SPL Phonitor X DAC/AMP - Official Thread

How does the black SPL Phonitor XE look in person when stacked with the RME ADI-2 DAC?

The silver looks okay but I tend to prefer black. Maybe I should just grab the red one because it’s the most handsome (the contrast of the controls makes it look better to me).

Something like this.

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In person, do they match? From that pic, it looks like the Phonitor is almost a lighter color or brushed or something, but it could be lighting angles.

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They’re not identical in finish.

Neither are half the Schiit, Massdrop or Chord products I have. Close enough that you probably couldn’t tell outside of pictures or particular viewing angles, but they certainly wouldn’t match on a colorimeter.

Not really surprising given they’re from different manufacturers.


I’m only concerned with whether they match in a dimly lit room. Sounds like I’m good to go there. I’ll probably end up swapping to a black one if (probably when) I buy one. I’m just rocking a review loaner right now.

One lovely benefit of these is that it’s pretty easy to compare either XLR/RCA outputs from a DAC or even two different DACs. I have the RME ADI-2 DAC feeding the XLR and LH Labs GO2A Infinity feeding the RCA.

JRiver is outputing both as linked zones at exactly the same time, and I level matched with the VU meters.

The amp is so transparent that it makes DAC changes really* obvious (* really in the scheme of things. DAC changes are hard to identify unless their wildly different types).


I’m a big fan of the combo myself! I’m going to dig into the A/B capabilities of the XE next week (headphone outs in the back and the switch on the front, will make it very easy)

The picture in my post is using Google night sight, the original picture without it you couldn’t see the comics or Zines because it was too dark.


I’m really close to buying this thing after demoing it for review. I’m going to let it marinate for at least a couple of weeks, but right now I’m looking at yep. I’ll probably get a black one, though. The silver looks good, but pretty much everything else I have is black.

It’s so effortlessly powerful. Clean, neutral, transparent. It’s what I was aiming for back in the day when I got sucked into the hype around the O2 during its development. Plus, I like its bells and whistles.

Initially, I kept using a tube preamp, but I’m starting to appreciate how clean it is on its own and don’t generally use the tube amp in front of it most of the time.

I’m curious what you guys think about leaving the amplifier on. Anecdotally, I think I’m hearing improvements by leaving the RME ADI-2 DAC and SPL Phonitor XE powered up even when not in use.

I usually don’t advocate for leaving things powered on like that, and I’m hoping it’s either psychosomatic or just the result of break-in (this unit was brand new when it arrived).


I don’t leave either the SPL Phonitor X or the RME ADI-2 DAC on when not in use.

Typically there will be about a five minute window between when I do fire them up and when I actually sit and hit “play”, and that seems to be enough to get them to a point where I can’t tell any difference between that post-five-minute-point and hours later. That’s just me though.

There are really only two devices I habitually leave powered up these days, one is the Yggdrasil Analog 2, and the other is the Chord Hugo M-Scaler - and the M-Scaler is only “on” because it doesn’t have a power switch.

Everything else sits in “stand-by” mode until used.


Word. That helps me chalk it up to burn-in (either of the electronics or the brain).


I do a similar thing to what @Torq does, when I get home from work I’ll go turn on my tube amps, Phonitor XE, and RME ADI-2DAC, then put stuff away and get my daughter settled before throwing on some headphones.


With how powerful this is, I was reluctant to try IEMs with it. Surprisingly, it works great with them! I’m using my Future Sonics MG5HX customs with it right now and it has a perfectly silent background. Is it better than the IEM output of the RME ADI-2 DAC? Not sure yet.


At least with the RME ADI-2 DAC and Chord DAVE that are typically hooked up to my Phonitor, I tend not to use the Phonitor with IEMs. Both of those DACs have direct outputs (very direct in the case of the DAVE … it’s literally the same connection as goes to the RCA and XLR ports) and the Phonitor doesn’t seem to add anything there for IEMs.

For full-size headphones it’s a different matter.

That’s not to say I think the Phonitor sounds any “less good” with IEMs than either the RME or Chord sources, but it isn’t adding anything there for me either … at least with those two sources, and I’m generally a proponent of not having things in any given listening chain that aren’t necessary (i.e. audible discernible as being “better”).


I’m pretty much officially buying one of these in black now. My fondness for the Phonitor XE has only grown since first getting a demo unit in for review. I have to send this one back at some point here, but I’m just deciding on which variant I’m picking up.

Right now, it’s between the XE, X, and 2. I really don’t have any need for the preamp outputs. That said, the 2 is available for almost the same price as the XE because it’s a bit older. It also requires a dual 3 pin to 4 pin XLR adapter to used a balanced headphone cable (but you can flip a DIP switch to use the Matrix etc on the rear outs for this functionality). So, I suppose it’s more like another $50+ to make a nice adapter there.


I’m really enjoying the XE, especially since it makes it super easy to a/b with the rear headphone out and front back toggle switch on the front.

Why does it also have headphone outputs in the back?

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So you can run multiple sets of headphones at once for both types of connection.

Not at all uncommon, especially with gear that is either a) studio focused or b) rides the line between pro/audiophile use. Though it is more common to have the additional sockets on the front with pro gear.


How many can you use at once?

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For the XE, only one output will be active at a time. You manually select between front or rear via a front-panel switch. Then if the 1/4" TRS connection is plugged in it disables the balanced output on the same panel.

So you can have two balanced headphones connected. Two single-ended. Or one of each.


It is rather fun playing with this feature! This week has been a wash for quality listening time, but I did get in some A/B fun with the Audeze LCD-X and Focal Clear earlier in the week.

Also @Torq explained it way better than I would have… I’m just a dumb big animal :wink: that likes “Shinies” lol

I get called Sasquatch a lot by friends and family…a big out of focus monster lol


So… how far could you take it? Those are easy-to-drive headphones. What if I plugged in K1000 and HE-6 (I know those are extreme examples), but is it possible to damage the amp by using multiple headphones?

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