SPL PHONITOR X & E

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by gbeast, Dec 24, 2016.

  1. sacredgates

    sacredgates Audio-Technica's high priest

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    Well, I don´t know if they are deliberately being a little ambiguous in the presentation text...
    If you look at the specs for both the 2 (which has no balanced headphone out) and X the power ratings are exactly the same.

    When I asked one of the technician staff members about the balanced headphone output of the X in an email he replied:
    With the "balanced" headphone output, the outputs of the power amplifier are routed separately to the socket for the positive and negative path of each channel and not as usual with the ground together.
    Occupancy follows the "quasi" standard for headphones:
    1 = L (+), 2 = L (-),
    3 = R (+), 4 = R (-)


    The dictionary says about "quasi": used to show that something is almost, but not completely, the thing described ;).
     
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  2. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    Eh, that tosses it back into ambiguous territory. Clearly there are conflicting statements and specs being popped around, and the "quasi" in this case means nothing.

    It would be better to ask if pin2 and pin4 are actively driven channels.
     
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  3. sacredgates

    sacredgates Audio-Technica's high priest

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    Well let´s make it simple then: the X has only two amplifiers, one for each channel. Both the balanced inputs and outputs are there for convenience and for use in professional environments where often balanced cables are being used. Inside the signal is processed and amplified unbalanced. The engineer stated they did not see any advantage in going fully balanced, on the contrary. I also seem to remember we talked (during a phonecall later on) how complicated all this would become with all the crossfeed circuitry.
    I don´t know if there can indeed be small advantages for the balanced headphone output because of the - poles being connected seperately for each channel instead of together.
    The Violectric V281 however is truly balanced and has 4 power amplifiers, two for each channel, but no crossfeed.
    Both the Phonitor 2 and X and the Violectric V281 are well regarded as SS headphone amps here in the german speaking headphone community. Both brands have their roots in studio equipment and have started branching out towards the home user. In general the Violectric V281 is attested a bit more "authority" (especially with demanding headphones); Phonitor 2 and X are lauded for the crossfeed functions (and their nice VU meters...)
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2018
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  4. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    I've never done a back-to-back comparison between the two ... and the little time I have had with the V281 was a good while ago and the only other solid-state amp on hand was the Pro iCAN, so I'm going from memory/notes and minimal experience; so take this with a handful of salt.

    The V281 left me with the impression that it was slightly on the dark side of things and made music feel "slower" and "softer" than I would expect (I'm not talking about transient performance, just the perception of pacing - which is an effect I get with, say, the original HiFiMan HE1000 as well).

    For me, I'd rank them:

    Phonitor x > Pro iCAN > V281​

    While my time with the Violectric was relatively brief, it didn't do anything to disgrace itself nor did it do anything to make me want to spend more time with it (for my own purposes, at least ... it'd be interesting to review in full, however).
     
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  5. Vent

    Vent Friend

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    @Torq, any ideas on how the Phonitor X compares to other high end offerings like the Stratus or Aficionado? I noted in your review that you thought the HD650 would benefit more from these higher end tube amps. Do you think they're across the board better than the Phonitor? Thanks!
     
  6. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    If you can get the power output you want, and meet the other specs you're after (e.g. power and distortion), without using differential amplification (i.e. dedicated amplifiers for each phase and channel), then single-ended implementation, in dual-mono form, to keep the channels entirely separate should reduce crosstalk and improve resolution ... as well as letting you use better parts/design at the same price point.

    Fully balanced amplification is going to double your noise content and increase distortion. And while that, done properly, will still be well below audible thresholds, it is what it is.

    Provided there's enough power, I'm more worried about separate amplifier channels and preserving dedicated grounds to the headphones than I am whether the amp is balanced or single-ended.
     
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  7. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Again, this is not a comparison I've performed directly. I am generally a tube-amp guy though and the best tube amps I've heard are more enjoyable for me than the best solid state. And I tend to like high-impedance cans best out of tube-amps (be they OTL or not) even when said tube amp might not be state of the art, rare or expensive.

    From a technical (i.e. measured performance) perspective, no ... not at all.

    But if we're talking about using them to enjoy music, then yes - and I'd personally use a Stratus or Aficionado (both with suitable tubes) with the HD650 or HD800(S) over any solid-state amplifier I've actually heard.

    It's less clear with some other headphones, especially super-efficient, low-impedances closed-backs (but those are a suboptimal choice anyway). And the broader the array of headphones I was using the less likely that statement is to hold (or may require a different or additional amplifier).
     
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  8. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    Although if you have perfectly matching doohickeys on each side, then you would in theory cancel out the even (or was it odd?) order distortion... or something like that.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2018
  9. elwappo99

    elwappo99 Friend

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    I would appreciate any additional thoughts on iFi Pro vs the Phonitor X. I've got an ifi ican pro and have always been on the fence on getting a Phonitor E or Phonitor 2.

    You previously posted very positively about the ifi ican pro. Grizz suggested the iFi Pro and Phonitor X X were more like sidegrades of each other.
     
  10. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    While excellent, the Pro iCAN, even in SS mode, editorializes in a way that the Phonitor x does not. The difference isn't huge and it's mostly down to some low-end emphasis and a bit of artificial "sheen" on the high end with the Pro iCAN which isn't present on the SPL unit. There is also some loss of transparency/detail when compared to the Phonitor x.

    As I mentioned in my review, the Phonitor x is the only solid-state amplifier I've heard that doesn't result in an audible loss of transparency or detail, and isn't adding color in some form, when compared to the direct output of my DAVE. I can't say that about the Pro iCAN, Ragnarok, Moon 430HA, GS-X Mk2, BW and so on.

    On power, number of features and, at a push, on value (if you regularly use all of its features - much less so if you don't) the iFi Pro iCAN is ahead. It'd be a better choice, I expect, if you're running HE-6 or Susvara as your cans. For everything else, including actual usability/applicability of the included features and, most importantly, how it sounds*, I would give the nod to the Phonitor x.

    --

    I still feel positively about the Pro iCAN. I still have mine. After I replaced it with the Phonitor x in my primary rig, I moved it to my "day job" office rig. And then sold the WA5-LE Mk2 I was using there (too big and expensive to have sitting around only getting used for 2-3 hours a week). And there the little iFi unit gets used in both SS and Tube+ modes, where as at home it was only doing solid-state duty.

    --
    *And it's less that the Phonitor x "has" a "sound" and more that it is the most neutral and transparent solid-state amplifier I've heard.
     
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  11. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Friend

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    Might as well ask, but where would you place the Ragnarok in that ranking?

    How is it with the Abyss? Lot of the owners in the Dave thread over at HF say the Dave, while clean & transparent, doesn't give the Abyss enough heft that it needs to full shine. Does the Phonitor X have the extra power over the Dave for planar headphones?
     
  12. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    It would depend a great deal on how you're going to use it, but above the V281 and below the Phonitor x. How it relates to the Pro iCAN is more variable. And obviously Ragnarok is top if you care about conventional speakers.

    Could have sworn I covered this in the full review.

    It's excellent with the Abyss and with the LCD-4. Both of which I find aren't at their best driven directly out of DAVE (they're good, just not as good as they could be). The Phonitor x adds the necessary grunt (and then some) without any negatives that I can detect (i.e. no apparent loss of transparency or detail, and no tonal shift).

    It might even work for the HE-6 or Susvara if you flipped on the output boost options ... but they're not necessary for the LCD-4 or Abyss.
     
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  13. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    It was just, kindly, pointed out to me that that embedded "Phonitor x" links, in the main body of my mini-review, were Amazon affiliate links. This was unintentional, and is a product of copying/pasting the TL;DR; version of the review from my original posting on a Discourse-hosted site (which adds those for some references automatically, with the affiliation being back to that hosting site NOT me).

    I have simply REMOVED those links.
     
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  14. zeissiez

    zeissiez Turn that Schiit down - acquaintance

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    My criteria for transparency is: 1.black background. 2. Open sounding. 3. Clean, vivid, solid and stable sound images. 4. Over enhancement or deficiencies in technicalities which could call for attention, in short naturalism of the voices. 5.Effortlessness in delivery. If a component is very transparent, it simple disappear in the chain, it has no sound or character and the listener in brought deeper into the music. I haven’t heard all, but so far the most transparent amp I have heard is the AGD HE9. Super black and clean background, sound images just emerge from no where in space, the amp simply vanished. The iCan Pro is also very transparent with a black background, solid images well isolated in a holographic 3D space. Not as detailed as the HE9 or the EC Balancing Act with PX4 tubes, but more musical. EC BA is another one transparent amp. I haven’t heard the Phonitor X, before I got into tubeamps, the Phonitor was my reference for neutrality and transparency. Switching to lesser amps transparency takes a step back. They sound more “boxed” and more distant to music.
     
  15. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    Just when my feet have stopped itching, I read @Torq review on Headphone.com (something I was blissfully ignornant of before getting an email).

    Now I want a fucking Phonitor X. God dammit!
     
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  16. Collusion

    Collusion Almost "Made"

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    I bought a second hand Phonitor 2 based on Torq's favorable review on the Phonitor X. I have never tried the Phonitor X, but everything Torq states about X can be applied to Phonitor 2 too IMO. Fast, clean, dynamic - no detectable colorations at all.
     
  17. Koka

    Koka Rando

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    I'm having a problem with Phonitor X Balanced Out to HD800: high frequency noise even at zero volume. SE Output doesn't exhibit this noise and if only one side of HD800 is connected, no noise. Have used HD800 with the same balanced cable out of other amps in a shop, dead quiet at zero volume. Also no noise with other HPs (HD6XX, TR-X00) from the Phonitor X. So I figure it's not due to the cable or Phonitor's balanced output, but rather the combo Phonitor X bal. to HD800. Has any Phonitor tester/owner ever experienced this noise before, or does anyone recognize the similar issue with other amp+HP combos? Any help is appreciated.
     
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  18. LoveKnight

    LoveKnight Rando

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    The SPL Phonitor X or E balanced output has some issues I think. But I do not think SPL Phonitor 2 has problem with balanced ouput at the back. So I believe if you want to use the balanced mode with your HD800 then you should buy the SPL Phonitor 2 and Phonitor 2 is a better synergy to HD800 because SPL Phonitor 2 has a slight warm according to this review http://www.hdphonic.com/en/headphones/spl-phonitor-2/ but beware of using an adapter or other balanced cable because the of balanced output of SPL 2 speaker at the back.

    On the other hand the SPL Phonitor X and E are redesigned with something changed inside to become more neutral. The photos here I look for on the internet and youtube maybe help us understand more about Phonitor X/E and 2 design. However they still look very identical just few minor differences.

    https://positive-feedback.com/reviews/hardware-reviews/the-spl-phonitor-2/



    I do not know if the SPL Phonitor 2 is a truely balanced amplifier or not. The design seems not a balanced amplifier to me but in the review the reviewer said that he hear better improvement at balanced mode with Sennheiser HD800 so if someone wants to run at balanced should consider SLP Phonitor 2 and it's at lower cost than SPL phonitor X.

    Should buy SPL Phonitor X or the lower cost version E if one just needs to run the amplifier with single end output.
    Should buy the old model SPL Phonitor 2 at lower cost and it just has a nice slightly warm if need run with balanced mode but beware of the balanced cable or adapter. The 2 and E has the same cost if buy new but 2 has the same matrix and crossfeed like X.

    I am still rethinking which version should I purchase because in my country the dealer of SPL does not look like want to import a SPL Phonitor E for me so I must find a way to buy one. Maybe in Australia or New Zealand when I move to.

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2018
  19. elwappo99

    elwappo99 Friend

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    Since I was a bit confused on the whole balanced output on the X and E I contacted SPL. They basically told me the Phonitor E, Phonitor 2 and Phonitor X are all not balanced amplifiers. I asked about the difference between the Phonitor X/E and Phonitor 2 and was told there were some minor changes in the design and upgraded components.

     
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  20. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    A couple months ago there was a Phonitor 2 w/expansion rack on canuckaudiomart. I was super tempted... I've mentioned before that the 2 is the only model that lets you pump the crossfeed matrix through the preamp outputs, so then you can run out to a secondary headamp or out to speakers as well.
     
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