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The Phiaton PS300 NC headphones look remarkably similar to the Bose QC3 headphones.

They are also much better value, with more included and a lower street price, but in terms of noise cancelling, they are, alas, not as good.

 
 
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Phiaton PS300 NC Noise Cancelling Headphones

There's a very subtle gold tint to the otherwise standard silver color of the Phiaton PS300 headphones.

They also bear a remarkable similarity to the Bose QC3 headphones in terms of design and appearance.  Is this just a coincidence?

Part of a series on noise reducing headphones - click the links on the right for extra reviews and commentary

 

 

Just like the earlier Plane Quiet NC model headphones that had similar appearing competitors that did not perform as well, so too now does the Bose QC3 have these Phiaton PS300 similarly appearing headphones as a competitor.

But while external appearances are very similar, it is clear that the internal electronics are very different, making for quite different performance both in terms of noise cancelling and sound quality.

These headphones come with a good range of accessories included, and can be found 'on the street' for much less than their list price ($200 instead of $300) making them better value than the high end QC3.  This cost saving is however matched by noise cancelling and sound reproduction performance that is not as good as offered by the QC3.

Executive Summary

The Phiaton PS300NC headphones look very similar to the Bose QC3 headphones, but in terms of performance, the QC3's are appreciably better.  Don't be deceived by their external similarity.

On the other hand, with a street price of $200, the Phiaton headphones are much better value, and come with more inclusions.

The Phiaton PS300 NC Noise Cancelling Headphones - What You Get

The Phiaton PS300 NC noise cancelling headphones come attractively packed in a cardboard box with plastic cut-away window to show the headphones inside.

Inside the easily opened box are the headphones themselves, of course.  In addition, there is not one but two of the tiny Lithium-polymer rechargeable batteries that power the headphones, and a clever USB powered charger for the batteries.

The charger ends in a short USB cable and plug, so you can charge from any USB power source.  And, just in case you don't have a USB power source handy, Phiaton also provide a 'brick' wall charger, complete with a very generous set of five different plug adapters (US, UK, Australia/NZ, and both the thick and thin European styles) that should allow the multi-voltage charger to work in just about anywhere in the world.

Full marks to Phiaton on their comprehensive approach to providing you with lots of options to recharge the batteries (and bonus marks for providing two rather than only one battery).

In addition, there's the essential audio cable with a standard 1/8" (3.5mm) jack at one end to plug into any audio source, and a smaller (perhaps 2.5mm?)  jack at the other end to plug into the headphones.  Two plug adapters are also included - one to convert to the 1/4" headphone jack seen on, eg, home stereos, and the other to convert to the double pronged plugs sometimes seen on airplane seats.

The cable is a generous 60" in length, and has a 'mute' switch in it about 18" from the headphone end.  Pressing the mute switch reduces the sound volume, but doesn't eliminate it entirely, and the noise cancellation remains on or off, unaffected by the position of the mute switch.  This can be convenient on a flight when the flight attendant stops to offer you a drink or meal (on those rare occasions these days when food is still served).

It is disappointing that there isn't a regular 3.5mm diameter socket at the headphone end as well - this would make it easy to replace the audio cord if it ever breaks or is lost.  It is hard to think that the minimal difference in size/space required for a 3.5mm vs 2.5mm plug was impossible to accommodate.

The headphones have hinges where the earcups meet the headband, allowing them to be folded into a space efficient compact size for carrying.  This translates into a nice little protective carry case, which is considerably smaller than the Bose QC3 carry case (the QC3 aren't hinged at all).

The carry case is definitely compact, but is too small for the headphones and the wall charger to fit in.  You can fit the headphones, spare battery, and USB charger into the carry case with a bit of careful arranging, but there's no way to also include the mains charger.  Of course this is not a deal breaker at all, and is probably a fair design compromise.

Lastly, there is a massive 106 page manual and a warranty card.  But - no need for alarm.  The headphones are easy to operate.  The reason the manual is so big is because it is printed in multiple languages - only 16 pages are in 'English'.  Unfortunately, the 'English' is a poor quality translation of a document that was originally written in perhaps Chinese or Korean.

Some of the content is extremely hard to understand, such as the full page explanation, complete with diagram, about their 'VHST'.  Sorry, I've no idea what VHST stands for, although Phiaton have trademarked it, and I've also no idea what it does or why, even after trying to understand the explanation.

The warranty is for one year and appears to be transferable to subsequent owners.  But it does have a strange quirk - if you have a warranty claim, Phiaton reserves the right to decide if it will repair or replace the headphones (this is standard) or alternatively to simply refund you your money, less depreciation (at an unstated rate).  So what happens if you have a problem after owning the headphones for six months - does that mean perhaps that Phiaton will simply refund you have the price you originally paid, rather than repair/replace?

This sort of warranty sounds more like the 'warranties' you get with a car battery or tires, whereby you invariably end up paying close to full list price any time you have to make a claim.

Noise Cancelling

The Phiaton PS300 headphones provide good but not great noise cancelling.  You'll absolutely notice a good reduction in background noise when you turn them on, and this will definitely help your comfort and allow you to emerge the other end of a long plane journey feeling more refreshed.  But they're not in the top level of noise cancelling.

They are much better than the Plane Quiet Platinum headphones, but the Bose QC3, Bose QC2 and the Sony MDR-NC500D headphones are all perceptibly better than the Phiaton PS300 (and, of course, appreciably more expensive too).

Sound Quality

We list this after noise cancelling because we consider it to be a less important consideration when choosing noise cancelling headphones.

Such headphones are never used in a quiet listening environment with studio quality equipment.  They are, by definition, used in a noisy environment, and usually with some type of portable music source - both detract massively from the ability to enjoy a best quality sound.  Noise cancelling headphones should give acceptably good quality sound, but beyond that, there's no point in paying extra for theoretically better sound that you won't notice with MP3 sourced music in a noisy environment.

With that as introduction, the Phiaton headphones give only a moderate quality sound.  The bass is 'muddy' and unclear, no matter whether the bass adjust control is set to the "+" or "-" setting.

A prominent mid-range gives the sound a noticeable tonal coloration.  Higher frequency notes are very clear indeed, but perhaps a bit over-pronounced and strident.  Looking inside the headphones showed the reason for the clarity of the high notes - there is a separate mini-tweeter provided, something not many other headphones of this type offer.

The sound quality is fine for casual listening to music and for watching movies, but if you're a serious audiophile wanting to do some high level listening to first class music recordings, these are not the headphones for you.

Comfort and Convenience

The Phiaton headphones externally are very similar to the Bose QC3, and the earpads look almost identical.  However, the Phiaton earpads are much firmer than the QC3 earpads - the QC3 sort of sinks onto one's ears, whereas the Phiaton stands more above them.

It is hard however to say which is more comfortable - both are acceptable, but generally I prefer 'around the ear' designs (such as the Bose QC2 and QC15) to the 'on the ear' design as featured with the Phiaton and QC3.

In terms of convenience, the on/off switch is inconveniently located behind one of the headphone mounts, but for most of us, there's little need to be turning the headphones on and off other than when first putting them on and when subsequently removing them at the end of a journey, so this isn't very important.

The detachable headset cord makes it easy to get up from your seat (if on a plane) while leaving the headphones on, but without having a cord trailing behind you.

The folding nature of the headphones makes it possible to carry them in a smaller size pouch than the QC3 headphones which don't fold at the earcups.

Being supplied with two batteries and several different battery charging solutions is definitely a convenience for when you're traveling away from home, and the ability of the headphones to work with no battery at all (to play music but not provide noise cancelling) is an excellent 'emergency' capability if you find yourself with two dead batteries.  Unfortunately, the Bose QC3 only works with the battery on - if your battery dies with the QC3, you can't listen to music at all, with or without noise cancelling.

Phiaton PS300 NC compared to Bose Quiet Comfort 3

The remarkable design similarity between these two sets of headphones makes us suspect they have both been designed and possibly even produced in the same plant in China.

But while they are superficially similar, there are some important differences in performance.  This table highlights the similarities and differences between them :
 

Feature

Phiaton PS300

Bose QC3

List Price

$299

$349

Street Price

$199

$349

Street Price with spare battery and worldwide charger

$199

$449

1/4" adapter included

Yes

No

USB charger included

Yes

No

Standard plugs on detachable cable

No

No

'On head' weight of headphones and battery only

4.9 oz

5.1 oz

Weight of headphones, battery, charger, cord

6.2 oz

7.4 oz

Weight of headphones, battery, charger, cord, case

11.1 oz

15.0 oz

Carry case size (max dimensions)

5.5 x 6.0 x 2.4"

6.5 x 8.0 x 2.0"

Comfort on ear

good firmer padding

very good soft padding

Battery life claimed

18 hrs

20 hrs

Works with no battery

Yes

No

Warranty

1 yr

1 yr

Background hiss

almost completely imperceptible

very low but slightly noisier

Noise cancelling

very good low freq
good high freq

excellent low freq
good high

Sound quality

fair

very good

 

Where to Buy

The headphones can be purchased direct from the manufacturer at full list price ($299).

Although Amazon also sell them, there's very little discount offered - currently there's an alternate source offering them through Amazon for $276.

But if you go to Headphone Solutions, you'll find them available for the much better price of $199.

Summary and Recommendation

If you're someone who must have the very best, you'll instead opt for one of the top three headphones - the Bose QC2 or QC3, or the Sony MDR-NC500D, and you'll happily pay the $300+ price associated with top of the line units.

If you're someone who simply wants a decent pair of headphones, better than you get on an airplane, and with better noise cancelling than on airplane headphones (which varies from none at all to very little), you might choose the great value Plane Quiet Platinum headphones, costing something less than $100.

And if you can't really justify spending $300+ on headphones, while wanting something better than a sub-$100 set of headphones with only limited noise cancelling, the Phiaton product is probably a good choice as a mid-range unit both in terms of price and performance.
 

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Originally published 2 Oct 2009, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
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