I’ve been holding off writing this review for a while. See, I wanted to test this product in the most challenging conditions; I wanted the conditions to be ideal. Noise cancelling headphones are best when paired with noise. Rather, they are the most effective when paired with a certain kind of noise, the drone of a plane engine, for example.
So journeying to New York City on amidst the constant buzzing drone of a Bombadier Q400 (they don’t make ‘em like this anymore), I plugged my Phiaton PS 20 Noise Cancelling Earphones, flipped the switch and hoped for the best.
Immediately the incessant head throb disappeared, replaced by a comforting “whoosh” of what was immediately outside my window. The sound didn’t disappear; it was neutralized, like the best kind of nap.
The Phiaton PS 20 are the company’s top-range noise cancelling earphones, and come in white or black with a number of favourable features for the avid traveler. The phones are in-ear, but don’t aim to provide the kind of seal you’d expect from a brand like Shure or Etymotics. There are four rounded rubber tips of varying sizes – I found the largest the only ones that would sit comfortably in my ear without the need for constant readjustment.
The phones provide good sound, though they lack the punchy bass of a more expensive driver. The cord is thin, long and prone to getting twisted. There is a non-removable plastic clip in the middle, driving the noise cancelling electronics and housing the single AAA battery. The piece lacks any sort of microphone or controls for music volume or playback, which comes as a disappointment considering the amount of real estate used. There is a single switch for turning on and off the noise cancellation and a button to mute the signal completely when NC is in use.
The PS 20s are not going to win awards for sound fidelity, as they lack the dynamic range of a more expensive driver. But the headset does a great job at delivering mid-range sound, including pleasing mids and smooth, accurate treble. And, unlike some other noise cancelling phones I’ve used, the PS 20s don’t drop its volume precipitously when the option is turned on.
The phones are well made, and the middle piece is fairly compact, making them truly portable. The earphones have been great companions in my recent travels and coming at under $80, are great value.