Lake People G103-S MKII Headphone Amplifier Review
After a pretty good run with a Focusrite Clarett audio interface, the headphone amp has finally started to see the end of its life, and I’ve been in the market for a strong amp that gives me a luxurious level of headroom for my mixes. Here enters Lake People’s G103-S MKII headphone amp, a unit intended for musicians, live sound and home studio needs. I’ll be taking it for a spin in the box with some 600 ohm Beyerdynamic DT 880 headphones as well as a pair of 32 ohm DT 770s. Finally, for those who might just want a strong amp for non-mixing purposes, I’ll touch on some experiences of using it with my 2019 Macbook, Pixel 3A phone, and iBasso DC06 DAC. Let’s get into it.
- Dimensions: 105 x 32 x 160mm
- Inputs: 2 RCA
- Headphone Out: Two 1/4″ (6.3mm) Unbalanced
- SNR: < -102dB
- Frequency Range: 10 Hz – 250 kHz
- Amp Channels: 2
- >1250 mW into 50Ω
- >14 VRMS into 600Ω
Set Up 1: MacBook 2019 Logic Pro X -> Clarett 4 Pre USB -> Lake People G103-S MKII -> Beyerdynamic DT 770 (32Ω)
I used two 1/4″ (6.35mm) TS to RCA cables from the line outputs 1 and 2 from my Clarett to the inputs on the Lake People G103-S MKII. I figured I would start by giving the G103-S MKII an easy challenge: powering my 32Ω DT 770’s. To keep things simple, I placed a FLAC file of a MIKE song onto a track in Logic Pro X for this experiment. As it is a completely mastered track and is thus a rather loud file, I subtracted 9 dB of gain from the region to emulate what a “typical” recorded audio file might look like. Take a look at my screenshot from Logic to see exactly what I’m talking about.
For me, including an external headphone amp in a home studio set up is all about the headroom it gives me for mixing – and Lake People’s G103-S MKII certainly didn’t disappoint. When maxing out the volume on both my interface and my the G103-S, I found setting the track’s fader around -33dB produced an acceptable volume for quiet-but-acceptably loud mixing, -30 to -24dB for a nice moderate mixing volume, and -20 dB and up for a genuinely loud listening volume. As far as I’m concerned, that’s ample headroom, and I was quite happy with it.
Set Up 2:MacBook 2019 Logic Pro X -> Clarett 4 Pre USB -> Lake People G103-S MKII -> Beyerdynamic DT 880 (600Ω)
Taking a big jump from 32Ω to 600Ω, I was curious to see what kind of headroom I could get from an identical set up to my first test (besides different headphones). At this higher impedance, I found setting the fader at -24 to -20dB produced a quieter but acceptably loud mixing volume, -16 to -11 for a moderate volume, and -8dB and up for genuinely louder volumes. For those who wish they saw some more headroom here, I want to note that I experienced absolutely no clipping, which leads me to believe that the G103-S is capable of taking significantly more power than my Clarett was giving it when it was maxed out. If you have an interface that’s capable of a powerful monitor output, the G103-S MKII seems like it can do a pretty great job running with it, and will likely get your higher impedance headphones closer to the headroom I described for my 32Ω test.
Notes on Casual Set Ups (Unbalanced 3.5mm Stereo to Split RCA Cable):
Pixel 3A Phone Headphone Port: Easily amplified 32Ω ohms to loud volumes, but I can’t say the same for 600Ω. The 3A is a stupidly quiet phone though, and I don’t hold Lake People’s G103-S MKII accountable for that.
MacBook (2019): Capable of bringing 32Ω headphones to unreasonably loud volumes (a good thing) and 600Ω to very loud volumes.
Pixel 3A Phone -> iBasso DC06 Dac -> G103-S MKII: Quite a similar experience to the MacBook test.
First thing I really appreciated about the G103-S MKII was that it was dead quiet: when music wasn’t playing, there wasn’t a solitary trace of hiss or general interference, regardless of my set up. The second thing I fell in love with was its spot-on, transparent accuracy that’s perfect for mixing and casual listening alike. It pushed the limits of my headphones’ imaging and staging, and provided tight transient response that gave extreme lows and highs a striking impact. It also didn’t add any extra color to the overall sound, something that I not only appreciate but also expect from an amp that’s made for studio use.
It’s pretty simple: if extra-accurate sound and powerful output is what you’re after, the Lake People G103-S MKII Headphone Amp absolutely proves its value at $300. The headroom it provided for mixing was impressive and exciting, and the quality was clean and accurate; the unit I used for this review may very well become a permanent fixture in my mixing set up.