Bass heavy and high-end tend not to go hand in hand in headphone circles, despite what Dr Dre may tell you about his Beats, but that's precisely what the Phiaton PS 500 aim to provide. Coming in at around £180 they're comfortably into the upper echelons of the headphone fraternity yet have one of the largest bottom ends outside of Destiny's Child.
You can tell straight away this is a quality product. Tear it from its classy black card and clear plastic box and you're presented with a solidly built and mostly stylish set of 'phones. Plastic is the dominant material here but its all in reassuringly hefty chunks, from the backs of the closed earcups, through the pivot mechanism up to the headband, it all feels suitably strong.
To really crank up the opulence, adorning the outer surface of each earcup is a patch of real leather embossed with a reptilian skin pattern. It's borderline cheesy – like an otherwise clean-looking chap wearing a leather jacket in an attempt to look rock and roll – but it just manages to emulate Ron Burgundy (it stays classy). Sadly real leather isn't used on the headband and ear cushions but both are still luxuriously comfortable.
The headband uses a typical notched adjustment, making it quick and easy to get a good fit - with enough adjustability to fit the smallest or largest of heads - while the padding is reasonably deep, if perhaps a tad firm if your noggin is particularly sensitive. The earcups, though, are deeply and softly cushioned with enough padding to easily surround the ear and hold the rest of the headphone well clear. The result is a pair that remains comfortable to wear for hours on end. They inevitably get a bit hot and sweaty with prolonged use, but give them a few minutes to cool and dry off and you're ready to go again.
One thing that may disappoint those looking for a slightly more portable pair of over-ear headphones is the inability of the earcups to swivel around, to be parallel with the headband. There's 40 degrees or so of movement to allow for different shaped heads, but not enough to fold flat. The overall bulk of these 'phones also means they're really not meant for portable listening, something highlighted by the 3m long, permanently attached cable.
This cable is braided with the intention of helping prevent tangling, which in our testing it proved to do. This is of course helped by the relative thickness of the cable and that it won't be wrapped up in a bundle and stuffed in a pocket with any regularity, but nonetheless it never required fingernail-testing feats of dexterity to untangle. Unlike some home listening headphones the Phiaton PS500 do have an mp3 player friendly 3.5mm headphone jack as standard and instead include in the box a 6.3mm adapter for Hi-Fi and headphone amp listening.
You get little else in the box with no airline adapters or inline volume controls, and there's no microphone or other such extras built into the headphones themselves. What you do get is an owner's guide and a product registration card. That latter is of limited use as you only get a 1-year warranty anyway.