SPL Phonitor Heapdhone Monitoring Amplifier - Head-Fi TV, Episode 009
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Episode 009 of Head-Fi TV was just uploaded.  This episode is a video review of the SPL (Sound Performance Lab) Phonitor.  The SPL Phonitor is what SPL calls a headphone monitoring amplifier, and comes with a plethora of imaging/crossfeed adjustments, intended to allow the user to simulate the coherence of imaging from loudspeaker studio monitors.
 
This episode of Head-Fi TV was brought to you by Headphones.comwho invites Head-Fi members to visit them at the Gathering of the Vibes music fest in Bridgeport, CT, July 21-24, 2011.
 
 
Headphones.com will have several listening booths where you'll have a chance to try headphones by top manufacturers; and Head-Fiers who attend will receive a free gift card!
 
If you plan to go, send a PM with your HeadFi username to HeadphonesCom or email it to brian@headphones.com.
 
If you can't make it, click here to take 15% off your next Headphones.com purchase. (Offer good until July 31, 2011.)

 

Products mentioned in the video:

 
  1. SPL Phonitor headphone monitoring amplifier
  2. Audeze LCD-2 planar magnetic headphone
  3. HiFiMAN HE-series headphone
  4. Sennheiser HD 800 headphone
  5. Luxman P-1 headphone amplifier (discontinued)
 
 

 

Head-Fi TV Episode 009 produced by Joseph Cwik and Jude Mansilla

 

 

We will occasionally post Q&A episodes of Head-Fi TV.  If you want to submit any questions (or comments), you can do so via email to tv@head-fi.org.

 
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ubitwarr

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I wish I could afford half of the gear used in this review.
 
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Great review. As close as you can get without trying the amp itself. Also good to see amps that won't make me give fat bucks to customs.
 
Go Deutschland!
 
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This is an amazing looking piece. It looks like something from the military on a secret mission. My feeling is that an amp like this is destined to be a classic or at least a great investment for many years. For people who do a lot of home recording, it's a no brainer to get this!
 
The features on this amp are great. I love the mono switch which I think can come in handy in playing old records mixed with bad stereo seperation or if you are monitoring your song that you multi tracked for testing. The amp is like a handsome German soldier and I am in love with him.....ok just kidding on that part. 
 
Anyways, this amp looks like a home run with it's unique features.
 
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Think Jude forget to mention about the synergy between Phonitor and low-impedence headphone.
I owned the SPL Phonitor and it does sound abit "funny" on my MS1i. I even invited my friend to try his Grado SR225i. Same result. I guess no synergy with low-impedence phones?
 
On the other hand, like the review highlighted, Phonitor does drive most of the hard-to-drive headphones with ease. E.g. HD800. 
I guess most of the PRO gear are high impedence?
 
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Great review there but it's above the budget of 90 % head-fiers .I hope to see further reviews of crossfeed/surround and binaural technologies. There are software that do this pretty good. And ofcourse the Realiser hardware, even though it's expensive it seem to get great reviews.
 
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Just want to chime in and say I've heard the Phonitor with a W4, and boy did it make that IEM sing.
(For the record, I find the W4 dull out of an iPod.)
 
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hi jude great review your getting better and better, i hope to see more :)
 
i would love to see some more mid fi stuff that most of us could try or buy, like the schiit Lyr.........
 
not be pushy but....... you did say on episode 5 that you would try to do a review on the lcd-2? still in the pipe line?
 
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Think Jude forget to mention about the synergy between Phonitor and low-impedence headphone.
I owned the SPL Phonitor and it does sound abit "funny" on my MS1i. I even invited my friend to try his Grado SR225i. Same result. I guess no synergy with low-impedence phones?
 
On the other hand, like the review highlighted, Phonitor does drive most of the hard-to-drive headphones with ease. E.g. HD800. 
I guess most of the PRO gear are high impedence?

The output impedance of the Phonitor is rated at 9 ohms, which would make it somewhat inappropriate for low impedance gear. A ballpark figure is to keep the damping factor above 10, which means that the Phonitor is recommended for headphones with an impedance of at least 90 ohms.

I'm actually quite surprised at Jude's comment concerning the Phonitor's ability to drive the HE-6 without difficulty, it's rated a 360 mW @ 30 ohms, I suppose that it does go over 500 mW @ 50ohms, which is not a lot compared to other headamps known for being able drive the HE-6. Mind you, theoretically, it should be enough to drive the HE-6 to ear splitting level, it's just not as much headroom as I'd like.
 
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Quote:
hi jude great review your getting better and better, i hope to see more :)
 
i would love to see some more mid fi stuff that most of us could try or buy, like the schiit Lyr.........
 
not be pushy but....... you did say on episode 5 that you would try to do a review on the lcd-2? still in the pipe line?

shaunybaby, there'll be inexpensive and not-hi-fi stuff mixed in with mid-fi and hi-fi gear, over time.  (Just a couple of episodes ago, I reviewed the WOWee One.)
 
Regarding the Lyr, I did post a first-impressions thread a while back.
 
As for the LCD-2:  I'm planning on doing a high-end planar magnetic round-up episode at some point; so, yes, it's still in the pipeline.  (I just received my LCD-2 Rev 2's today.)
 
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Another great video - thanks, Jude.  I've always wondered how well the amp went with various headphones and appreciated hearing that at the end.  Did  you happen to try it with LCD-2's?  Appropriate shirt for the German theme.  I was a huge fan of my own Sig 228 until I tried my friends HK Tactical 45.  Very nice piece

 
Edit: my post overlapped your LCD-2 response...TA!
 
PS  Given the attempt at simulating speakers, I'd love to hear a review and comparison to the Smyth Realiser - any plans for a review of that system?
 
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Quote:
The output impedance of the Phonitor is rated at 9 ohms, which would make it somewhat inappropriate for low impedance gear. A ballpark figure is to keep the damping factor above 10, which means that the Phonitor is recommended for headphones with an impedance of at least 90 ohms.

I'm actually quite surprised at Jude's comment concerning the Phonitor's ability to drive the HE-6 without difficulty, it's rated a 360 mW @ 30 ohms, I suppose that it does go over 500 mW @ 50ohms, which is not a lot compared to other headamps known for being able drive the HE-6. Mind you, theoretically, it should be enough to drive the HE-6 to ear splitting level, it's just not as much headroom as I'd like.
 
 
khaos974, you're right that it's not the ideal driver for the HE-6 (when you have amps like the Lyr and other more suitable amps for the task out there), so I wouldn't recommend building an HE-6 rig around it.  In general, I don't listen very loud (at all), so the Phonitor does an admirable job with the HE-6 for me.  Most importantly, though, the HE-6--which can be bright'ish for me through a lot of amps--is actually very nice, tonally, out of the Phonitor.
 
If you're looking for a hard-driving HE-6 amp, again, I would not recommend the Phonitor as first choice.  It does it well enough, though, to have it as a notch in its overall versatility.
 
And, yes, as you can see from the specs, it really is well suited for high-impedance headphones.  Compare the specs from my Luxman P-1 to the Phonitor:
 
Luxman P-1:  1W, 32 ohms
Phonitor:  360mW, 30 ohms
 
Luxman P-1:  53mW, 600 ohms
Phonitor:  1.7W, 600 ohms
 
(The Phonitor is spec'd at 1kHz, and the P-1's specs do not specify at which frequency.)
 
Still, though, the Phonitor shows greater versatility, in my experience (and to my ears), than its specs might suggest.  And, again, if you're looking for solid state HD 800 driving ability, it is, to my ears, absolutely outstanding there.

 
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Quote:
...Appropriate shirt for the German theme.  I was a huge fan of my own Sig 228 until I tried my friends HK Tactical 45.  Very nice piece 
...



Just picked up the HK P7 PSP myself, which I've wanted since using a friend's on occasions several years ago.  It is one of my all-time favorites, and, if you ever get a chance to try one, I think you'd understand why in no time flat.
 
Quote:
...Did you happen to try it with LCD-2's?..

I did not have a chance to try it with the LCD-2 Rev 2, but it drove the LCD-2 Rev 1 with ease, and it sounds very good with it (and so, of course, I'd expect the same with it and the LCD-2 Rev 2).  I do prefer my Apache to the Phonitor for the LCD-2, but the Phonitor to the Apache for the HD 800.
 
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Quote:
...PS  Given the attempt at simulating speakers, I'd love to hear a review and comparison to the Smyth Realiser - any plans for a review of that system?

I've used the Realiser (in a calibrated-for-me demo) at CanJam 2008 (Fort Lauderdale), and, frankly, nothing can touch it (that I've yet heard) for accurate out-of-head imaging.  It's stunning for out-of-head imaging--jaw-dropping stunning.
 
Your question is an important one, though, and one I should have been clearer about in the video, so that expectations are managed and realistic.  (You simply run out of time in these videos a lot faster than you realize, if, like me, you're not yet used to shooting videos.)
 
It is important to realize that the Phonitor's imaging controls do not simulate the out-of-head aspect of loudspeaker listening.  What it does is allow you to do is adjust the image to have similar imaging with your monitoring loudspeakers, in terms of coherence--image cohesiveness, angle, shape.  This is not a binaural simulation, and it doesn't do what the Realiser does, in terms of taking the image outside of your head.  It is a crossfeed circuit, albeit a far more sophisticated and flexible one than most.
 
I hope I've made that clearer, but please tell me if I have not.
 
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Yes, I was mostly thinking about a 90 dB listening volume, which is quite loud (and somewhat dangerous for long period of time) with short bursts 20 dB higher for a very dynamic music.
A rough estimation of the 0.5W gives an added 27 dB to the HE-6's sensitivity of 83 dB/mW.

At of this means you push the Phonitor to its limits when listening loud with the HE-6. On the other hand, if one is never listens loud, there should be any problem with the Phonitor and the HE-6.

It's also quite obvious give the specs and the 120V rails that the Phonitor is mainly aimed at providing plenty of voltage gain and compared to current gain.

I just find something lacking from the video: a mention of the Auditor which is basically a Phonitor without the crossfeed control, at a little less than half the price of a Phonitor.
 
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