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[REVIEW] Phiaton PS20

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

First, I want to thank Phiaton for the review sample.

 

About a year ago I reviewed the Phiaton PS210, which features the unique ‘half in-ear’ design that is meant to combine the openness of an earbud with the fit of an IEM. It works so well that PS210 is still one of my most beloved IEM in the sub-$100 category till these days. But now Phiaton has a different IEM with the same half in-ear design to offer to us, and they take a different approach this time when it comes to sound tuning – while PS210 strength is in its clarity, the new PS20 is aimed to impress people with its bass performance.

 

PS20-01.jpg

 

PS20-02.jpg

 

SPEC

Driver Type: Single dynamic transducer

Frequency range: 15 Hz ~ 22,000 Hz

Impedance @ 1kHz: 31 Ohms

Sensitivity: 101 dB / mW

THD: < 1% @ 1 kHz

Maximum input power: 30 mW

Cord Length: 4.5ft

Weight: 6.2 grams

 

PS20-03.jpg

 

Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality

Not unlike the PS210, PS20 too comes in a transparent plastic box with a very small footprint. Though not as low key as the PS210’s black/silver combo, the golden color scheme still remains very classy in its own right. Like the PS210, accessories are also on the thin side: there is a good looking soft pouch and four pair of eartips (XS, S, M, L). Unlike the PS210 however, is that PS20 doesn’t need to be used with foam tips to sound as its best. The very good quality stock eartips are all you really need.

 

PS20-04.jpg

 

Build Quality has always been Phiaton’s strong point and PS20 is no exception.  The cable is almost identical to the PS210, which is quite tangle- and memory-free while not appears to be too springy or too soft. Drawing from the experience of using PS210 for almost a year, the cable is quite decent and durable. Like the last time, the only minor complain I have is the mini plug, which is a little too light for my taste and I would have preferred something slightly bigger. The earpiece housing, as you can see in the picture, is quite unique in its design. While the overall shape echoes that of PS210, the back half of the housing is separated internally to form a second acoustic chamber to build up a strong bass response. To give it enough space, Phiaton moves the strain relief away from the main housing and attaches it with a golden metal wire frame (which is quite strong, I might add). This of course also adds a little flare to the look. While PS20 does has nozzle like IEM, the main housing remains on the larger side, so if you have really small outer ears, you might not find it quite as comfortable as an small IEM. I guess the rule of thumb is, if you can use an iPod stock earbud, you probably won’t have any issue with PS20’s fit. Also, PS20 is designed to be worn straight down and not over the ear. While I don’t detect much microphonics due to the openness of the half in-ear concept, the isolation is not really good – this is however a intentional design and the reason why Phiaton refers to it as ‘half’ in-ear.

 

In sum, PS20, like PS210 and other Phiaton’s products I have seen or used, has achieved a very good blend of build quality and design element.

 

PS20-06.jpg

PS20 and PS210 (right)

 

Sound Quality

As always, a 50 hours minimum burn-in session was given to the IEM before review though nothing major was detected. Opposite to PS210, which I find to be best with foam tips, the PS20 sounds just about as good as it gets with the stock eartips. Having reviewed and listen to both PS210 and PS320 for a while has left me with the impression of Phiaton having a more analytical house sound for their PS series (though I was told the MS series is more on the bassy side). Naturally when I heard of Phiaton’s release of PS20 with its ‘MaxBass Reflex’ design, I was assuming more of a slightly tuned down PS210 with a little more bass – well, I couldn’t been more wrong as PS20 turns out to be almost the opposite of PS210, and that’s not a bad thing in all consideration. While PS210 is analytical and open, it lacks the warmness that would appear to non-analytical / casual listener. While foam tips do give it a more balanced presentation, it is not a 180 degree change. I guess Phiaton realized the shortcoming of PS210 and wanted another IEM that will better ‘cover’ the other side of the consumer market who has a different listening preference – and thus comes the new PS20 and it sure can do bass like nobody’s business.

 

The overall sound signature is warm, musical, bassy and relatively smooth at the top. Bass reaches low with very good quantity. While it does roll off gently below 60Hz and becomes slightly boomier on the upper bass region, it still maintains a very good degree of texture. Mid is on the sweet side with an upfront presentation, but not overdone or becomes overly thick. It is also well textured and doesn’t get overpowered by the strong bass. Treble is a step behind the mid and bass. Not totally lacking but smooth overall, extends only up to about 15.5kHz and not quite reaching the standard 16kHz with enough presence. Soundstage is surprisingly decent. While not particularly wide, it is quite immersive and has a decent sense of space.

 

PS20-05.jpg

 

Verdict

With sound quality that rivals its elder sibling, the PS210, and a street price of only $79, PS20 is yet another strong entry for Phiaton to the sub-$100 market. It offers a sound that is suitable for those who are looking for a warm and punchy sound that is smooth and fun to listen. While the low isolation is a downside for noisy environment, those who need to be constantly aware of the surrounding would likely find it to be a really useful feature. All in all, PS20 is able to compensate for the PS210 and I am happy to see Phiaton finally being able to offer different IEM that will appear to the two ends of the listening spectrum.

 

For a quick sum-up, check out the Concise Multi-IEM Comparison in my sig.

post #2 of 23

Nice review ClieOS.  I'm glad I'm finishing up w/ universals.  Too many quality choices now!  >.<

post #3 of 23

Thanks for this review.

 

Finalized my decision for "earbuds" :)

 

Order submitted...can't wait!

post #4 of 23

PS 20's arrived by air yesterday.

 

Was looking for earbud style (not in-ear), this fit the bill.

 

Other options (don't hate the noob) were Bose IE2 and Marshall Minor.

 

Mostly for day-to-day listening, commuting (music via Smartphone, IPOD and Laptop usage)--the throw in the briefcase with the often "put-em-on, take'em off" during an 8-10 hour shift (with the ability to be aware of surroundings).

 

Comfortable, don't feel them, been using over the head OE and AE style headphones, so this is quite the change.

 

I'm not a technically gifted sound appraiser lol,  but they sound great comparing to "default" buds that came with our Apple Ipods and various laptop buds  (HP/Samsung lying about).

 

Read some concerns about cord being short, but this length is perfect for desktop use--won't use for workin' out or i guess lazy boy to TV usage.

 

So far so good...

post #5 of 23

Anyone know if the noise-cancellation version PS20NC sounds the same?

Kinda surprised they pick a half in ear form factor with bad isolation for a noise-cancelling iem.  Then again, both Sony and Audio Technica have done so.  Wonder why,  maybe they need the extra room to cram in the microphones for monitoring noise?

post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jjmai View Post

Anyone know if the noise-cancellation version PS20NC sounds the same?

Kinda surprised they pick a half in ear form factor with bad isolation for a noise-cancelling iem.  Then again, both Sony and Audio Technica have done so.  Wonder why,  maybe they need the extra room to cram in the microphones for monitoring noise?


Noise canceling is in the earbud market long before IEM becomes popular, so it really isn't that surprising. In fact, noise canceling is easier to do when isolation is poor, because the cancellation relies on the fact that the external sound has penetrated the earpiece and reached your ear canal. If the isolation is too good, the negative wave will need to scale down considerably to match the isolating level, or it will become the noise itself.

 

post #7 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post




Noise canceling is in the earbud market long before IEM becomes popular, so it really isn't that surprising. In fact, noise canceling is easier to do when isolation is poor, because the cancellation relies on the fact that the external sound has penetrated the earpiece and reached your ear canal. If the isolation is too good, the negative wave will need to scale down considerably to match the isolating level, or it will become the noise itself.

 


You got a good point there. I've always thought the noise can come from the open-back design of the IEM housing, while seal and insertion are good. But I can see how relying on that alone while music is playing may drown out the actual noise, leaving the negative waveform to distort things.
post #8 of 23

I just bought these and they sound great, but I'm wondering if I'm wearing the right rubber in-ear attachments. I'm using one size smaller than the one that is attached, and find the sound less muffled kind of (like voices) and the sound is more airy. With the one that comes with it, the bass sounds more surrounding and everything a little more warm/immersive, but the voices seem a little muffled and it kinda strains the ear more. Which one is it supposed to be more like?

 

I usually use the medium/large size ones, and I also have big ears, but I don't even know if I've been wearing the correct buds for my ears haha.

 

I'm using the rubber pieces from my senn CX-300's and they feel a little better. But I'm still curious about how it's supposed to sound. help?


Edited by Randios - 8/18/11 at 10:35pm
post #9 of 23
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Randios View Post

I just bought these and they sound great, but I'm wondering if I'm wearing the right rubber in-ear attachments. I'm using one size smaller than the one that is attached, and find the sound less muffled kind of (like voices) and the sound is more airy. With the one that comes with it, the bass sounds more surrounding and everything a little more warm/immersive, but the voices seem a little muffled and it kinda strains the ear more. Which one is it supposed to be more like?

 

I usually use the medium/large size ones, and I also have big ears, but I don't even know if I've been wearing the correct buds for my ears haha.

 

Use the one that you find best sounding. For most other IEM, seal is crucial to get the best frequency response (mostly the right bass level). But with the Phiaton half in-ear, the IEM themselves are semi-opened so getting a seal isn't really that important at all. The IEM is meant to have some leak so finding the right size eartips is up to your own preference.

 

post #10 of 23

Thank you for the response. My friend said the same about the seal. I'm leaning more towards the smaller rubbers because they're more comfortable and everything sounds a little more clearer and less muddy in the bass, even though the bass isn't as prevalent. I was just wondering what kind of sound you had when reviewing it and what most people have when using these earphones, as in a seal-in sound or an airier earbud sound.

 

The largest difference I found is when I tried watching a movie with it, and comparing the 2 rubbers, the medium seemed to bring the bass all the way to the front and above the vocals (very immersive and stuff during soundtracks), while the smalls brought them back and kept the vocals clear.

 

Another big thing was how comfortable they were. The small buds were more comfortable, while the mediums seemed to scrape my ears a bit more and keep them a bit sore. 

post #11 of 23
Thread Starter 

For the benefit of comparison, mine is with a full seal, so it is likely closer to what you have with the mid size eartips.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Randios View Post

Thank you for the response. My friend said the same about the seal. I'm leaning more towards the smaller rubbers because they're more comfortable and everything sounds a little more clearer and less muddy in the bass, even though the bass isn't as prevalent. I was just wondering what kind of sound you had when reviewing it and what most people have when using these earphones, as in a seal-in sound or an airier earbud sound.

 

The largest difference I found is when I tried watching a movie with it, and comparing the 2 rubbers, the medium seemed to bring the bass all the way to the front and above the vocals (very immersive and stuff during soundtracks), while the smalls brought them back and kept the vocals clear.

 

Another big thing was how comfortable they were. The small buds were more comfortable, while the mediums seemed to scrape my ears a bit more and keep them a bit sore. 



 

post #12 of 23


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Randios View Post

Another big thing was how comfortable they were. The small buds were more comfortable, while the mediums seemed to scrape my ears a bit more and keep them a bit sore. 


I also had this dilemma and ended up going with the larger size.  My ears were just a little bit sore at first, but that has gone away completely now.

I think they are supposed to have the fuller, bassier sound...but like ClieOS said, you should use the tips that sound (and feel) best to you.

 

While they aren't my absolute favorites, these have become my "workhorse" earphones:  They are great for when I am at work and still need to keep track of what is going on around me. They are great for walking the dog (for the same reason.  Sometimes you need lower isolation), and they are very forgiving when listening to lower bitrate music on streaming services like Pandora and Spotify.  I love how I can just pop em in and go...no fiddling around to try to get the proper seal.  And they sound so much better than the Bose In-Ears I was previously using in this role.

 

My only gripe: Why isn't there a version with a microphone like the PS 210i ?!?  How about it Phiaton?

 

 

post #13 of 23

Thanks guys, and yeah I think it's just one of the earphone's weaknesses. Female voices seem especially muffled and never seem to reach that high pinnacle. But using the smaller buds, I don't get the seal and it basically takes away the immersive feeling of the earphones, also meaning I have to turn up the volume.

 

I think I noticed it while watching Tangled from Disney, and Mandy Moore's voice always seemed to be drowned out even when isolated from the bass and everything else. Switching to the small rubbers made a clear difference because there's no seal, just the small seal between the earbud and the inner ear.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMJFxFZgc_8&feature=related

 

Btw I'm no audiophile or anything, all of this is just based on ear haha (these are a huge upgrade over my old earphones). These sound great with the hip hop, electronic, and etc., so I guess this is just a small gripe for such quality earphones. And yeah, overnight they seemed to just fit (the medium rubbers). Thanks guys!

 

PS: Have any of you tried the non-seal wear?


Edited by Randios - 8/19/11 at 9:13pm
post #14 of 23

Great review! I bought the ps20 as a result of reading this.

 

I'm curious about the seal though. Maybe it's because I'm used to IEMs with a lot of isolation and I'm not used to a semi-opened IEM, but I'm not sure if I'm hearing the sound signature correctly as the bass presence isn't quite there. I also find myself constantly turning the volume up in order to hear the details in my music. Again, maybe I just need to adjust to IEMs without much isolation confused_face.gif

 

On a side note, the build quality on these is truly top-notch.

post #15 of 23
Thread Starter 

PS20 is inherently not a analytical IEM so you probably won't find that much detail in its sound. You might want to try out all the eartips first and see if there is any difference.

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