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On-Ear item created by , May 5, 2010
Pros - Look great
Cons - small cans, claustrophbic sound, muddy and unclear.
About me: Newbie audiophile at best, I've been rocking a set of Senn HD280s in silver for probably 7 years. I have never had an issue with build quality or sound quality, and have loved them since I got them. At the time, they were a good bang for the buck, and I still think that they sound great (at least my pair does!). I run sound from a MacBook Pro, and iPod Touch (gen1), and iPad (gen1) or my LG P999 through any number of players.
About the headphones: I was looking for something over the ear and closed that had good sound but were a bit more street stylish to wear out and about if I didn't feel like having my Klipsch Image x10s stuck down my ears. I did some reading on the Phiatons (on here and Headphonia) and they seemed like something that might fit the bill.
The phones do look great, but they are MUCH smaller than I expected them to be, and even for my 'normal' sized ears were either partially supra-aural, or circumaural if i fidgeted a bit and got my ears pushed inside. Once they were in this position, the top tips of my ears were seated against the driver cover. They are not particularly uncomfortable in either of these positions as the cushions are soft, but they are not exactly what I was looking for. Anyway, after a few minutes I stopped being perturbed by this, and you probably will too if you think that the rest of this paragraph has sounded a bit too whiny.
The sound, however, is something that I have not been so easily able to dismiss. It should be noted that these have only about 15 hours of burn-in time, but I have not noticed a ton of improvement in their incredibly claustrophobic sound stage and muffled... everything. I am still surprised at the positive reviews that these cans have gotten, and perhaps more burn-in will improve things by impression is that they are muffled and lack detail across the spectrum. With no EQ on, I find that details that I can hear clearly on my 280s are simply not present in the MS 400s. I think that everything from the Low-Mids to the Mid-Lows are overemphasized and sloppy, without any high-range details to help define the texture of drums, bass, or vocals.
I am going to give these a bit more time to break in, but unless there is a dramatic improvement in sound, I can't see these being worth the price no matter how cool they look. Perhaps you could use the shell for some other drivers (I'd love to throw my 280's in here and keep my new M50s for home use) but for $200 I think that project is a rather moot point. I will probably be sending them back and just take the loss in cost of postage as punishment for buying with my eyes and not my ears.
Pros - Very nice small and portable, I honestly think its the perfect size, and the osund is nice and warm. Plus, it's fun sounding and at the same natural.
Cons - Slightly harsh treble at time, might just be my ears. Sometimes it doesn't fit around my ear normally and I have to play around with it.
Alrighty..... so I already own a pair of M50's, and as you may already know they are obnoxiously large and, well just obnoxious. I started looking for a pair of more portable headphones to replace my m50's on the go, and I was looking for a fun bassy sounding headphone. Well I got exactly that. The bass could be a little better at the extremely low bass, and it doesn't sound that airy. Also, it feels just right in your hands, it might feel fragile at times but it is actually very well built. Another thing, is that they aren't quite circumaural, they're more like supraural at one half and circumaural on the other. Still, it is insanely comfortable thanks to the faux pads, that are just so SQUISHY, I love it.
Pros - Super stylish, very comfortable, decent isolation, good sound quality
Cons - bassy (ymmv)
Couple things, I am an amateur audiophile at best and this is my first review so bear with me. My listening rig was my Sansa Fuze v2 Rockboxed [unamped] (I have a PA2v2 on the way so maybe I will edit this later on). Most of my files are all V0/320 MP3 and FLAC and include a lot of live recordings.
I bought these from Amazon Warehouse Deals in "like new" condition for $165. I am convinced these were never on a pair of ears before reaching me - or someone tried em out for 20 minutes and decided it wasn't for them. Seems like I lucked out on this one.
***PLEASE NOTE: The MS400 are right on the fence for being supra-aural or circumaural - for me they are circumaural and my ears fit inside the cups. This affects the majority of my review to some degree.
LOOKS: I think most will agree these are a modern, sexy set of cans. I have the all black version - the red just isn't me, too flashy for my tastes. The carbon fiber is just so unique ; very nice looking.
CONSTRUCTION: Meh, they feel a bit plasticky but I have a feeling they may be more sturdy than they let on. There is some resistance in the swivel and sometimes it feels like I am gonna break them if the cups are flipped but they seem alright. The cable is very skinny and some may not like it but I prefer it - I bought these with portability in mind. There are no microphonics before the split in the Y cable however you do get some noise above it (it's not bothersome, my RE0 drive me nuts even with a shirt clip - these are nothing). In the same breath, an angled jack would have been better - oh well, it's a low profile straight jack anyways.
COMFORT: So far I find these extremely comfortable. As I said, they are circumaural for me ( I have rather small ears) but I think for most they might be supraural. Besides the fact that they seem to get a little warm on the ears they are really comfy; for me they are the perfect size, weight and clamping force.
ISOLATION: Pretty good - on par with my SRH840 and maybe a little behind my RE0.
SOUND QUALITY: As I said, my ears fit inside of the cups so I probably have a different listening experience with the driver closer to my ear. Out of the box I was disappointed. The bass was boomy and drowning out the highs and mids - something I was afraid of (note: I am not a bass head - I enjoy controlled, defined, punchy bass). I just couldn't get into them, vocals were veiled - guitars were lack luster, bass was mushy etc.....After a couple days of listening at work (~8 hrs) and telling myself I must like a more forward sound (on the other hand my SR80i can be way too fatiguing for me at times), I brought them home for some pink noise burn in. I was just not enjoying them. I have been letting them burn in with pink noise for maybe 30 hrs and they have definitely changed (I don't care what burn-in skeptics say!). The bass has tightened up and is not as boomy - however, let it be known these are still a very bass heavy set of cans. Either as a result or independent transformations, the highs and mids are now much more prominent and detailed.
Listening to a very nice recording of a Jerry Garcia Band show (1978-03-10) outside this evening I was enjoying every minute of it. The bass was thumping, the drums were tight, Jerry's vocals were crisp and his guitar was singing ... really great PRaT. Even the female backing vocals and organ had opened up. I will say that everything feels a little recessed and in the back ground, possibly as a result of the bass being so prominent - I won't say "veiled" but you know what I mean... I can hear everything down to the softest cymbal hit to a quiet tambourine, however, they definitely don't have that shimmer of a Grado.
Sound stage is still a weird concept for me and hard to describe. They feel confined compared to the Shure SRH840 - which still feel like a closed can but a much larger space.
Would I recommend them? Yes, definitely. These are a great portable set of headphones - unfortunately I have not listened to the HD25-1 II, Beyers, or any other portables for that matter but I am definitely happy enough with them so far to not go trying those out . That may change but I think they are growing on me. If these really are the anti-Grado as some say, then I honestly think I prefer the Grado end of the spectrum but the sibilance and shrill highs really bother me sometimes... I could listen to the Phiatons all day long - no fatigue here. They may be bassy but they are smooth!
I will edit this after I listen with an amp/ try the Armaegis cotton mod.
Pros - Nice Highs, Good Clarity, Beautiful Design, Durable/Flexible, Nice Isolation, Not much leaking
Cons - Lows could better, Needs strong feed, Weak Hinges
I am often very focused on the aesthetics of my headphones. I believe the attraction is very similar to a women; its the initial feeling and as such I fell in love with these headphones at first sight. Though some might say the carbon fiber look is a little too much, I'd argue they complement and set it aside from other headphones. I believe they have a certain finesse that many other headphones lack, but as with every relationship you start noticing faults. The hinges have brutally ugly stamps of Left and Right that seem eerily "Left and Right", and as with all things made of plastic the thing is very prone to break. The plastic's quality is rather nice and the flexibility that goes with semi-foldable hinges is superb.
As mentioned, the material quality of the phones go only as far plastic can. The sound quality of these phones however is quite amazing. They have nice acuity in some classical or beat-rhythmic songs. The highs are rather adequate and the lows are decent. They're definitely meant for quieter more intrepid music. The bass is okay as well, but I wouldn't recommend these for songs that require heavy bass.
I like-em and kind of love-em. They're things I like about these phones and things I don't. I don't think they're worth 300 dollars for instance, just not quite. In rather construed terms, It's a beautiful lady with a nice rack that is both intelligent and sensitive, but with uncharacteristic tattoos on her arms and has trouble putting out when you really need her to. I think I need to give them a little more time.
Pros - Stunning is the looks department, Excellent sound quality at all levels.
Cons - Not quite over ear, but not quite on ear which sometimes can be uncomfortable
Good for people with wide range of music tastes. They can pump out some base when needed and reach those high notes with excellent quality, which results in a good balance. Can also play very loudly not saying thats a pro or a con just a fact. They also turn some heads with the red leather and carbon fiber mix.
Pros - strong low end, fun sounding, comfortable, excellent design, good build quality
Cons - double sided cable (though not a big deal)
I will make this review as short as possible. It should be referred as a guide to those who are unsure.
When phiaton ms400 was first released, i had hesitations in purchasing their top of the line moderna series headphone. After purchasing it, i was amazed by how strong and clean the low end was. The mids were buttery smooth. Highs were a bit laid back. After 100 hours of burn in, the sound has improved noticeably and highs came out smooth. I think it is safe to say this product from phiaton is really worth its price tag. Comfy ear pads, ferrari-like design, carbon fiber housing, and most importantly very good sounding. Not only is the low end strong but it can vibrate on your ears literally. It can also go very loud without distortion when properly matched with a good source. I recommend these to anyone who is looking for a fun sounding, non fatiguing, comfy, and killer design headphone. Buy it and you'll see what i mean.
Pros - eye catching design, gorgeous midrage, super soft earpads, portable (case included),
Cons - shallow earpads, warms up quickly, pricey for what you get
Phiaton MS 400 (Moderna Series)
Construction and Appearance
My initial impression upon taking them out of the box was "meh, plastic", but within seconds of handling these headphones you'll realize the quality of construction behind them. The swiveling earcups and folding mechanism have a mild resistance to them but they are super smooth to turn, with tight machine tolerance. The horizontal cup axis is far too loose however, and the cups have an annoying tendency to flip around unless you handle them directly.
The headband is sturdy metal and expands in steps to a very large size. Each step holds quite securely, and the clamping force is moderate. The headband stretches evenly across the entire band which is nice, unlike some headphones which only bend at the middle and place pressure at the top of your head.
The wires feel a little flimsy, are prone to mild memory, and there is only a small strain relief at the connecting points. I wish they had been a little beefier overall, but I suppose that detracts from the portability. Cable length is about 4' (1.2m). A 1/4" adapter is also provided, with a recessed female end so the headphone jack fits snugly inside.
Padding on the headband and earpads is luxuriously soft and in a red which is much nicer in person than in pictures. Once the headband has stretched out a little bit, the fit and comfort is amazing. As with most closed cans, they also become warm after longer sessions, and I would say that these heat up faster than average. There is a nifty slide-lock mechanism that lets you take the entire pad assembly off, handy for changing pads or any future mods.
There is a rather large angle to the earpieces (not nearly so bad as the first picture would indicate) which I find a little awkward. For me to fit the earpads to my ear, I wind up placing the headband a little further back than normal. This is one of those things that's highly dependent on the person's ear size and shape however, and those with larger ears shouldn't find this an issue at all.
A criticism I have is that the earpads are in this awkward in-between size of supra or circumaural. I have smallish ears, and they tend to fall inside the padding. This normally isn't a problem, except the pads aren't particularly thick and if your ears fit inside, they bottom out on the hard grill underneath (instead of the padding resting against the side of your head) which is uncomfortable, and worse yet you wind up with your ear right next to the driver which sucks for sound and causes an inordinate amount of pressure and fatigue. I would have liked if the earpads were large enough to fully encompass my ear, or shrink the opening slightly so the pads rest flat on my ear. As I mentioned earlier, if you have normal to larger size ears, this problem is nonexistent.
In terms of appearance, the MS400 has a certain eye catching "wow" factor to it. The red accents and composite shell will draw a lot of attention. I daresay there's even a certain sex appeal to them, as these are the only set of cans I've ever worn that have made girls do a double take and who've asked to try them on (well it might have just been me; work that mojo baby )
A nice bonus is the hard shell case that comes with the headphones. Nothing special, but it gets the job done. About the size of a cd wallet, simple net pocket on the inside, zipper around. It's surprisingly small, yet the headphones fold up neatly inside. There's even enough spare space inside the pocket for my Clip+ and e5. You could possibly fit other stuff in there; thickness is the main factor here.
If I had to sum it up in one (maybe two) words, it would be "anti-Grado". This is by no means a bad thing, just that the sound signature is completely opposite from what I'm used to from my SR80s (and I've briefly auditioned the 225 and HF-2).
The bass is emphasized and has a bit of a thump, but isn't boomy. All sounds are incredibly crisp and sharp, especially vocals. The high end is clear but drops a bit and is lacking in "sparkle", so you'll miss that extra ting from the hi-hats or shimmer from a piccolo. The extended midrange is what plays to the MS 400's strengths; there's a clarity and smoothness to it that just gives me goosebumps when the right song comes on.
The overall sound is also highly sensitive to placement. Moving the headphones around to sit more forwards or back, up/down etc will alter the sound. As I mentioned earlier, I have smaller ears so I have to seat the headhones a little forward, which brings the overall stage forward.
An amp is recommended, though not because the MS 400 needs power. Quite the opposite, they are ridiculously easy to drive loud, and in fact go loud far too quickly. Having a low to mid powered amp to tame the volume goes a long way. I would be interested in seeing a future iteration of these headphones/brand with a higher impedance.
As an odd blip, I liked the sound coming out of my dacs and amp, but strangely not so much coming out of my Clip+. Not sure why that is.
Isolation is excellent, especially in the high end. I have the Shure SRH 840's which are like big ear muffs, and the MS 400's actually beat them for mid to high range isolation. Outside voices are virtually eliminated when you have your music playing, especially female ones, though loud traffic noise will probably still leak through. On the flip side, the phones do have a bit of sound leakage, but it's minimal. Samples of isolation:
Airplane - Cuts out most ambient noise and chatter, including a crying baby four rows down. Reduced but did not eliminate engine noise..
Washing machine/dishwasher - You can still hear hear a low motor rumble, but no water. It's rather weird actually.
Bus - As above, vocals are strongly reduced, but low end road and engine noise are still present.
The Cotton Mod
I felt that this mod made a big enough difference that I'd include it in the original post. You'll need a few cotton balls and one minute of your time. That's it. If you don't like it, it takes all of 5 seconds to undo.
In my case, I used a strip of cotton the length = circumference of the earpads (about what you see in the frowny face pic). A few cotton balls works just the same. I took the strip and split it in half lengthwise, but you can experiment with how much to use. Simply stuff the cotton under the pads to raise them up. In my case, I brought the pads up maybe a 1/4" (5mm).
For me, this increased the comfort substantially. A little bit softer, with the same pleather feel and no loss of isolation. With the extra space, the pads could now rest comfortably against my head without my ears bottoming out on the grill. Restoring that space allowed the sound to reach my ears more naturally and eliminated the fatigue of being right next to the driver.
Bass got a little bit softer, but felt more spacious. Mids and highs were mostly unchanged, though overall sound seemed a bit airier which was nice on the high end.
If you want, you can change the cotton out for gauze. A bit more work, but less fluffy stuff all over the place. I cut out a strip approx 3.5x7" (9x18cm) and scrunched it up lengthwise before stuffing under the earpad. You might want a bit more or less depending how deep you place it. Overall sound seemed about the same, but the pads felt a teensy bit firmer. I decided to raise the pads up a tiny bit more, and this seemed to bring out the shimmer in the mid-high end. I especially noticed it on acoustic guitar. Still doesn't have the high end sibilance of other cans though, if that's what you like. The fit starts to feel different at this point, so add/remove stuffing at your discretion.
Pros - Great build quality, good comfort and isolation for a portable set, smooth sound
Cons - Off-neutral sound may not be to everyone's liking
Phiaton MS400: Finding that perfect combination of comfort, portability, isolation, and sound quaility has never been easy, especially in the $150-250 price range. Phiaton, an upmarket audio branch of Korean electronics firm Cresyn, attempts to find the perfect balance with the strikingly pretty MS400.
Build Quality: The build of the MS400 impresses right out of the box. Unlike the brutish Sennheiser HD25-1 and AKG K181DJ, the MS400 feels precision-built without being too delicate. The inner structure, including the rotating hinges, is metal. The cups feature carbon fiber panels under a clear polycarbonate shell. The headband is generously padded in luxurious red pleather all the way around. The surrounding bits are plastic, but even the plastic panels are pleasant to the touch (take heed, GM) and look like they could take some abuse. The thin and flexible cabling is perfect for portable use but probably won’t double as a trailer hitch (unlike the HD25-1 cord). The 3.5mm plug features a very simple rubber strain relief and looks positively wimpy next to the similarly-priced DJ phones. I certainly wouldn’t risk throwing the MS400 into my book bag like I do the HD25-1. Luckily, I don’t need to – Phiaton includes a surprisingly slim hard clamshell carrying case that the MS400 fit snugly into when folded.
Comfort: The MS400 is a circumaural headphone close in size to the JVC HA-S700 but the thicker pads mean that the Phiatons will likely be supraaural for those with larger ears. The cups are fairly shallow and do tend to bottom out. The resulting pressure put on the ears by the plastic grilles can get fatiguing after long listening sessions. On the upside, the padding used on the cups and headband of the MS400 is easily the softest I've encountered, beating out even JVC's memory foam-backed pads. The fit is highly adjustable due to the multi-axis folding mechanism and the medium clamping force does keep them comfortable for several hours. Like most pleather-padded circumaural headphones, the MS400 tend to invoke sweat after prolonged use but aren’t nearly as offensive in this respect as the Creative Aurvana Live! or JVC HA-M750.
Isolation: The MS400 isolate very well considering the comfort tradeoff. They won't quite keep up with the (comparatively) head-crushing K181s or the vast majority of IEMs but the isolation is more than good enough for daily use. I did not feel the need to raise the volume during my commute, though the tiniest details were occasionally obscured by intruding noise. Leakage is non-existent thanks to the soft pads and compliant fit.
Sound: For months now the renowned Sennheiser HD25-1 II have been my everyday portable headphones of choice. On paper the similarly-priced Sennheisers make the perfect step-off point for comparison with the MS400. In reality, however, the two couldn’t be more different in signature or presentation. It is no coincidence that Phiaton is eschewing the common trend of hi-fi manufacturers marketing mid-range headphones as ‘DJ’, ‘Studio’, or ‘Monitoring’ products - the MS400 are aimed squarely at consumers, and it shows.
Starting at the low end, the MS400 boast the sort of full and engaging sound that captivates the average music lover at first listen far more easily than my Sennheisers. The low end boasts decent extension and good definition, with a very substantial emphasis on mid- and upper bass. Sub-bass is not as strong as on the AKG K181DJ or M-Audio Q40 but the low end is filled out nicely, properly textured, and impactful enough to make my Sennheisers sound positively anemic in comparison. As is often the case with bass-happy cans such as these, the low end never sounds particularly fast or sprightly and isn’t the most controlled. Taking into account the quantity of bass to be contained, however, the MS400 do quite a good job. Mid-range bleed is minimal and the hard-hitting bass gives the mids some pleasantly warm undertones. The full and slightly forward midrange plays well in conjunction with the hefty low end, giving the Phiatons a certain thickness of note that is absent in the vast majority of DJ/Monitoring headphones commonly used as portables.
Moving upwards, there is a notable dip towards the upper midrange/lower treble. On one hand the sculpted frequency response means that sibilance is left completely out of the equation. On the other, musical elements such as the shimmering of cymbals are significantly less obvious with the MS400 than my HD25-1. Treble does roll off earlier than I would like but I hesitate to say that the Phiatons are missing information at the top. The amazingly smooth upper end is sure to appeal to those who find the HD25-1 grating and unnatural but those who are used to prominent and effortless treble may be left slightly disappointed – the Phiatons definitely use high frequencies as a complement rather than the focus of the presentation. On the upside, this means that the MS400 play nice with low bitrate mp3 tracks straight out of an mp3 player. The rated 32 Ω impedance and 98 db sensitivity also result in a headphone that benefits little from a dedicated amp and yet manages to cut hiss from poor sources very efficiently. Straight out of the HPO of my Tianyun Zero, hiss levels were nearly identical to the 70 Ω HD25-1 - non-existent at listening volumes and whisper-quiet at full blast.
In terms of presentation, the MS400 is an intimate-sounding headphone. Soundstage width is fairly average for a portable headphone – wider than the HD25-1 or a Grado, but not up there with the K181DJ or Philips SHP5400. Unlike the HD25-1, which has a narrow soundstage and manages to sound pretty distant at the same time, the sound of the MS400 envelops the listener very closely and extends outwards from there. The effect resulting from combining an intimate presentation with a bass-heavy sound signature is engaging and captivating. Can the MS400 be considered true audiophile portables? Probably not. But moving back to my HD25-1 I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the cold brightness, distant presentation, and slightly metallic highs of my beloved Sennheisers.
Value (MSRP: $249.99, Street Price: $240) The MS400 are pricy, no doubt about that, but like the HD25-1 their value rests not purely in the sound quality provided but rather in the total package. As such the MS400 are the most convenient and user-friendly headphones I’ve encountered north of $100. Build quality, isolation, and comfort are all above average for a portable set. As an added bonus (or perhaps detriment), the contrasting red-and-black color scheme and earcups decked out in carbon fiber attract a lot of attention. I’ve worn dozens of different headphones to work in the past several years and none of them gathered as dense of a stream of interest, comments, and compliments as the Phiatons do. But of course even in a portable set sound quality should come first and the smooth and easy-going sound of the MS400 is very appealing in a portable. Like Ultrasone and AKG, Phiaton seems to understand that bass notes are the first to get drowned out on a busy city street, and the MS400 do a great job of compensating. Those in search of a more analytical signature should probably look elsewhere. For an involving, convenient, and strikingly beautiful audio experience on the go, however, the Phiatons come highly recommended.
To see how I think they stack up to the other portable headphones I've owned, see here.