One of the nicest things about the voicing of the PS 20 BT is that it plays to the strengths of Bluetooth 3.0, while minimizing Bluetooth’s occasional sonic flaws. In short, the PS 20 BT tends to “accentuate the positive” so that even when it does expose sonic problems it does so without dramatizing them or making them worse.
Do Bluetooth 3.0 connections literally sound “as good as wired connections?” I would say not, but with the qualifying remark that the PS 20 BT sounds sufficiently good enough that the sonic differences would not to be glaringly apparent to most listeners unless they did a side-by-side, wired vs. wireless comparison.
The differences in convenience and flexibility that Bluetooth connectivity affords, however, are huge. Specifically, you can use the PS 20 BT controller module to control music playback from your smartphone (or other Bluetooth source) and can do so while standing up to 10 meters away—something that obviously wouldn’t be possible with a wired earphone/headset.
One of the great pleasures a Bluetooth earphone/headset allows is the option of pairing the device with, say, an Apple iPad running a Pandora app and then listening to favorite Pandora Internet radio “channels” while being able to get up and walk around the room. I tried several listening tests in this way.
On “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” from Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True [Stiff, via Pandora], the PS 20 BT had plenty of moxie with which to handle the song’s infectious, bouncy bass hooks and Costello’s sly, saucy, edgy vocals. Upper midrange and high frequency clarity and details aren’t really this album’s strong suit in the first place, so the Phiaton’s slightly subdued highs are not so much a problem as a benefit in that they keep the album from sounding overly raw or rough-edged. What is more, the Phiaton similarly tends to downplay the fact that Pandora’s sound seems inherently compressed (at lease to some degree). These are examples of what I mean when I say the PS 20 BT is “forgiving” in a good way.
On “London Calling” from The Clash Singles [Epic, via Pandora], the PS 20 BTs do a very good job of capturing the energy and raw emotion of this British punk rock classic. The PS 20 BTs touch of bass enrichment gives a boost in power to the song’s unforgettable opening bass guitar riffs, while guitars have a just-right quality of biting edginess and vocals are powerful, clear, and appropriately raw (not out-of-control raw, but “raw” in the sense of pushing hard to convey sincere emotions). Once again, the Phiaton reproduces upper mids and highs in a way that offers decent measures of clarity, but with an uncanny ability to smooth out strident rough edges in the record.
For the bulk of my listening, however, I used Bluetooth connections to an iPod loaded with lossless (that is, full CD-resolution) audio files, which proved a tougher test of the Phiaton’s ability to handle musical nuances, etc.
On the masterfully recorded track “I Can’t Stand the Rain” from Sara K’s Hell or High Water [Stockfisch], the PS 20 BT gave a surprising nuanced and evocative rendering of the delicate inflections and points of emphasis in Sara K’s robust yet also haunting vocal. Likewise, the Phiaton did a good job with the intricate acoustic guitar work that plays such a central role in this album. The Phiaton’s bass boost gave the record a slighter darker, moodier sound than it might have had through a more strictly accurate earphone (especially when bass accompaniment entered the mix), but happily not to the point of excess. On this extremely well made record, however, I couldn’t help but note that the Phiaton’s subtly subdued top-end caused a loss of some upper midrange and high-frequency details, textures, and reverberant cues that—under ideal circumstances—can (and really should) make you feel like you are present in the studio as the record was being made (or mixed). My point is that while the Phiaton does a lot of things well, there are certain upper reaches of clarity, resolution, and finesse that it can’t realistically reach.
Consider this wireless earphone/headset if:
Look further if: