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
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.
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.
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