I cringe a little every time friends come to me asking me for a recommendation on a pair of Bluetooth earbuds. The fact is, the ideal pair of Bluetooth earbuds haven’t been invented yet — though some have promised to — and what you can buy today leave a lot to be desired. Most are unacceptably bulky and/or uncomfortable, and the few that aren’t don’t sound all that great. The best I’ve seen yet I reviewed two years ago — Phiaton’s BT 210 NC — but after having two break on me after long-term use, I fell out of love. Now Phiaton is back with the BT 220 NC, an updated and upgraded version of the original. And this time, it looks like they got it right.
The BT 220 NC are designed around a compact electronics module that you clip on your shirt or jacket, or wear around your neck on a provided lanyard. The matte-silver control module is smaller and lighter than a pack of gum, and holds not only the active noise-cancelling circuitry, but also the rechargeable battery and built-in amplifier. This design approach allows the in-ear headphones — or, earbuds, if you prefer — to remain small, light and compact, just the way we like ’em.
Phiaton maintains the earbuds “half in-ear” design, which looks and feels like a hybrid between a typical earbud and a canalphone. The control module offers noise cancelling as a stand-alone feature (perfect for long flights when you want to nap without music), and buttons for power, volume and track play/pause. There’s also a “monitor” feature, which mutes music, disables noise cancelling, and activates a built-in microphone so you can hear a flight attendant interrupt your slumber to offer you an overpriced snack pack full of hummus and disappointment.
Most importantly, though, Phiaton has abandoned the spring clip that kept breaking on me for a much more robust design. In fact, the entire package feels much better put together, with more solid button feedback, and hand-feel that’s more metallic than plastic.
The practical effectiveness of Phiaton’s noise cancelling in these Bluetooth buds is something we intend to test thoroughly — active noise-cancelling prowess was not one of the prior model’s strong suits. Still, as a Bluetooth in-ear, the BT 220 NC are pretty promising, provided you don’t mind having to deal with a clip-on control pack.
We’ll be back soon with our full review. Until then, what do you think about Phiaton’s solution here?