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I'm digging these headphonesPosted by Rillion from Maryland on 2011-08-18
Posted on Phiaton PS 320
Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Excellent portabiltiy, good isolation and fit, quality well-balanced bass
Cons: Hot after long sessions, requires careful positioning to obtain the best sound
Update 1 July 2013
I finally bought some decent speakers that I can make comparisons with my headphones. I mentioned below a bright spot at 8 kHz that I perceive on the PS320. Well it turns out that even with external speakers I am overly-sensitive to 8 kHz. The PS320 loudness at 8 kHz compared to 1 kHz is within a couple of decibels of what I hear on a single front-center speaker equalized with a sound pressure meter.
Updated 28 Nov. 2012
I recently started wearing glasses. Of the four sealed headphones I own, these are the only ones I can stand to wear with glasses. The others push the legs of the glasses too hard against my head.
Also, since my last update, I've measured my hearing with a variety of headphones and external speakers. This was enlightening, but *not* fun. I perceive a 9 dB bright spot at 8 kHz with these headphones--probably a resonance that would be different (or non-existent) for other heads+ears. This frequency/pitch is higher than the fundamental frequencies of just about every instrument but pipe organ, so with most music it would not likely be a big deal. To put this in perspective, the much lauded AKG K702 has an 8 dB peak (with my ears) at 2 kHz, which is more dominant in music and where hearing is generally more sensitive.
Updated 14 Sept. 2011
I've revised portions of my original review.
I am pleased with this purchase. Initially, I was a bit put off by some harshness perceived with bright instruments such as violin, however this problem was eliminated by adjusting the positioning of the headphones. It really pays to experiment with the positioning of the PS320. I found that by positioning the cups a little further back and rotating them to press the back of my ears deep into the cushions, that the seal and comfort was substantially improved. As mentioned, this also eliminated the harshness without degrading the rest of the sound.
Build quality overall feels excellent. It is hard to tell how secure the cable is connected inside the cup, but I would prefer a more solid strain relief on the outside. Fortunately, the cable is very unobtrusive -- easily tucked into a front pocket. The cable is 4 ft long fully extended but curls up a bit. If the cable is allowed to swing freely, some annoying vibrations are produced in the left cup.
I bought these headphones as an upgrade to my Audio-Technica ATH-FC700. I wanted headphones with similar portability and isolation as the FC700, but with better sound and comfort. The FC700 is decent for its price but I find it fatiguing for long listening.
The sound and comfort of sealed headphones depends a lot on individual fit. I have a fairly small head and the PS320 fits me perfectly (after the adjustment noted above) with an excellent seal. Both the comfort and seal of the PS320 are superior to the FC700, at least on my head. The clamping force is more evenly distributed with the PS320, making it much more comfortable for extended wearing. The headband padding of the PS320 is quite nice, especially since my hair is thinning. The FC700 has no headband padding. The PS320 is better at cutting my noisy apartment AC to a tolerable level. To quantify my head size: with the PS320 and FC700 the band is fully retracted; with the Sennheiser PX100 the band is extended 6 mm on each side.
The sound quality of the PS320 is more in the league of the PX100 than the FC700, so most of my comparisons have been with PX100 even though the PX100 is an open headphone with basically no sound isolation. None of these comparisons used an equalizer. My music players have a very flat frequency response: most comparisons were made using a Sansa Clip+, a few comparisons were made with a Panasonic SL-SX282C portable CD player. With the PS320, for quiet music, a faint hiss is detectable with the CD player but not with the Clip. The hiss is worse (higher pitch) on the FC700 and absent on the PX100 and Audio Technica ATH-AD700 headphones.
Some reviews of the PS320 describe the bass as being accurate but weak and dependent on getting a good seal on the ear. These headphones form a good seal with my head/ears. The bass of the PS320 is weaker than the popular PX100, however the bass of the PS320 actually sounds superior to me in quality. The PS320 strikes a good balance between bass and mids -- the bass has a bit of punch but doesn't obscure the rest of the music. Comparisons can be tricky since the PS320 is overall louder than the PX100 (about 3dB louder at 1000 Hz) despite both being rated as 32 ohm.
The PS320 and PX100 are quite different in sound. The PX100 sounds more distant and wide, the PS320 more intimate. Usually, I find the PS320 to sound better than the PX100. With orchestra, the distant, wide sound of the PX100 provides it with some advantage. A slightly more open sensation is obtained for the PS320 with the crossfeed effect from Rockbox firmware (I only tried the default crossfeed settings). The PS320 really shines with Bach's concerto for 4 harpsichords, where the harpsichords sound comparatively weak on my other headphones. The PS320 is great with vocals: Roy Orbison sounds even more godlike on the PS320. Snare drums also sound very good. ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man" sounds wicked good.
The PX100, however, cannot be beat for comfort and doesn't require any fussing with position. This makes it preferable for exercise. The PS320 would be way too hot with physical exertion. The tight seal of the PS320 also means that you can hear yourself chewing, so it's not a good choice for dining.
A further note on isolation:
I tried these headphones while a passenger on a Boeing 717. At some low frequencies, it seemed the headphones made the noise worse. The isolation is good, but not good enough to make airplane listening enjoyable or even to dampen aircraft noise without listening to music. This was prior to finding the "sweet spot" in positioning the headphones, so it would seal better now. However, I doubt this would help the excess noise at low frequencies.
20 Sept. 2011:
I briefly had these rated as 5 stars, but the heat is driving me nuts today so I've adjusted it back down to my original 4 stars.
24 Sept. 2011
While the PS320 has a more neutral frequency spectrum than most on-ear headphones, it still has a slightly warm sound. This is pleasant with most music, but to my ear it makes some music sound slightly veiled. Perhaps this is not the place for this, but a neutral airy sound that provides more high-frequency "sparkle" can be achieved with the following (Rockbox) parametric equalizer settings: Precut -3.5 dB; Peak 1 : 300 Hz, Q 1.9, -5.5 dB; Peak 2: 640 Hz, Q 1.3, +5.0 dB; Peak 3: 5000 Hz, Q 1.7, +4.0 dB. Comparisons should be made to a flat EQ including a -3.5 dB precut to keep the overall volume the same.
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