So the Phiaton PS 500 are clearly a well-made and comfortable set of headphones but the real proof of the pudding is in the listening. So how do they hold up?
Well, these are a closed back set so they block out external noise a little, taking the edge off the hum and rumble of air conditioning units and the tippity tap of keyboards. It's certainly not enough to bathe you in complete silence but it helps somewhat. You'll also not disturb others around you, no matter how loud you listen.
The negative effect of this a narrower sound compared to open back headphones. In fact, this is a particularly closed-sounding set, with music presented as a single wall of sound that runs somewhere in-between your ears, rather than an enveloping audio landscape that spreads out into the world around you. This isn't to say they sound bad because of it, but for audiophiles into their expansive music (such as orchestral work) or movie buffs looking to get the greatest sense of 'being there', these will fall someway short of the mark.
Making up for this somewhat is the bombast with which these headphones deliver bass. From the timpani-filled openings of Britten's War Requiem through the throbbing synthesised basslines of Adam Freeland's FabricLive 16 album to the most driving sonic blast that is Soilent Green, these deliver it in wheelbarrows full. If you like rocking out to a good ole' sonic pummelling, these will have you grinning from ear to ear. That said, they are so bass heavy and that they can sound quite muddy when used with a bog standard mp3 player; to get the best from them they need some power.
Hooking these up to a computer or portable amp brings them to life in a way we've seldom witnessed before. From having a fun and rumbling but slightly muddy sound on an iPhone these are transformed into having a tight, hard hitting thump that is perfectly suited to heavy metal and modern dance music.
When it comes to mid range, again these rely somewhat on being amped to keep everything tight and in check but once done they're just about sufficient to satisfy most listening purposes. That said, these do lack a certain mid-range warmth, leaving acoustic guitar work and vocals in particular feeling a little flat.
In contrast, there is ample high-end detail, which is no doubt why Phiaton considers these a high-end set with a high-end price. This clarity allows you to pick out instruments and details much more effectively than you might expect given the bass heavy sound. They're certainly not milestone setting in this regards, though. Those sensitive to high-end frequencies like myself may consider these almost a tad sibilant but as you don't have to crank these to fill out the bass, they seldom felt fatiguing for normal listening.
Overall, though, the Phiaton PS 500 are a difficult headphone to judge. Their masses of bass will appeal to metal heads and dance lovers, and the extra high-end detail they provide over other bass-oriented sets pushes these towards audiophile territory, in the same vein as the high-end Dr Dre Beats. However, their lack of mid-range warmth and sometimes muddy bass means they're not really suited to those with more mixed tastes. Also, while the closed back design has some noise isolating advantages, the unashamedly stay-at-home design means it's of limited benefit. When it comes to the crunch they just don't quite excite us enough to justify the price.