SPL Phonitor X vs. Benchmark HPA4

ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,473
edited May 2019 in Headphones
I've been looking at and researching two big boy headphone amps (plus built in preamps) and wondering which one is "best".

SPL Phonitor X - $2,500 (without DAC)

9669413.jpg

Phonitor_x_back_wDA.png

Which of course I would get in red, naturally.

vs.

Benchmark HPA4 - $3,000

Benchmark%2BHPA4%2BBLACK%2B.jpg

HPA4_Silver_L180_2000x_a41baf62-4955-4115-b4e2-7fa77f2b7674_2048x.jpg?v=1552786875


They both have a similar feature set, so I'm not sure if there is one clear "winner". It's possible the only way to know for sure which is "best" is to listen to both of them back to back.

Anyone have experience with either of these pieces?
"Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."

Comments

  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,473
    Guts!

    Phonitor X:

    maxresdefault.jpg

    Bild02.jpg


    HPA4:

    HPA4_INSIDE_2_cropped50_grande.jpg?v=1539116168

    1118benchmark.ins.jpg
    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • joecoulsonjoecoulson Posts: 4,001
    Both look the part for sure.
    Auralic Vega G1/Rega TT/Denon SACD - Parasound P6 - PS Audio M700x2 - Elac Adante AF-61 - AQ Niagara 5000 - SVS SB16u
  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,473
    I agree!

    And they both have a perfect feature for my specific use case, the ability to have a fixed or variable preamp output!

    The SPL has the interesting crossfeed feature and VU meters going for it. The Benchmark has a superior relay stepped volume control, a touchscreen and great specs. It's also $500 more expensive though.

    I'm leaning toward the SPL, even though it's slightly too large for where I want to put it.
    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 12,508
    edited May 2019
    Clipdat wrote: »
    And they both have a perfect feature for my specific use case, the ability to have a fixed or variable preamp output!

    Why not get a preamp with headphone output? I have a pre that I used for headphones at work, and it was great.
    Bud - Silicon Valley

    Lumin X1
    Sony XA-5400ES SACD
    Pass XP-22 pre, X600.5 amps
    Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers, SPOD spikes

    Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on preamp, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
    Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
    Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
    Three 20 amp circuits.
  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,473
    Typically products like these that are "headphone amps first", will have much higher headphone performance versus regular preamps that happen to have a headphone output.
    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 12,508
    Okay. Thanks. I can respect the desire for the best sound, but, to me, it seems like overkill.
    Bud - Silicon Valley

    Lumin X1
    Sony XA-5400ES SACD
    Pass XP-22 pre, X600.5 amps
    Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers, SPOD spikes

    Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on preamp, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
    Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
    Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
    Three 20 amp circuits.
  • joecoulsonjoecoulson Posts: 4,001
    I would think any one of us have overkill in our setups, all depending on perspective.
    I like the look of the SPL better. But gotta love the touch screen :#
    Auralic Vega G1/Rega TT/Denon SACD - Parasound P6 - PS Audio M700x2 - Elac Adante AF-61 - AQ Niagara 5000 - SVS SB16u
  • IrrenhausIrrenhaus Posts: 883
    HT
    AVR-Pioneer SC99
    Adcom 585
    RTi12s
    Rear- RT150
    Center-CSi5
    Sub-Rythmik audio F25
    Player- Oppo BDP-103


    Living room 2ch rig:
    Peach Tree Decco, Onkyo CS-5VL SACD and Linn Kelidh

    Bedroom 2ch rig.
    Cary AE-3, Parasound 2125, Marantz SA8005, Usher V-601 or SDA 1C, SVS SB12-NSD, Intel NUC PC and Panamax MX5105

    Headphone rig;
    Little DOT MK II with upgraded tube's and Sennheisers HD650.
  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,473
    BlueFox wrote: »
    Okay. Thanks. I can respect the desire for the best sound, but, to me, it seems like overkill.

    Heh, "overkill". That's funny coming from someone with 600 watt Pass Labs monoblocks. :)
    Irrenhaus wrote: »
    One for sale. No affiliation.

    Saw that. Also listed on USAM for $2,400.
    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • kharp1kharp1 Posts: 3,463
    Clipdat wrote: »
    BlueFox wrote: »
    Okay. Thanks. I can respect the desire for the best sound, but, to me, it seems like overkill.

    Heh, "overkill". That's funny coming from someone with 600 watt Pass Labs monoblocks. :)

    I don't know, sounds about right to me.
  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,473
    I ended up ordering the Phonitor X in red.
    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • steveinazsteveinaz Posts: 19,104
    Buds got cables that cost more than my system.
    Source: Bluesound Node 2i - Preamp/DAC: Benchmark DAC2 DX - Amplifier: Parasound Halo A21 - Speakers: PSB Imagine T2
  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,473
    Update: I still haven't unboxed the Phonitor X.

    I have issues. Deep and troubling issues that may never fully be addressed.
    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • voltzvoltz Posts: 5,320
    Clipdat wrote: »
    Typically products like these that are "headphone amps first", will have much higher headphone performance versus regular preamps that happen to have a headphone output.

    I totally agree...my Woo WA3 is special as is my Bottle head crack I built myself....or as Arron can contest, as he has built many of these headphone amps... I still think their awesome seriously special head phone amp's out theirs that when use with the right amp can sound so special..like many sennhiesher cans are 300 ohms and need a different head phone amp then many of the 32 ohms cans do!

    you must match the correct amplifier to the cans you are using or your results will suffer big time!
    2 ch- Polk CRS+ * Vincent SA-31MK Preamp * Vincent Sp-331 Amp * Marantz SA8005 SACD * Project Xperience Classic TT * Sumiko Blue Point #2 MC cartridge

    HT - Polk 703's * NAD T-758 * Adcom 5503 * Oppo 103 * Samsung 60" series 8 LCD
  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,473
    Nice to see you around these parts, Darryl! Speaking of Woo Audio, I tried this amp from them recently and was impressed: https://wooaudio.com/amplifiers/wa11

    Anyway, I'll get the Phonitor X unboxed one of these days. Before the end of the year with any luck!
    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,473
    edited December 2019
    Clipdat wrote: »
    Before the end of the year with any luck!

    Made it, just barely!

    tzx5vdp2yxy0.jpg

    xaobsfdz3pnj.jpg

    Just trying it in "pass through" mode right now, where it's taking the output from my DAC and passing it through un-attenuated to it's the RCA output along to my powered speakers. This was one of my requirements, so I can effortlessly go between headphone and speaker listening.

    Previously I had the output of the DAC connected directly to my powered speaker's preamp/control module. Definitely noticing a difference in sound having it running through the SPL. So far right out of the box with zero hours on it, it sounds like maybe the imaging/space is better but it sounds clinical and sterile. Hopefully that improves with the break-in of whatever circuitry that controls the signal pass through functionality.
    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,473
    Interesting, based on my research and reading of the instruction manual, I thought that the "pass through" function was still dependent on having the front panel switch in the "speaker" position.

    But now that I'm testing it, I realize that the output is on constantly and independent of the switch's position. So even when it's on mute, it's passing the signal through.

    Not entirely what I had in mind, but not a "huge" deal, since I can just turn the volume on the powered speaker's controller down all the way. But I will have to decide if this is something I want to live with or look for another headphone amp that will do exactly what I'm looking for.
    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,473
    edited January 5
    This amp sounds so good when driving headphones that I'm willing to overlook the slight inconvenience about the "pass through" being always active regardless of the position of the switch on the front panel.

    I've only tried my inexpensive ($120) Koss Pro4S headphones so far, but the biggest standout is the bass and the dynamics. The bass is rich and bold, but still fast and agile. The dynamics are effortless and as a result it conveys a great sense of rhythm.

    Also worth noting is that the background is completely black. No hiss, hum, etc. This thing is clean!

    Truth be told, I haven't really been a huge fan of these headphones ever since I bought them, but they sound better than they ever have when running off this amp. Just goes to show how you can really maximize the performance of inexpensive headphones (or speakers) by hooking them up to a really nice amplifier.
    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • joecoulsonjoecoulson Posts: 4,001
    Nice. I would like to get into a good cans setup but don’t need another rabbit hole right now.
    Auralic Vega G1/Rega TT/Denon SACD - Parasound P6 - PS Audio M700x2 - Elac Adante AF-61 - AQ Niagara 5000 - SVS SB16u
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