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.