- Heavy duty build
- Very comfortable
- Huge bass sound
- Surprising amounts of high-end detail
- Very narrow sound stage
- Lack of mid-range warmth
- Really need amping for best results
- Review Price: £174.00
- 5-30,000Hz Frequency range
- Leather clad earcups
- Closed back design
- Bass heavy sound
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.
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.
Score in detail
Design & Features 7
Sound Quality 7
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