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A technique for the phase calibration of membrane hydrophones in the frequency range up to 80 MHz is described. This is achieved by comparing measurements and numerical simulation of a nonlinearly distorted test field. The field prediction is obtained using a finite-difference model that solves the nonlinear Khokhlov-Zabolotskaya-Kuznetsov (KZK) equation in the frequency domain. The measurements are made in the far field of a 3.5 MHz focusing circular transducer in which it is demonstrated that, for the high drive level used, spatial averaging effects due to the hydrophone's finite-receive area are negligible. The method provides a phase calibration of the hydrophone under test without the need for a device serving as a phase response reference, but it requires prior knowledge of the amplitude sensitivity at the fundamental frequency. The technique is demonstrated using a 50-mum thick bilaminar membrane hydrophone, for which the results obtained show functional agreement with predictions of a hydrophone response model. Further validation of the results is obtained by application of the response to the measurement of the high amplitude waveforms generated by a modern biomedical ultrasonic imaging system. It is demonstrated that full deconvolution of the calculated complex frequency response of a nonideal hydrophone results in physically realistic measurements of the transmitted waveforms.