Phiaton might be one of the lesser-known names in the audio space, but the brand has developed a solid reputation over the years for its great sound and wireless performance. Several of its headphones have fared well with critics and make for solid purchases should you be in the market for an affordable in-ear or over-ear upgrade. With its biggest release ever, the Legacy 900, Phiaton feels confident going up against heavyweights like the Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000xM4 for noise-cancelling supremacy, and it has the skill set to do so.
- Our expert picks for the best noise cancelling headphones, per budget and style
- Check out our Bose 700 review
- …and our Sony WH-1000xM4 review
Housing customized 40mm drivers that deliver optimal ANC and sound, along with a variety of modern wireless technologies and long-lasting battery life, the Legacy 900 makes a strong case as one of the best noise-cancelling headphones available. They also look stylish as hell and are relatively affordable considering their robust spec sheet. The only things standing in the way of perfection: a bulky frame and a lack of extra features.
Phiaton 900 Legacy: Availability and price
The Phiaton 900 Legacy is available for $249.99 on Walmart or directly from Phiaton, though we have found it for as low as $224.99 on Amazon. Your choice of colors is limited to one: Black. Bundled with the purchase are a 3.5mm aux cable, USB-C charging cable, and a shockproof and water-resistant travel case.
Phiaton 900 Legacy: Design
Phiaton’s design pedigree is underrated, as the company continues to create attractive, well-built headphones. The 900 Legacy is certainly its magnum opus. These sound-silencers look just as elegant and sturdy out of the box as they do in the press images.
Carbon fiber isn’t anything new to the genre; take a look at last year’s gorgeous PX7 Carbon Fiber Edition by Bowers & Wilkins. Adding it usually equates to a higher price as well. Not only has Phiaton blended the material into the 900 Legacy’s durable design, beautifully displaying it on the front of each earcup, which is encompassed in a glossy plastic casing with a copper ring – it did so without driving the premium up to the $300+ mark. That deserves some applause. Making up the rest of the 900 Legacy’s construction is faux leather that surrounds the earcups and headband.
I was able to admire the small details on these cans during my unboxing. The copper logo below each hinge is a nice touch. I like that the earcups turn 90 degrees and can be folded inward to conveniently store the headphones inside the sharp-looking water-resistant carrying case. Also, I found the case design to be even more eye-catching with its unique shape.
The use of carbon fiber added weight to these bad boys (9 ounces) and it’s noticeable the moment you hold them. I was fine wearing the headphones for 1.5 hours before fatigue set in; they felt encumbering atop my skull shortly after. The large frame doesn’t make wearing them around the neck any more comfortable. Both the Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000xM4 weigh slightly less, at 9 ounces, and are much lighter to carry around.
But it isn’t all bad news. During that first hour of listening, I found the padding to be very supportive. The lengthy extenders were easy to adjust and helped the headphones mold easily to my head size. I also liked that the oval cutouts on the ear pads were wide so that my ears weren’t suffocating during Spotify sessions.
Phiaton 900 Legacy: Controls and digital assistant
Any pair of wireless headphones that can take on multiple control schemes is a winner in my book. The 900 Legacy boasts physical and touch controls, along with on-ear detection to automatically stop playback once the headphones are removed and resume playback when worn again. All three options are responsive, with the physical buttons producing great tactility.
I haven’t tested touch controls this smooth since the WH-1000xM4, so kudos to Phiaton. You get a power/pairing and action button on the rear edge of the left earcup; the latter lets you cycle through noise cancellation and ambient listening modes. The touch controls are where the headphones really shine, with the right earcup housing a large touch panel that registers tap and slide gestures accurately with zero lag. Performing a front/back-sliding gesture will skip/replay a track, while going up or down manages volume levels. Single (answer calls) and double (play/pause, end calls) taps also work well.
Adding to the 900 Legacy’s intuitiveness is hands-free digital assistance, meaning you can fire up Siri or Google Assistant by speaking their respective activating phrases: “Hey Siri” or “OK Google.” The results are a mixed bag. It took a few attempts before my Pixel 3XL would enable the feature, and I couldn’t get Siri working on my new MacBook Pro at all. When I got the chance to shout out voice commands on my Android phone, the mics grabbed every syllable I spoke and dished out speedy results.
Phiaton 900 Legacy: Noise cancellation and ambient listening
The company’s digital hybrid noise-cancelling technology is impressive. It won’t outperform what Sony or Bose offer, but it does a reputable job of minimizing ambient noises to enjoy music and movies in peace.
The 900 Legacy’s feedforward and feedback mics manage to effectively block out noises across the frequency spectrum. Since we’re still in this damn pandemic, I can’t provide analysis on how the ANC performs on an airplane, but I can attest to how well it fends off several other droning distractions (e.g., air conditioners, bus engines).
It was also great to block out my newborn’s whimpering when his moody side started to show. Sure, I would have loved for the headphones to completely mute his blaring cries, but I have heard them much louder on other ANC models. I do still prefer the Bose 700 or Sony WH-1000xM4 for dealing with high-frequency noises.
The Transparency Mode is functional; the mics pick up environmental sounds clearly, but maybe too clearly. It was fun watching WandaVision while working on my laptop, but toggling on the feature amplified keyboard clatter, which was annoying to hear after a few minutes of typing. The amount of sound these headphones can detect may overwhelm you, so be selective of how you choose to use the feature. I can see it being most useful for hearing flight attendant announcements on a plane or when conveying coffee orders to a barista.
Phiaton 900 Legacy: Audio quality
The 900 Legacy harnesses dynamic sound underneath its carbon fiber shell. Powering the headphones are custom 40mm drivers that produce loud and impactful lows, along with crisp mids and highs, plus built-in aptX HD for high fidelity audio.
The snares on AC/DC’s “Back in Black” delivered the oomph that rock heads clamor for and remained prominent throughout the entire song. Being able to hear the hi-hat’s percussive presence at the beginning demonstrated the 900 Legacy’s frequency range. Vocals did take a bit of a hit over the booming production, though they were still audible to sing along gleefully.
With such an emphasized low end, I didn’t expect these headphones to perform well with orchestral recordings, but I was proven wrong. Charlie Parker’s saxophone solo on “Billie’s Bounce” was such a rewarding listen. The 900 Legacy produced great instrument separation, letting me hear the differences between each musical tool without being lost in the background. I was shocked by how well the headphones enhanced the audio on low-fi-sounding albums such as Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the 36 Chambers, as the gritty sound on distorted bangers like “Bring da Ruckus” and “7th Chamber” was cleaned up to hear vocals and effects more clearly.
Bass response does have a tendency to become overzealous on contemporary records, which can diminish certain sonic elements on songs. Blasting A Tribe Called Quest’s “Jazz (We’ve Got)” stimulated head nods, courtesy of Q-Tip’s pounding drum loop, but the horns lost clarity and weren’t as pronounced as on the Sony WH-1000xM4.
The included aux cable does improve sound quality a little. If you find the volume levels low in wireless mode, which I didn’t, then this helps increase them by about 30%. I also noticed that the bass was more tamed, allowing mids and highs to share the spotlight over a more balanced low end. It’s worth mentioning too that the noise isolation on these headphones is superb, letting you take in full sound without external noises seeping into the soundstage when ANC is turned off.
Phiaton 900 Legacy: Battery life
Battery life on expensive noise-cancelling headphones hasn’t been great for the most part. The Sony WH-1000xM4 earn you a steady 30 hours (with ANC on), while other category leaders like the Bose 700 fall short at 20 hours (with ANC on). Well, the 900 Legacy crushes both models, generating 43 hours of playback in ANC mode, placing it in an exclusive crowd with the Jabra Elite 85h (36 hours). You can also use the headphones in wired mode with ANC on for 52 hours.
The amount of playtime these headphones gave me throughout the workweek was more than sufficient. I used them for 3 to 4 hours daily to satisfy my Spotify and YouTube cravings and threw some Skype calls into the mix. By the end of the week, I had about 30% left, which was enough to get me through the weekend before recharging. I also appreciate that Legacy 900 has a programmed sleep mode that preserves battery life by turning off the cans when inactive after several minutes.
Bear in mind that the headphones come only 40% charged, so I recommend fully charging them first before anything. The good news is that the process doesn’t take long because quick-charging grants you 4 hours of use on a 10-minute charge; a full charge is estimated to take 3 hours.
Phiaton 900 Legacy: Call quality and connectivity
As a calling headset, the 900 Legacy is 50/50, with the headphones performing best during video chats. Discussions with my wife over Facebook video calling were pleasant; she loved how loud and clear I sounded. She did notice common noises (e.g., cat meows, whisking cars), but also stated that they weren’t distracting enough to pull her away from our conversation. Phone calls weren’t as enticing. My parents complained about how muffled I sounded, while my business partner found the volume too low on my end.
Wireless performance on the 900 Legacy is impeccable. The pairing process was the fastest I have ever tested in this class; you’ll see the headphones automatically appear on the available devices list the moment you power them on. You’re going to get some good range on these cans as well. I was streaming music from 50 feet away from my smartphone. There was no stuttering or dropout during phone calls or Zoom conferences either. Adding to its awesomeness, the 900 Legacy supports multipoint technology to pair to two devices simultaneously, making it seamless to switch between audio sources on the fly. Ahhh, the wonders of Bluetooth 5.1!
Phiaton 900 Legacy: Verdict
I’m extremely glad that I didn’t pass up the opportunity to test the Phiaton 900 Legacy because it was a much bigger surprise than I anticipated. The craftsmanship is sharp. Phiaton’s noise-cancelling technology is more effective than several of its other competitors not named Bose or Sony. These cans offer the best battery life in the sub-luxury class. Lastly, sound quality is great, especially on low-fi recordings.
Looking at the spec sheet, it’s clear that Phiaton made nearly every attempt to stuff these headphones with the most powerful audio hardware available. Sadly, this may have come at the cost of no companion app and extra features, two things that most of the major players in the ANC category are providing listeners. The size and weight of these headphones may turn you off as well.
In the end, these were compromises I found myself comfortable living with, especially when factoring in the 900 Legacy’s overall performance. And the price point is perfect for those seeking a cheaper Sony or Bose alternative that operates just as well on the ANC and sonic fronts.