I received my PHA-1 shortly after the launch date in Japan. My Japanese buddy was kind enough to FedEx it to me. There is another thread whoch discusses the PHA-1 but I have not actually seen an impression on the actual product over there as yet. It is ineveitable that this product is going to be compared to the venerable CLAS and the newer to market, HP-P1 so a good part of my impressions will be simple comparisons with those.
Launch date in Japan is 10th October and as far as I know, Fujiya Avic started shipping very shortly after that. What that means is I have only had the PHA-1 for less than 24 hours and as such, this will be my initial impression with a more comprehensive review to follow. I decided to this one in an FAQ style. Hope it helps and gives those who are looking, the information they need.
How does it look?
Darned cool. As cool as the pictures suggest. It measures 130mm long and 68mm wide by my measurements.
Is it cooler than the CLAS and HP-P1?
Yes! Aesthetically speaking, it is. As a complete package, it is even more so. When I was in my early teens, the coolest things in school were Sony (cassette) Walkman's and Sega GameGear. Handling one of those things made you feel like the coolest dude on earth. There was the desire to rob a bank just to get your hands on one those things. The PHA-1, does that. It invokes that feeling. It's the coolest toy I've bought in a while. I get more gratification from buying it than my AKG K3003.
What's in the package?
An LOD for iDevices (80mm cable length), an LOD for newer Sony Walkmans (45mm cable length), and a 3.5 to 3.5 interconnect (75mm cable length). Clearly, someone thought through the length of the cables supplied so that they would work pretty well for the devices it supports.
USB charging cable
4x rubber straps for securing an iPhone, Touch or Classic or, Sony Walkman ( I have not tried this as I do not own a Sony Walkman).
Leaflet style manual in Japanese only
A silicone rubber pad measuring 80mm x 40mm that is coated with adhesive
Visually available features?
A look around shows that it has a high/low gain switch, clear indications for port usage, two safety bars on the front face plate that will serve to protect the volume know and 3.5mm plug in the event of a spill, huge volume knob that feels secure and solid, and four strips of rubber (4mm width) running across the length of the PHA-1 that serves to secure it on the desk and keep any device securely strapped to it. This last one is very cool.
Does it work with iPhone 5?
Yes! It does. Plug it into the PHA-1, go to music player (iPod), select a song, turn on PHA-1 and watch the volume bar disappear. Very cool.
How do you know if it truly is decoding the digital signal?
Well, at this juncture. I do not know for sure. It could very well just be amplifying the analog signal but from the discussions on the iPhone 5, I strongly doubt that's possible as yet. The HRT iStreamer also works with my iPhone 5.
How does it sound?
It's too early to give firm impressions, but I am getting very good pace, PRaT, clarity and an overall sense of resolution.
How does it compare to the CLAS and HP-P1 in terms of sound?
I very much wanted to like the CLAS because I have always been a fan of the RX Mk2, and the National amps. But the truth is the CLAS did nothing for me and I never felt the compulsion to buy it.
How about the HP-P1?
Visually and as a total package, I liked the HP-P1 even more than the CLAS. Sonically, no. I thought it fared less than the CLAS.
So, how does the PHA-1 compare to those two?
The CLAS and HP-P1 have been in market for a good amount of time and they both have their fair share of fans and detractors. The CLAS in particular was probably first to produce a portable solution for decoding the digital signal of iDevices. While I am not a fan, I do believe it has it's merits and those who do like it aren't wrong. The PHA-1 in my opinion offers a much more complete solution that sounds just a tad more musical and coherent. I shan't say more till I have had a chance to compare the two side by side using my RX Mk2. Against the HP-P1, I think the PHA-1 is more accurate. I will not be able to get a HP-P1 for comparisons so I am going by memory here and I do not like to dish out a whole lot of conjecture based on my rapidly failing memory.
I'm gonna run this fella in for about 50 to a 100 hours and report back as soon as I find the time. I'll have further impressions on the usability and run times. Will also provide more detailed listening impressions and comparos.