If you haven’t heard of Phiaton before, that’s OK – most folks haven’t. That’s because the manufacturer just broke into the headphone scene about a year ago and you don’t often see their products in your local Big Box Mart. But while Phiaton is a new name to the headphone market, their Korean based parent company, Cresyn, is not. They’ve been manufacturing the parts that go into some of the world’s most popular headphones for decades. Now, following a popular trend, the manufacturer has decided to create their own line of headphones and market them to consumers.
With such an extended background in the industry, one might expect the Phiaton products to offer all the quality of their competitors at a lower price point. So do they deliver? We found that while the Phiaton PS 300 NC active noise cancelling headphones are packed with features and accessories, wear comfortably and look great, well… Let’s just say they fall a bit short on the most important feature of all: High-quality sound.
Out of the Box
One look at the Phiaton PS300 NCand you can see that they are clearly going after the Bose QuietComfort 3 market. The earcups are oval in shape and the padding on both the headband and earphones is nearly identical. Where the Bose units are silver though, the Phiaton PS300 NC units employ their primal black leather(ish) material accented by a faded champagne gold trim.
That’s where the similarities end, however. The Phiaton headphones fold down more compactly to fit in their smaller, more attractive case. In addition, within that case is a smorgasbord of accessories intended to make the Phiatons an infinitely more convenient solution.
We counted five different AC power plugs for use in different countries. So, whether you are doing business in Amsterdam or Zambia, you should have no problem charging the battery for your headphones. Phiaton didn’t stop there either. For further convenience, the manufacturer has included a USB charging dongle (which we found could fully charge a drained battery in just 30 minutes) and a spare battery as a backup in case you can’t recharge right away. You’ll also find the requisite ¼-inch adapter and airline adapter as well.
Features and Design
The PS 300 NC headphones succeed at their intended job of being comfortable to wear. The padding on the earcups is substantial and breathes pretty well. The headband is similarly padded and was comfortable to wear for hours too. Mind you, we did find that the tension on the headband was a little high, but noted it contributed to a secure fit and didn’t seem to cause any fatigue or discomfort.
The rechargeable battery needed for the Noise Cancelling function is cleverly tucked into the top of the right headphone. It’s stealthy enough that if you don’t look closely, you might miss it entirely. We prefer this design as it negates the need for an inline power source which can get a little clumsy. The cord for the headphones plugs in the lower half of the right headphone and is about 1 meter long. Inline is an interesting muting button which quiets, but not eliminates, the sound. This works well if you just need to quiet down the music long enough to ask the flight attendant for another tasty beverage. Otherwise, we don’t see it as being particularly handy.
In addition to the power switch located on the left headphone, each earpiece has an independent bass boost switch. We’re not sure why one would want to boost bass in only one of the two headphones, but gather that it may have something to do with design constraints.
In terms of overall noise cancellation capabilities, the Phiaton’s didn’t impress us. As a relatively small on-ear headphone, the substantially less expensive Sennheiser PXC 300s do a far better job of eliminating ambient noise. (They also sound a lot better too.) In fact, the noise cancelling circuitry seems to act more as a supplemental amplifier than as any kind of noise canceller. If purchasing the Phiaton PS 300 NC headphones for travel, don’t expect a ton of privacy from your neighbors beyond the isolation that comes along with the great earpadding.
Happily, the PS300 NC headphones will continue to play music, even with no battery installed or functioning. However, the sound quality is pretty dismal. Without power, the high frequencies are almost inaudible. For the most enjoyable sound performance, you really do want to activate the noise cancelling circuit.
Once noise cancelling is engaged, the highs leap forward and do a lot to clarify the sonic image. That said, the audio quality of these headphones is not on par with competitors – even units that cost much less. While the high frequencies come across with pleasant clarity, the bass response is a bit unruly. A constantly present mid-bass hump sounds like “faked” bass to us and the midrange is pulled waaaay back. Vocals further sounded as if several socks had gotten in between the singer and the microphone. Midrange-intensive styles of music such as instrumental jazz, classical and more contemporary pop music lacked the zeal and presence necessary to make listening a thoroughly enjoyable experience. While the PS 300 NC headphones don’t sound bad per se, they do seem best suited for styles of music that rely on bright highs and deep lows. Electronica and trance are two genres that instantly come to mind.
Phiaton’s generous and thoughtful design has made for a very convenient and clever set of headphones. Their compact size, comprehensive accessory pack and high-end styling are promising. However, the PS 300 NC headphones fall short on essential noise cancelling and audio quality parameters. This being the case, it’s hard to recommend them for the discerning buyer.
- Comfortable Fit
- Dual Rechargeable Batteries
- USB and Wall Charger included
- Comprehensive Accessory Pack
- Noise Cancelling circuitry underperforms
- Poor audio quality makes them best for certain types of music (Electronica, Trance, etc.)