Phiaton is one of those audio companies that constantly and consistently releases new models of interesting earphones and headphones. Just when you’ve gotten used to one headphone, it’s been discontinued and another has taken its place. Their headphones and earphones are also some of the prettiest designs available, although the earphone’s beauty is mostly hidden because of the small size. More importantly, Phiaton is also known for their liberal use of active noise canceling technology in many of their models. Which brings us to this model: The PS 202 NC noise canceling earphone.
I wouldn’t call the PS 202 NC noise canceling earphone one of Phiaton’s more beautiful offerings. Its squarish shape earpieces and large attached remote look rather clunky. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, because what the PS 202 NC earphone may lack visually, it’s made up in their functionality.
The PS 202 NC is what’s called a half in-ear design, which means that none of the speaker parts are inserted into the ear canal as you might find in more tubular shaped earphone design. There’s no advantage either way, but the smaller, tubular design certainly looks sleeker. Plus, remember that the PS 202 NC is a noise canceling earphone, which requires extra electronic parts which are too large to fit anywhere but outside the ear. Having said all that, the awkward square shape doesn’t hinder comfort at all. The PS 202 NC are quite comfortable, once you find the right-sized tip.
Phiaton supplies a good—not great— selection of tips, a soft, draw-string carrying pouch and a shirt clip which I never use and always seem to lose. Four sizes of silicone tips and one pair of Comply foam tips should fit most people, although I can’ t imagine who would use the smallest tip offered; it’s tiny. I prefer the largest tip, but the Comply foam tip also works quite well and seals out most external noise, which brings us to the PS 202 NC’s noise canceling.
Note: Active noise cancelling is a technology that cancels low frequency, droning outside noises such as jet engines, commuter trains and background crowd noise. It works by introducing an opposite frequency to what the hidden mic picks up, thus canceling the audible noise. In other words, noise can be canceled by producing more noise. Weird, huh?
Noise canceling is the main selling point of the PS 202 NC earphones and Phiaton has done a darn good job incorporating it into earphones. They’ve managed to (mostly) avoid my main complaint about active noise canceling, which is audio compromise. Phiaton is one of the best at making noise canceling almost unnoticeable. While listening to music, the differences heard while switching noise canceling on and off was negligible. There’s no artificial sound to vocals when NC is on. Yes, audio suffers a bit, but not enough to matter in noisy environments.
This noise canceling is controlled by a remote control attached where the left/right earphone wires meet. This remote has an On/Off slider switch for noise canceling, and an separate button for accepting calls and controlling music playback: one press for pause/play/accept call, two for skip forward and three for skip backwards—got all that? A small monitor button will pause music and noise canceling to let you hear what’s going on around you without removing the earphones. There’s also a micro-USB charging port under a tiny flap—charging cord included. Different colored lights indicate when it’s time to recharge. The earphones can be used while charging, but there’s irritating electronic noises in the background while charging that thankfully disappear once disconnected. Also, the PS 202 NC’s can be used as regular earphones when the battery is dead—only without noise canceling.
While I wouldn’t call the PS 202 NC earphones audiophile quality, I will say that I have no complaints. These are easy-to-listen-to earphones, This simply means that you can use the PS 202 NCs for hours with little to no discomfort. Their comfort is a bonus and the audio is warm and friendly—a bit on the bass side—which most people prefer. I prefer a more accurate, balanced sound, but I’m in a distinct minority. If I was making earphones and wanted more sales, I would make them sound like the PS 202 NCs, not what I prefer.
My impressions are based on hours of listening to many types of music, but I have “go-to” tracks for testing. I am intimately familiar with these tracks, so I know what to listen for. OMD’s Metroland is an electronic song that has low bass and sparkling highs. The PS 202 NC earphones don’t disappoint. While the bass is a bit heavy, it doesn’t distort. The high frequencies gravitate a little to an artificial-sounding metallic sheen with noise canceling turned on, but it’s not distracting.
The classic Miles Davis album, “Kind of Blue” points out the subtle compromises that the PS 202 NC earphones make with noise canceling is on. The differences here are not so much audible as personal. His music sounds more engaging with noise canceling off. It sounds less involving when on, so I tend to be distracted easily. However when commuting, the ability to drown out background noise trumps subtle audio involvement every time.
Phiaton has done an admiral job with the PS 202 NC noise canceling earphones. They are comfortable (if a bit awkward looking), sound good and the noise canceling doesn’t get in the way of musical enjoyment.