Phiaton PS 300 NC noise-canceling headphones Page 2

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The headphones sound generally good, but they're sorely lacking in the bass department. Treble and midrange both sound clear and rich, from Warren Zevon's vocals in the titular track of his live album Stand in the Fire to the wailing guitar notes of Jimi Hendrix's guitar in his legendary cover of "All Along the Watchtower." Classical music sounds just as good as classic rock on the PS 300 NC's; Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major felt full and lively, with the individual string and woodwind notes sounding particularly good.

Unfortunately, its bass feels flat and unsatisfying. Both kick drums and bass lines sounded hollow on the Zevon and Hendrix tracks; at best, bass notes sounded melodic with little detail, and at worst deep drum beats thumped uselessly, just loud enough to get in the way of the music but not enough to add any sense of depth. A small mechanical switch on either cup controls valves that supposedly affect bass response, but I couldn't discern a difference no matter how the switches were set. Kick drums and bass lines simply lacked punch and definition. I could hear every beat and note, but I couldn't really feel them; there just wasn't enough thump to back them up.

Oddly enough, Phiaton's non-noise cancellation headphones don't seem to have this problem. According to our own Al Griffin, the company's Moderna MS 400 headphones, Phiaton's high-end, non-NC model, sound fantastic compared to the PS 300 NC. The MS 400's are slightly less expensive than the PS 300's, as well.

While you can still listen to the headphones without the noise cancellation (or the battery that powers the feature), it severely diminishes the sound quality. The un-cancelled headphones sound tinny and unsatisfying, with only a fraction of the midrange heft they offer with noise canceling enabled.

If you travel a lot and want to isolate yourself from the rest of the world (or airplane), the Phiaton PS 300 NC headphones are a great package, with their spare battery, airplane adapter, and numerous international power plugs ensuring that you won't be caught anywhere without active noise cancellation. However, their disappointing bass response and hefty price tag make them unappealing for the average desk jockey or home listener. There are cheaper choices that don't offer as many accessories, but offer better, deeper sound.

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