The Phiaton PS 210 BTNC sells for US$159, which may sound like a lot of money to the average earbud user. But for those who revel in headphones, the price is not too bad at all, especially given all that they can do.
The PS 210 BTNC Ear Pieces
My reference earphones are Etymotic●4 that list at US$299. I've been using them for years, and I am decidedly spoiled.
These earphones are earbuds that, like the PS2 10 BTNC, offer noise cancellation through a three flange earpiece that prevents most external sound from getting in. Phiaton does it by putting little microphones in the side of their earpieces and digitally removing external sound. The Etymotics do it better, but they are really tight fitting buds that can get a bit uncomfortable after long sessions of use. The Phiaton's were never uncomfortable, and most times I forget that I even have them in my ears.
Phiaton uses a unique half in-ear system and supplies you with plenty of ear tips to make sure that you'll find something appropriate no matter what size your ear canals. I'm using the foam tips that are quite comfortable for me.
Phiaton claims that their noise cancellation kills up to 95 percent of ambient sound. Without test equipment I can't verify that number, but, in my experience, I don't find anything like 95 percent to be a realistic number. I listened to a test suite of tones, stair stepping from below my hearing range to way above what I can make out and found that in the 10,000 Hz-13,000 Hz range the effect was most pronounced. In normal day-to-day listening, switching on noise cancellation erased the impact of ambient noise, but it never erased it to an extent that it was unnoticeable.
The Controls and Clip in Back
The PS 210 BTNC's use Bluetooth 3.0 which provides far greater bandwidth than previous versions, and to my ears the sound quality is excellent. If I rated my Etymotics as 100, I'd say that the PS2 10 BTNCs are 85-90, which is amazingly good not only for Bluetooth earphones but for any earphones. To my taste the bass is a tinge thin, and it lacks the slightest amount of punch provided by my Etymotics, but compared to anything else Bluetooth, there is no comparison at all. I am amazed that Phiaton was able to succeed as well as it did. It's quite an achievement.
I listened, quite critically, to The Beatles' Love soundtrack to the Cirque Du Soliel show which is a loving multi-layered mash-up of the original source material mixed by George Martin and his son Giles for the Las Vegas show. I was astounded to hear snippets of songs wafting through the mix that I never heard before. I was impressed to say the least.
The PS 210 BTNC handles phone calls with remarkable clarity, especially when the noise cancellation function is applied. When listening to music, push the toggle button and say hello. My go-to mono earpiece is an Etymotic EtyBLU2 which sells for $129 and doesn't play music. The phone system in the Phiaton is just about as good. The sound on both ends is rich, clear and natural sounding. At this point the $159 price tag on the Phiaton is sounding better and better.
What Else Does It Do?
The Phiaton PS 210 BTNC has a clever jog switch that, when pushed, answers calls or pauses the music. When pushed to the right or left, goes to the next song or back to the last played. When pushed up or down, it raises or lowers the volume. It's pretty small and take a bit of getting used to, but after a few minutes it becomes second nature and it makes perfect sense.
The battery life is quite long. I haven't run out yet, but Phiaton claims a calling time of 12 hours, that it'll play music for 14 hours and will stand-by for 250 hours without running out of juice. When it does, it uses a mini USB plug. Yeah, another of those, but they seem to be standardizing a bit — and after three and a half hours or less, you are fully charged. If you do run out of power, you can plug in a cord (supplied) between the control unit and earphones and keep using it without the noise cancellation function.
A Minor Quibble
For the price, the build quality could be a bit better. The shirt clip seems a little flimsy and cheap and threatened to fall of my shirt once in awhile. Of course the closer the unit containing the mic is to your mouth the better the quality of the call and the best results were clipping it to the top of a T-shirt.
Would I Recommend It?
Yes, with next to no reservations. Phiaton has done something special. They made a nearly perfect product. Using Bluetooth 3.0 they bettered the relatively crappy sound of everything else I've heard and it doubles as a great handsfree phone. Congratulations go to everyone at Phiaton. They've come up with best of breed.