A tale of two input stages
The iCAN Phantom sports two input stages – one valve/tube-based, the other solid state – enabling the user to switch between the two in real time.
It is, indeed, like having three amplifiers in one, each with a different sonic presentation.
Solid-state offers pace and immediacy. Tube mode adds fluidity and a free-breathing dynamic quality. Tube+ accentuates the sonic influence of the valves, delivering a spellbinding romantic warmth that may suit, for example, acoustic and vocal musical styles.
The GE5670 valves have an expected lifespan of around 10,000 hours of use. When the time eventually comes to replace them, the iCAN Phantom’s smoked glass panel is easily removed to provide access, meaning the job can be completed in minutes. The amp is compatible also with 6922 valves.
Most headphones create sound by using dynamic (or moving coil) drivers to move air. A smaller number use planar magnetic diaphragms, which are different in form and operation, but still use magnetic fields to cause motion. At the high end of the headphone scene there is another, rare but fabulous sounding driver type – electrostatic headphones.
Electrostatic drivers need an separate energiser. The iCAN Phantom incorporates our original standalone iESL energiser technology with regular amplifier technology to make a single amplifier that can handle every headphone type with aplomb.
And all users benefit as the component quality and clever circuit design required to deliver such a high level of performance with electrostatic headphones elevates the amp’s performance with other headphone types too.
Electrostatic headphones have varying requirement when it comes to bias voltage.
The iCAN Phantom has two outputs for electrostatics – one set at the ‘normal’ bias voltage of 230V, the other offering variable bias voltage between 500V and 640V, selected by the user. If the wrong voltage is selected, it is possible to damage the headphones.
To make this far less likely, the iCAN Phantom has a series of data cards that specify different bias voltages (these are supplied with the amp). Simply select the card that matches the headphone’s specification and pop it in the card slot – there are cards for 500V, 540V 580V, 600V, 620V and 640V each with a handy guide on the back showing which headphone brand is compatible with that voltage.
Every connection covered
The iCAN Phantom supplies a wide array of balanced and single-ended connection options. The headphone outputs are at the front, with the source inputs and preamp outputs at the rear. Here’s a summary:
Source inputs – 1x balanced XLR (L/R), 3x RCA (L/R)
Headphone outputs – 1x 3-pin balanced XLR (L/R), 1x 4-pin balanced XLR, 1x 4.4mm balanced, 1x 6.3mm (positive phase), 1x 6.3mm (inverted phase) and 1x 3.5mm (includes S-Balanced technology to cut distortion by 50 per cent)
Electrostatic headphone outputs – 1x 5-pin normal bias, 1x 5-pin custom bias
Preamplifier outputs – 1x balanced XLR (L/R), 1x RCA (L/R)