In today’s world, it can be hard to find a moment to yourself. From the constant distraction of social media to bustling work environments or long commutes, moments of isolation have become a rare commodity. That’s probably why noise canceling headphones like Phiaton’s BT 150 NC (short for “Bluetooth” and “noise canceling” respectively) are so popular.
Phiaton announced the BT 150 NC earlier this year, marketing the wireless in-ears as a way for weary travelers to block out the outside world and get some much-needed me-time. At $150, the BT 150 NC are a pretty great deal for their feature set, and as we expected giving Phiaton’s track record, they absolutely deliver, offering impressive noise cancelling to match their great sound.
Out of the Box
The BT 150 NC’s thin cardboard box houses a light, molded plastic frame encasing the earphones themselves. The earphones easily pop out of the frame, and can be wirelessly paired to your playback devices quickly; simply hold down the raised power button located on the left side of the neckband to turn them on, and continue holding the button until the earphones enter pairing mode. Then enable Bluetooth on your playback device’s settings menu and select the BT 150 NC.
Riding along is a tiny charging cable, a proprietary 3.5mm-to-microUSB Everplay-X cable for wiring the headphones in, and some user information. It’s a simple overall package, and we like that setup doesn’t require much fuss.
The BT 150 NC are neckband wireless in-ear headphones. The band itself is made of plastic, while the middle of the band – the part that rests on the back of your neck – is flexible rubber for comfort.
The earphones are lightweight enough that you hardly notice wearing them.
The BT 150 NC are lightweight enough that you hardly notice wearing them, though we do have a couple of slight quibbles about the design and build quality. The wires are a bit short, and wearing them with a collared shirt or multiple layers severely impacts their length. They’re also incredibly thin and feel fragile. We could easily see one good tug ripping them out. The wires are retractable, and can be easily stored when not in use, but that doesn’t eliminate the threat of tearing them when in your ears. That said, we had no issues in testing.
On the other hand, we couldn’t be happier with the ear pieces themselves. They are small and light, but the angle and size of the silicone tips make for an impeccable seal. This provides some passive noise blockage apart from the powered noise cancelation, and best of all, the design makes for a snug and comfy fit. In fact, we never had to adjust the buds at all once in.
The BT 150 NC’s touch controls rest near the front the of the neckband’s outer edges on either end. The controls are simple enough to use – swiping or tapping the left key adjusts volumes, while the right key can play/pause and skip tracks. In fact, we found the keys to be a little too responsive. The high level of sensitivity leads to the occasional accidental volume shift or track skip. We wouldn’t go so far as to say this negatively impacted our experience, but it did affect how we handled and wore the BT 150 NCs, and it’s worth keeping in mind.
Overall, despite minor control quibbles and some questionable cut corners with the earphone wires, we’re pleased with the BT 150 NC’s comfort and usability.
We’re happy to report that not only do the BT 150 NCs look and feel good, but they sound great, too.
The BT 150 NC’s 12mm drivers output audio that is punchy and detailed. The low end has an appreciable presence that doesn’t overpower the rest of the mix. You really notice this on heavier guitar-driven rock tracks, while bass-heavy electronic and hip-hop tracks are full-bodied. We even enjoyed wearing them while playing the mobile game Hearthstone on our commute home. The subtle guitar and woodwind-driven background music and twinkling spell effects sound full, while the percussive hits when attacking an enemy have impact and weight.
The silicone tips make for an impeccable seal that we never had to adjust.
Compared to the similarly-priced RHA MA750s, the BT 150 NC sound far more balanced and full-bodied. We found the performance to be near the quality of the V-Moda Forza Wireless in terms of richness and detail, which are priced similarly and don’t come with noise canceling.
Speaking of which, Phiaton claims the BT 150 NC cancel up to 95 percent of ambient noise, and we’re comfortable backing up that claim. Loud environments like noisy offices or public transportation melt away for isolated listening experiences. The cancelation can warp the sound a bit – we mostly noticed an ever-so slight muffling of the upper range and cymbal crashes, but it works well for its desired purpose.
We also appreciate how the common method of removing a single earbud to hear our immediate surroundings is a practical feature of the BT 150 NC; retract one of the earbuds, and the noise cancelling automatically shuts off.
Phone calls also sound excellent. Voices are crisp and clear, and the mic picked us up without any trouble in testing.
Sound is punchy and detailed, and the bass has an appreciable presence that doesn’t overpower.
When it comes to battery life, the six hours with the BT 150 NC’s noise cancelling is just a tad too low for some applications, running out a few times throughout our evaluation. You can turn off noise cancelling to get a few extra hours, though, and the BT 150 NC can also be plugged in via the proprietary Everplay-X cable for continued listening even when the battery loses juice – just make sure you don’t lose the cable. That said, considering that Phiaton is marketing the BT 150 NCs as a great choice for business travelers who need a noise cancelling solution, those who take long flights will want to keep the battery limit in mind.
When it comes to Bluetooth connection, we only experienced minor stuttering when the headphones and the connected listening device were at the edge of connectivity range. Step completely out of range, and the headphones provide a vibration notification to let you know it.
We came away impressed with the BT 150 NC’s sound performance and helpful features. Given the price and quality, it will be difficult to find a viable alternative.
Phiaton offers a one-year limited warranty for all its products, which covers any original defects in materials or workmanship.Our Take
We’ve been impressed by Phiaton’s wireless in-ear headphones in the past, and the BT 150 NC continue that legacy. At $150, there’s plenty of competition, but when it comes to offering impressive features and performance, the BT 150 NC stand out among the best.
Is there a better alternative?
In terms of an active noise-canceling option, Phiaton’s previous model, the BT 100 NCs, are still a great choice if you can find them, and cost half the price of the 150 NCs.
If you’re looking for something at a similar level of sound performance, you could opt for the V-Moda Forza Wireless for a few dollars cheaper, but you’ll be ditching the active noise canceling for passive sound isolation instead, which won’t block out nearly as much noise.
If money isn’t a factor, there’s always the Bose QC20i ANCs. While they cost almost $100 more than the BT 150 NCs, they have some of the best noise cancelation on the market, full-stop.
How long will it last?
From a performance perspective, we could see these lasting quite some time. From a design perspective, we’re a little nervous about the longevity and durability of the retractable wires. That said, the BT 150 NC are IPX4 splash and sweat proof, which should provide peace of mind when using them in poor weather conditions or during workouts.
Should you buy it?
If you’re looking for a pair of wireless in-ears at $150 that punch above their weight when it comes to both performance and features, we heartily recommend the BT 150 NC.