Phiaton PS 320 Premium Carbon Fiber Luxury Headphones

General Information

PS 320 s coaxial dual dynamic driver feature an optimized passive crossover network for wide frequency range with high definition sound; from sparkling high notes to deep bass response. Lightweight yet durable headphones are designed for comfortable wearability. Genuine leather ear cups and headband trim. Listen and enjoy your favorite jazz; rock; acoustic or classical music. Features include:- Studio Grade 40mm Electrodynamic Drivers; Sensitivity : 98dB; Impedance : 32 ohm; Max input power : 1000 mW; Weight : 6.5oz/185g; Accesories Includes : 6.3mm stereo gold plated plug; Compact carrying case; Owner s Guide; 1-year warranty.

Latest reviews

Pros: Plenty of detail; comfortable to wear; classy look.
Cons: Bass lacks punch; sound quality is particularly dependent on positioning on ear.
[size=9pt]Phiaton, while still a relatively unknown audio brand in the U.S., has built a strong reputation for high-quality headphones in the Asian market with their manufacturer brand name of Cresyn.  The entrance into the North American portable headphones market is highlighted by the PS320.[/size]
[size=9pt]The PS320 styling is distinctive, but rather understated in the gray and black color scheme.  On the outside of each ear cup is oval-shaped leather covering that is encircled by a silver accent.  Similar to other portable headphones, each ear cup can be swiveled left or right to adjust for comfort.  Each cup can also be folded in, and then folded up toward the headband, to allow for easy transport in the included carrying pouch.  The black headband is made of a soft and spongy material, and is covered on the top part with a leatherette material.[/size]
[size=9pt]At the core of the PS320 are two coaxial dynamic drivers set up in tweeter/woofer array with a passive crossover network.  This design is similar to the in-ear PS200 model and is used to optimize sound quality over the entire frequency spectrum.  While this type of dual driver configuration is quite common with in-ear models, it is very much unique in the world of portable headphones.  As far as I can tell with my research, this is the first such pair of portable headphones on the market.[/size]
[size=9pt]Frequency Response: 11Hz – 23Hz[/size]
[size=9pt]Design: Closed[/size]
[size=9pt]Driver: 13mm and 40mm Dual Dynamic with Passive Crossover[/size]
[size=9pt]Max input power: 500 mW[/size]
[size=9pt]Sensitivity: 102dB[/size]
[size=9pt]Impedance:  32ohm[/size]
[size=9pt]Isolation: -10dB ~ -12dB[/size]
[size=9pt]Weight: 122 grams w/o cord[/size]
[size=9pt]Connector: 3.5mm Gold Plated[/size]
[size=9pt]Cable: Y-cord, 1.25m[/size]
[size=9pt]Sound Performance Testing[/size]
[size=9pt]The sound quality performance evaluation of the Phiaton PS320 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.[/size]
[size=9pt]My initial listening sessions with the PS320 revealed a very detailed, and very forward-sounding, sound signature. The soundstage is overall very good, with a good amount of both wideness and openness in the majority of music I listened to during my testing.  They don't rival some of the more impressive full-size headphones in terms of soundstage, but do an admirable job for a portable set.[/size]
[size=9pt]High frequencies are where the majority of the attention is focused, with a forward sound that comes across with quite a lot of energy.  Some users may find the amount of highs to be overbearing, and I admit that a long listening session with the PS320's was wearing on my ears.  The treble is very sharp with these headphones, and this certainly takes some getting used to if you have not heard a similar sounding set of headphones before.[/size]
[size=9pt]Mids are likewise forward sounding, but overall much smoother than the highs.  I would describe them as neutral with not nearly as much energy as the highs.  Vocals did sound smooth for the most part, which was a positive note I took away from my listening sessions.[/size]
[size=9pt]Where the PS320 lacks authority is in the bass department.  Bass is certainly tight sounding, but there is very little punch and very little impact with bass notes.  Don't get me wrong - low frequencies are present – but there is a lot to be desired while listening to any hip-hop or other bass heavy tracks.  To further compound the problem, I found that the bass was very dependent upon the seal you get with the ear cups over your ears --- so repositioning is likely to be needed whenever you put on the headphones.  This repositioning was a bit irksome, and the seal was much more dependent on positioning than in other headphones I have tested (such as the Sennheiser HD238).[/size]
[size=9pt]Isolation was quite good in comparison to other portable headphones, but not quite as good as you will find with most IEMs.  Once you find a good seal with the ear cups, most typical sounds like talking, fans running in the background, etc. will be blocked out and won't disrupt your music listening.[/size]
[size=9pt]Overall the PS320 headphones were comfortable to wear, with only a bit of clamping felt during extended listening sessions.  There is a noticeable amount of pressure on your ears, but if you are used to listening with on-ear headphones they should not cause any discomfort. [/size]
[size=9pt]The PS320 is easy to drive with an MP3 player, and the ability to fold it up and carry in the small carrying case is a plus in terms of portability.  While it is not ultra-lightweight, it is lightweight enough to carry around in your laptop bag or backpack without really even noticing the added weight.  Suffice it to say that it offers easy portability all around.[/size]
[size=9pt]Whether or not you believe the dual-driver configuration delivers advantages over a single-driver design, there is no doubt that the PS320 offers an impressive level of detail and clarity for a portable set of headphones.  The leather outer covering and silver accents also give the headphones a more upscale look, while still looking understated enough for those who don't appreciate the Skullcandy " mo' colors = mo' better " design philosophy.[/size]
[size=9pt]Those people looking for a low-end kick, or a more warm sounding set of vocals will be better suited looking elsewhere.  Those people who prefer a more forward sounding treble, and who enjoy lots and lots of detail from their music, will certainly enjoy the sound signature that the PS320 presents.  And an average online price of $150 USD gives the PS320 a reasonable price tag.  [/size]
Pros: Treble
Cons: Treble
Phiaton  PS320 Review
First Impressions:  These really do have some lovely packaging, so solid feeling it really gives the impression they must be housing an item of substantial quality.  Having a look at these is my hands they look so small but when I put them on they fit perfectly well.  Hmm the finish on the chrome outside appears to have little blemishes on them, that’s a little disappointing so I’ll have to see if I can give that a little clean and fix it.  (It did.)  The pads look and feel lovely, they smell of real dead cow which I like greatly.  Tre posh.

Acoustic first impressions running of the iPod shuffle with 75 ohms added are not so great.  Having been told by Phiaton that these are bass lightish I was expecting a brighter sound but the bass seems absolutely fine.  It seems pretty nicely balanced; maybe they’ll get brighter with a burn in?  It’s now a few days in and it occurred to me that these being dual drivers will have a crossover and that accordingly they may not like the additional impedance as many BA things with crossovers don’t.  Upon testing this with the XM5 and the 75 ohm button I can safely say this is the case and the difference is really quite significant.  With additional impedance these get very very muddy.

Source 5G iPod Video line out through a Practical Devices XM5 with LM6171 opp amps
Lows:  Having been previously told by Phiaton that these were bass light in what felt like an almost worrying tone I was rather concerned about just how bass light these would be.  They are not.  I can see why some would say they are given the bass is clearly not what’s dominant here however with more bass but a button push away I’ve never felt the need to press it, when I do to try it, it just feels too much and out of step with everything.  The bass that is here isn’t vast in quantity but it’s always very clear and consistent which I’m sure is helped by being closed.  It also has a very natural feel to it; a double bass comes across very nicely if not in exquisite detail.  Looking at the frequency response graphs on headroom shows the bass holding on all the way down and I can safely say my ears agree (I get a pretty good seal with these.)  The bass here is just how I like it to be and its especially noticeable in tracks where the bass is of a more smooth and gentle nature, maybe even a little soft.  If it’s hard hitting punchy bass your after then you’re not really going to find it here.  Even hitting the bass boost button won’t give that impactful slam that some like; personally I hate that as it feels like some small child kicking me in the ears.  The bass you get here is smooth in every way which I’ll agree isn’t always what’s called for but it’s very pleasant.  Bass should be complimentary not dominant.  It also can rise up as required within the song, the opening sequence of “Malchik Gay” sounds as it should with the lows standing out clearly.  A potential issue I can foresee however is if you don’t get the seal just quite so then the bass quickly looses its depth and range.  How big a problem that will be I can’t say but should you buy and feel there is something lacking spend some time repositioning.
Regardless of whether I like the bass, in terms of sheer quantity they are not bass monsters.  While the general populous may balk at the lack of bass given all they are used to are mostly small ear attached sub woofers these will feel bass light.  For those of who have heard a little more I’m sure will have no great issue with the bass level here.  It feels perfectly natural as it is.

Mids:  As I’m sure many will know I like mids.  I feel mids are where everything important happens in music and that the bass and highs ought to be there merely to compliment those mids.  The mids here I can’t quite make up my mind about.  On one hand I recognise they are really quite beautiful blending a wonderful combination of the smooth with a cool, dry hint to keep them from being lush.  For an artist such as Tori Amos this is bang on perfect.  That touch of dryness gives her voice a wonderfully open, airy natural sound.  All of her songs sound just fantastic on the 320’s, Velvet Revolution, Winters Carol, Raspberry Swirl Professional Widow, Pretty Good Year, Winter, Hoocie Woman (bass is just great on this too,) Mr Zebra etc etc I really could go on and on.
The vocals on these remind me somewhat of the Grado 325is but with a richer feel.  The problem with this is that the Grado's can get a little shouty.  When trying out the sibilance monster that is Lilly Alan’s “22” all I can really say is ouch.  The Grado esq peek in the upper mids every so often leaps out stabbing you in the ears and that’s a real disappointment.  More so given they manage to play Relient K’s “Curl Up and Die” without the faintest hint of sibilance, something few manage.  This really isn’t a major problem but when it does it’s a real bother largely because otherwise the mids are so good.   On the whole the mids are quite lovely and are evenly placed quantity wise being neither forward nor recessed.

Highs:  If you are buying these I suspect it for the highs. These are without mistake treble abundant especially in the very high end.  This you will either love or like me find really tiring after too long but that’s not to say it can’t be enjoyable.  The treble here is bright, in your face and shimmery.  On “Raspberry swirl” that triangle takes clear and centre stage ringing out very loud and very clear, it has such exuberance and energy.  The highs have so much energy and sharpness that if you like that sort of thing I’m sure you will love these.  I must say that being rather treble sensitive I found after a while I really couldn’t bare any rock on these.  There is just so much energy up there particularly right at the top even above the grado’s (which I’m sure is there to assist with the airiness these project) but for me it was just too much.  The more I listen to these the more I want to compare them to the 325is.    In classical (Danse Macabre) the treble is great it’s of a more refined gentle nature but their relative abundance only serves to emphasise the fine detail.  This is why Etymotic is always recommended for classical.  In modern types particularly rock there can be sooooo much energy in the highs from the recording that when played on these they really begin to dominate more than I’m sure the producers intended. (Note this is because they assume you’re listening on crap equipment so emphasis them more than they ought to.)  Nevertheless the result is that these have more treble than I want. 
The quality of the treble is great, very good for the money and far exceeding the V-Jays abilities but my little ears yearn for less.  Treble lovers will probably need a box of tissues after listening to the PS320’s

Soundstage:  Rather nice, quite airy and open.  Separation is good, nothing magical but is noticeably better lower down, middle of the mids on down.
Comfort:  As always comfit depends utterly on you but for me not so good.  On first wearing these they initially were very very comfortable, very soft and gentle pads with minimal clamping force.  After a couple of hours the backs of my ears really began to ache where my ears were being pressed onto the legs of my glasses.  Clearly this isn’t Phiaton s fault but it’s still only fair to point out this may be an issue for some.
Fit:  I did mention earlier fit was important to get the best out of the low end on these.  For me this wasn’t any problem at all, a handful of seconds at worst, YMMV.
Cable:  Well boys and girls I cant say I love the cable these have.  I really must say that there is not a thing wrong with it, its light, flexible, never gets in the way (unlike Grado garden hoses) it’s just the right length too.  So why don’t I love it?  Well I can’t decide if I like the cable being single sided, it’s nice and freeing but it brings back memories of J cables and god I hate them but that’s all really just a matter of preference.  What I do feel is the clincher that the cable isn’t detachable.  I can’t single out Phiaton  as being the only one who does it but I cant help feeling the nice non bothersome cable on these is daring you to yank it and kill them.  The cable itself is of a nice quality but really why couldn’t you have put on a detachable cable?  Pretty please make a version 2 and give it a detachable cable.
Microphonics:  Very little to none and of course only on one side.
Amped/Unamped:  Very little difference, the usual things did get better but the difference was so slight these things really couldn’t care less if they are amped or not.  They do however hated having impedance added.  Many things with crossover change in odd ways and these do not like it one tiny bit.  Hiss was no trouble so it wasn’t really a problem.
Isolation:  As above with the fit, get it right and it’s not bad at all.  You won’t want to be using these instead of a set of ER4’s on the tube but otherwise quite reasonable for the type.  The isolation these give is not so much for keeping sounds away from you but preventing those near you from wanting to beat you with a stick.  These isolate almost as well as a set of dynamic IEM’s do.
Build Quality:  I was somewhat unhappy with the slight blemish I noticed on removing these from the box but otherwise these feel very sturdy.  I have no fear about accidently breaking the hinges on these or them falling to bits.  (I’d say they were built like a brick poop house but I’m not sure it’s a phrase that works outside the UK.)  From the instant you touch the box with its thick luxurious card it just screams quality and substance at you.  I approve wholeheartedly.

Accessories:  Minimal, they come with nothing other than a bag but really I don’t see what else you would want anyway.  The bag they do come with is quite lovely.  The bag is very nicely finished and feels like a little effort has gone into it, so much so that I’d wager it could pass for a square clutch for a needy girlfriend / wife / overly swishy boyfriend.  They might even get bonus points for being so avant garde buying something from this new mysterious designer, PHIATON. 

Value:  With an RRP of us$200 but easily available at us$150 id say yes with a notable caveat.  If you buy these you have to love treble in abundance or have very narrow musical tastes.  On treble light songs I really, really enjoy these but songs with abundant, aggressive treble I just found so very tiring.  If you think the sound signature is for you then by all means these are very fine buy.  It is a bit of a shame that these don’t seem to be available anywhere in the UK so looking on eBay I can see 2 available.  One claims to be an official retailer based in Japanland and wants £185ish for them, the other from the US makes no claims of officialdom but is a much more reasonable £115ish.

Conclusion:  I have no doubts that there are many who will hear these and love them.  On Head-Fi I often see people extolling the virtues of Grado’s for rock, people out there do love that bright aggressive treble and I can’t help but think of these as being a closed Grado.  If Etymotic and Grado made a baby and put it in a closed Sennheiser like form factor then this is what it would be like.
As I don’t doubt you have figured out the sound signature of these really wasn’t for me.  I’m rather treble sensitive and these are treble monsters especially really high up.  I happen to have an unusually high frequency range in my hearing and the top on these is just too much even with the iPod on treble reducer.  Swapping over to the 325is immediately I can hear they don’t have quite the quantity right at the very top but otherwise very similar.
It’s a shame there is quite so much top end as the mids and bass are both really very good but I feel as though Phiaton have felt the need to justify there being two drivers rather one as anything other than a gimmick, accordingly they ratcheted up the treble quantity.  It is possible it was done to give them more of an airy feel they otherwise would not have.  Either way I simply find it too much.  I have had them on all while I have been writing this review and presently they have been on my ears all day and it’s just too much.  Now if it’s for an hour or so here and there I can really see these being a lot of fun and sparkly but I can’t help feeling that id like these more if they only had one driver in them.
Having recognised these aren’t for me just who are they then?  Grado lovers, that’s who.  These just remind me so much of the 325is but with a little bass boost.  If you are a lover of that Grado sound but have yearned for one that was closed then yearn no more.  Grado’s are known for being utterly open and sound leaking yet still some wear them out.  If you’re a Grado loving chappy but don’t want everyone within 20 feet of you to hate you then look no further.  If you really like Grado’s then I’d very strongly suggest the PS320 as a closed alternative.
I know I haven’t loved the PS320 but there really is a lot to love about them.

Pros: Design, build quality, comfort
Cons: Leaner sound might not for everyone. Could use more accesories.
Before the review, I'll like to thank Phiaton for the loaner unit of PS320.
I kind of think I have moved from chasing the next best thing to simply trying to get more enjoyment from what I have, but once in a while I get the chance to listen to something I feel really special. It doesn’t have to be particular high-end or expensive, just a sound that fulfill a person’s inner craving. Now I must first admit I am a fairly analytical listener. Not that I don’t enjoy a balanced or warm sound from time to time, I just find myself being drew back to micro detail and neutral presentation all too often.  Being a self-proclaimed audiophile for a while also let me to reach some conclusion of my own. One of such conclusion is: there is no such thing as an absolute ‘correct’ sound. If all of the best gears around can reproduce sound as truthfully to the original recording as possible, then the only logical conclusion will be - they should all sound the same. Yet it is never the case no matter how costly or exotic the gears are. If such ‘correct’ sound does exists for a person, it will likely to be a blend of the listener’s taste, synergy of gears, and the interpretation of faithfulness to the original recording. That being said, it is my belief that the right sound is the better sound, but the reverse might not be always true - especially for those who could only rely on another’s impression or review. Hopefully you will find this review useful because you understand a little more about me as a reviewer.


Frequency Response: 11Hz – 23Hz
Design: Closed
Driver: 13mm and 40mm Dual Dynamic with Passive Crossover
Max input power: 500 mW
Sensitivity: 102dB
Impedance:  32ohm
Isolation: -10dB ~ -12dB
Weight: 122 grams w/o cord
Connector: 3.5mm Gold Plated
Cable: Y-cord, 1.25m

Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality
Most likely because of the limited quantity of loaner unit, I actually received one without the outer packaging. While it really isn’t much I can say about something I never handle in person, I was fortune enough to see the actual package of PS320 (and a few of the Phiaton MS series as well, which by the way are some serious eyes candy) in a dealership before, not to mention I have reviewed one of the in-ear models from the same series before. I think I will still describe it the same way I did on my last Phiaton review - simple yet classy. It seems to be a theme Phiaton has on most, if not all of their products.
Accessories wise, PS320 comes up a little thin with only a leather soft pouch, though the pouch itself is a real beauty. I would really like to see Phiaton improves on the accessories department. As the brand itself is building toward a higher class of music listener, I think most buyer will want to see more than just the pouch. A 6.3mm and/or an airline adapter will be nice. It will be even better if replacement leather earpads are included as well. Some time little thing goes a long way.
Build quality is overall good on PS320. The leather pads on each side of the earcups are very nice touch. The hard plastic headband has metal pieces to support the structure. The joins are all well designed and don’t seem to have any particular weak spot. Both earpads and the cushion on top of the headband are extremely soft and comfortable. It is most definitely not a dead clamp on the head. It is pretty secure when walking around but I won’t take it for a run. The only downside is perhaps the single side cable. Though the original cable is fine to use, a more robust cable would have added a lot more point to the overall build.  Removable cable would also be a great idea.
Though fully closed, PS320’s isolation is right about average, so don’t expect IEM-like isolation. On average it is better than opened on-the-ear headphone, but it isn’t enough to give you a clean sound in subway or plane ride. It is however good enough for quiet home / office use or street with light traffic.


Sound Quality
Let be honest first, PS320 sound signature probably is not for everyone.  It is what I will describe as the on-ear equivalent of Etymotic. For those who are not familiar with the Etymotic sound, it is generally considered to be lean on the bottom while analytical on the top. While PS320 do not share a carbon copy of frequency response (FR) with any Etymotic, they do have some common characteristics, such as a quantitatively small yet very tight and accurate bass hit and an aggressive treble. The one thing, perhaps the one real sonic weakness on PS320 is the lack of any sense of warm or fullness. It is evidently bone dry. In fact, the dryness couples with the aggressiveness might make PS320 sounds just a little too ‘busy’ to some. That is, it lacks some fine resolution between notes. To me, it is not really an issue of resolution. The problem lies in the lack of good texture, thus the listener couldn’t properly hear each note. One of a quick fix is to give PS320 a little mid-bass bump. It doesn’t take much either, just EQ +2~3dB in the 250Hz region and we are cooking! While 2 or 3dB might not seem like much, the idea is to improves it just enough so the overall sound signature can remain as intact as possible. Just as a side note, PS320 does response to EQ very well. For people who don’t / can’t EQ, I have another trick for you on the next section when we discuss mod’ing.
One of the strong points of PS320 is the relatively neutral FR that extends very far to both ends, no doubt the benefit of having two drivers instead of one. Bass, though is not in abundance, is very precise and well extends to almost 20Hz. It is what I’ll like to describe as ‘quality bass’. Mid, as I have mentioned, can be just a tad too dry without EQ. While it is comparatively a weak spot in the whole sound signature, it is not really a turn down by any means. Treble pretty much goes as far as my hearing limitation at around 17.5Hz (till I can’t tell whether it is still going up or not).  It is very clean and sparkly, quite forward, bright and full of micro detail. This is by far the most linear of any headphone I have ever heard. Soundstage is decent, though nothing spectacular.
I find PS320 to be fine with most music genre that doesn’t require a good vocal and a heavy bass. Classical and instrumental music seems especially well because of how reveal PS320 is. With a little EQ however, even vocal and smooth jazz can be pretty good as well. Diana Krull and Sade actually both sound mighty fine in my ears. I didn’t find PS320 to be particularly hard to drive, so amping is not a necessity. Amped or not, I can’t say I find any weird sound frequency from the passive crossover. I probably won’t even notice there are two drivers simply by listening. Do note that you will be well to keep PS320 away from bad source and low bitrate. In my opinion a slightly warm source will probably have the best synergy.

Under the earpads: the coaxial 13mm treble unit on the front and 40mm bass unit visible in the vents

PS320 next to another dual driver, my mod'ed Panasonic VMSS headphone, which really isn't a match in SQ compared to the Phiaton.
The Mod
Here is a quick and pain-free mod for PS320 to add some warm to the sound. If you take a look at the picture where the earpad has been removed (by slowly prying them on one side, as they are just clipped onto the earcups), you can see 8 vents surrounding the treble driver. All you need is to cut some tissue up and cover 4 of those vents. My choice is the top and bottom’s two (in pair). No glue is needed; just clip the earpad back and the paper will be held in place. You can also vary the number of vents or the material you want to cover to achieve a sound you wanted.
I am a fairly dedicated IEM user, have a few decent cans but never could really see myself converted to the other sides. However, there is something about PS320 that I do consider to be just right for me: It is portable, very comfortable and has a clean, neutral and highly detailed sound. More importantly, this is going for only $150 on the street now (MSRP is around $200). I don’t know how PS320 will fit your taste, but it is getting a thumb up from me. If you are an analytical listener like me, this will be a portable headphone I can truly recommend by heart. In fact, I am already setting my sight of picking one up in the future after the loaner unit goes back to Phiaton. Dual drivers or not, PS320 has turned out to be a great listening experience for me.


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