SPL Phonitor X DAC/AMP - Official Thread


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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There’d be no problem with that, as only one of them would actually be being driven at a time anyway. So, no, it wouldn’t damage anything.


I took the plunge and bought the PX. Shout out to @taronlissimore for the great deal and for having it shipped immediately with FedEx overnight with no extra charges…you guys set the bar real high to a point where I can’t see myself buying gear from anybody else.

Back to the PX, boy this thing is indeed a wire with gain, it feels like there’s no amp at all, just the music. This amp was bought for my brother but I liked it so much that I kept it and will be getting another one for him. I sold the THX and don’t miss it at all. Thanks for the review and for the recommendation @Torq


It’s been a few weeks now with the Phonitor XE. My honeymoon period doesn’t last this long with gear, so what I think now will stick. The short version is: I love this amp.

It has excellent synergy with the RME ADI-2 DAC as an overall reference setup, and it drives the Sennheiser HD650s beautifully. A few years ago, I would have turned my nose up at myself for this comment. “A DS DAC and a pro headphone amp? Go R2R or go home, and get yourself a nice tube amp you chump!”

To be honest, I’ve been using the Phonitor XE with my IEMs even more than the Sennheisers. They’re driven very well from the RME alone, but things just seem to get even better out of the SPL. I have my Future Sonics MG5HX plugged into the back and the HD650s plugged into the front, and I just flip the switch when I change headphones.

I probably marginally prefer the Cavalli Liquid Platinum with the HD650s over the Phonitor XE. It’s a close call, but both amps work exceptionally well with them.

I also like that there aren’t tubes in this thing. I am prone to tube nervosa, and I get really annoyed any time I hear a tube pick up a stray buzz from my phone or Wi-Fi or something.

The Phonitor XE is amazingly transparent without inducing fatigue. I’d love to get one of these into the hands of atomicbob if he ever has the time to measure it. I don’t know why I’m not getting fatigued. Straight USB into a delta sigma DAC going balanced into a solid state amp? That should be a recipe for disaster for me (I’m especially prone to fatigue). But, I can listen for hours. Is it a lack of distortion? Beats me. It would be nice to know, but I’m just happy this synergy exists.

If you can’t tell, the only thing separating me from where I am now and being an owner is actually pulling the trigger. I have a review unit right now that is silver, and I’m going to pick up a black unit. They haven’t made me send this back just yet (I think I got it for up to 2 months to review), so I’ve just been using this one until I finally go for it.

I was on the fence between the Phonitor X, XE, 2, and E. Given how much I’ve actually used the front/back swapping functionality as well as the on-panel VU meter attenuator, I’ll almost definitely be getting the XE.


I agree with everything you said here! I love my Phonitor XE! It doesn’t fatigue and is just a damn good amp. The swapping from front to back is a great option for us headphone addicts also, especially for a/b testing. Plus it looks damn good!! Lol


It would be interesting to know if there is a difference in how the 2 sounds compared to the X,XE,E, given that the 2 predates those models. The reason being that if one finds the matrix/crossfeed controls useful, it appears that on the 2 they are more versatile as there is a center function/knob to control the intensity of the center image, something I wish I could do using the X. But there is only one headphone out (SE) and studio functions that most people would never use, such as phase inversion and a L/R Solo switch. The other function the 2 has that other models don’t, is that when using it as a preamp, by changing the dip switches you can use the matrix/crossfeed function while playing through speakers, although how useful that is I don’t know, considering that the purpose of a crossfeed function is to approximate a speaker experience while using headphones.

Other than nitpicks about certain functions or lack of, such as having to use dip switches on the X to change VU sensitivity, whereas on the XE and 2 there is a switch on the front panel (although, being able to attenuate the input signal instead would have been more useful); or not being able to choose whether the RCA inputs are amplified to a studio/balanced (XLR) level like you can on the XE and 2, I have no regrets whatsoever about purchasing the Phonitor X, like I have had with the many amps I have sold. This is the best headphone amp I have owned and listened to (although I have never had the chance to listen to a high end tube amp, so I thought I should qualify that statement). I only chose the X over the XE because I thought I might get more dollar value out of it with the preamp function (considering how expensive these amps are) but if I did not think I would ever use the preamp I would have definitely chosen the XE, not only because of the lower price but because of the greater utility of the functions I mentioned above. That said, if the 2 sounds just like the X and XE I might have chosen that just for the better crossfeed controls even though there is only one headphone out.


Just to throw a minor wrench if anyone else is making a decision in part based on this thread, you can run balanced headphones out of the Phonitor 2. That’s actually why you can use the Matrix functionality from the rear outputs. You can use the 2x 3 pin XLR outs on the back for balanced headphones.


Interesting! Thanks for pointing that out.

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Apparently I have been comparing headphones too hard…as my B has turned into a small D…lol :rofl:

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I have a couple of legends wearing off on mine, too.

I’ll get a new panel under warranty (and maybe lacquer it immediately) if I ever decide to sell it, or they come out with a better model, or enough wears off that I can’t see what I’m selecting


I was thinking about ordering some vinyl stickers that match the aesthetic and just throw them up…I have a feeling by the time I decide to move this along that this would be the least of my worries when selling it lol… Or I would end up discount selling to a friend. =)


I’ve been into nearfield monitors lately (in part for a tangential hobby). I’ve been using either the RME ADI-2 DAC or an audio interface to them, but I am curious if the Phonitor X would be a better choice than the XE ultimately for the extra preamp functionality. Another wrinkle is the incoming addition of an ECP Audio L-2, which is yet another headphone-only amplifier.