Phiaton PS20: Youngest of the Half Blood

Written by Felix Yau Tuesday, March 15, 2011


W
ith the success of their flagship PS200 and the first half in-ear design PS210, Phiaton adds one more model - the PS20 - to the line up. The newcomer PS20 is geared towards lower end users, and is tagged at an attractive $99 price point, $20 cheaper than its bottom-end predecessor. The PS20 comes in black or white, and is available with a noise cancelling option. So, what do we think of the PS20? Keep reading to find out.



Specifications
Variation: Black and White, Noise Cancelling-$149
Transducers: Single Dynamic Driver
Configuration: Half In-Ear, Dual Chamber, Open Back
Frequency Range: 15Hz-22 kHz
Impedance: 31 ohm
Sensitivity (1mW): 101 dB SPL
Accessories: 4 pairs of silicone tips, soft magnetic clip pouch
Price: MSRP $99

Packaging and Accessories (6/10)
Being a part of the Phiaton family, the PS20 receives the usual fancy, neat packaging that the company is known for. The PS20 is beautifully displayed through the clear half of the packaging, which snugly keeps them in place and protected.

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In terms of accessories, the PS20 unfortunately gets the same small accessory package that its predecessor received. The PS20 only comes with 4 pairs of silicone tips for a range of fit and a soft pouch for storage.

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Since our review on the Phiaton PS210 back in October 2010, Phiaton has revised the silicone tips that come with their wider nozzle earphones like the PS20 and PS210. The previous generation of silicone tips from the company were simply far too soft for optimal comfort and isolation. This time around, however, Phiaton has stiffened the tips and has made them a little thicker and more durable. The stiffer body of the tips offered a far superior comfort and isolation, which allowed us to listen to the PS20 for extended periods of time. Truly, Phiaton addressed the problem swiftly and effectively.


Build (9.5/10)
Unlike any other Phiaton earphone, the PS20 is not made of a one piece, milled metal body. Instead, they opted for a combination of metal structure and plastic housing. Despite the downgrade in terms of material durability, the build quality of the PS20 hasn't dropped that much. Compared to the PS210, the PS20 are just as well built in terms of assembly.

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The plastic that is used in the housing of the PS20 is not cheap like the plastic you would find on a pair of JVC or Panasonic, but something that you would find on a pair of Shure or Westone. The housing is very rigid, and holds against scratches and impact very well. The plastic parts of the housing are held together by a metal outer frame. Overall, the build quality is the same, but the metal parts of the PS210 have been replaced with high quality plastic.

The only flaw that we found on the PS20 is that the strain relief on the earphones compared to the PS210 doesn't seem to be held on as well. The strain relief itself has improved as it's more flexible now, offering a wider angle of protection. However, it's not put on the earphone as well as the strain relief on the PS210. Otherwise, the PS20 is nearly top notch in terms of build.


Cables (8/10)
One down side in the constructive properties of the PS210 is its cable. Despite being relatively thin and durable, the cable itself is not that flexible. If you wrap them in an oval and try to put them on a desk or into the case, they will simply pop right back to a pile of messy cables.

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Despite being less flexible, the cable used on the PS210 and any other Phiaton earphone, is fairly good at keeping the microphonic, or cable noise, down. Whether it's rubbing against your shirt or simply swinging around, Phiaton's cable keeps the noise to a very quiet, and rather impressive, level. On top of the low microphonics, Phiaton's cable is one of the most durable cables that we have seen on the market as of now. The cable beats Ultimate Ears' hands down in terms of quality and feel.

Fit (7.5/10)
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Since the PS210, Phiaton has made the PS20 even more ergonomic. We found the housing on the PS210 slightly too large, and shaped funny. As a result, it either offered a very good fit for some individuals and a horrible fit for some others with smaller ears. The PS20, however, has a more agile body, and is slimmer and smaller compared to the PS210. The edge of the "earbud" part also has a soft coating on it that allows for better comfort when it comes into contact with the ear. Just the simple details that Phiaton has fixed on the fit of the PS20 greatly improved its comfort and how snugly the earphones fit into our ears.

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Sound (8.5/10)

The Phiaton PS20 uses a new technology and design from Phiaton called ‘the MaxBass Relex system’. The system incorporates a dual chamber into the driver's use of air. This improves the response of the driver as there is plenty of air for the driver to use, which also allows for more accurate low-end. Let's hear how the new technology from Phiaton stands up to the fabulous sound of the PS210.

High Frequencies (9.5/10)
Although the youngest in the Phiaton family, it's hard to avoid picking up the best thing your parents were known for. The high frequency reproduction on the PS20 is simply astonishing for the price. Phiaton has managed to squeeze out so much detail and clarity from the PS20 that it's hard to believe what the PS20s are priced at.

The transparency of the highs makes the rings and tones of instruments so precise and so natural sounding. Though the bright sound signature could make the highs fatiguing for some individuals, the high frequency reproduction combined with the half in-ear advantage, which we will talk about later, simply leaves you with a jaw dropping experience.

Mid-Range Frequencies (7/10)
Compared to its similar older brother, the PS210, the PS20 offers a slightly less detailed, and rich mid-range. Even with the dual chamber design, the PS20 lacks a little in the mid-range that makes it just a step below the PS210.

Vocals are still presented with a clean and clear production, fair amount of detail, and tones are still very accurate. However, listening to more powerful vocalists with lots of vocal depth and detailed tones, the PS20 struggles to produce all the tiny specs and emotions in their voices. Despite this, the earphones produce a lovely mid-range for instruments like pianos and guitars. Guitars sound especially outstanding on the PS20, where the richness of the guitar naturally comes through. The mid-range of the PS20 is overall very good, and great if you're an instrumental or modern pop listener. If you're a ballad or a Whitney Houston fan, then the PS20 may not be for you.

Low Frequencies (7.5/10)
Phiaton has always offered in their line of earphones and headphones an accurate, quick, and punchy low-end compared to the more popular and better known, heart pounding, deep and powerful low-end. The PS20 doesn't stay away from this despite the brand new, dual chamber designed to increase airflow to the large dynamic driver in the PS20.

Somewhat similar to balanced armature design earphones, the lows of the PS20 hit quick and precise. Listening to trance really shows how fast the PS20 keeps up with the lows. Beat after beat, the PS20 doesn't fail to give a clean punch to your ears. As the low-end of the PS20 doesn't perform like the deeper and boomier low-ends of many other earphones, the bass of the PS20 will be hard for some to understand and accept at first. Nonetheless, if you're coming from pair of $15 on-the-shelf earphones or have only heard boomy, bloated lows that disturb the rest of the frequency, the PS20 is a must try.

Soundstage (8.5/10)
Similar to our recently reviewed PS210, the PS20 have an extremely similar soundstage. The PS210 have a slightly better depth and height reproduction in comparison, but otherwise it is exactly the same.

"The soundstage of an earphone is how well an earphone is able to place an instrument or vocal while allowing the listener to accurately interpret the height, width, and depth of the sound. This is where the ingenious design of the PS210 and its science shine through.

Due to the different ports that the PS210 uses for channelling sound into our ear, we hear sounds from four directions rather than two directions (two per ear rather than one). The port that channels sound into our concha is the one that helps define the three dimensional sound of the PS210. Phiaton has really put some heavy research and thought into designing the PS210. As human, the concha and the shape of our ears are used to define three dimensional sounds. This relationship between the PS210 and the concha of the ear allows us to hear an extremely spacious sound that is extremely hard to reproduce with just a two-directional sound. As such, the PS210 is able to produce extremely high, wide, and deep sounds while at the same time being able to place instruments and vocals in just the right spot. The incredible soundstage of the PS210 will without a doubt astound you." -PS210 Review


Detailed Score Breakdown:

Stereo Imaging - 8.5
Frequency Extension - 8.5
Transparency - 9
Decay - 8
Impact - 7.5
Speed - 8
Clarity - 8.5


Conclusion ( 8 /10)


The PS20 is Phiaton's way of competing with the lower end of the audio world. First with the slightly more expensive PS210, now the company has come up with a nearly as great product for such an affordable price. Phiaton has stepped up the game with the release of the PS20, offering a load of detail throughout the spectrum, astonishing soundstage, and the best build quality in the range. The earphone is great for individuals coming from classical, jazz and vocally focused music pieces. For hip hop, rock, and metal we would suggest the Ultimate Ears UE700 or Monster Jamz instead. Overall, the PS20 offers some of the best performance for the price that we have seen.

What's Hot
● Accurate audio reproduction
● Clean, defined notes
● Astonishing soundstage
● Great Build

What's Not
● Hard to find a fit
● Lack of accessories
● Lacking impact



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As the fit design is nearly exactly the same at the PS210, we had to give the PS20 the same mark as the PS210 in our Save the Hearing ranking system.

" As mentioned in the review, the Phiaton PS210 offers great fit allowing the user to use the earphones for an extended period of time. The PS210 also offers an amusing sound reproduction that leaves individuals craving for more. However, when we placed the PS210 with a low volume experience, much of the detail and richness that we heard was completely gone. Anything below 4kHz just seems to have disappeared and now the listener is only hearing the vocals and nothing else. As the PS210 is a half in-ear design, it also lacks isolation which evidently made us turn the volume up as we simply couldn't hear anything! In the end, we gave the PS210 a STH ranking of 2." -PS210 Review

This article was written by Felix Yau.
Special thanks to Hyo Jung Lee from Phiaton for making this review possible!



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