Have you ever filled out a customer comment card and turned it in but, deep down, felt like your opinion probably wouldn’t be considered or valued? Yeah, we understand. When we review products we hope (with subdued skepticism) that the manufacturer might just take some of our suggestions to heart and maybe even implement them. Alas, such is rarely the case. So, when Phiaton approached us with a new, updated version of the MS 400 headphones which we reviewed this time last year, we were pleased to hear that they had taken our advice, along with that of their customers, and made some key adjustments to their already top notch Moderna series headphones. In this review we re-visit the overhauled MS 400 and re-discover why we like these cans and their manufacturer’s attitude.
Out of the Box
When we first pulled the MS 400 from their box last year, we immediately raised an eyebrow at the color scheme: red. We’re talking eye-catching, take-no-prisoners, in-your-face, fire-engine red. Which is fine if red is your thing, but for those of us who don’t want to scream “Look at meee!” with their headphones, the aggressively styled MS 400 could be a turn-off. Our suggestion then: Offer them in a different color. Much to our delight, Phiaton did just that. In fact, it turns out that’s just the beginning of the thoughtful changes Phiaton decided to implement. By running some online feedback contests on a few popular headphone forums, Phiaton took an active role in determining what it was that the public wanted from their headphones, then got to work folding in the changes. This refreshed version of Phiaton’s high-end, on-ear offering came with classy, black leather accents, an extension cable and, according to Phiaton, structural modifications to the headband and earpads. Thankfully, Phiaton also took an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude during their product refresh, and left the guts of the MS 400 alone. Packed with the headphones we found the same heavily padded storage case, a ¼-inch adapter, the new 5-foot extension cable, and a user manual. The MS 400 come with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty when purchase from an authorized dealer.
The MS 400 use a studio-grade 40mm driver that is tightly enclosed within rather modestly sized ear cups. The outside of the ear-cup enclosure is sealed with a layer of carbon fiber, then coated with a clear, resilient polycarbonate plastic that allows onlookers to see the sleek carbon fiber accents whilst simultaneously protecting them from damage during storage and transport. The inside of the ear-cups is lined with an extremely soft, black faux leather that covers just enough foam to allow a comfortable fit and seal over the ear. The adjustable headband is similarly padded and lined with black, leather-like material.
To allow for storage and portability, the MS 400 ear-cups rotate a full 180 degrees on their axis, then another 90 degrees toward the headband so that they can be fit in their hard sided storage case; just barely. Unfortunately, the size of the case is the one design point we mentioned needed improvement that has gone unchanged. The curved shape of the storage case leads the user to think that the headphones should fit a certain way but, in fact, they must be jammed in rather counter-intuitively and then held in place while the zipper is pulled shut. Still, we’ve seen headphones much larger and bulkier than this that neither folded down nor came with any sort of storage case, so we consider the tight fit a minor inconvenience rather than an egregious oversight.
The MS 400’s non-detachable cord drops from each ear-cup in a Y formation for a total attached cord length of just under 4 feet. Using the provided 6-foot extension cable, we were able to get a convenient 10 feet of cable distance out of the MS 400, suitable for use with home audio and studio equipment.