SPL Phonitor X DAC/AMP - Official Thread


I was thinking about this. I will see if I get the same with the Auteur or HD650. The rest of my headphones are out on loan to people.

The Verite is a pretty unique HP, and it is the first of Zach’s creations where there are some amp pairings I straight up didn’t like with it. For example, an A&S Mogwai I heard was way too thick and seemed to completely strangle the sound, but the Mjolnir 2 was good, and the GOTL and Gilmore Lite Mk2 were great. Yet, I really like the Eikon on the Mogwai. So… Yeah.

It’s definitely a rich sounding amp, and one of my favorites. :smile:

LOL! I do this for a living, so I bet I can figure it out. I just didn’t have the patience for it at the time. I’ll update you with anything I find.

Also, please note, I wrote that reply in a hurry. I was being direct with my initial thoughts. I wasn’t trying to poopoo on your review. After I reread what I wrote, I realize it might come across that way. I’d say ~ 80% of my experience so far lines up with your review, which is pretty great in this hobby.

It’s amazing what brain burn-in and personal preference can do to an evaluation. I think the X is probably much closer to neutral than it is being bass light. It has impact, and it can sound powerful. It’s not like I took away the subwoofers in a home theater kind of bass difference.

I usually would not post impressions this early or with the limited time I’ve had with it thus far, but there were some parts that clearly stood out, so I talked about those.

Opinion subject to change. YMMV. AFAIK. Etc.


No worries, it absolutely did not come across that way.

Not that it would be a problem if it had.

I’m as keen to learn and refine both what I’m hearing and how I convey that as I am to share my thoughts. I might ask questions in such a situation, or post a counterpoint or add additional context/info, but when I do I hope I do so in a manner that is both respectful and doesn’t come across as questioning or challenging someone’s findings (I’ll screw that up … I’m the farthest thing from perfect).

One of the things I am trying to do is get more post-review engagement in the forums (which is one reason why my AFC/AFO review didn’t include a narrative comparison to other headphones and just referred them back here). There’s been more of that in this particular thread than in any other, which is nice. The discussion helps everyone.

That’s great to hear!

I’ll keep my fingers crossed that my batting average remains anywhere near that level! :blush:

I still have to talk myself down every time I see one pop up for sale. The friends that have loaned me their’s have been lucky to get them back. I have a similar fascination with the ZDS. Though I’ve only had them on loan … for reasons that never seem to make sense I’ve not owned either.

I try to hold back on such things too … the Vérité made that very difficult. I loved what I heard at CanJam @ RMAF 2018, loved what I heard fresh out of the box with my own pair, and haven’t really wanted to listen to anything else since they arrived.

As it was it was hard not to gush all over them, even in the first post about them, more than I already have. And the more I listen, the more I love them. I’ll enjoy writing up the review for them … which is by no means always the case!


I’m glad and totally on the same page. There are lots of other places where that isn’t possible.

I have the ECP DSHA 3F in for a test listen. It’s one hell of an amp, and has many characteristics similar to the X. It’s also more expensive. Give me a week or two, I’ll see how they compare. I’ll try to write up something when I’m ready.


This is something I have learnt from you more experienced guys. As I am emotional type of person and often guilty of speaking without enough thought. It’s a good policy to take your time.


The Phonitor is mostly transparent, much more so than any other solid state I’'ve heard. What you hear is your DAC, your transport, your cables. Use it with a Dangerous Music Convert 2 or a Source or a Holo Spring DAC and it will push you out of your seat.
I assume that’s the reason why the reviews are all over the place and why many people prefer the Violectric units, which produce a more powerfull sound but are less transparent. With the Phonitor sources matter a lot, that’s the downside.


Getting more and more excited to get in my Phonitor XE, and my set of ZMF Aeolus (not the Verite, but one does not, just walk into Mordor, as they say :wink: lol gotta dip my toes in first) I’ll be happy to throw up a quick first impression as well as a quick comparison to the current masses favorite “THX 789”.


Definitely interested to hear what you think of it - what little I’ve found to read about it has all been extremely positive.


very much appreciated the tone of your response, @Torq


XE-cellent! Just loving this bit of kit…only have an hour in but really liking it so far! this is a large upgrade over the THX 789, for me at least. It is also way more expensive and bigger in size.


What color are the VU meters in real life? I’ve seen photos where they’re yellow, yellow-green, or orange.

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They are Yellow, I was chatting with @Torq, @andrew, @taronlissimore about how to possibly customize them. They start off red then switch to the yellow color. Maybe an LED swap?


Ooooo that’s gorgeous. You lucky, lucky man. You’re beginning to move into the @Torq level of hardware collection now. I would love to be your neighbor.:grin:. I really hope you get a great deal of enjoyment from this. I am sure you will. Enjoy.

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Short of winning the lotto or having some obscure relative leave me an inheritance, gear like this is not really in the planning. But I love the reviews and greatly appreciate learning more about an intense hobby. The feedback/discussion also helps me understand and learn more of the fine points which also a bonus. Thanks folks.


Ok, a couple more hours into it, with multiple different Headphones…

This thing is less fatigue inducing than the THX-AAA 789. Has as good if not slightly blacker background than the THX-AAA, and just seems to be smoother overall. Also source matters, this hides nothing.

Other interesting thing I’ve noticed is it almost seems to match the headphones being used and only puts out the power needed to move them just right…(this is just my feeling on the matter not a statement of fact) I can crank the HD800 way up and not feel like I’m blowing my eardrums out. Then switch to the Clears and do almost the same thing, and the whole time everything is delivered silky smooth. Another side note I keep a Decibel reader on hand and ensure that I’m staying in the 75-85db range with spikes into the high 80s.


It’s a good job my keboard is waterproof! :drooling_face:

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I’m listening to effectively the same setup right now as @DarthPool.

RME ADI-2 DAC going into the SPL Phonitor XE.

This is an almost-surprisingly-pleasant experience.


It is rather nice, @Torq gave me a good pointer, in that you can turn auto-reference on and turn the volume to 0db and it goes from mild mannered setup to powerhouse, still the same sound it just gives you a lot of volume to play with! At least in my experience :grin:

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This is the best string bite I’ve heard from a solid state amplifier. That tends to be a big killer for me; either it’s too subdued, or it’s artificially enhanced.

Violins and cellos sound great.

Future reference for my comments:

Optimized PC -> Sonnet Allegro Pro USB card -> RME ADI-2 DAC -> SPL Phonitor XE -> Sennheiser HD650 w/ PRT and a few mods

Cables are customs that I made, but not with anything particularly exotic.

Power is cleaned up by an Emotiva CMX-6 for all of my audio devices and PC.

I have other headphones and DACs I’ll check it with for review purposes, but that’ll be almost all of my listening right there.


Day 2

This is an outstandingly clean amplifier. Excellent blackground, tremendously capable with large power swings, and exceedingly neutral.

It’s not explicitly dry or lifeless like some amps described like the above tend to be.

The biggest drawback I’ve heard so far is with plucked strings. While bowed strings sound outstanding with a visceral bite to them, plucked strings seem to lack a certain sparkle and shimmer I expect from them. Perhaps the decay is faster than I’d expect? It’s hard to pinpoint at the moment, but I prefer the sound of acoustic guitar (one of my most frequent listens) from the Garage1217 Project Sunrise III, for example.


I’ll have to check this out when I get home (throw on some Rodrigo y Gabriela) I’ll use MacMini (2018) -> RME ADI-2DAC -> Phonitor XE -> Focal Clear / HD800 / Audeze LCD-X
then same chain but switch to Cayin HA-1A MKII for tubey gooey wooey yeah! lol