Phonitor x @ HiFi-IFAs

Not long ago, the HiFi-IFAs tested our DA converter & preamp SPL Director Mk 2 and were completely enthusiastic about it. This is why Falk Visarius decided to grab an SPL Phonitor x with optional DAC 768xs D/A converter module and put it through the acid test:

“Those who follow our blog closely probably know that in October 2019 we already tested the preamp with D/A converter Director Mk 2 by SPL. It shares this beautifully professional and elegant VU meter look of the front panel and the slim, compact housing design with the Phonitor x. The Director Mk 2 absolutely convinced with the Manger S1 active speakers, which motivated us to do this test of the Phonitor x.”

Technology:

“The Phonitor x is equipped with SPL’s proprietary 120V VOLTAiR technology. The audio signals are processed with +/-60 V DC, twice the operating voltage of the best discrete operational amplifiers and four times that of IC-based semiconductor operational amplifiers. The VOLTAiR technology thus improves the dynamic range, signal-to-noise ratio and headroom.”

“An optional DAC768xs D/A converter module with AK4490 converter chip from AKM is available for the Phonitor x. For an extra charge of 400 euros, music enthusiasts can metaphorically buy a ticket for digital signals via switchable USB, coaxial and optical inputs. The converter supports PCM sample rates up to 768kHz at a word length of 32 bit and Direct Stream Digital up to DSD4 or DSD256. The DAC768xs replaces the DAC192 and is the smaller brother of the DAC768. In combination with the analog inputs music enthusiasts are well prepared for almost all eventualities.”

“With the switchable Phonitor Matrix, SPL takes an important effect into account using headphones. When listening with speakers, both ears perceive both channels. Of course with different latencies and intensities. With this information the brain composes a spatial image of the sound. This effect does not occur with headphones because the channels are clearly assigned to the ears.”

In practice:

“One thing in advance after a few hours of listening: the SPL Phonitor x plays on the highest level. Higher than I am used to in my daily life. That means all four headphones make a noticeable leap forward when I plug them into the SPL. I guess the magic word there is: control. The Phonitor x does not put the headphones on a short leash, but lets them run their course. Leaving no doubt about who is setting the direction here. A feature that gives me great pleasure with this device.”

“As already experienced with the Director Mk2, the Phonitor x also knows how to process the exceptional sound quality presented at the input appropriately and pass it on to the listener. This can be done via the analog outputs as preamplifier or the headphone jack. Awesome. The headphones build a beautiful room around my head. The bass sound is full, the sound of the guitar picking is extremely fine.”

“A strength of Phonitor x is that it does not take itself so seriously. The music is highlighted in a unagitated manner. A characteristic that SPL probably owns and was already pleasantly noticeable with the Director Mk 2. The D/A converter module also shows these characteristics.”

“The character of the SPL Phonitor x is also maintained at the XLR outputs. This device is a music maker, it doesn’t show off.”

Conclusion:

“The SPL Phonitor x with DAC768xs is the ideal three-in-one control center for a slim hifi system concept. The versatile music listener receives a first-class headphone amplifier with adjustment options using the Matrix circuitry, a practical preamplifier with analog inputs and a D/A converter module. This hardly leaves anything to be desired. The Phonitor x delivers an accurate signal, keeps control of the sound and gets the best out of your other devices.”

You can find the complete review (in German) online at HiFi-IFAs.