three dimensions.
- is very well processed and works without any “hiccups” in daily use. A joy in everyday life!
- Concept: Transistor phono stage for MM and MC cartridges
- Price: 3,999 euros
- Inputs: 3 x RCA, 3 x XLR
- Outputs: 1 x RCA, 1 x XLR
- Dimensions & Weight: 290 x 90 x 254 mm (WxDxH); 3.6kg
- Finishes: Black
- Miscellaneous: 7 switchable impedances from 10 – 1000 ohms (for MC systems), 8 switchable capacities from 22 – 1000 pF (for MM systems), 7 amplifier stages from 30 – 66 dB, 3 equalization filters RIAA, NAB, Columbia-LP, switchable subsonic Filter 20 Hz, triple boost circuit
- Guarantee: 2 years