Although Phiaton chose not to exhibit at CES 2012, the company’s PR representative called to ask if I would have time for coffee and a chat with Phiaton Senior Manager for Sales & Marketing Akio Strasser. I quickly agreed and soon found myself in a crowded café in the Las Vegas Convention Center sitting across the table from Strasser to discuss new Phiaton products of note. “Which products do you hope will catch the ears of listeners this year,” I asked. Strasser named several Phiaton models I already knew about or reviewed in Playback, but then added, “I’m particularly enthusiastic about this one,” as he pulled Phiaton’s PS 20 BT Half In Ear Wireless Stereo Headset ($149) from his pocket and placed it on the table. “Would you like to try it?”
“Yes, please,” I replied. We quickly set up the PS 20 BT with a set of slip-on ear tips that fit me so that I could take the little Bluetooth earphone/headset for a quick test drive. In less time than it takes to read this sentence Strasser had the PS 20 BT powered up and paired with a smartphone loaded with high-quality music files, so that I was all set to go.
What struck me, right off the bat, was that the PS 20 BT sounded surprisingly good—in fact, fairly similar to the sound of Phiaton’s wired earphones. Frankly, I’ve sometimes associated the word Bluetooth with “limited sound quality” in the past, but as it turns out I needn’t have been overly concerned since the PS 20 BT supports Bluetooth version 3.0, whose performance capabilities are broader than those of earlier versions of Bluetooth.
I also noted that the PS 20 BT seemed incredibly convenient and flexible; its very light controller module and micro-joystick control setup proved to be intuitively easy to understand and to operate. No doubt about it; there’s a certain sense of freedom you get when your earphones no longer need to be “tethered” to their associated source components. Add to this the fact that many PC’s, laptops, tablet, smartphones, and digital music player have Bluetooth capabilities and you can begin to see the possibilities.
In short order Strasser and I agreed it might be a good idea for Playback to review the PS 20 BT under better conditions (not time constraints, no crowds, no jam-packed café, etc.), and a review sample was arranged. In this review, I’ll try to give you a clear picture of the PS 20 BT’s sonic capabilities and to give you a sense for what it’s like to use on a day-to-day basis.
Earphone/Headset: The PS 20 BT is, first and foremost, a self-powered earphone/headset that leverages what Phiaton terms a “Half In-Ear” design, as first pioneered in the firm’s PS 20 and PS 210i earphones (you can read the Playback review of the PS210i in the Playback Guide to Earphones & Custom-Fit In-Ear Monitors—2011; click here to get a free copy of the Guide). Highlight of this core earphone design include:
Controller: The PS 20 BT also come equipped with a wireless amp/mic/controller module attached via a short set of signal cables to the PS 20 BT’s earpieces. Highlights of the amp/mic/controller module include: