When we brought out the first Phonitor - the first ever headphone amp with 120 Volt technology - back in 2008, the professional audio world seemed to have been eagerly awaiting it. The success of this unique headphone preamp was overwhelming. In hindsight, we also had to wonder how none of us had come to the idea of combining basic monitoring options, speaker simulation capabilities and a headphone preamp. Ever since we call this new species a Headphone Monitoring Amp," which inspired the product name itself: Phonitor.
Interestingly enough, the Phonitor not only became best friends with thousand of professional users, it also won a lot of fans in the Hi-Fi market segment.
120V Rail Technology
But that was by no means a coincidence - ultimately, the Phonitor can be counted among the best headphone preamps in the world thanks to our unique 120V Rail technology. With its exceptional technical specifications and a huge power margin, it can reproduce any musical material without the slightest modification, since signal processing is not limited and, thus, signals are not altered at all. Music sounds more natural and hearing fatigue is drastically reduced. Given all that, it was easy to understand the enthusiasm with which musicians, sound engineers and music lovers received the Phonitor worldwide.
Many Phonitor users told us they wished they could also use the unmatched signal quality that the Phonitor provides to feed their speakers. And so began to take form the idea of making its successor a full-fledged stereo preamp that could become the heart of modern professional and home systems alike where headphones have a preeminent importance. Moreover, we have achieved enormous advances with our 120V Rail Technolgy, making the technical specifications of the Phonitor 2 a new standard in all respects: 141dB dynamic range, 107dB signal-to-noise ratio, -112/-114 dB THD (headphone/speaker output with +30dBu output level). Mind you, the THD measurements define the limits of the measuring equipment but not those of the Phonitor 2.
Other improvements concern specially the operation of virtually all headphone types and impedances: the Phonitor 2 works seamlessly with low-impedance headphones with load impedances as low as 10 Ohm (40 Ohm with balanced headphones).
As always, the Phonitor 2 remains first and foremost a headphone preamp, which is easy to identify given the elaborate loudspeaker simulation for headphones. Considering that the 120 volt amp provides everything needed to pre-amplify, manage and control the volume of line level signals, the latter are now also available at the output on the rear panel.
Besides headphones, it is now possible to connect active loudspeakers and power amps directly at the output. If there is the need for more than one stereo speaker set, it is recommended to use a passive distribution module. It is important to know that all controls can be used for both outputs with headphones and loudspeakers. Obviously, loudspeaker simulation makes no sense when using real loudspeakers. However, owners of electrostatic headphones could connect their headphones to the output and use the simulation feature as well. Likewise, all monitoring options (phase reverse, solo, mono, mute) can be selected for both outputs, so that the Phonitor 2 can be used as Monitor Controller for up to three different sources.
The volume can be controlled remotely. Naturally, the audio signal is controlled via a high-quality motor potentiometer in that case. In comparison, electronic adjusting with or without AD/DA converter - very common these days - would have a significant influence on the signal quality.
To control it you can use any IR remote control: the remote must not learn the Phonitor 2, but rather the Phonitor 2 learns to understand your remote's signal.
Home users can enjoy a central control unit for modern music playback of stereo signals that supports all known formats - and that with an unheard-of price/performance ratio. As such, the Phonitor 2 does justice to its central position. It is comforting to know that there is no need to fear a sound bottleneck limiting your system in such a critical spot in the chain.
The Phonitor 2 matches perfectly modern playback concepts: minimalist chains with active speakers and almost any pair of headphones can be centrally fed via three different paths, thanks to an integrated high-quality amplifying and signal-managing concept.
Besides being a reference-quality Monitor Controller, the Phonitor 2, together with a carefully matched pair of headphones, offers professional users an excellent monitoring alternative to their main speakers. The audio quality and features of the Phonitor 2 provide the best conditions to work effectively without hearing fatigue.
Phonitoring: With And Without Magnifiers
Already for the headphone monitoring - or phonitoring - part alone, the Phonitor 2 encompasses advantages of both kinds of traditional monitoring methods: On one hand the analytical headphone monitoring is like working with an acoustic magnifier but without external room influences; on the other hand, loudspeaker simulation allows for monitoring which forgoes the microscopic effect, but provides for room ambiance.
Working with the magnifier effect of headphones has the advantage of safely hearing clicks or similar defects and helps in fine tuning crossfades or to judge tonal problems in individual tracks. On loudspeakers such analyses are much more difficult, as such problems just are not as apparent when one is working without being able to "zoom in" aurally. Conversely, loudspeakers provide monitoring with the advantage of spatial balance in a (definable through placement) stereo width, which in turn provides the illusion of an acoustic stage.
Traditional headphone reproduction produces one 180-degree stereo width in the middle of the head, and it is exactly this which creates the very problematic-to-impossible headphone mixing environment. An essential reason for such unnatural ambiance is the complete separation of the channels, which does not exist either in natural hearing or in stereo loudspeaker reproduction. This makes it nearly impossible to judge tonal balance, a stereo image and the phantom center level. Panorama adjustments as well as related EQ settings that one attempts with headphones, typically just do not function on loudspeakers.
Moreover, what is often called the "super stereo effect" with headphones usually creates a great deal of ear fatigue in the long run. Over loudspeakers the sound stage is felt in front, while in contrast, when monitoring through headphones, the stage is present on the left and on the right - but frontal and rear information is lost.
The End Of Ear Fatigue
Aside from these unnatural headphone ambiance there are further disadvantages with fatigue when mixing or listening with headphones. First, some cans themselves may not be that comfortable to wear ...
Moreover, a standard headphone amplifier is often an additional important reason for premature ear fatigue. Almost without exception, present-day headphone amplifiers employ comparatively undemanding IC's. In the best cases they might work with symmetrical voltages of +/-15V to +/-18V, and in less favorable cases, with only a simple supply of 9 or 12V from cheaper external "wall-wart" power supplies.
But the voltage level acts in circuitry much like the cubic inch capacity to the productive power of a combustion engine: Cubic inch capacity is replaceable with nothing but more cubic inch capacity - and in the productive power of electronics, voltage level functions similarly.
For some years, now, SPL has addressed this issue in all of its mastering product series through its own specifically developed 120 volt technology. Consoles and signal processors of the SPL Mastering Series appear as central elements in installations of today's most renowned mastering houses (for example Bob Ludwig's Gateway Mastering & DVD in the USA, Simon Heyworth's Super Audio Mastering in Great Britain, the Galaxy Studios in Belgium and the legendary Wisseloord in the Netherlands). This 120 volt technology is based on discrete operation amplifiers from SPL's own production, developed and perfected over many years by SPL's co-founder and chief developer, Wolfgang Neumann. These OPs work with high-performance semiconductors in Class A technology at a symmetrical voltage of +/-60V.
The Phonitor 2 is the first unit to employ the 2nd generation of our 120V OPs with improved specifications once again. They have Signal To Noise Ratio of 116dB and offer a nearly 34dB headroom - that yields an unequalled 150dB dynamic range.
The musical result is not to be mistaken: Regardless of the monitoring means, regardless of how loud you monitor - the Phonitor 2 always remains a distant, impartial factor unaffected when used to capacity and beyond being overloaded. The phase stability is always perfect, its THD next to immeasurable.
The Phonitor 2's OPs cannot be stressed in the most stressful circumstances, and for precisely this reason its musical sound is always relaxed and spacious. All frequencies are reproduced in balance, basses are stable and tight, mids are clear and differentiated and highs remain transparent and soft. Particularly striking is the fact that you can easily listen to every detail. Hearing fatigue makes it usually harder to carefully listen to and understand complex signals over a long period of time. The Phonitor 2 reverses this situation turning it into a pleasant listening experience that leaves you longing for more.
- Stereo preamplification and headphone amplification for three sources
- High-quality music playback at home
- Central monitoring unit in professional environments with all classic features like phase reverse, solo, mono
- Re-Amping (for example, level boost after analog master processing)
- Headphone amplifier for all headphone systems and impedances
- Loudspeaker simulation with headphones
- Monitoring alternative in studios and mobile units
- Adjustment of headphone playback to match familiar monitor speakers
- Mobile reproduction of usual monitoring conditions
- 120V Rail headphone amplifier, preamplifier and monitor controller
- For all headphones with impedances >10Ohms (>40Ohms for balanced headphones)*
- Innovative Phonitor Matrix: speaker-equivalent listening on headphones
- Laterality control: super-fine balance control
- Solo L/R, Polarity ø L/R, Mono/Stereo
- Volume remotely adjustable (learns any IR remote control)
- Maximum output power: 2 x 2W (1kHz/300Ohm)
- Frequency response: 4Hz - 480kHz (-3dB)
- THD+N: 0.00091% (HP), 0.00085% (Line)
- Dynamic range: 133.62dB (HP), 134.37dB (Line)
- Made in Germany
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