Phiaton Bridge MS 500 Review

The Phiaton Bridge MS 500 offer a pleasant blend of clear highs and barreling bass, all wrapped up in a flashy frame.
The Phiaton Bridge MS 500 offer a pleasant blend of clear highs and barreling bass, all wrapped up in a flashy frame.
The Phiaton Bridge MS 500 offer a pleasant blend of clear highs and barreling bass, all wrapped up in a flashy frame.

Highs

  • Clear upper register
  • Smooth, powerful low end
  • Good passive noise isolation
  • Cool, portable design

Lows

  • Weak midrange
  • Doesn’t reveal finer detail

DT Editors' Rating

In the wide world of headphones, it seldom pays to stand still for long. Phiaton has achieved real success with its popular MS series, especially the flagship MS 400. But that didn’t deter the company from throwing out the playbook entirely when it came to creating its latest addition to the series, the Bridge MS 500 (available at $300). Named after the bridge on a stringed instrument, the 500’s wiry aluminum frame and ‘V’-shaped earpieces stand out among even the most avant-garde competition. But with change comes risk. Would these new-fangled cans bring that same Phiaton sound we’ve enjoyed in the past? We recently sat down with the MS 500 to find out.

Out of the box

Red is kind of Phiaton’s thing, and the company didn’t hesitate to remind us of that from the onset, starting with the MS 500’s bright red and white box. Opening the box revealed a shiny black pouch with a velvety red lining. Inside the box we found the MS 500 folded in on itself, sporting heaps of black leather-hugging angles of silver aluminum, all of which was accented in thin red lines. Also in the box were two cloth-lined removable cables, and a ¼-inch adapter.

Features and design

At first glance, the MS 500 appear to be sporting small silver antennae. The bent tubular arms that attach the earpieces to their frame pop out at the sides of the band when adjusted, like stacks from a big rig. The headband itself is constructed of flat plates of aircraft-grade aluminum. A smooth sheath of dimpled leather surrounds the entire bow, stitched at the back with a crimson accent, and sporting small puffs of ridged padding along its underbelly. At the base of the headband are hinged pieces from which the earpieces attach. Though the hinges fold inward, the earpieces butt heads at the interior of the band, unable to fully collapse like other similar designs we’ve tested.

The earpieces themselves are shaped into rounded triangles, with thin plates on their outer face that are reminiscent of giant guitar picks. Large foam pads encircle the earpieces’ interiors, cloaked in soft, worn leather. At the mouth of each pad is a bright red screen, behind which sit the MS 500’s newly-designed 40mm drivers. The earpads rest forward at a slight angle, due to the aforementioned bend in the slim poles that attach them to the frame. At the base of each pole is a 2.5mm port, which accepts input of the removable cable from either side.

Each of the two provided cables is wrapped in braided red cloth, surrounding “Oxygen Free Copper” wiring. Both cables are terminated at each end with nimble pieces of textured aluminum, shaped at a 90 degree angle at the input source. The virtually identical cords are separated only by a single-button microphone on one of them, shaped into a silver capsule about four inches below the insertion point.

Comfort

The MS 500’s light frame and thick earpads make for a soft fit that many of our colleagues found extremely comfortable. However, the pads seemed to fall somewhere between an on-ear and over-ear design, which never quite fit over our ears correctly, causing a bit of a pinch after prolonged use. Obviously, fit will vary for each user, so we recommend trying the MS 500 on before jumping in. On the plus side, the tight fit provided some pretty excellent passive noise isolation.

Audio performance

Sonically, there are a lot of things to like about the MS 500. Auditioning a wide array of genres from our music catalog, the headset displayed fluid clarity up high, and reams of punctual low end force. However, the midrange was, for us, a bit of a disappointment. To put it bluntly, the mids were kind of wimpy, illustrated with a Disney-pop sheen that left us slightly unsatisfied. While the headphones do a lot of things very well, those who live for midrange warmth will be disappointed.

We were actually unaware of the judicious balance with which the bass was distributed until we’d heard it at full force.

The weak-kneed midrange was most evident (fittingly enough) from strong midrange instruments like percussion, acoustic guitar, and vocals. Auditioning lighter genres like acoustic music and softer recordings from The Cure and R.E.M., there was a thin edge to the overall sound, as if we were listening to the diet version of the tracks. The effect was emphasized by a lack of overall definition in the instrumentation. Snare drums came through in laminated pulses, while the lower rim of cymbals was shimmery, with little resonance. Acoustic guitars were often a bit bright, with the kind of sparkly ring you get from a fresh pair of budget strings.

All of that is not to say that there weren’t some great things happening with the MS 500. As our ears adjusted to its sculpted sound, the headset revealed a relatively balanced exchange between the fire down below, and the luminous upper register.

The delicate clarity of the treble allowed for good delineation of complex electronic productions from artists like Radiohead and Coldplay. While the detail in the timbre of instruments wasn’t quite at the level we expect at this price, the headset provided a wide soundstage, ushering rippling waves of synths, awash with brilliant electric guitar tones and vocals. Heavier rock tracks were pleasantly airy as well, bringing a clean approach that went down smooth once our ears adjusted. We still found ourselves wanting a bit more warmth and presence, especially in percussion, but the overall effect was frequently enjoyable.

Phiaton-Bridge-MS500-review-inner-earcup

We were also impressed with the MS 500’s bass reponse which, when activated properly, was rich and powerful. We were actually unaware of the judicious balance with which the bass was distributed until we’d heard it at full force. While bass was relatively tame during much of our lighter listening, diving through hip-hop and electronic music offered a brash wall of thunder, with deep grooves that reached well into the coveted 60Hz range. Too Short, Lil Wayne, and Kanye all brought the heat, with well-tuned beats that were aggressive and booming without being overbearing. Often in our listening, just when our ears were beginning to tire from the light top end, the velvety bass would swoop in from below, righting the ship.

Conclusion

The Phiaton Bridge MS 500 offer a pleasant blend of clear highs and barreling bass, all wrapped up in a flashy frame. While the light midrange doesn’t offer the warmth or granular detail we look for in an elite model, these headphones still provide an enticing mix of brilliance and power with a look that will certainly stand above the fray. If you’re searching for something a little different, both in sound and style, you may want to give the Phiaton Bridge MS 500 a try.

Pros

  • Clear upper register
  • Smooth, powerful low end
  • Good passive noise isolation
  • Cool, portable design

Cons

  • Weak midrange
  • Doesn’t reveal finer detail
Product Review

Focal’s ultra-clear Sphear Wireless bring sexy back to banded Bluetooth buds

Focal’s Sphear Wireless are a sleek and simple pair of banded Bluetooth earbuds with exceptional sound and an affordable price, making them some of the only non-true wireless earbuds we’d consider buying right now.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Product Review

SVS's stunning Prime speakers go wireless with (mostly) brilliant results

The latest offering from SVS is a wireless way to enjoy the company’s incredible sound. While they do come with a few caveats, those looking for gorgeous sound in a stunning package will want to give them a long look.
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.
Home Theater

Apple will reportedly launch its new video-streaming service at March 25 event

The rumors about what Apple will announce at a March 25 event continue to swirl. A new report suggests that it will debut its much-anticipated video-streaming service, which will compete with Netflix and Amazon's Prime Video.
Home Theater

Bose’s technology patents could save an earbud’s battery life

Possibly taking a cue from Apple's popular AirPods, Bose filed a patent application for earbud IR technology that could save battery life, improve sound quality, and possibly help people locate lost earbuds.
Home Theater

Samsung accidentally leaks its new Galaxy Buds ahead of launch

It's been all but certain that Samsung would launch a successor to its Gear IconX wireless earbuds soon, but a newly leaked photo and recent FCC certification document seems to indicate that the debut is very close.
Home Theater

ATSC 3.0: The next-gen TV update explained

ATSC 3.0 is the next major update to the broadcast standard we use today. Will this be the second coming of free, over-the-air TV? We're here to explain everything about the new standard.
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny, muffled TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.
Home Theater

Samsung will stop releasing new Blu-ray players in the U.S.

Samsung, the first company to produce a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, is now exiting the Blu-ray market entirely in the U.S. The move comes after Oppo Digital also dropped out of the market last year.
Movies & TV

The Breaking Bad sequel might air on Netflix before it arrives on AMC

A Breaking Bad sequel starring Jesse Pinkman (and, possibly, Walter White) is on the way from series creator Vince Gilligan, and you might get your first look at it on Netflix, not traditional cable.
Deals

The best Presidents’ Day sales 2019: Amazon, Walmart, Dell, and more

Presidents' Day sales are a great chance to score electronics, clothing, home and office stuff, and other goodies at a discount. We’ve smoked out a large handful of the best of these Presidents' Day deals, from tech to bedding, to help…
Deals

Take a gander at the best deals on 4K TVs for February 2019

There's no doubt that a good 4K smart TV is the best way to take your home entertainment setup to the next level to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. We've got the best 4K TV deals right here.