Disclaimer: Phatlab Audio suppled Phantasy for the purposes of the headfonia review, which is now ingloriously late. It goes for roughly 1600$ USD. You can find out all about it here: Phatlab Phantasy SET amp.
Subject: Phatlab Audio Phantasy (~1700$ USD)
Attendant review: PHATLAB AUDIO PHANTASY – UNIQUELY PHANTASTIC
Attendant RMAA report:
All its ducks in a row, Phantasy’s limber, light, and open sound is spot on for a large swath of high-impedance headphones. It is my favourite-sounding among battery-powered SET amps. It also happens to be the best designed battery-powered amp I’ve ever used.
The reasons are below.
Micro USB charging
Whether you’re travelling, or simply have limited mains real estate, any old USB port will charge Phantasy. Use any lappy to re-juice it. If you’re not keen on dragging your computer around to charge it, any old USB smartphone adapter will work. Apple’s modular-plug 12W adaptable brick is my favourite.
The brilliance of Phantasy’s USB charging doesn’t stop there: the port is sunk into a thick, reinforced wall of carefully chamfered aluminium. There is plenty of room around it for both fat and thin USB plugs. A red LED glows whilst charging. When done, it goes dark. Easy sussings.
Before I go off on Phantasy’s knob, let me fetish off a little about its nubby rubber feet. These round things plunk down on crosshatched heals, which are wedged into precise countersunk wells. They clear about 2mm of space between Phantasy and your desk. Phantasy is an easy between-rooms hauler. As long as what you’re setting it on is perfectly flat, Phantasy will sit perfectly solid.
It’s a rock-solid design that doesn’t rock.
Input/output spacing and port apertures
6,3mm outputs should be standard on large-footprint transportable headphone amps. Phantasy isolates both in and out ports in thin plastic sleeves, and distributes them in wide-berth wells-wide enough that you can fasten as fat plugs into both port as commercially exist. The two are wide enough apart that no matter how fat they are, they’ll never knock against each other.
Because they sit wide enough apart, nudging the Z-setting button is easy. And the Z-setting button? It travels smoothly to its default position and returns positive feedback to the finger tip.
While I believe that amps tipping the scales at over 1.000$ USD should have at least one set of engraved markings or logos, Phantasy gets off the hook for a simple reason: all markings are clearly labelled in legible fonts. That, and that paint job is spectacular: it lies thin enough not to clog the brushed fascia, but in opaque hues that are legible in low light and bright day.
Phantasy’s top plate is fastened by quality, strip-resistant bolts. And, it sits in its own shallow well, above which its finely chamfered edge rises by about 0,5mm. The only other external components are the z-setting button, and the volume knob. After removing the top plate, the LED lamps are fiddly to get lined up again. They’re flat-headed, and kind of hard to align again, which indicates that Phantasy’s more of a shut, than and open-and-shut amp.
Nevertheless, the chassis, fastening hardware, and moulding done to ensure such good fit, are incredible. Truly incredible.
Which leads me to Phantasy’s knob. It is brilliant. If you want you can use two fingers to adjust it. But it rotates so smoothly and stably along a fine central axis, that all you need to do is brush it left or right to click it on or off. Adjusting the volume is even easier. Despite being so silky, it is anchored to an incredibly strong fulcrum joint that prevents the volume pot from grinding against their niches.
Phantasy is the most nice to use headphone amp I’ve reviewed. Not only does it sound great with high-ohm headphones, it checks almost every ergonomic and haptic box I expect from the best-designed audio devices on the market.
Phatlab Audio are a new name to the market, but they know what they’re doing. I have no problem suggesting that their industrial and human-design team know more than anyone occupying the same market niche, at any price.
Click on images below for expanded view.