A reexamination of my Phasemation PP-300 cartridge review will be helpful in learning about Phasemation as a company, its info/philosophy, etc. I spent a few very pleasurable months listening to and writing about the gorgeous little nugget from the Japanese high end company.
Spring has been a bumper cartridge season here at Audiophilia—I reviewed Shelter's Model 501 III MC Phono Cartridge (another Japanese gem), as well as the 300. Now, Phasemation’s top of the line, $6000 PP-2000.
The much cheaper ($1799) PP-300’s sound was ultra dynamic, very refined, but not as ‘lush’ as the colourful (not coloured) similarly priced 501 III. I described the Phasemation as a little ‘scrawnier’ than the Shelter, but when push came to shove—if I could have only one of the two—the 300 would be my choice. By a (less colourful) hair.
For a while, Phasemation's flagship cartridge was the PP-1000, and this was scheduled for review. Then, the boys in Yokohama upped the ante by a 1000, and produced the new flagship, the PP-2000. Hold that 1000 shipment. Only the best for our readers. Thus, the PP-2000 appeared at the office shortly after the cancellation and the new request.
Packaged like all Phasemation carts, in the loveliest of wooden jewelry box-like cases, it looks remarkably like the 300, with its guts enveloped in a material called Duralumin, the trade name for age hardening, aluminium alloys.
The differences between the PP-1000 and PP-2000 are found in the magnetic circuit and vibration system. Trying to decode product information in the Japanese to English translation on the company website is a hoot. The Japanese Coles Notes are:
We decided to re-examine the magnetic circuits of PP-1000. Having [P]ermendur to remain as the magnetic material, the shape of the yoke is newly designed. Due to this, an excellent shape to have furthermore high efficiency and uniformity of the magnetic field is achieved. Increased output has been achieved without increasing the weight of the vibration system.
The vibration system has been newly designed in order to pursue the best balance of the sound quality. Reproducibility of a very small sound is furthermore improved because the damping material has been changed to the selected damping material and the damping characteristics have been newly designed; thereby, it can reproduce even the atmospheric feeling.
The 2000 retains the 1000's magneto coil, pure iron coil bobbin, and wire damper made of 6N oxygen-free copper wire and a boron cantilever. The cartridge weighs in at a chunky 14.3g! More on this later.
Tracking is at 1.7 to 2.0g with an output of .3mV. The stylus is diamond (line contact with a curvature of 0.03×0.003mm).
Setting up the cart on my Rega RB2000 Tonearm (Rega RP10 Turntable) was problematic and needed a call to our ace setup man Jody Hickson. With the cartridge weight at 14.3g (3.2g heavier than the 300 and over 6g heavier than the Shelter III—both setup easily on the RB2000—and the Rega's tungsten counterweight hanging precariously off the back of the arm tube, the damn thing would not track below 2.0g as measured on my Ortofon Digital Stylus Gauge. In fact, it was tracking up to 4.0g and above. No dice on the review if we couldn't sort it out.
HIckson suggested dialling the spring on the Rega's VTF to 1 or less to help load the counterweight with tracking force. This worked, but the purist in me likes the VTF dial set to 1.75 to match the manufacturer's suggestions. That said, there are umpteen internet anecdotes about settings on the Rega VTF dial. The VTF markings are 0 to 3, with 0 adding the most tracking force, heading up to 3 to remove the spring altogether.
Some audiophiles remove the spring loading completely as they say adding any torsion on the spring 'colours' the arm. I'm not sure about that, and I'm no expert, but loading up the VTF helped. A tracking force of 2.0 was achieved, if not in the most elegant fashion.
For the review I used the standard, and fairly inexpensive, MC board that comes with the Jeff Rowland Continuum S2 Integrated Amplifier. I'll be using the PP-2000 cartridge for the upcoming reviews of the Sutherland Engineering Duo Phono Stage and the Paradox Pulse Phono 70 Phono Stage. I'm expecting both to improve the PP-2000's already exceptional quality.
The cartridge was new out of the box, so I played it casually for 30 hours or so. Much like the PP-300, its inherent qualities were heard immediately.
After 30 hours or so, even more refinement was heard. The odd frequency shout was gone and the bass firmed up.
The true essence of the sound of a brilliantly hand made cartridge, of which the PP-2000 certainly is, is almost impossible to describe in prose by journeymen audio journalists. Sure, micro dynamics, macro dynamics, beautiful instrumental and vocal timbre, etc are all there. But those tenets are found on most competent moving coil cartridges. It's the subtlety, the nuance where better, more expensive carts knock the socks of their cheaper counterparts. It's here in the musical weeds where the difficulties of description lay.
My experiences with great cartridges are of total musical immersion, with concomitant aural caressing. Imagine the most gentle sensual touch. Great cartridges do that to listeners’ hearts and souls. Many cartridges have thrilled me, many have touched me, but few have imprinted the true nuance and subtlety as found in chord voicing, harmonics from stringed instruments, perfectly layered orchestration, and the emotional impact of composers and his/her interpreter's intentions. These things are almost never heard from less that perfect moving coils.
The weight of a piano accompanist's chords, marked ff, f, mf, p and played in quick succession under an effusive violin soloist for example, is so difficult to replicate on digital, moving magnet carts and the cheaper moving coils. Yet, on masterpieces like the Phasemation PP-2000, Grado Labs Statement v2 Cartridge and Clearaudio Titanium Moving Coil Phono Cartridge, the accompanist's musical intent (and, possibly the vagaries or limitations of his/her technique) is heard in all its glory. Nothing is missed, no emotion goes undiscovered.
Of course the bass is thunderous and is subterranean. Of course the mids are beautifully refulgent. Of course the treble is pristine, controlled and goes to heaven. And all tessituras are connected seamlessly. A complete musical fabric. This cartridge is a hand crafted art object costing $6000. So, it should do all those things. This is why audiophiles save and save to get the best of the analogue world. And the Phasemation PP-2000 is in that premier league.
If you noticed, I did not mention a particular track or piece to emphasize a musical point. I love writing about what I'm listening to and telling you about it. But for once, I wanted to try and express without adornment or padding, and in plain English, my unbridled admiration for the manufacturing excellence, musical prowess and sheer beauty of sound the Phasemation PP-2000 brings to our analogue world.
Further information: Phasemation