Quick! Name a brand of superior quality noise cancelling headphones.
What did you come up with? BOSE?
While BOSE most certainly gets much of the press when it comes to this category of headphone, I put products by them squarely in the camp with Beats and Monster Cable: overpriced, hyped and can do much better for less. A brand that you may not be familiar with, but you should, is Phiaton. This company has an entire line of high-end audio products including both superior earphones and headphones.
This week we’ll look at one of Phiation’s noise-cancelling headphone options: The PS 300 NC. The sound and performance of these headphones are vastly superior to the comparably priced, and market leading offering from BOSE: the Quiet Comfort 15. In addition to the extraordinary comfort, the leather finishing and a slew of features and accessories, the PS 300 NC’s afford the listener with outstanding audio with or without noise cancellation. Utilizing the proprietary noise cancellation technology that Phiaton calls “VHST” (Valves of Heart Sound Technology), the outside world is effectively cut off and the headphones deliver true audiophile sound completely unimpaired by the drone of aircraft engines or other outside distractions.
[Phiaton PS 300 NC Noise Cancelling Headphones]
In a nutshell: The Phiaton PS 300 NC’s are extremely portable with their “fold and go” design. They come with a hard shell case which is relatively compact for these full-sized, on-the-ear headphones. The noise cancellation is powered by a rechargeable lithium-polymer battery that lasts about 18 hours and can be charged either with a wall outlet or a USB port. Two batteries are included so you can always keep a fully charged spare in your carry case. In addition to the standard headphone cable with mini-jack allowing it to be used on virtually any portable music player: a 6.3mm adapter is included should you need to plug into a receiver. Also included is a separate cable with a microphone on it if you want to utilize as headset for phone calls. Dual plug adapter for airplane audio and international power adapters are also included.
Build Quality, Design and Comfort: It is immediately obvious when handling for the first time that these are a well made pair of headphones. Luxuriously appointed with leather both on the ear cups as well as the exterior of the cans, these headphones look as good as they sound. Unlike most noise cancelling headphones, the PS 300 NC’s are relatively slim and offer some of the smallest dimensions available for this class of headphones. The on-ear design is extremely comfortable and become virtually unnoticeable even for extended periods of listening. Unlike over the ear headphones, as most NC headphones are, your ears won’t get hot and sweaty or feel increased pressure after long use.
Noise Cancellation: I simply love the way that the noise cancellation works on these headphones. I have used a few different pairs in the past, and while they were certainly an improvement over regular headphones in high volume environments, I always found something “artificial” about the sound. I can’t articulate precisely what was causing it, other than to say it was always clear to me (in addition to the noise reduction), that the sound was being processed. I guess it was sort of like the sound of a highly-compressed MP3 when you compare it against a lossless format: something was simply missing in the sound.
So using noise cancellation has often been a trade-off: You get the luxury of having highly improved volumes of music and the drone of the external environment cancelled out but lose some of the warm and natural sounds of the audio. Phiaton utilizes a different technique for their noise cancellation which opens and closes valves in the enclosures to accomplish the task of noise cancellation. The so called (and gimmicky named) “VHST” changes pressures to create reversed signals. Unlike the usual method and closed earphones, this produces sound with the utmost clarity and natural feeling to it. You’ll forget that you are wearing noise cancellation earphones and simply think that they are concert hall quality headphones.
Sound Quality: In a word: Stellar. I have been using these headphones for over a week and have tossed all sorts of music at them including jazz, bluegrass, rock and of course my preferred testing material in Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Everything sounded natural and had wonderful tone including shrill highs and deep, booming bass. There is a setting for increased bass (recommended) when using the noise cancelling that affords even deeper tones without distortion. The volume can be pushed pretty much to max without any adverse quality loss, but the overall volume is not the loudest I’ve ever had in headphones which is my only minor complaint: sometimes I like it LOUD.
I spent another couple of hours listening to Hal Masa’s terrific “You Enjoy My Mix” series from Phish’s first leg of this summer tour. I always find Phish to be another superlative band to listen to when evaluating audio gear. With so many intricate layers of sound and both subtle and massively in-your-face things often occurring simultaneously, it is great to see if speakers or headphones can handle that. Sure enough, a simple high-hat tap, or couple of keys quietly played by Page were as distinct and clear as soaring guitar work or a deep bass groove. While I had already listened to this mix in the car, it was great to hear some of the spectacular things happening that I had previously missed.
One of the major pluses with these is that they sound absolutely perfect even without power. I’ve had other pairs of NC headphones in the past that only operated with the power on. Dead battery and you are out of luck. The Phiatons gladly keep serving up high quality sound regardless of power setting.
Bottom Line: Noise cancelling headphones needn’t sacrifice audiophile quality. Phiaton has engineered an extraordinary pair of slim-profile, on-ear headphones with long battery life (18 hours+ of use), quick charge (less than an hour) and a handful of accessories to make these a great choice either for travel when noise cancellation is needed, or for everyday use. The leather earpieces are comfortable for long use and with the supplied microphone cable can double as a headset for your phone.
At $250-$275, these are a good value. Certainly you can find Sony, Logitech and many other brands for substantially cheaper, but the audio quality is resultantly decreased as is the build quality. Similarly, you can spend $50-$100 more for certain models by BOSE, Beats, Sennheiser and other brands and not achieve the same quality as the Phiaton PS 300 NCs in sonic quality as well as noise cancellation.
Phiaton, while not a universally known brand, is definitely one to keep an eye on and consider when making audio purchases.
Headroom $199 (this is the lowest price, by far I have seen for these headphones, which typically seem to go for $250 – $299)
Hidden Track Technology Tuesday
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