Though Phiaton entered the market less than a year ago, the company is developing a reputation for boldly designed audio devices with solid fidelity. The PS 200 earphones are the latest example of the company's knack for head-turning accessories. The $249 price tag is a bit steep given the limited bass response, but the PS 200's sleek style, solid overall sound quality, and decent noise isolation make it a good investment.
PS denotes Phiaton's Primal Series division; it's a line of headphones and earbuds with designs that focus on hand-stitched leather. The silver PS 200 earbuds have backs that resemble the blades of an airplane turbine and, on the other end, are capped by removable silicone eartips. The tips are as soft and malleable as rubber and come in three sizes, each slightly conical, ensuring you'll get the best fit for your ear canal.
Normally we'd complain about the ease with which such tiny attachments could be lost, but Phiaton conveniently includes a pleather-wrapped carrying case for the PS 200 that--wisely--comes complete with docks for unused earpieces, a nook for the headset and its wire, and a magnetic clasp. At roughly 3.0 x 3.0 x 1.0 inches, the carrying case is a bit bulky; it might protrude from a pants pockets awkwardly, but it will easily find a home in a large coat pocket or a laptop bag.
Comfort in Variety
Out of the box, the PS 200 comes affixed with the medium-size eartips; no matter how deep we pushed the silicone pieces in, they always worked themselves out of our ears. Downsizing to the smallest option provided the best fit and helped deliver very robust sound. We even managed to run a few miles on the treadmill without having to reinsert the PS 200 into our ear repeatedly. If you've got ears only a magician could love (for hiding all those quarters), then the large-sized ear tips will provide the best fit.
The audio output of the PS 200 is crystalline, and listening to nearly any music genre with them was a pleasure. However, these headphones place more emphasis on the high end of the sound spectrum than the lower one. That means if you're into acoustic, light rock, classical, or country genres, the PS 200 will play back your music with as much amplitude and clarity as the next pair of high-end buds.
But for music where a strong bass line is a driving factor, such as bluesy jazz, hip-hop, rock, and pop music, some listeners might want headphones that can pump more bass at lower volume settings. To get the low-end vibrato we wanted from the Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow," we had to max out the volume, and though the digital handclaps were crisp and clear, the bass still lacked intensity.
Still, audio quality from these earphones was more than satisfactory. With the buds pushed firmly into our inner ear, all our music, from the low-key guitars of Wilco's "Impossible Germany" to dance hits like M.I.A's "Paper Planes," sounded rich and detailed.
The snug fit of the PS 200 enhanced our listening experience. We tested the buds on public transportation for a little more than a week and found that they blocked nearly all ambient noise, including nearby conversations, station loudspeakers, and the rushing air of moving subway cars, which sometimes can be as loud and obtrusive as the engine hum of an airplane. Of course, the level of reduction is completely dependent on obtaining a tight seal between your ear and the buds, which makes us more appreciative that Phiaton gives users three sets of tips.
While the PS 200 succeeds in locking out environmental noises, it's less adept at keeping music contained to your ears. When we pushed volume above the 50 percent mark, nearby friends at a coffee shop could hear a faint buzz. When we dialed up the volume to 90 percent in a quiet room, anyone within 3 to 4 feet of us could hear the tunes well enough to distinguish words from melodies. However, you'll hardly need to raise the volume to such levels, which means the PS 200 is a good pick for tamer listening situations like studying at a library or adding a soundtrack to a walk through the park.
Phiaton PS 200 Verdict
For everyday listening, the Phiaton PS 200 should please most audiophiles--assuming they have $249 to spend. Because of the sound quality and the effective noise reduction (provided you have a good seal), we recommend these artfully designed earbuds. The bass could be better, but the PS 200 is an excellent accessory.