Well after an angry adventure with UPS and customs, look at what I've got sitting in front of me...
Gorgeous packaging: MS 300 & PS 500
side by side: MS 300, PS 500 (note the huge size difference)
side by side (front view): PS 500, MS 300
side by side: PS 500, MS 400, MS 300
bonus: Phiaton MS 600 Music Dock (with my lovely AKG K240 Sextett MP sitting on top)
Would I be correct in assuming that I'm the first person on head-fi to have all three? (actually, I've also got their MS 600 sound dock) I've already got a length review of the MS 400 here. I will be adding up more impressions and comparisons with the 300 and 500 here in the weeks to come.
Some very brief initial impressions:
- all of them are very comfy and have somewhat similar sound signatures
- MS300 more closed sounding than MS 400 yet more in your face, loudest (almost too easy to drive), least isolation, folds tiny into a hard case, singled sided cord, no 1/4" adapter, probably most neutral
- MS 400 is the bassiest of the bunch (you can feel the rumbles), best isolation, folds reasonably small into hard case, 1/4" adapter
- PS 500 is the brightest, comfiest (incredibly soft earpads), long cloth covered cord, lousy mid isolation but good in the highs, angled drivers, 1/4" adapter
Feel free to ask any questions.
|...........||MS 300||MS 400||PS5 00|
|MSRP||$199 USD||$249||$299 USD|
|earpad dimensions (mm)||73/55||90/70||110/83|
|driver (mm)||40||40||40 vaporized Ti|
|max power (mW)||1000||1000||2000|
|cord length||3.93 ft / 1.2 m||3.93 ft / 1.2m||9.84 ft / 3m|
|weight (without cord)||5 oz / 140 g||6.5 oz / 185 g||9.1 oz / 259 g|
|mid-bass||lean||warm, thump||slight thump|
|mids||crisp, energy||warm, forward||crisp, lean|
All the Phiatons have removeable pads that click on via a nifty sliding plate. This makes changing pads very easy, as well as opening up accessibility for any mods.
MS300: Smaller versions of the MS400, entirely supraaural. Cups fold flat and fold inwards for storage in the case.
MS400: Soft but shallow. In between supra or circumaural, but will likely be supra for most people. If you have small ears (and thus fit circumaurally), yours ears may bottom out which can be uncomfortable. The cotton mod alleviates this however. The cups on the MS400 are also the only ones that can flip upside down, which is useless and quite annoying. Cups fold flat and inwards for storage in a case (though a different configuration than the MS300)
PS500: Big pads, will be supraaural for almost everyone. Incredibly soft; possibly the most comfortable pads I've ever worn. Exact same size as the Shure SRH 840, so you can exchange them if you want the better isolation of the Shure pads (you could potentially fit M50 pads with a bit of work). Cups don't fold or collapse, but have just small degree of rotation available for obtaining a good fit.
Nothing special here. All three have a sliding mechanism which feels secure. The metal bands tend to look scratched up (as in from the manufacturing process); it's just a nitpick but having that exposed part polished would add just the extra bit of aesthetic appeal and value.
MS300: Just a small pad, simple and functional. Feels quite soft and is comfortable.
MS400: The entire band is covered in the padded material. Looks great, though I think MS300 feels a bit softer.
PS500: I think it's the same material as the other two, but somehow it feels stiffer. With the heavier weight, this headband is not as comfortable as the other two.
All three end in a 3.5mm plug. Phiaton has a really clever adapter design... On the MS300/400, the adapter fits over the plug by a couple mm. On the PS500, the same adapter fits flush and it looks seamless. In both cases, any lateral strain is taken on the rubber housing rather than on the plug itself, nice!
MS300: Flimsy but functional cord, meh.
MS400: Flimsy cord, double sided. Double meh, though if you ever wanted to recable to balanced than this would be the easiest one.
PS500: Very long cloth covered cord. Feels sturdier, though prone to twisting/kinking.
left: MS 300/400
centre: 1/8" to 1/4" adapter
right: PS 500
See how the MS 300/400 plug fits inside the adapter
See how the PS 500 plug fits perfectly into the adapter.
Both are semi-hard clamshell style cases that zip closed and have a little mesh pocket on the inside. Closed up, it becomes more apparent how much of a size difference there is between the MS 300 and 400. The PS 500 does not collapse and does not have a case or pouch.
MS300: has this molded insert thing that tells you where to place the cups... not sure why it's needed, but it doesn't hurt either way
MS400: folds a bit awkwardly, but okay once you figure it out
If there were a weak point in the Phiaton house sound, it's in a relatively small soundstage compared to all its other strong qualities. In the overall scheme of things, I would rank their soundstage as just average. About typical for closed headphones.
MS300: Like the MS400, but feels either smaller or like you're standing closer, depending on the song
MS400: The roundest feeling stage of the group
PS500: Widest, but shallower, sort of a cross formation. Instruments out to the side, vocals standing right in front of you, not much in between.
Typical Phiaton sound is very strong in the bass, with a touch of resonance that gives a full bodied sound.
MS300: The lightest bass of the three. Clean and crisp.
MS400: Head thumpers delight. Deep earthy rumbles. Notes are distinct but wavering close to being muddy, but offers a "fun" colored sound.
PS500: Somewhere in between; the bass is stronger than the 300 but also more "polite".
Despite the bass emphasis, the mids manage to maintain distinction and come into their own.
MS300: Arguably the best mids of the group. Precise and detailed.
MS400: Very warm and rich mids; the strong midbass threatens to (but doesn't quite) bleedover and obscure the midrange details, but the forward sound negates this.
PS500: With its stronger bass and highs, the mids feel almost recessed in comparison to the rest of the spectrum. Detailing is about on par with the MS300, though cooler in sound compared to the others.
The Phiatons exhibit characteristic dips in the high frequencies when viewing their frequency response charts. Personally, these drops actually coincide with the resonant peaks of my ear canals, which consequently makes them very easy for me to listen to and non-fatiguing without losing the perception of "detail" that derives from the upper range. Everyone's ears are different though, so your mileage may vary.
MS300: Much like the bass and mids, the sound here is tight and controlled, making the MS300 arguably the most balanced sounding of the Phiaton family.
MS400: Probably the weakest highs of the three, simply due to the strength of its bass and mids.
PS500: The strongest highs of the bunch, carrying that bit of "sparkle" (some may call it sibilance) that the others lack.
Graphs from Headroom
Draw your own pseudo conclusions from these.
I'm not huge into mods, but here are a few things you can try.
You can easily insert material under the earpads to make them softer and/or move the drivers further away from your ear. See my indepth MS400 for pics on my "cotton mod": http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/495667/review-phiaton-ms-400
All models have easily removeable earpads which are attached to a clip-on plate. Simply push the entire assembly up/down and the whole thing pops off.
The PS500 pads are the same size as the Shure SRH840 pads. The Shures are a little firmer and isolate better. You can also use M50 pads, though the fit is a bit tight.
The Phiaton cups are fairly easy to disassemble. Just remove the screws from the front baffle plate and the cup and baffle should come right apart. Put any type of damping materal you like inside. I would suggest starting with some small pieces of felt or gauze, or maybe blutak/poster putty. Here's the PS500 cup with some fuzzy felt stickers stuck on.
If you remove the pads, there are 4 small holes/bass ports. Some of these are open, some have tape/felt/screens over them. Open or cover them at your leisure. In general, more holes = more bass (I make no promises), but more does not mean better. Feel free to experiment and tell me your impressions. Pics below...
MS 300: 4 holes, top two covered (stock config)
MS 400: 4 holes, top two covered with thin felt, bottom two covered with screen (stock config)
PS 500: extra fabric screen over entire driver; I was not brave enough to cut out the screen, but feeling it with my hand there are ports on the top and bottom similar to the MS 400. It's also difficult to tell from the picture, but the driver is angled back towards the ear.
edit: actually, the screen is just a sticker and can be peeled right off. There are four holes (two above the driver and two below) with no further coverings. This is a pic with screen and driver removed. The white ring inside is from an otho modding project: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/554183/ortho-transplant-fostex-t40v1-driver-into-phiaton-ps-500-many-pics
Comparisons vs each other
Phiaton house sound: strong bass, lows/mids/highs feel distinct from each other, warm/coloured sound, mild resonance in the mids (mostly just the MS400), moderate soundstage for a closed can
300 vs 400: In previous reviews I've described the 400 as being "anti-grado", and Mochan described the 300 as "grado-like". After comparing them, I have to agree with that despite the fact that they still retain that Phiaton house sound. The 300 has that aggressive bite and energy to it and really great clarity through the mids and midhighs. Perhaps the 400 has that as well, but the strong bass overwhelms, but that's also what gives the 400 its warm and fun signature. The 300 is truly portable, making the 400 look fat in comparison.
300 vs 500: If the 300 is a bit like a Grado, then the 500 is perhaps leaning more towards sounding like an AKG (not the best comparison, so take that with some salt). Both are less bassy than the 400, but while the 300 is a bit edgier, the 500 is somewhat brighter, adding a bit of shimmer (and perhaps sibilance) to the high end. The 500 also has more bass than the 300, perhaps giving it the most U-shaped response (relatively) of the lot. Both the 300 and 500 are cooler and more neutral than the 400.
400 vs 500: The 400 has the huge bass, yet a glorious warm midrange and flows out of it. The 500 midrange feels a little recessed in comparison, but dominates the high end compared to the 400. They have similar isolation in the highs, but the 500 doesn't cut out any mids. The 500 is also ridiculously comfy; I've tried a lot of headphones, and these are the 2nd most comfortable I've ever worn (right after the Senn PX100, which is sort of an unfair comparison)
In my experience, the MS400 and PS500 do not require amping. Sure, if you give them a bit of extra juice then it brings overall energy and detailing up a bit plus the characteristics of the amp, but this is the "last 5%" we're talking about. If you already have an amp, groovy. If you don't, I don't think it's worth spending the extra dollars for one.
The MS300 however is a different story. I would attribute this to it being the most "neutral" sounding of the three, making any sonic differences due to amping much more apparent. This is especially noticeable in the bass department which retains its clean and aggressive sound, but is now also surprisingly powerful. Nearly as strong as the MS400, not as rumbly or warm, but more detailed. The mids and highs do benefit a bit but nearly as much, and with this in mind the MS300 sounds remarkably similar to the MS400. Of note, soundstage also feels about the same size as the MS400 now, but more "crowded". If I were to assign a comparitive yet arbitrary numerical improvement for amping the MS300, I would say it's in the 15-20% range. I would say a budget amp is not necessary but worth considering (especially if you want more bass).
Two word summaries...
300: clean & energetic
400: warm & bassy
500: cool & analytical
Edited by Armaegis - 9/13/11 at 9:52am