A Review of the Loxjie P20: neutral, cheap, and balanced!
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Hey guys! Welcome back to the Neighborhood! I promised this review a while ago for a viewer of the channel, and, well, this Friendly Neighborhood Reviewer always pays his debts… so, without further ado.
Let’s get InToit... the Loxjie P20!
So, the Loxijie P20, is a “fully” balanced headphone amp. It also has 2 tubes- presumably acting as buffers for its balanced amplifier circuit. These tubes are of the 6N3P variety to be specific, which research suggests is a Chinese Military tube copied from a Russian design.
But, let’s get one thing straight, right-away! While some might expect a “tubey” sound to come from this unit; especially given that it has two of them, this is not really what you get from the P20. Instead, the tubes seem to quell the highs a bit, and add a very, slight sense of warmth or smoothness to the overall sound signature- particularly at the very top-end of the treble, and, in the low-end presentation.
Other than noting that it is a JRC 55320 amplifier, I can’t really say more about circuitry of this amp in terms of class or design, in short, because not a ton is known about it at this point in time it seems. Part of the reason I’ve been delaying putting out a review of this unit, is because I had hoped someone who knows more about amp design might have been able to identify exactly how this thing works by now. But alas, I have not been able to find any information regarding this, so if you know, please follow up with me, and I will update this article accordingly.
So, let’s get right into performance. For less than $100 dollars, this is an epic little balanced amplifier. It is made of what appears to be a sturdy, machined,-metal chassis with a machined-aluminum knob and rubberized feet.
The color scheme I choose was this metallic red, but I understand that these units also come in black or silver. The knob is a digitally, stepped volume control with a blue digital read-out that reads P20 when you first turn it on. After a few seconds it displays the volume; beginning with -60 at the top-end of the volume control, and moving down to -00 as you crank it up.
The digital display also shows input and output selection when you press the volume knob in on the unit; cycling between volume level, output selection, and input selection on the digital read-out. Input and Output selection between balanced inputs (R/L, 3-pin XLR) and outputs (full-sized, 4-pin XLR) and unbalanced inputs (R/L, RCA) and outputs (1/4-inch headphone jack) is facilitated by turning the knob in each digital mode. The stock tubes, display an ember color the tube filaments at the base of the unit, and the metal chassis does get hot when the unit has been running for a short period of time. Because of this, I suspect that the P20 may have a Class A Circuit, but again, I could not confirm this.
Testing revealed that the balanced-out operation was very clean- both for headphones and IEMs. However; the unbalanced output produced a buzz on both low impedance cans and sensitive IEM’s. Interestingly, balanced vs. unbalanced input seemed to have little effect on this, as both inputs were clean when running balanced output from the unit. However; I would only recommend this amplifier if you are going to run it in balanced-out operation; otherwise, I would skip the P20, as its unbalanced performance was simply not up-to-snuff, and did not meet my standard.
I even noticed the limitations of the unbalanced output on cans where sensitivity was not the major issue. Overall, the P20 simply just did not sound anywhere near as good from its unbalanced output as it did from its balanced one. Positively, I found that if you want to run a manual EQ with this unit, you can do so (in-between your DAC and the single-ended input) without issue.
One issue with the single-ended input, which I did observe, was that if the P20 was chained from the single-ended output of the THX AAA 789, the Loxjie P20 would cause dynamic clipping on the 789, if both units were not powered on. My solution to this was simply to turn both units on, or to unhook the P20 from the chain, which, of course, solved this issue, but this outcome was somewhat still disappointing. So, unless this is your only amplifier in your chain, I’m going to dissuade you from using the single-ended input in most situations as well, as the P20 simply did not play well enough with others.
A survey of accounts across the internet suggests that the stock tubes introduce the most noise or distortion. Reports also suggest that an upgraded power supply might improve overall, sonic clarity for the P20 as well. Having said that, I did not experiment with tube rolling for this review, and did not order an additional power supply for my unit. Instead, I chose to simply use the balanced output, which provided outstanding clarity from its stock configuration from my point of view; especially for the price of $85 dollars that I paid.
Upon review, an internet user also suggested that upgrading the P20 to the following power supply could help as well; however, I was a bit scared to order one of these given that this unit already gets quite hot with the included power supply. Nevertheless, I will include a link to the suggested power supply below, but don’t blame me if you burn your house down, O.K.?
So, why do I keep this little amp when I have grander options available?
Well, because of synergy... of course, that’s why!
More specially, this marvelous thing pairs particularly well with a few specific pieces of gear that I have, love, and will cover hence forth in this review. In short, I simply can not imagine enjoying that specific gear, as much as I do, with any other particular amplifier at this point. In other words, in my eyes, that gear is married, or tied to, the Loxjie P20.
I also was surprised to discover, through the course of this review, that the P20 provides smooth, neutral tones via its balanced output with IEMs as well. As such, I will be holding onto the Loxjie to use it for future IEM critiques too.
Regarding those special pairings with the P20, which I alluded to earlier, I will start things off, by saying that this is my favorite amplifier for the Sennheiser HD6XX. The sound that these two produce together is pure magic for any price.
The HD6XX on the P20 sounds very close to what it sounds like on the THX AAA 789, but I actually find the 6XX to ultimately sound better on the Loxjie. More specifically, the HD6XX sounds just as neutral as it does on the THX AAA 789, but it also has a kiss of general warmth, and a tad more low-end presence on the P20; which I find very satisfying, in the end. I will also note that I observed a similar outcome with Focal Elex during that review, but found that the P20 also course-corrected most of that headphone's metallic timbre issues as well.
I also really like the presentation that I get from the Jade Audio EA3 on the Loxjie P20. Using the Gold Note DS-10 as the balanced DAC, and feeding it to the Loxjie P20 as the balanced amplifier, the EA3 really tightens up. The set up I prefer incorporates a Tripowin Zonie 2-pin to 2.5 mm balanced cable and the Drop 2.5 mm to 4-pin XLR adapter to connect the FiiO offering to the P20. Spacing and separation are increased with this set-up, and the soundstage becomes more open. Furhtermore, sonics within the stage of the EA3 become even more resolving. I also observed enhanced coherence, and sounds gained a softness to their character; becoming more smoothed-over without sacrificing any details or clarity.
In general, I’d say the P20 offers a neutral sound signature with a slight hint of warmth across its frequency response. The overall presentation has a slightly, expansive quality to its staging, and an open and airy sound signature to it without going overboard in this direction. For $85-100 dollars, this thing resolves with amps beyond its price-range. Do you have a particular headphone with just a bit too much treble glare or grain, then the P20 may fix that right-up, and still it will offer you both neutrality and a pleasing performance to boot. The 1More Triple-Driver Over-Ears are a great example of a headphone that benefits from this type of amplification in this manner.
A drawback to the P20 is that it isn’t supremely power. While it’s capable of driving the 300-ohm 6XX that I already spoke of, this is most likely near its upper limits with regard to its power-handling. In balanced operation at 300-ohms, the P20 produces 325 mW, and at 64-ohms, 665 mW.
There is also not a devastating amount of current here, which limits its ability to be a great pairing with planar magnetic cans. With my Ether CX, it lacked dimension, sounded rather weak, and was extremely boring. There was also a hollowed-out character put forth with this amplifier that I am not used to hearing from this set. My wife described the tones of this combination as: “Weak A.F.” Whatever that means? 😉
Nevertheless, the Loxjie's power limitations might actually be considered a strength when it comes to this amplifier playing well with sensitive IEMs, as you don’t really have to worry about over-driving balanced armatures or other delicate designs with the P20, and its balanced output offers spectacular clarity and a lowered noise-floor for this particular use-case-scenario.
So, if you’re looking for a cheaper, neutral, smooth, low-powered amplifier with some very, mild tube flavor to drive dynamic cans or IEMs alike, then look no further than the Loxjie P20! It’s a very pleasing amplifier that plays well with a variety of cans and earphones, but I wouldn’t recommend it for use with planars or in unbalanced output. An iFi Zen Dac or a Grace Designs SDAC feeding this amplifier a balanced signal would make for a serious HIFI set-up; visa vie a low-cost solution, with a small desktop footprint.
*Gold Note DS-10 available at: https://gestalt.audio/
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