SPL Phonitor X / Phonitor E impressions and Discussion thread

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by grizzlybeast, Dec 2, 2016.
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  1. Yoga

    Looks like a promising unit but as my needs are professional (reference sound), all the options (tube switching etc) are not useful.
  2. drwlf

    Yup, the versatility is quite lovely there it seems.
  3. grizzlybeast
    I have the HE-9 here and I prefer the tonality of the phonitor X. The HE-9 is not far off, has way more power, is more spacious, and has tighter bass but it's not like its a whole lot more clear and it is missing tonal density to me. It's like it does everything right but it's not weighty. 
  4. drwlf

    Nice to hear this impression as well.
  5. Synthax
    At least some positives :)
    I do have P2 and are very glad with it, but here I see it is not very appreciated. I like its linearity, but most audiophiles prefer more energetic, v shaped sound, which in contrary is not good in professional environment. But personally I use P2 at home and enjoy a lot.
    Eddie Q likes this.
  6. Yoga

    I think the P2/PX are fantastic. End game amp for some people who prefer a more laid back presentation.
    Synthax likes this.
  7. grizzlybeast
    Based on what I have heard in SS Land I don't want hardly any of them. I have ears and tastes more acclimated to the professional environment and the SPL X is even after owning the HE9, the best sound to my ears. My gripes with it have nothing to do with balance but transient response and the fact that it blew up. Even so I am tempted to sell the HE9 and just get an X. But I don't want to risk it. If you appreciate balance like I do the SPL is rare.... Very rare.
  8. jokostyle
    I was planning to get the Meier -ff- stack but this thread forces me to reconsider my decision.  Did someone compare the Phonitor 2/X and the Meier Corda Classic ? What about their respective implementation of the crossfeed function ( and by extension, about what is available in the SPL amp to emulate the speakers listening experience -Matrix, Angle switching- ) ? Can the Phonitor Dac option compete with the -ff- Daccord ?
    Thanks in advance.
  9. Hansotek
    Phonitor E Impressions
    Thanks again to @grizzlybeast for organizing the tour. I got some time with the Phonitor E. Here are my notes:
    Overall, I’d call the amp relatively neutral with a bit of warmth in the lower mids and midbass. It is a pretty smooth and musical signature I think a lot of people will like.
    I'll just come out and say it, I’m not a big fan of the DAC. It sounds relatively inoffensive, but the depth layering is a bit lacking and the soundstage is extremely congested without the crossfeed enabled. Not as impressive as the amp is paired with, IMO. I don’t want to comedown on it too hard, because I think the depth projection is still pretty short even with a different DAC, if the crossfeed isn’t enabled. Regardless, I thought the Phonitor E took a leap forward as soon as I stopped using the onboard DAC.
    Great for the HD800!! Crossfeed was totally awesome on the HD800 and the extra warmth and smooth treble really played nice with it. The extra bass was a bit overpowering with the ZMF Atticus, and it’s probably not a combo I’d recommend (grab the DecWare CSP-3 if you really want to hear the Atticus sing).
    The Phonitor-E seemed to be a little bit pickey with planars, but mostly performed well. It displayed (what I assume were) some poor damping characteristics that caused an extra bit of harshness in the midrange on the Abyss (not surprising – the Abyss is a pain to drive), but was also a bit finicky with the MrSpeakers ÆON sometimes, which is exceptionally easy to drive (I should note that combo was pretty good for the most part, but the mids weren’t as smooth and sweet as most other combos). Not sure what was up with that, but I didn’t like it on some songs. In spite of that little oddity, it drove the HE500 and the ZMF Ori just fine. In fact, I thought both of those headphones sounded absolutely excellent from the Phonitor E and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it with either headphone.
    The Crossfeed is pretty cool. It’s especially noticeable on the HD800, where you can really tell the difference between the settings. On other headphones, it was a bit more subtle, but still noticeable. There aren’t any particularly weird colorations, which kill most crossfeeds for me. C1 had a little more presence, I thought it was a little more transparent and less “processed sounding” than C2. It’s pretty subjective though, so YMMV. Both sound better than having the CF off, IMO.
    I know Grizz wanted to hear how it compares to the Wells Milo, which is my current reference amp. I passed this along to him already in a PM, but I’ll repost here for the benefit of anyone who is curious.  
    From a technical standpoint, I have to assume that the differences between these two amps are mostly related to damping. At the end of the day, I can trace most of the major differences between the two amps back to attack and decay.
    Overall, I would say the Milo is more transparent with a touch more dynamic punch, air, space and a tighter low end (which is more accurate and reference quality, IMO). Phonitor is a touch warmer and fuller in the midbass and low mids, but Milo is more accurate to my ears, hits harder (in many cases) and offers greater clarity so it’s a touch more satisfying, (again) IMO. The Phonitor’s extra warmth mostly comes from its warmer/looser decay.
    Upper mids on the Milo have more lift and shimmer without sacrificing control or smoothness, which usually makes guitars and vocals more engaging. Every once in a while the extra bloom in the lower mids makes the Phonitor sound 1 or 2% better on a certain guitar lick or vocal passage, but at this point, my ears have sussed out that this is actually less accurate. Treble is also a bit airier on the Milo, but they both have really nice smoothness in the high registers. Overall, I’d say the Milo has more texture and life to it, while the Phonitor is a bit more relaxed sounding.
    Drums on Milo have a more violent punch – they make you nod your head. Phonitor is warmer, but looser. It’s not damping or attacking with the same level of authority. It’s more laid back. Kicks are a touch sloppy in comparison to the violent snap-in and rip-out approach of the Milo. Milo sometimes makes me think of listening to a great pair of monitors in the studio – it is tight, clean, firm and immediate. It reminds me of watching those Kevlar cones punch out with a big drum hit.
    Switching back and forth at a volume-matched level, Milo’s tighter attack may make it seem thinner for the first 4 or 5 seconds, but when your ears adjust, you realize the Phonitor is simply not on the same level technically and Milo is connecting you with the rhythm of the music on deeper and more nuanced level. Switching back to the Phonitor immediately removes a bit of the “boogie factor” because of the slower attack and decay. I notice that I am moving around in my chair and bobbing my head less within a few seconds of the switch pretty much every time.
    There is just all of this microdynamic texture that the Phonitor is missing compared to Milo. The Phonitor just cannot damp with the same speed (so it actually has a little bit more apparent loudness, even when they are perfectly matched to pink noise – as soon as you introduce varying decay patterns, the Phonitor sounds louder because of the slower decay). Even when I turn up the Phonitor to be truly and obviously louder than the Milo, it can’t reproduce the texture. As soon as my ears adjust to the volume change, I find myself bopping around more to the music with the Milo. I’ll switch back to the Phonitor and get that extra jolt of volume, but 5 or 10 seconds later, I’m feeling the slouch of the slower amplifier and I can feel my fun levels dropping.
    I don’t want to make it sound like it is a night and day difference between these two amps, all of this stuff is very nuanced, but I wanted to try and pick it all apart and articulate the little differences as best as I could. It should also be noted the Phonitor-E costs a couple hundred bucks less, comes with a DAC and has the crossfeed function, so it’s a bit of a tradeoff.
    Overall, I think the Phonitor-E is a fine amp, and would make it a conditional recommendation, based on the listener’s individual needs. It’s probably not going to be one of my go-to recommendations like the Mojo, Liquid Carbon, Milo or CSP-3  - but if your main cans are the HD800 and the HE500 or the Ori, and you’re looking for an amp or amp/DAC in that price range, it’s a pretty solid value that will serve you well.

    WNBC, grizzlybeast and drwlf like this.
  10. grizzlybeast
    @heliosphann has still not received the amplifier. There is a delay in the tour
    @Army-Firedawg and @WNBC let me know if you are still interested in this unit. I will try to get it to you guys now. 
  11. WNBC
    I am probably fine not hearing the Phonitor E, especially if it requires getting another one from the vendor.  The impressions thus far have given us an excellent feel for the E's strengths and weaknesses.  The only thing I could add is perspective with the Sony Z1R.  I also have the HD800S, but you all have done a fine job describing the synergy between the combo.  I have the SPL Auditor and it is an excellent match with the HD800S for probably many of the same reasons the HD800S is great with the Phonitor E.  Auditor drives the HD800S with authority and this combo isn't too laid back for my tastes.  Lots of midrange bite and extension in both directions.  A bargain nowadays for people looking at cheap used amps for the HD800S, assuming one can find them.
    The sense that I get from all of the impressions is that for the price, there are many other options in same range of the Phonitor E that will land one a TOTL amp that plays well with more variety of headphones.  These other TOTL amps might offer a more energetic presentation, but someone looking for a more relaxed sound with good timbre will enjoy the Phonitor E.  If the Phonitor E was around $1000 it might be more competitive and an easier recommendation, at least that's my guess.
    Thank you Grizzlybeast for the offer to hear the Phonitor E.  If you think more impressions are needed then I wold be fine getting the E to review.  Otherwise, I am fine skipping the E.
  12. Army-Firedawg

    Yeah Im definitely still interested.

    EDIT: If I've already provided my address please reconfirm w/ me as I've recently moved. If not then please disregard the edit.
  13. Hansotek

    I am not pleased with heliosphann's mailman.
  14. Hansotek
    Apparently the forum is trying to start some funny business. It dropped the "'s mailman." in that post 3 times!
  15. WNBC
    Mailman failing to re-attempt delivery or something else?

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