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SPL Phonitor vs Woo Audio WA2 (for HD800s)

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

hey guys, i'm set on buying a pair of HD800s simply because i've heard nothing but amazing things about them.

next, they need a powerful, high quality amp and i have two amping options that i'm currently considering.


1st option: SPL Phonitor ($1,899)

the Phonitor has gotten really great reviews on its own, and as a match for the HD800s (apparently one of the best matches available). the main value in this amp, for me, is the built-in crossfeed feature. my main use would be for mixing/mastering. yes, mixing on headphones is frowned upon, sure.. but it just makes sense for me. i've also heard that mixing with HD800s and the SPL Phonitor is comparable to doing such on a set of quality loudspeakers. it's pricey, amounting to over $2,000 after taxes. but wtv, i'm willing to invest in a quality product as well as setting up for success with respects to my career in music.


2nd option: Woo Audio WA2 ($1,190) + 112db Redline Monitor Crossfeed Plugin ($49)

the black WA2 just looks sexy. i've heard good things about it too, but to be entirely honest.. i'm more into the Phonitor. the tubes in the WA2 would make the sound a little warmer to the ears apparently.. not to a point where it would negatively affect my mixing decisions tho, just a rather pleasant warmth (from what some users have said online). there's no crossfeed feature on this amp though, therefore mixing on headphones may not be as smooth of an operation as it would be with the Phonitor. this is where the Redline Monitor Plugin comes into play.


112db Redline Monitor - Crossfeed Plugin: would this be a competitive alternative to the SPL Phonitor's crossfeed functionality, if i were to purchase the Woo Audio WA2 to amp the HD800s? there's almost a $1,000 difference between the price of the WA2 and the Phonitor. The Redline Monitor Crossfeed plugin only costs $50.. seriously, what's the deal/compromise? i know it can't compare to the SPL's analogue functionality.


with all this in mind, which route would YOU take? i'm not a pro, nor do i have a lot of money, but you know what? i'm committed to the long haul and i see this headphone/amp purchase as being a long term investment that will allow me to create in a more acoustically accurate headspace than in my ****ty bedroom. i see this in a similar light as the time i bought my car in order to get to and from work. you know? it totally makes sense to me in that light. i want a headphone setup that will serve me well over the next few decades of my life.


i currently have Neumann KH120s for monitors, but my untreated room is honestly the worst (especially since my pops replaced the carpet flooring with laminate flooring). I also like the idea of being able to work on music anywhere.. while maintaining the same monitoring environment.


sometimes, my room just starts to get really bad vibes after i've spent some time on a track. my music is really dark, and creating it takes me to really really dark places and life becomes.. well.... incredibly ominous. so switching up the room for a different vibe sounds mentally and emotionally healthy to me.


also, i hate my desk and my chair (so if i were to simply invest in acoustic treatment for my room, i'd STILL have to buy a good chair and a good desk in order to feel ergonomically comfortable.. so when comparing the investment in room acoustics vs. a headphone monitoring system, the cost would be in a similar ballpark range).


would LOVE everyone's feedback.


thanks :)

post #2 of 4

I would personally recommend to go for the improved crossfeed of Jan Meier. This version of crossfeed can be found on two DACs (Meier Corda StageDAC, Meier Corda Daccord) and one amplifier (Meier Corda Classic). Its significantly more neutral than everything software-based I have ever tried (including Redline Monitor and a lot of other stuff). Its also the best crossfeed in terms of how it emulates listening to a pair of speakers using headphones. Majority of people have only experienced the basic version which is pretty weak compared to the improved one so you are not going to find enough impressions on how the extended Meier's crossfeed really sounds unfortunately.


Basically, I would purchase this StageDAC (http://www.head-fi.org/t/683323/meier-audio-stagedac) as it offers the most variable crossfeed settings from the 3 products I mentioned above (and its a huge bargain, of course!). Or, get the Daccord which is the current DAC Meier is selling (though simplified in terms of how you can tune the sound to be exactly like you want it). Along, you could easily go for whatever amplifier you want in order to achieve the sound signature you are looking for. Also pay attention to the fact that all the Meier's devices mentioned feature Tonal balance switch which can very easily function as a useful analog bass+mids equalizer. I find it very easy to achieve sound I am looking for with Sennheiser HD800 and StageDAC together.


Meier is now offering quite significant discounts so it could be interesting for you as well from this point of view... http://www.meier-audio.homepage.t-online.de/


You could also get something like Smyth Realiser which is going to be even better than Meier's products because its not a crossfeed, its a proper speakers emulation. Well, price reflects that.

post #3 of 4

If you want to do mixing and, hence, need accuracy and neutrality above all then imo you should opt for a solid state solution, not tubes, especially not if you haven't auditioned the tube amp in question to hear for yourself how it pairs with the rest of your setup.  Disclosure:  I'm not a huge tube fan but I believe that for your purposes even tube fans would broadly agree with the above.  I auditioned the phonitor, but very briefly.  If you really need the crossfeed options then this is the way to go.  It's also a good amp by itself of course.


My own setup:  Violectric V800 DAC and V200 amp.  They pair very nicely with the HD-800 but don't come cheaply, you should count on about 2k USD minimum for both together.  The brand is little known outside Europe but check out their site and take a look at the specs:  you'll be hard pressed to find an equivalent at less than double the price.

post #4 of 4

SPL Phonitor is a lot better than the WA2 for the HD800 to these ears. If you're really going to be utilizing the crossfeed feature, it's a no brainer decision the Phonitor should definitely be up your ally.

Edited by DefQon - 10/2/13 at 5:12am
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