updated 05:42 pm EDT, Tue October 2, 2012
Phiaton tries to balance cost and performance
Audio gear maker Phiaton recently put out the PS 210 BTNC, a set of noise-cancelling Bluetooth 3.0 headphones; Electronista had an opportunity to put them through their paces. In practice they seem to strike a nice balance between cost and performance. They won't set the world on fire in terms of audio quality, either in clarity or bass response, but neither will anyone be disappointed. The noise cancellation feature works as advertised, for the most part -- it won't completely eliminate any surrounding noise, and produces a faint hiss, but it seems well-tuned to cut out most of the roar of nearby traffic or a jet engine.
Where it stumbles, most of the PS 210 BTNC's problems are in idiosyncrasies. The controls seem to work well with an Android phone, for instance, but in testing track functions didn't work with an iPad, despite that being an obvious platform -- wireless headphones mean you can leave a gigantic tablet in your bag. The remote for the headphones is large in its own right, making it difficult to hide or clip comfortably, and the cable to the earbuds is unnecessarily short. That limits you to clipping to your upper torso, instead of somewhere like a pants pocket.
Most functions are handled through a tiny joystick. Bizarrely, though, this is located directly opposite the top of the clip, making it possible to accidentally change tracks or volume when you put the remote on or take it off. Moving the stick down a centimeter or using flat buttons would've solved the issue.
All that being said, the remote and the earbuds do have a nice metallic aesthetic, and feel fairly solid and durable. The internal battery -- charged via a micro USB cable -- seems to last a reasonable amount of time. Phiaton claims 12 hours of call time, 14 hours of music, or 600 hours of standby. After using the headphones for a few hours and then leaving them unplugged for many days, we were surprised to find them ready to go again. This was with noise cancellation switched off after use, however.
Phiaton's best asset may be the PS 210 BTNC's price. The headphones officially list for $159, and sell for just $129 on Amazon, making them considerably cheaper than some of the other options mixing Bluetooth and noise cancellation. If you don't need extreme audio fidelity -- and don't mind some inconveniences -- the PS 210 BTNC package is worth checking out.