PHAT is an acronym from the initials of Portability, Headphone, class-A, and Tube. It represents our idealism catering to what audiophiles demand for music enjoyment in the era of mobility.

Headphone has been around for more than half century. There have been lots of breakthrough and milestones in headphone technology recently, followed by release of flagship models from mainstream brand names with unprecedented audio quality. needless to say models from audiophile oriented small to medium brands.

By leveraging the high performance headphones, Phatlab is determined to duplicate the experience of hi-end stereo performance in headphones and beyond through proprietary headphone amp technology.

  • Chimera & Chimera (D)igital

    Tube/Jfet dual mode headphone amplifier with integrated Hi-Res USB DAC

  • Phantom

    Pure Class-A Full-Balanced Tube Headphone Amplifier.

  • PHAntasy II

    Pure Class-A Single-Ended Triode Portable Headphone Amplifier

  • PHANTASY

    Pure Class-A Single-ended Triode Portable Headphone Amplifier

  • SASSY GT (discontinued)

    Hybrid Single-ended Triode Portable Headphone Amplifier

  • Chimera & Chimera (D)igital

  • Phantom

  • PHAntasy II

  • PHANTASY

  • SASSY GT (discontinued)

A groundbreaking innovation-Triode/JFET dual mode amplifier

For the first time, a portable amplifier is equipped with both electron tube and solid-state JFET as major gain devices. Instead of remove and replace process, either device is activated through a simple toggle switch and into action immediately. It is achieved through an innovative circuit topology to embed both devices exactly in the same location of signal path. When switching between JFET and Tube, it is easy to tell the difference between the two. Tube brings a smoother and emotional touch in the music, while JFET is more pronounced and powerful in each note. It is all up to user’s taste and scenario to choose from. And Chimera is named after its dual (tube and JFET) characteristics in one chassis.

JFET as gain device

JFET is well known for its high resemblance to pentode electron tube both are voltage controlled gain device and with similar transfer curve. Though pentode is not as beloved as triode by audiophiles. It is actually a more linear device that introduces less distortion in amplification. 

Figure 2 PENTODE

JFET mode may not sounds as sensational as tube mode in the beginning. It still presents a warm and smooth sound in a more straightforward characteristics, which may be more appropriate in certain music genre. Audiophiles are encouraged to try JFET more often to dig out its potential for diversified music selections.

High quality and well selected components

All passive components are selected for best audio quality. The extensive application of MELF resistors from Vishay in signal path is high power SMT counterpart of through-hole resistor for their smooth and low noise characteristics. The main power supply filtering capacity is directly inherited from Sassy GT for proven performance. The tube’s filament supply is bypassed with OSCON™ cap for extensive frequency response comparable to film cap while has electrolytic capacity. The output stage is supported by multiple organic polymer capacitors right next to supply pins. This technique reinforces the stability of power under stressful music passage at output stage. The result is uncompromised sound image and frequency response at both ends all the time.

The rigid chassis is made of solid aluminum and crafted to extreme precision with CNC machinery. Only high quality material and stainless screws are used in its assembly without compromise.

Integrated Hi-Res USB DAC

A high performance USB DAC is optional in Chimera for users’ convenience. Although there are plenty of high quality DAP and standalone DAC to choose from, users still expect to use PC or mobile as music source without compromise on quality of digital conversion from time to time. And Chimera D is the choice. ESS9028 is the core of DAC module and USB receiver is selected for widest compatibility and low power consumption. The USB DAC is plug and play with iOS™ and Android™ devices with no need of device driver. This combo delivers solid performance electrically with less than 0.0004% THD+N and surprising spacious sound. 

Quieter, Purer, Greener and yet more Powerful

The improvement of Chimera is far more than functional change. The new output structure and physical implementation delivers a much lower noise floor. All the switches are outside signal path to eliminate potential downgrade on signal quality and soft switching scheme is adopted to reduce switching noise. The power efficiency is also improved by 30% for much less consumption in amplifier alone. The power reservoir is enhanced to same level as Sassy GT for most demanding music passage. And a new output stage is capable of dealing with heaviest load. Yet the phenomenal sound quality is well preserved without compromise.

An amplifier redefines portability for both headphone and earphone

Everyone familiar with Phatlab shall easily tell the origin of Chimera from Sassy. Chimera does inherit all the advantages of Sassy GT and beyond. By adopting a new architecture, Chimera is capable of delivering 500 mA in each channel with output impedance less than 0.1 ohm and bandwidth beyond 100 kHz. Chimera can serve IEMs with complex drivers and crossover combination all the way up to planar headphones whopping over thousands of mW. Chimera is one of a kind amplifier enabling the mobility of all kinds of phones.

A milestone in portable amplifier

Even without increasing battery capacity, the Chimera has gain 1.5 times of operating hours over Sassy GT. We are proud to say Chimera has surpassed its predecessors in every aspect with comprehensive design and broadest compatibility.

Specification (Amplifier)

Frequency Response

10 Hz – 100 kHz

Output power (30 ohm)

300 mW + 300 mW (3.5φ)

1000 mW + 1000 mW (4.4φ)

Headphone impedance

30 ohm – 600 ohm

Gain Setting

Hi: 14dB (3.5φ), 20dB (4.4φ)

Lo: 6dB (3.5φ), 12dB (4.4φ)

Max. S/N Ratio

>110 dB

Power supply

5V/1A via micro USB port

Operation time (on battery)

> 10 hours (amp alone)

~ 5 hours (amp + DAC)

Charging time (>1A supply)

Approx. 3 hours

Dimensions

94 x 30.5 x 149 mm

Net weight

370 / 378 (D) g

Build a fully balanced tube amplifier from ground up

There is nothing like Phantom from design concept to practical implementation. Apart from our portable products, Phantom gains the benefit of unlimited power supply and spacious enclosure to include whatever ideally suited audio performance. The first idea came to our mind is a full-balanced topology. Not catering to market hype for balanced amplifier, but to leverage the advantage of balanced topology leading to ultimate sound quality. Instead of a balanced to single-ended conversion at input and a single-ended to balanced conversion at output, we apply a much tedious and costly four-amplifier scheme for a true balanced stereo amplifiers. The decision follows by many design challenges when we determined to make it as ideally as we planned.

A high precision 4-channel volume control

The first challenge is how to make a 4-channel volume control with minimum tolerance. In a single-ended counterpart, a two-channel volume potentiometer with 10% tolerance is widely accepted, even though we usually found imbalance at low volume level between channels. However, using a 4-gang potentiometer in a balanced design, the huge tolerance may easily deteriorate the advantage we gain from balanced topology. One simple fact is the common mode rejection is seriously degraded by as much as the tolerance between gangs.

We use R-2R resistor ladders as volume control unit for zero tolerance between channels. The signal path is true analog with digital interface, so there is no signal imbalance among them. And the user interface is thoughtfully maintained the analog touch. The volume control is almost zero tolerance, high resolution even at lowest volume level and intuitive as traditional potentiometer.

Solid Chassis and Suspended Tubes Module

We have gained many experiences from portable amplifiers and well aware of the vulnerability of directly-heated tube (DHT) to vibration. By leveraging the luxury of enclosure space. There are several directions to stabilize the chassis and isolate vibration from tubes. One is an extremely solid and heft enclosure, though an 10kg+ chassis may beyond anyone's expectation for a headphone amp. And second is independently suspended tube module. Through delicate mechanical design, the chassis is not just heavy but also as solid as machined from a single metallic brick. Every plate is machined from 10mm solid aluminum and faceplate is over 20mm. Four especially design pillars are used to support tube sub-assembly and dedicated springs are inserted to further dampen the minimal vibration. The chassis of Phantom is solid as a tank and gentle as a cradle.

The Heart of Phantom, 3Q4 (DL95) Directly Heated Tube

With all the dramatic progress, there is one thing we did not change. We adopted a directly heated tube – 3Q4 in Phantom. We are true believer in directly heated tube for their sensational audio performance of intimacy and lifelike sound stage more than none-filament type valves. Phantom with triode-connected 3Q4 immediately warms up into working condition, though it takes tens of minutes for optimum sound quality.

High Fidelity Output Transformers

We are proud to say the single-ended output has equivalent performance as balanced output by leveraging output transformers in Phantom. There are many praises about Phantasy's audio quality and most are originated from its premium output transformers. Without exception, Phantom is integrated with high quality output transformers. Thanks to the roomy enclosure, we have plenty space to house high power iron cores without compromise. The model used in Phantom is newly developed especially for its output stages and driven by two amplifiers in a push-pull style to minimize distortion and noise.

Simple and Elegant

Critical music signals and outputs are routed through mechanical relays for highest purity. The relays used in Phantom is especially selected latch-type that means relay's coil does not consume current after switching. Without the coil current, we avoid the electrical field next to signal path. Though a latch-type relay needs much more complex control circuits, it is our exhausted efforts to minimize interference.

Luxury Power Supply

Starting from portable devices, power supply is always a high priority on our design approach. Thanks to the desktop setting, we have plenty of luxury on power block. The power transformer is rated over 80VA and built with top-rated iron core. Running at pure class-A, Phantom is consuming most power after power on. The quality is assured by its slightly warm even after days of operation.

There are 6 regulated power rails specific for each function block ranging from input buffer, volume control, digital control, filament supply, and B+ high voltage.

Awesome ID and Mechanism

Phantom is another masterpiece designed by highly regarded ID and mechanical professionals. The enclosure ingeniously interlock through invisible tenons and notches is as solid as machined from a single brick to ensure best rigidity and precision. The marking is laser trimmed on. There is nothing shaky or loose. It is designed to last from ground up.

Overwhelming and Immersive

The listening experience is overwhelming and immersive. It is ultimately transparent with a warm touch. It drives headphone effortlessly and extends bandwidth well down to lowest octave and up to highest harmonics. The beloved music is presented with a familiar yet whole new face, they've rarely heard as natural or life-like as with Phantom.

Specifications

Frequency Response

5 Hz – 50 kHz (-3dB)

Output power

2000 mW + 2000 mW (30 ohm)

Headphone impedance

16 ohm – 600 ohm

Max. Input Voltage

2V(RMS)

Inputs

1 x RCA; 1 x XLR

Outputs

1 x 1/4" TRS; 1 x 4-PIN XLR

Power supply

AC 115/230

Dimensions

275 mm x 405 mm x 170 mm

New Features

.4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm SE outputs 

.Improved output transformers 

.Double capacity power reservoir 

.Super linear circuitry

A PHAntasy Evolves to New Level of Performance

We proudly introduce PHAntasy II, the evolutionary version of original PHAntasy that is renowned for its unprecedentedly sensational sound quality in a portable chassis. Its novel single-ended topology and unique permalloy output transformers are crown jewels inside. Through innovation of PHAntasy, we have created generations of products with individual characteristics and advanced in amplifier technology. PHAntasy II is a fruitful achievement after years of development to preserve all the beauty of PHAntasy while meeting the expectation of audiophile society and progress in audio technology. PHAntasy II delivers more robust power and low level resolution without losing the touching tonality of directly heated triode. PHAntasy II is another masterpiece binding the tradition of Phatlab Audio to provide rich harmonics and full-bodied sound. Its achievement is easily manifested from the first note of music playback.

4.4mm balanced phone jack

For tens of years, the specification of phone jack is steady, though there are proprietary terminals used by some manufacturers for balanced output. There is never a de-facto and reliable standard well accepted by the industry. Until the 4.4mm jack is released, we see a promising physical implementation that is reliable enough and well accepted as next generation phone jack. By applying the new balanced jack, PHAntasy can serve headphones with quality cable and minimum contact resistance to ensure robust output quality. In addition to 4.4mm balanced jack, a legacy 3.5mm single-ended output is provided for best convenience. While user is advised to use only one of the outputs at a time, it is to ensure the proper loading impedance in single-ended topology.

Improved Nickel core output transformers

It is well known that output transformer is the spirit of single-ended amplifier. However, there are challenges to design transformers for small portable chassis. For example, the high wiring resistance is one of biggest challenges. The resistance is in series with headphone and consumes output power. It lowers the effective power into headphone. In PHAntasy II, we struggle to increase the wire gauge and reduce over 20% in-series resistance.

Super linear circuitry

The sensational performance of vacuum tube might be rooted in its higher 2nd harmonics output, while excessive mix-up of harmonics from different stages will muddy the sound. By leveraging the development of Phantom, we are aware of the lower distortion from surrounding circuitry will faithfully preserve the resolution and liveliness of music without losing the magic of tube sound. By applying the same super linear topology, the performance of PHAntasy II is manifested in its purer music presentation.

Double the capacity of power reservoir

We are not talking about the battery capacity because 8-hour operation time is satisfactory to most users. It is the immediate capacitance right before amplifier's high rail. It is critical to have plenty of power capacity for a class-A amplifier. In PHAntasy II, we rearrange the components placement to increase the board space for housing more capacitance and revisit physical PCB layout to further minimize impedance and increase effective capacitance.

Summary

There is always a question on how to compare PHAntasy II with original one in every aspect. The truth is we have done our best to improve PHAntasy II's performance physically. But audio playback is always more than engineering or physical superiority, it takes human touch and sense to be sensational. The faster transient response and more powerful punch in PHAntasy II might compromise a little bit in tenderness. PHAntasy II is nonetheless inherits the tradition of Phatlab Audio. It is easily manifested itself in the first tone in audition.

Specifications

Frequency Response

30 Hz – 40 kHz (-3dB)
10 Hz – 60 kHz (-6dB)

Output power

250 mW + 250 mW (300 ohm)
220 mW + 220 mW (75 ohm)

Headphone impedance

30 ohm – 600 ohm
60 ohm – 600 ohm (recommended)

Power supply

5V/1A via micro B USB port

Operation time (on battery)

Approx. 8 hours (2 x 1400mAh)

Charging time (>1A supply)

Approx. 4 hours

Dimensions

165 mm x 95 mm x 35 mm

Net weight

745 gram

   

Build a Portable SET (Single-Ended Triode) Amp Like Never Before!

PHAntasy is the first member of our Portable Headphone Amplifier (PHA) series. When we kicked off the development of PHAntasy, we determined to achieve two major goals; One is to preserve the true spirit and performance of SET amplifier, pure class-A, transformer coupled output and most important of all, sensational music presentation as we ever experienced on best SET amplifier, and the other is true portability with rechargeable battery via 5V USB port. We examined every detail of SET topology and audition every possible valve candidate and come up with JAN6286, a military grade directly heated triode (DHT). We examined the topology and each element of the amplifier – JAN6286 tubes, boost converter, filament supply, Battery configuration, and Passive Components - to find the best sounding components and combination. As we put them all together we ended up with The PHAntasy, a true fantasy to audiophiles.

The Heart of PHAntasy, JAN6286 Directly Heated Triode (DHT)

At the center of PHAntasy are a pair of JAN6286 valves, each one is soldered on the board and responsible for major amplification of each channel. They are well damped on the PCB and the whole enclosure provides solid chassis to isolate them from external vibration that causes microphonics.

A triode is unique as gain device that tends to generate more even harmonics than odd ones if any. The result is music sounds airy, smooth, and natural than other type of devices. JAN6286, a directly heated triode, instantly enters working condition after power on and provides intimacy and lifelike sound stage more than none filament type triode.

There is only current buffer between JAN6286 and output transformer. The buffer is highly linear and extremely low distortion that adds nothing but driving current. All circuitry are running in pure Class-A mode. JAN6286 designed for military purpose and driven by smart filament bias inherently has ultimately extensive lifespan. There is no obvious degradation of tube performance for 10 years of usage.

Supreme Iron Core

PHAntasy is a masterpiece loyal to the original spirit of SET amplifier. Its output transformer is the last mile in delivering music energy to headphone. The bandwidth, dynamics, distortion, and maximum output power are limited by this iron core. No matter how well active circuitry performs, a worse transformer will choke them all. The output transformer might be the only component that spent more effort than tube in design process. The nickel core and multiple winding transformer is a custom version dedicated for PHAntasy. Unlike home stereo SET dealing with only 16,8,4-ohm loudspeakers, PHAntasy is dealing with headphones’ impedance from 600 down to 30 ohm that complicates things even more. A choice of nickel core is to ensure widest bandwidth and minimal size for portability, otherwise, the transformer will be triple its size and weight. A multiple secondary windings are wisdom to cope with widest impedance range instead of traditional single winding multiple taps.

Simple and Beautiful

PHAntasy is a pure analog and full discrete amplifier. A frequently asked question is why we dare to reverse the trend of integrated DAC. The answer lies in our belief that SET amp is simple and beautiful. We can only make it best instead of adding an average DAC. An amplifier shall explore the full potential of headphone and gives user the freedom to formulate his/her own recipe like what we did in top-notch stereo system. The fact is that even using mobile or tablet as source playing CD-quality music, PHAntasy delivers warm and detailed music on lifelike sound stage you ever experienced.

Pure Power

The filament of directly heated triode is most sensitive to power quality. Any careless treatment or corruption of filament supply easily leads to amplified noise or distortion at output. We separate filament power supply from the rest of system starting from a dedicated battery cell for most pure supply. Though JAN6286 tube is specified for portable device, it still needs high voltage rail to operate similar to all other valves, which is good, especially when we target to drive the notorious high impedance headphone to maximum. It is a painstaking process to create high voltage from a single battery cell. The noise and regulation of boost converter are monsters to deal with in such a tiny space. Our efforts have finally paid off. Combined with smart SET topology and high efficiency booster, you hardly hear any hiss or noise with most sensitive headphones; the driving power and bass slam are realistic and stunning even on the most difficult variation of headphones’ impedance.

Smart Power

Designing a portable version of SET amp is ambitious; designing a portable tube amp with 5V DC rechargeable battery is equally challenging. For the high rail of tubes, designers usually go for battery pack (something like we use in notebook PC) with tens of volt to cope with the supply issue. There is nothing wrong with the decision as battery pack is matured and economical. The real issue is at users’ daily life. When traveling for extensive period of time, a specific high voltage adaptor needs to carry along and true portability is compromised. On the other hand, PHAntasy is rechargeable through mobile phone adaptor, power bank, and notebook PC. An even better scenario is you can listen to music while recharge, of course, with longer charging time.

Awesome Design

Inspired by team’s prior background on high-end stereo system, PHAntasy is as solid and delicate as any high-end stereo gear. The enclosure is machined from solid aluminum brick to ensure best rigidity and precision, even the bolts supporting PCB is directly grew from the chassis. The marking is laser trimmed on. There is nothing shaky or loose in PHAntasy. It is designed to last from ground up.

Specifications

Frequency Response

30 Hz – 40 kHz (-3dB)

10 Hz – 60 kHz (-6dB)

Output power

250 mW + 250 mW (300 ohm)

200 mW + 200 mW (75 ohm)

Headphone impedance

30 ohm – 600 ohm

60 ohm – 600 ohm (recommended)

Power supply

5V/1A via micro B USB port

Operation time (on battery)

Approx. 8 hours

Charging time (>1A supply)

Approx. 4 hours

Dimensions

165 mm x 95 mm x 35 mm

Net weight

750 gram

A Portable Gran Turismo Amplifier

Ever since the 2015 debut of Sassy, everyone was astonished by its energetic performance accompanied by rich and warm sound of valves. Sassy handles most planar magnetic and high impedance headphones by its uniquely designed tensionless hybrid topology. In extreme cases, Sassy may deplete its fuel due to compact power reservoir (electrical capacitance) and low biased output stage. During the development of Sassy II, we have come up with a derivative proposal to exploit the extreme potential of Sassy hybrid topology. Sassy GT is the result.

Without changing the basic topology and compactness, we revisited the design to find out the power delivery bottleneck in extreme cases. The study concluded that the two most effective factors are:

• Power reservoir, equivalent electrical capacitance, which holds the energy for instantaneous demand during highly dynamic music passages.
• Thermal stability of output stage after increasing the static biased current.
The power reservoir is doubled in Sassy GT and the output stage is covered with a thermal pad to facilitate thermal spreading and to reach thermal equilibrium. These implementations ensure dynamic performance and long term reliability. Besides the component upgrades, the vacuum tubes, JAN6418, are hand-selected among hundreds of tubes from the same batch based on the requirement of high current gain to match the newly specified high power operating point. Only 10% of tubes can pass the strict criteria.

Recommended Sassy GT Application

Just like Gran Turismo vehicle, Sassy GT consumes more power for higher driving capability. A simple comparison is; if Sassy II can run 10 hours on battery, then Sassy GT will run for 6 to 7 hours. Additionally, Sassy GT has a 3dB gain over Sassy ll. We recommend Sassy GT for audiophiles who own extremely low sensitivity headphones that demand the most from the companion amplifier.

Specifications

Frequency Response

10 Hz – 100 kHz

Output power

180 mW + 180 mW (300 ohm)
1000 mW + 1000 mW (30 ohm)

Headphone impedance

30 ohm – 600 ohm

Gain Switch

High: 0dB / Low: -10dB

Power supply

5V/1A via micro USB port

Operation time (on battery)

Approx. 6 hours (depends on headphone impedance)

Charging time (>1A supply)

Approx. 3 hours

Dimensions

119 mm x 93 mm x 23 mm

Net weight

285 gram

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