Review: Phasemation EA-550: MM/MC phono amplifier

Review: Phasemation EA-550: MM/MC phono amplifier. It 0 plays like it's always been there. It does its job casually and naturally, and in such a way that it helps any music to develop freely. 
5/5 - (1 vote)

If you don’t know the Japanese company Phasemation yet, it’s about time. “A new analog luminary has emerged,” Axiss Europe salesman Jörg Labza told me earlier this year. And even before that, tonearm developer Thomas Schick had made me sit up and take notice with a comment about the top system from the Japanese: “Sounds like a mixture of Koetsu and Lyra.” My expectations of the Phasemation EA-550 phono stage (6,900 euros), which interestingly comes in the form of two mono amplifiers, are therefore quite high.

Background to Phasemation 

Phasemation (formerly Phasetech) is the HiFi arm of Kyodo Denshi Engineering Co. Ltd., a company providing electronic measurement equipment and engineering services. Company founder and boss Noboyuki Suzuki is a great analog enthusiast whose first steps in the hi-fi world were the production of precision measuring instruments for the transformer development of leading Japanese companies. He then brought his own MC transformers and pickups onto the market under the name Phasetech. However, the company was not allowed to call itself Phasetech in Europe, the name had already been taken. So it was changed to Phasemation, a blend of “phase” and information, which reminds me a bit of Accuphase, so not the worst comparison. The portfolio now also includes phono stages, preamplifiers and power amplifiers.

Technology & inner values: Phasemation EA-550

Phasemation follows two different lines in the amplifier area: The “cheaper” devices are transistorized, the really expensive ones work with tubes. The processing of the Phasemation EA 550 monos is like a safe and reminds me of the quality of Accuphase devices. The unusual grounding concept is striking: the signal ground starts at the central tap of the transformer, so a consistently symmetrical signal is generated. With the connected phono cables, you have to make sure that the ground is routed separately there, otherwise hum problems can occur, even certain XLR cables can negate the advantage of the symmetrical signal path. I connected the two monoblocks with a supplied ground cable, the ground of the phono cable is connected to one of the two devices and from there another ground cable is routed to the preamplifier or integrated amplifier. My result: dead silence.

Phasemation EA-550 MM/MC Phonostufe - On/Off-Schalter

If I look inside the Phasemation EA-550 phonomono preamplifier, I can’t see any ingredients from the witch’s kitchen, but a posh structure that is thought through to the end in a consistent double mono topology using channel-separated, independent amplifiers. Only the outsourcing of both power supplies could perhaps bring something here, but that’s almost academic, because the noise spectrum of the Phasemation EA-550 is already exemplary. It is very important for the Japanese to do without any form of negative feedback, they believe that this causes phase and time delays between the input and output signals, which is reflected in an unmusical sound, even if the device could be measured better.

Equalization and amplification

PHASEMATION EA-550 MM/MC Phonovorstufe von seitlich-vorne

The actual RIAA equalization is carried out in two stages. It works fully symmetrically and discretely, i.e. without OP amps with field effect transistors(JFET’s). That’s not unusual either, what matters is what the end result is in terms of sound. A transformer works with the MC amplification, which is also available externally with the designation T-550 for 1,150 euros. I happened to have it on hand for comparison purposes. It should cover a particularly wide frequency range, which I will of course try. According to Phasemation, this was made possible by a “split winding architecture” that the company developed. By winding a low-loss, very thick copper cable around a large EI core, which is only 0.2 mm thick and consists of 78% mu-metal, they want to achieve this extremely extended frequency response and a special phase fidelity. This should result in excellent linearity and highly effective amplification, especially in the bass

The interfaces of the Phasemation EA-550

Phasemation EA-550 - Doppel-Mono-Phonovorstufen: Rückseiten mit Schnittstellen

The Phasemation EA-550 has three full inputs for MM or MC cartridges . Inputs 1 and 2 can be operated with both cinch and XLR cables, input 3 with cinch only. There are also two exits. Equipment that should be sufficient in socially acceptable living conditions. On top of that, there’s a rumble filter and two settings for Decca and Columbia equalizations of the so-called mono era. In addition, the EA 550 mono phono preamps have a “degauss” function, which can be used to neutralize the excess magnetization of a pickup – just like my Air Tight ATE 2005. The housing is made of a 10 mm thick, finely anodized aluminum plate and a 1.6 mm thick copper base and lid.

Phasemation EA-550: sound test

Phasemation EA-550 MM/MC Phonoverstärker - schräg von vorne

Compare to other phono preamps

I was able to directly compare the Phasemation EA-550 with my Air Tight ATE 2005, which cost about the same new as its Japanese competitor. It sounds slightly brighter, but its sound can be controlled by the choice of tubes, which of course is not possible with the EA-550. Nevertheless, both sound very similar in MC mode – despite transistors in the EA-550 and tubes in the ATE 2005. This may also be due to the fact that the MC preamplifier of the ATE-2005 also uses semiconductors. Last but not least, the comparison of both phono preamplifiers in MM mode with the external Phasemation T-550 transformer is interesting. This is where I had to adjust the volume of the Air Tight ATE-2005 as it only has 30dB of gain compared to the 38dB of the Phasemation EA-550. Wired like this, the sonic distance shrinks further, sometimes I could hardly tell them apart. The comparison between built-in and external transformer did not reveal any difference. I only got the information that the two transformers are identical later. So my ears still seem to be working. Another comparison with the Audiospecials Phonolab Pro, a phono pre from Germany, confirms that the special strength of the Phasemation EA-550 lies not least in a wonderfully organic sound accompanied by a pleasant, subtle warmth, which will certainly also appeal to tube fans becomes.

Different  pickups

Phasemation EA-550 - Wahlschalter für MM/MC

I’ve been using the Phasemation EA-550 in my system for many weeks and, frankly, it should have stayed there, it plays so well. The main pickups I tried were my Lyra Delos (0.6mV / 8.2 ohms) and the Hana Umami Red (0.4mV / 6 ohms). In addition, an Ortofon SPU (0.2mV / 2 ohms) and a simple Denon DL-103 (0.3mV / 40 ohms) and can confirm what phasemation propagates: the transformer can actually work with these based on their electrical conditions and needs Handle very different systems without further adjustment and bring their peculiarities to the fore.

Phasemation EA-550 MM/MC Phonoverstärker von oben

Normally you can hear clearly when, for example, the Denon system, which needs a 1:10 transformer, is playing on a 1:20 transformer. It will sound choppy, out of round, even harsh. Here, however, I can’t hear it with the best will in the world, so Phasemation seems to have actually managed to wind a really broadband transformer without additional taps, which is already a small sensation. I will therefore not mention the cartridge with which I heard it for every track.

resolution and pressure

“The Quota” by famous tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath (Album: The Quota ) is a song that suits me: It starts conventionally and gets more and more sophisticated little by little and demands pure resolution with its different layers of sound. The unusual wind sections with trumpet and two tuba players stand out in particular. If the resolution lags behind the groove, it sounds exhausting and not very catchy. With the Phasemation EA-550, “The Quota” becomes a celebration. Speaking of grippy – Delvon Lamar(Album: I told you so) recorded his best album to date with his organ trio. Awesome sound, powerful bass, earthy grooves – that’s exactly the joy of playing that I was able to experience live. The Phasemation EA-550 can convey exactly the vitality of this music one hundred percent. This fat, very organic organ bass just always turns me on, especially when it comes with juice, power and color like here. The drummer’s wooden sticks bang from the depths of the room, the guitar creaks and the tones from Lamarr’s organ float behind like fat soap bubbles. Crisp, crunchy and earthy, the Phasemation EA-550 dissolves the weightless and crystal clear, always keeping an overview and always making you want to dance, really great.

Would you like something more? A little more pressure and a little more dirt? Then I’ll put on the White Stripes (Album: Elephant). “Seven Nation Army” can be understood as the epitome of “distorted” rock. Jack White’s megaphone-compressed voice and Meg White’s hypnotic, catchy rhythms almost explode when Jack’s guitar kicks in. Again the gross dynamic capabilities of the EA-550 are amazing, they push, they push. If there is a lack of resolution here, you get real mush of sound. Not so with the Phasemation EA-550. She works out every detail of this difficult mixture and puts it loosely in its context.

PHASEMATION EA-550 MM/MC Phonoverstärker von vorne

Space, fine resolution and right in the middle for the finale

The music of Tomaso Albinoni (album: “12 SONATA OP.6 per violino basso continuo”) can be described without exaggeration as the complete opposite of the White Stripes: airy, delicate and elegant, the tones pearl into my listening room. Here I am particularly touched by the mid-range and high-frequency resolution. The Phasemation EA-550 acts like the employee of the year: without batting an acoustic eyelash, it just delivered the music of the White Stripes in all its snotiness, while now it reproduces all the delicate beauty of Albinoni. Such a range is rare and seduces me to want to listen to more and more music.

But for now my journey ends with Shirley Horn (Album: Violet for your Furs) at the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague. Horn and her trio were bursting with enthusiasm on this live recording and shook great variations of famous standards into the room: “Love is here to stay”; “Georgia on my mind” or “Baby won’t you please come home” are just three of nine classics that the high priestess of jazz celebrates here. I know the place where the concert took place and can identify it 100%. The Phasemation EA-550 traces Shirley’s lip contact with the microphone in just as much detail as her delicate keystrokes. For a live recording, the bass is also wonderfully full and the drummer’s brushes or sticks get an almost hyper-realistic presence, which makes this canned music an event. Shirley Horn herself looks like she’s celebrating mass in the church of jazz, the space is enormously wide and deep and gives the listener the opportunity to fully engage with her voice, the instruments and thus the interpretations. This enormous center transparency of the EA-550 has just the necessary touch of warmth and a minimal tendency to darken Tone colors , but all without discoloration or alienation.

Phasemation EA-550 MM/MC Phonovorstufen in Mono-Bauweise

Test conclusion: Phasemation EA-550

Following on from my introduction, I can state that my high expectations were even exceeded. The Phasemation EA-550 plays like it’s always been there. It does its job casually and naturally, namely amplifying delicate phono signals in such a way that it helps any music to develop freely. It acts like an acoustic hatch with a neutral basic orientation that has just the right shot of warmth to exude a certain, pleasant charm. That should pick up both transistor and tube friends. Together with its comprehensive features, it is one of the best phono preamps that I have ever had the privilege of using and hearing.

The Phasemation EA-550… 

  • plays as correctly, as realistically and as purely as few other phono preamplifiers and thus appeals to both intellectual and emotional listeners.
  • has an almost unlimited ability to resolve, especially in the treble, while always preserving the integrity of the overall musical event.
  • plays on the slightly warmer side of neutrality with a robust basic tone and a rich deep bass.
  • does justice to all musical genres in terms of both fine and coarse dynamics.
  • illuminates very wide and deep rooms and ensures enormous credibility with its focused presentation.
  • reveals a rare central authenticity that creates excitement and emotional involvement. Especially voices become an experience.
  • is extremely flexible when operating different pickups, thanks to its extremely broadband MC transformer without the need for additional adjustment.
  • shines with equipment that leaves practically nothing to be desired and is also extremely practical.
  • represents a rare authority in its device class. It masters all musical challenges easily and unperturbed and has earned a reference status for my ears.


  • Model: Phasemation EA-550
  • Concept: fully balanced double mono phono stage
  • Price: 6,900 euros
  • Inputs: 3 inputs for MM or MC pickups (inputs 1 and 2: cinch and XLR, input 3: cinch)
  • Outputs: 2 x RCA
  • Dimensions & Weight: 93 × 211 × 360 mm (HxWxD), 5.5 kg per monoblock
  • Input sensitivity: 2.5mV (MM) / 0.13mV (MC)
  • Matching input impedances: 47 kΩ (MM); 1.5 to 40Ω (MC)
  • Gain: 38dB (MM), 64dB (MC)
  • Output Voltage: 200mV (1kHz)
  • Versions: front in champagne, body in black
  • Guarantee: 2 years