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Review and Impressions - Phiaton MS-400

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 

***Update*** Oct. 13th 2010


I decided to open them up and see what is inside.  The drivers are attached to the plate that unscrews, do not pull the plate, gently raise it off and take a gander at what is in there.  There are foam dampeners resting right behind the Phiaton Logo on the backside of the earcup, they are not glued or anything, just pluck them out and screw everything back in place.   The soundstage is now present.  There is a hint of wideness and resonance actually takes place.  Sound quality is not reduced or improved at all.  This is just like the HD555 foam mod.  Keep the foam in case you need to return or replace them.  These foamies dont need to be there, its a closed back set and they are only limiting the resonance that needs to occur.  Use this mod with the cotton earpad mod and enjoy perhaps the best portable set you can buy.  I compared the stage of this set and the stage of the Hippo Epic Sparkle IEM as its all i have on hand right now.  The hippo stage was always much higher than the ms400, meaning it went above your head, feeling much taller.  After this mod, you can tell there is a difference in that the ms400s now are a bit taller sounding and wider.  


The only reason I did this was because I am an audiophile and enjoy playing around with the innards of all my headphones. 







Right off the bat I want to let everyone know that I spent over a full month hunting a set of these down here on head fi, ebay and other sites.  I was unsuccessful in finding a single person willing to sell their set of Ms-400s to me.  It took a lot of pestering and coaxing a certain member here on head fi to even consider it, but I eventually got very lucky with a seller on ebay who was much more local and willing to sell them to me




15-22hz range

40mm drivers

32ohm ( seems accurate )

98db sensitivity 

3.9ft cable

just under 7 oz weight, like 165gs i think




The MS400s are very small, they are very much like the JVC Ha-S700 or bose set.  They have a very small earcup design that will fit over your ears if you are a small person or if you shuffle them around the right way to allow your ears to sink into them, the earpad edges will stretch out a little and allow your ears to be fully enveloped.  

Having said that, they are crazy comfortable.  They could be the most comfortable portable set I've ever used.  The earpads are very marshmallow like and offer almost no resistance at all, they give a lot.  Some pleather pads and even velor are still stiff and feel hard and solid when you touch and squeeze them ( lol ).  The headband itself is also soft and gives in a lot, but in my opinion they could have given it a bit more.  Reminds me of the Audio Technica ES7 headband a lot.  


**Also, the earpad hole is around 1.5 inches wide.  It's very small.  


Clamping is just right, I didn't have to use a stack of books to loosen them up when i first got them.  And after a few days of usage, they continued to loosen up more and get even more comfy.  Odds are good right out of the box anyone with a large head will not enjoy them as much as they hoped.  They are a very small set, so be fore-warned that they are not really intended for you giants out there.


The cable and connectors seem typical, normal, nothing special.  They dont seem weak at all though, they feel solid all around.  




Going into this buy I was looking for something portable with as many requirements as I could fit into one set.  This set was the only set in existence that fit my needs to around 90% of what I wanted in my "ideal set".  The son of a gun is made of carbon fiber and metal, its not cheap feeling in the slightest.  If feels and looks solid and my first impressions out of the box was "dang, this one wont break easy WOOOO"

I originally wanted all of the following



-short cord

-easily driven low ohmage

-full sized over the ear cups but with a small profile design ( a'la jvc of bose )


-well built and sturdy feeling

-comfortable for long hours of use

-good sound quality and response


such a thing doesnt really exist, the closest I came was the ATH esw9, but it was out of my budget range and didnt have the comfort I wanted.  Also, it didn't feel as sturdy as this Phiaton Ms400 feels.  


Isolation is excellent on them, but only when music is playing, im going to say around 40% reduction in surrounding noise when music is on at a mid range volume.  They are not nearly as great at isolating as other sets I can name, but they've almost no sound leakage at all.  Using a sansa fuze, I had to turn the volume all the way to the max to be able to pick out audible lyrics and notes when it was clamped on my darth vader headphones stand lol.  Sound leakage is minimal and better than most.  Compared to something like the HD 25-ii or esw9, I'd say it has a lot less sound leakage.  This is a great thing for me.  Privacy in my music is always great.  



One thing I noticed early on was the bass quality and quantity.  It is not at all punchy. It's definitely on the thick side and not so airy.  Having said that, it is very satisfying.  I never get the feeling there isnt enough bass, its always strong and prominent. Some tracks like Gorillaz Super Fast Jellyfish or Some Robin Thick tunes are superb bass response.  The only other set Ive ever witnessed with superior bass is the ultrasone pro 750 which has a very airy and powerful kick feel to it...and the ultrasones are like more than twice as big as the ms400 and not at all portable.  My only gripe is that its just a little too thick for my tastes, but if you are a bass head i think you will really enjoy them.  


The midrange and highs are clearly what this set is all about.  Mids are prominent and full bodied.  Definitely not as lush as the Sennheiser HD-25-ii.  Tracks like Waves from the fusion guitarist Guthrie Govan sound epic.  Classical is very enjoyable and more so than most other sets of similar price and style.  The set responds well to nearly every type of genre i toss at it, but the sad part is it doesnt do any one genre on a grand scale.  It does everything "pretty good".  The highs can be harsh right off the bat, just like the Grado 225i.  Piercing but not shrilling.  Sibilance is typical, on very high and fast Ssssss sounding lyrics or words, as well as very high guitar guitar work and high hats, there is some slurrage going on, however in another 50 hours of use i think they will diminish to an unnoticeable level.  Currently the ms400s have around 60 hours on them and they sound great right out of the box IMO.


Updated** That hiss is gone.  After 100+ hours, I cant even tell where those notes were that I thought has some hiss in the loud Sssss lyrics.  Clear as a bell audio quality.  This actually could have been a result of my poor EQ setting which i tweaked.  I think my high range was set way too high on foobar and didnt notice it.  Toned that bad boy tone just a little and low and behold, audio bliss in the very high highs, immensely clear. 


Soundstage is also a big problem for me, I hoped for a good stage, something more enveloping.  I knew it wouldnt be grand or even great before i decided to buy it, but of course i was still unhappy with it.  Its not very large sounding at all, and the m50 and shure 840 stage are way bigger.  The Mx400 is boxed sounding, not so tall and not so wide, also not as forward as I wanted.  Its a unique house sound.  Its not bad, its just different.  Its typical of closed back sets to have this type of sound, but I can name a few other sets that trump it in clarity and staging.  However, not a single other one that I can name also have 90% of the other qualities that I wanted, or what someone looking for portability wants.  


Edit:  Also forgot to mention I used the NatureSpace demos, the full spectrum version.  Sounds are lively and accurate but feel tight and closed compared to other sets I own like the 840, Hd485 ect ect which all feel like the sounds are spaced further.  Ms400 does it ok, but definitely lacking in the separation and overall staging area.


Bass rumbling in the cups.  If you are a bass head and turn the EQ bass up too high, you will get a shaking rumble feature in the cups, the GREAT thing is you dont hear a rumble or rattle, but you do feel some rumble action going on a'la playstation rumble pad controller.   If bass is set to a more humane level, lol.  You will be fine and wont experience this shaky feeling.  Its to be expected in ANY set if the bass is too high.  Moderate level of bass play perfectly with no signs of shaking.  So, keep the bass toned down a bit and your eyes wont go bad from the constant "sitting on a washer or dyer" feeling.  


The box is beautiful and HUGE.  Good lord, its a monster box lol.  It comes with an equally beautiful hard case and adapter.  Just stunning if you ask me, I couldnt be happier.  Got a little net inside to hold my fuze smily_headphones1.gif  Love it.  Feels rock solid and feels great







To sum things up.  Phiaton is a beast of an audio company.  Every single one of their sets is made of win and designed by listeners for listeners.  The MS400s are not audiophile grade sound, but they have literally everything else.   Great comfort and design, rock solid build quality.  They are sex magnets, accept it.  I understand why nobody wanted to sell them to me.  They do everything "good" and clearly were meant to do just that, not really be great at one thing and lack everywhere else.  All genres sound great, as its got a fantastic coloration.  Its not nearly as colored as the Shure 750 dj for example, but its also not as neutral as the Sennheiser Hd 25-ii.  Its just right.  They are in my opinion the best portable set you can buy.  I really liked the Senn HD25-ii, but the house sound of Phiaton is much more to my liking.  I couldnt be happier and this IS THAT ONE PORTABLE SET IVE ALWAYS WANTED.   *high fives Phiaton


liljoker, sir.  You were correct, the MS400s are sex magnets.  I walked around the mall 2 days ago with these on and got a lot of looks from the girls, one girl rocking the monster tours ( ya, i know she was wearing monster eww but she was hot ) asked what the hell they were and they looked so sexy.  Snagged a date this friday thanks to the ms400s.


so, ty liljoker for swaying me further into buying them, and ty phiaton for the possible future wife of swbf2cheater




Edited by swbf2cheater - 10/28/10 at 5:34am
post #2 of 38

What a rollercoaster of a post. You are absolutely right - the MS400 was not meant for audiophiles and only offers around the same level of sound quality as the Denon D1001k and other very good $100-150 sets. The rest of the value is made of convenience and pure sex appeal so you can see part of the reason I was so hesitant to let go of them. They really do command a lot of attention but in a good way, without being overly flashy, tasteless, or alien-looking (as opposed to my Ultrasone Pro650, which may well be the chick anti-magnet). Congrats on your purchase and on getting a good price.

post #3 of 38

I really like my MS 300, it has the same drivers but makes no pretenses regarding fitting around your ears, its a firm supra-aural in cup size. It's also a bit less flashy with only the inside of the headband being red, not the whole thing.

Other than that, it's just a more compact MS 400 

post #4 of 38

For a wife you really want more of a sennheiser girl.

post #5 of 38
Thread Starter 

Ill tell you what, if phiaton makes one that looks like the Ps320 but will slightly larger earpads but the same size cups and overall size as the Ms400, I'll buy smily_headphones1.gif



Uh, I will take any decent looking healthy women interested in audio even if she likes monster, i say enjoy the experience and journey of other brands while at your house, rummaging through your gear wasting as much time as possible on each set.  Oh yes, thats how it should be.  Any excuse to keep the women at your house even longer lmao



Originally Posted by Kunlun View Post

For a wife you really want more of a sennheiser girl.


Edited by swbf2cheater - 10/4/10 at 9:45pm
post #6 of 38

Congrats on the date. Remember to talk about something other than headphones


For the casual reader here who thinks we're joking about the sex appeal of these things... we're really not, and it's something I too mentioned in my review of the MS400. Must be something about the colour red...

Edited by Armaegis - 10/4/10 at 10:12pm
post #7 of 38
Thread Starter 

It is the dullness they chose, its not flashy, its not ugly.  The colors chosen and the pattern on the cups make almost anyone who looks at them say whoa, those looks pretty awesome.  What brand is that?



post #8 of 38
Thread Starter 

Updated - Oct. 11th 2010


I recently took this set on a long drive out of town and came back with some thoughts and updates. 


In terms of clarity, when comparing to other sets of equal value in portable sets of similar design, I must say the ms400 could very well come out on top.  Outside of the ATH esw9, Ive never used a more clear set.  Some sets come close, most cant match it.  The stage is very upsetting, its the typical "space man astronauts visor" feel I get from grado.  In fact, its safe to say they are closed back grado with good bass. Presentation is eerily similar to the 225i but a little further back in terms of forwardness.  Highs are also not as shrilling as the 225i, but are still among the highest and most piercing at times that ive come across for this budget range.  They've become punchy after i hit the 150 hour mark, this is great and i am very happy with it.  Santana, Tito Nieves and my fusion rock guitar sounds very engaging.  


The bass only changed with the swapping of earpads from stock to the Sennheiser HD 485.  Outside of that, i've nothing else new to report on it.  Its still thick sounding and not punchy, rumbling and shaking still happens if the EQ is set too high on the bass, noticeably toned down and aired out with the Hd485 pads though.


The stage has not changed either, really the only thing that changed a little was the clarity and punch factor of the highs.  My Message to Phiaton, I hope one of their employees reads this that can get a message to someone in charge.  


Change the MS400 only slightly, work on getting a nicer more enveloping stage. If you can do that and change absolutely nothing else about them, I would never buy another set again.  You hit the mark with the ms400, just missing the bullseye.  You can so very close to the best overall value I could ever find in a portable set.  Change almost nothing but the stage and you would make me immensely happy.  The only other gripe I have is that the clamp factor is about 5% too much, that means just change the angle a smidgen.  Its just enough to bother me, a small angle fix would drastically increase their already immense comfort factor.  Call it the Ms400-ii 


or maybe the MS400 Cheater Signature Model :P

post #9 of 38

Did you ever try stuffing under the earpads like I did in my review?

post #10 of 38
Thread Starter 

I have!  And I really enjoyed it.  Im in the process of finding other types of cotton to see which works best wink.gif

post #11 of 38
Thread Starter 

another update lol

post #12 of 38

Lol, so how did that date go? Did she ask to see your headphones again?

post #13 of 38

Hey swbf2cheater, I just wanted to say nice review and thanks for turning me onto the Naturespace Demos.  They are incredible.  I ended up getting Bundle 1 through itunes. Great stuff.

post #14 of 38
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Armaegis View Post

Lol, so how did that date go? Did she ask to see your headphones again?

It went great, and I showed her my...headphones later that night


Originally Posted by JoeyRusso View Post

Hey swbf2cheater, I just wanted to say nice review and thanks for turning me onto the Naturespace Demos.  They are incredible.  I ended up getting Bundle 1 through itunes. Great stuff.

I know, right? lol

post #15 of 38
Thread Starter 

Update Oct. 28th 2010


300+hours of use so far and wanted to give a little update.  They didn't change much during the entire listening experience from out of the box to right now.  If any at all, it was minimal bass and overall clarity differences.  



Well, they are officially my absolute favorite closed back set of all time.  Im not really sure how else to praise them.  I've been using the Ibasso D1 direct connect to foobar2000 and flac.  My goodness.  The Ibasso does a good job of smoothing that bass out, overall kick is improved but stage size and presentation remain the same.  I am using the cotton mod and the comfort improved greatly.  I did try stretching them out just a bit and that also seemed to help, I can wear them indefinitely, griping only about them getting hot after a while.  Tracks like

Gorillaz - Dare are just awesome due to the crazy bass and punchy highs.  Im loving it.  By far my favorite set right now.  Even though that stage is small, it handles changes from metal to classical very well.  


Albums from john williams or mozart sound excellent.  I used to be a sennheiser man.  I think Im an official Phiaton convert.  I enjoy their house sound more than any other.  It's very me.




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