After making a splash in 2008 with its well-received Moderna MS 400 headphones and handful of other high-end audio products, Phiaton returned in 2009 with its first pair of in-ear headphones: the PS 200. Distinct metal housings and jet-turbine styling set the unique ‘buds apart from competitors, while a dual-driver design promises audio a step above cheaper single-driver solutions. We put the swank new in-ear phones to the test to see whether they could live up the reputation for quality their makers are already starting to establish.
Features and Design
Nothing says quality at first glance quite like metal, and the PS 200 use plenty of it. The cylindrical driver housings have been milled from aluminum – large on the outside then tapered down to slimmer plastic shell that the silicon ear tips attach to. The outside end has a black plastic piece shaped like a turbine sealing it up. A tiny metal stem juts out the side, where the wires firmly attach. The whole package feels quite sturdy, and looks the part, too.
Despite the use of metal, the earbuds remain quite lightweight, and the cord manages to feel sturdy without getting too heavy. A plastic slider allows you to adjust where the wires to each ear split.
Phiaton offers three sets of ear tips with the PS 200: small, medium, and large. All three use the same rounded-off beehive shape. We found they fit comfortably, sealed out environmental noise very well, and felt relatively comfortable over extended listening periods. However, our typically medium-sized ears fit perfectly in the smallest set, so we do have to wonder whether listeners with small ears will have some difficulty finding the right fit.
Although we complained about the case Phiaton provides with its Moderna MS400 headphones, the included case for the PS 200 must be one of the best in the business. True to the Primal series styling, the wallet-sized box comes wrapped in stiff faux leather with black stitching, and lined with black velour. A strong magnet holds the top lid closed with authority, which opens to reveal a segmented plastic storage block. It has clear spots for the silicon ear tips, an airplane adapter, and the earbuds themselves, which fit tightly into place and then wrap around the outside and even click into a notch to keep them from unraveling. In short, these guys thought of everything. The case may be on the larger side, but it will protect your $249 investment like none we’ve ever seen before.
Testing and Usage
Since each earbud basically resembles a giant cone, (and comes marked with a clearly marked with an L or R) the PS 200 are a cinch to pop into the ears and get seated without much finagling. They sit quite shallow in the ear relative to other types, which makes them comfortable, but not quite as secure as some models for use on the go.
Unlike most lower-end headphones, the PS 200 use a dual-driver design, which allows different drivers to cover different frequencies the same way they would in a full-size speaker. In theory, this allows better frequency response as each driver can be more narrowly tailored to a specific range.
The results definitely show on the top end, where the Phiatons sounded airy, transparent, and full of resolution. They even stacked up favorably compared to other stellar in-ear headphones and quality over-the-ear headphones. Using the PS 200, we heard things in favorite old songs we hadn’t heard before, and vocals came through as clearly on some tracks as if the singer were in the same room.
But down low, they don’t quite shine as brightly as a number of other models purpose-built for replacing the bass so-often lost in earbuds, like Klipsch’s Image S4. Even after toying with the equalizer, we found it hard to coax much bass from the PS 200. They can’t be called embarrassing by any means, but for music meant to make you move – and the price tag on these things – the PS 200 just doesn’t push hard enough down low.
Superior industrial design, a perfectly configured case and natural-sounding highs all recommend the PS 200. But like a lot of high-end audio equipment, be aware that the price tag definitely outshines the strictly incremental increase in sound quality. In addition, we weren’t bowled over by bass, which should come through with a lot more authority for the price tag. We recommend the PS 200 for those captivated by the style, but suggest that more discriminating audiophiles check out a couple models in this price range before settling on the PS 200.
- Superb traveling case
- Attractive and durable metal housing
- Comfortable silicon tips
- Overpriced relative to sound quality
- Lacking adequate bass