Phiaton PS 200 Sound Isolating In-Ear Earphones with Dual Micro Transducers (Woofer andTweeter)

General Information

The Phiaton PS 200 earphone stands out from the crowd with its high-end sleek design that offers superior sound quality and provides the ultimate listening experience. The PS 200 is ultra lightweight due to it's aluminum structure. These sound isolating earphones, deliver great detail and spacious sound, while background noise just fades away. This makes the PS 200, perfect for your iPod, MP3 player, or other electronic device with a standard 3.5mm outlet. Soft silicon ear tips come in 3 sizes for the most comfortable fit. Specific features include: Dual balanced armature drivers with passive crossover network, Impedance: 39 ohm, Sensitivity: 95 dB, Max input power: 30 mW, Weight: .176 oz / 5 g without cord, Accessories Includes: Plug adapter for air travel, Set of silicon ear tips includes 3 sizes, Carrying case.

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Pros: Natural soundstage & imaging, good treble extension, smooth midrange, great for jazz & classical
Cons: Light bass and fatiguing treble with stock tips, poor cord strain reliefs, finicky ergonomics
Disclosure: my hearing is not the greatest. I find myself tweaking equalization to around +3 dB starting at 8 kHz, and up to +8 dB at 10 kHz. I still have somewhat critical tastes, but not what I'd consider "audiophile-level". That said, I'm looking for realism, and a good match with my ears, spectrally and ergonomically, for long listening sessions. I listen to a wide range of music, but wanted a new set of IEMs for jazz/classical critical use, without spending too far into diminishing returns, considering my short-bus audiometric deficits.
 
Other IEMs in my possession: Shure E2c, Jays d-JAYS. Those two did a passable job, and got me through many a trans-Pacific flight, but I found that neither had the kind of transient response in the mid-bass and treble to get me anywhere close to a "live", or truly involving, sound. 
 
Thus, I was looking for something for portable or home use, with good instrument separation, and enough treble emphasis and to keep me from having to fiddle with a lot of eq for every amplifier source in my current rotation (Penguin Caffeine, FiiO E10, Schiit Magni, iPhone 4S, iPad 3). And relatively cheap.
 
Pros: I think I found all that with the Phiaton PS 200.
 
Got these on sale for $126 on amazon.com, after spotting a deal curated by the head-fi.org forum; I couldn't resist, with a fresh gift card in hand. I took Amazon reviewer Ravi Dondapati's advice, and purchased the Comply TX-100 tips (S, M, and L kit), as well. $158.37 out the door, all new.
 
Cons: It took some effort to get these to seal properly. The ear phone bodies do not have much in the way of self-alignment or ear retention features, and they lack, as many do, anything to physically differentiate left from right; I have to read the tiny letters near the strain reliefs to get that sorted. Also, the strain relief design quality and cord durability are way below what you'd expect at this price level. Even my Yuin PK3 cord is far superior to this one in that regard. After 1 month, I've noticed a few severe kinks in the left/right cords at the strain relief interfaces that are worrisome — the worst performance I've seen in an earphone cord jacket to date. I may attempt a warranty replacement, before it's too late. Luckily, I've heard that these are serviceable, if I'd want to solder on a new cord in the warranty-less future. The lightness and flexibility of the cord are an advantage, as you want to avoid stiff cord stresses from pulling the phones out of alignment or contributing to microphonics, but it could use more graduated strain reliefs (like those perforated/ribbed molded-on designs) to protect them from those nasty deflections.
 
For my ears, the small and medium "isolation plus" Comply tips helped quite a bit to smooth out the treble, which did seem almost Sony-dynamic-harsh. It wasn't until I donned the large TX-100 tips that any lower bass extension showed up to the party. Isolation is average, and you have to insert the tips pretty deeply, but I'll trade that in a hot second for the wide soundstage these cans possess.
 
Success!
Pros: Sparkling highs, excellent mids, good bass and beautiful soundstage
Cons: Bass light, too much highs (for some) especially at high volumes
Recommendations: TX100 Comply foam tips (MUST), wear it over-the-ear
Avoid: Too high volumes, default tips
 
Out of the box they sound a bit harsh, but we can feel its pleasant soundstage. After 20 hrs of burn-in (driver) harshness reduced significantly but it bothered in quite a few recordings. Before returning them back I want to try them with Comply foam Tx100 tips which might increase the base and reduce high peaks to certain extent. Once I replaced with comply TX100 foam tips these headphones began to SING...REALLY TRUST ME. Typical sonic character: decent bass, excellent mids and excellent highs all together clubbed with BEAUTIFUL SOUNDSTAGE. You should listen to them to believe me. No mid bass hump...beautiful sound. It might not suit for people who require thumbing bass or cannot bear crisp highs. It has nice bass which flows with the music but nothing on your face bass. Try them...you might fell in love.
 
sound (with TX100 comply foam tips):
* good bass (will be lacking for some)
* excellent mids
* excellent highs (might be too much for some but I enjoy them)
* beautiful soundstage (very pleasant...no in your head sound anymore)
 
comparison:
with Ultimate Ears Triple-fi10: property's has more pronounced base especially mid-base and mids are clearly recessed in comparison. Both these earphones has top notch clarity. I prefer PS200.
 
with Monster turbine pro copper: if you like a bassy sound with crisp treble then choose coppers. But if you prefer more balance than bass then go for PS200. You don't get the low rumble in PS200.
 
with Sony Ex1000: Ex1000 has beautiful sound (music). Everything sounds as it should be. No traces of harshness which you might feel sometimes with PS200. I prefer ex1000. But be aware initially out of the box ex1000 sounded amazing. But after few hours of listening (burn-in) like 60hours I did miss something in the sound that was present out of the box (sparkling highs I suppose). But ex1000 sound very natural. I prefer ex1000 (if cost comparison is ignored).
 
Positive:
* excellent sound with loads of sparkle (with TX100 tips)
* beautiful soundstage.
* very light. Fit is alright with TX100 foam tips.
* good carrying case.
 
Negatives:
* with default tips provided, sound feels dull in bass and sharp highs. tips should be deeply inserted to really feel the base, otherwise everything will sound lifeless and baseless, harsh.
* highs can be bothersome at high volumes to a few who like less emphasis on treble.
* not for bassheads. It definitely has decent amount of bass but some people might needs more.
* with default tips fit can be an issue for people with medium to medium large sized ears. TX100 comply ear tips will be decent. Intact to enjoy the sound of these earphones TX100 comply foam tips are mandatory not even t100. Tx100 has extra ear wax guard layer which will remove slight harshness.
* no Mic or volume control buttons.
 
I really enjoy the sound coming out of these PS200 earphones. For people who like interesting treble with sparkle (like CK10, Triplefi10, dba02's) will be definitely on this list for recommendation. At times highs can peak. But don't worry you will be rewarded with excellent sound quality with beautiful soundstage (pleasing). Hear it to believe it. But mind you these earphones are not without any cons. I would recommend TX100 comply foam tips to get the best out of these PS200 earphones and wear it over-the-ear.
 
Note: To enjoy PS200 earphones to its full extent don't often switch between earphones for comparisons as these does not have boomy bass and they might feel anemic for initial period.
 
My collection: Ultimate Ears triplefi10, Monster turbine pro copper/gold, Sony Ex1000, Sennheiser ocx880, AKG Q701, Grado SR60i.
Sources: Apple ipod classic, Apple iPhone, Sony A818, cMoy, PA2V2.

Pros: Nice style; sweet sound; very comfortable to wear; nifty carrying case.
Cons: Weak bass; pricey at retail of $249
Design
A silver housing, accented by a black nozzle and a black "fan blade" back, gives the PS200 a unique look.  The fan blade back has a look similar to a jet engine (although this visual cue has no real impact on the acoustics of the earphones).  I rather like the design as it sets the earphones apart from generic looking earphones, without looking gaudy or ostentatious.
 
At the heart of the PS200 are dual BA drivers with a passive crossover network.  A silver housing, accented by a black nozzle and a black "fan blade" design, set the PS200 apart from generic earphones.  I like the design and color scheme, it looks sleek without looking overly flashy.
 
Sound Quality
The sound quality performance evaluation of the Phiaton PS200 earphones was performed exclusively by listening to MP3s and FLAC music stored on my Sansa Fuze.  I listened to a number MP3s with bit rates of 128kbps and 320kbps, as well as lossless audio tracks in FLAC format.  A wide selection of rock, alternative, classical and hip-hop music was used in the evaluation.
 
My initial listening sessions with the PS200 revealed an incredibly detailed, while still quite spacious, sound signature.  I was impressed by the soundstage produced.  The PS200 are a very airy and wide sounding set of IEMs, especially when you move up to higher quality recordings in lossless or high bit rate MP3 format
 
High frequencies are more forward sounding than most other earphones I have heard, perhaps a bit colored toward the high-end of the audio spectrum, and this suits my sound preferences quite nicely.  Other users may find the highs too overbearing. 
 
The mid-range and vocals were forward sounding, and not at all veiled.  They are not nearly as warm as many other earphones I have tested, and in this respect they sound similar to the Sennheiser HD428s that I recently reviewed.
 
Where the PS200 falls short – quite a ways short – is in the bass department.  Bass notes lacked thump and the low-end of the spectrum lacked texture.  I am by no means a basshead, but I really missed the lack of low frequencies.
 
Isolation
Isolation was quite good in comparison to other earphones and I was completely satisfied with how well the PS200 blocked out external noise.  Using the small sized eartips produced a tight seal in my ears, and I did not need to crank up the volume level in order to keep noise from creeping in to disrupt my music listening.
 
Cable / Cord Noise
Cord noise was a minimal problem and this is one area where the earphones aren't particularly impressive.  With the cord moving around, wearing them either straight down or over-the-ear resulted in a noticeable amount of noise. The included slider along the cable allows you to loosen or tighten the amount of slack, which helped to minimize cord noise.
 
Conclusion
The PS200s are probably the best sounding set of earphones I have tested up now, with the only exception being the bass.  They produce a very detailed and fast presentation – while still retaining an open soundstage.  Without a kick down low in the bass department, though, they are tough to recommend at $249 retail.  If you can find them for less money than retail, they are definitely worth a listen.

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