Published on May 23rd, 2015 | by Greg0
Phiaton BT 220 NC: Wireless, Noise Canceling In Ears
About 18 months ago, we checked out some solid headphones. And while not everything gets- or deserves- a sequel, we’d be happy to see these become a regular series. The company in question might not be the first that comes to mind when you think of personal audio equipment, but it should be a name that you’ll remember in the future. Each version gets a little bit better, iterative improvements, and it’s nice when technological progress is visible- and audible.
The Phiaton BT 220 NCs are the successors to the PS210BTNCs that we reviewed in late 2013. They are the rare in-ear headphones that include not only Bluetooth wireless, but also active noise-cancellation technology ideal for travel. There are some tweaks and changes, but the same general thoughts apply. Not all Bluetooth sets are made alike, and these offer Bluetooth 4.0 with apt-X, for better audio (and simple pairing, plus even the multi-point ability to connect two devices at once). The built-in microphone is handy and call quality was excellent. And the turbine design on the earbuds looks unique and pretty stylish.
Not all noise-cancellation technologies are alike either. The first step is to offer solid passive blockage of environmental sounds, and these achieve that goal thanks to Comply foam tips and four silicone ones in a few sizes, allowing you to select the optimal ones for your ears. They’re comfortable as well. Battery life has been boosted somewhat, from 14ish of use to 16 hours of calling or 17 hours of music. There’s a Monitor button, which disables music temporarily allowing you to check on your surroundings, perfect for urban use where you might want to figure out where that siren is coming from. And we liked the inclusion of NFC, or near field communication, for use with phones that support the feature.
We were less thrilled with the body of the unit, which hasn’t drastically changed- it’s still a fairly cumbersome with similarly large-bodied driver units that extend from your ears as well. You’ll need to clip the dangling compartment on your shirt for the microphone to work, and though it’s easy to use and keeps the important controls convenient, it makes wireless feel a little silly and it’s pretty simple to accidentally press the wrong button. Audio was decent- 14.3mm drivers are no slouch- and though there was a little bit of hiss and a brightness on the mids and highs, the low-end performance was very solid throughout a 40-hour+ test period with plenty of hip-hop and test tracks like the latest from Grimes. Deeper acoustic music didn’t grab us, as vocals could feel a little flat. But the Phiaton BT 220 NCs are some of the only models in their class, and as such, it’s hard to complain too much- they’re still a decent value at $160 or so, available in stores and online now.