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The Phiaton PS200s are a basic set of in-ears. Since they don't do anything vastly different with the cord and plug, let's start by looking at their ear buds, sans sleeves.


As you can see, other than the gumdrop shape to the ear bud, these headphones look about average. The nozzles are a bit open, which will be a pain to clean if something gets in there.

Below you can see the PS200s' main design flourish, the fan blade.



The PS200s are symmetrical headphones, meaning that the left and right cables are of an even length. If you held up the headphones, they'd look like an upper-case Y. By contrast, asymmetrical headphones typically have a much shorter cord leading up to the left ear bud and a longer one leading to the right ear bud, so they hang off to the left side and sling around the neck to the right.

The left and right sides converge at a neck split with an adjustable slider.





***If you use the neck split, then rest assured: the PS200

has a neck split just for you.***

After the split, the cord continues down to a standard 1/8-inch plug.



For more on this plug, read the durability section below.


Below you can see the PS200s on HATS. Try to picture your handsome/pretty face on HATS's ugly mug and, through the power of imagination, you'll have a pretty good idea of how these headphones will look on you.



In The Box

Inside the PS200s fancy-looking box you'll find the headphones, a posh carrying case, and two different sizes of sleeves (making 3 sizes total).


**Durability**     (*4.40**)*

The Phiaton PS200 headphones have the same durability issue as a lot of headphones we've reviewed: a fragile plug. These headphones are about on par with the Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic in terms of their horrible plug design. When you pick up headphones, try to get a plug that's bent at a 90º angle with a good cord guard. The plug is one of the biggest stress points on your headphones. If your headphones, much like the average videogame villain, fail to adequately protect their weak spot, we recommend wrapping the area in electrical tape as a precautionary measure. Sure, it will likely cheapen the overall aesthetic, but it will increase the longevity of your headphones.


As mentioned in many other reviews, this plug is a poor design.


Other than the plug issue, which is one of the most common problems we see on in-ear headphones, the only other real issue we saw was with the PS200s' nozzles. If you look at the below picture, you'll notice there're open to the air for the most part. This is bad, because it makes them far more vulnerable to accruing grossness and grime and is also annoyingly difficult to clean out.

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Overall, the PS200s seem slightly less durable than average. They suffer from many of the common poor design choices in headphones, but aren't remarkable in their mediocre durability.


**Aesthetics**     (*4.50**)*

The PS200s have a fan blade design that's reminiscent of jet engines. We just reviewed the Turbines a while back, which seem to have followed this theme suspiciously closely. Overall, however, we weren't really 'fans' (this is the best pun ever) of the PS200s aesthetic. They have a unique look, which is refreshing, but the design on the back almost look like a bike wheel, as sometimes the shadowing makes the ridges there look like spokes. This being said, we're so used to boring designs that our inner, subjective, in-ear aesthetics scale only spans from, 'I don't really like the way this looks,' to 'I guess this looks kinda cool.' Our vague sense of dislike at the PS200s' design is made much less palpable by the sheer presence of an innovation.

Of course, aesthetics is entirely subjective. As we advise in every review, take all opinions (especially those found on the internet) with the grain of salt they deserve. Check out the PS200s in person and maybe try them on in front of a mirror if you're especially concerned about their look.


About our testing:**

For more information on our tests, read this article.

**Frequency Response**     (*4.63**)*

What we found:

UPDATE: We originally wrote this section using incorrect numbers, which were lower than the PS200's actual results. The responsible parties were made to sit in the corner and wear a large, conical hat. This error not only applies to this section, but also the comparison sections. 

The PS200's frequency response was ever-so-slightly better than average. The bass got a good level of emphasis without being boomy. The response trends downward as it approaches the middle frequencies, falling slightly below our limits. This means vocals or other mid-range sounds might not get the emphasis they deserve. The sudden boost at around 7kHz is likely to make drums sound a bit more crisp (7kHz is around where the attack of a snare drum is, where 'attack' is probably more easily recognized as 'that initial sound of impact between the drum stick and the drum).

The main problem area is that dip in the middle of the graph. The reason it's a problem isn't necessarily because it goes below the bottom limit – it falls about 3dB below the limit, which isn't a large margin – but rather due to the fairly sudden shift in emphasis. An instrument that uses those frequencies might sound a bit strange. Otherwise, however, the PS200s response wasn't bad.

How the Phiaton PS200 compares:

What is frequency response?

Frequency response refers the various emphases and deemphases a set of headphones puts on any given frequency. For our purposes, the ideal set of headphones won't do anything to playback; if the original artist wanted loud bass, they would have put it in themselves. Many people like a dynamic sound, which means certain frequency bands are emphasized over others. For those who like a dynamic response, check out the graph above and try to judge if it meshes with your aural proclivities.

How the test works:

To test frequency response, we run a known frequency sweep through the headphones. Since we know what we're putting through the headphones and HATS knows what's coming out of them, we can tell exactly how the headphones are changing the initial sound file. If this topic interests you, fear not! You can find out more at your local library  and also at this link.

**Distortion**     (4.10*)*

What we found:

The Phiaton PS200s had slightly less than average audio quality. There is distortion at virtually every level until the very, very high end, but at no point does the graph stray far above 1%. The level at which distortion gets 'bad' is 3%. This is the point at which most people would think distortion is obvious. We routinely see headphones that straddle the zero line, which have, for human earing, no distortion. While the PS200s have very little distortion, is does not have a negligible amount. We'd say these heapdhones are perfectly fine for the average consumer, but people who are particularly picky tay well below that line, which means most people won't be able to notice the distortion levels.

How the Phiaton PS200 compares:

What is distortion?

The frequency response test above measure the ways in which the headphones might alter the levels of an incoming sound, but distortion measures what the headphones are doing to the sound itself. Distortion is bad, because it fundamentally changes your playback, but it's not always the most noticeable quality. If you're a fan of death metal, chances are you won't be able to pick out the music's distortion from the headphones' distortion. If you like classical or acoustic music, however, you'll be far more likely to pick up on distortion.

How the test works:

Much like the frequency response test, our distortion test relies on comparing two sound files: a source sound and the sound that comes out of the headphones. Once we have these two files, we can see what the headphones are doing to the overall shape of the sound wave. Ideally, the headphones won't do anything to the shape of the incoming sound wave. This test measures the percentage of distortion at any given frequency. The number to look out for is 3%, which is noticeably bad. To read a bit more on the subject, click on this upcoming link.

**Tracking**     (8.26)


What we found:

The PS200s' tracking wasn't atrociously off. They seem to be slightly louder in the right channel than in the left. This could be fixed with positioning, potentially; the difference is a not-terribly-noticeable 4dB louder in one channel. This is at its worst in the low end, and then gradually increases back to a nominal level, at which point it scribbles out. Take this scribble with a grain of salt: it isn't 100% accurate since our testing equipment can't measure these decibel levels with 100% accuracy. The reason we didn't just chop it off the graph is because you can judge the trend using them. It looks like, in the high end, the decibel level goes towards the left channel even more, overall.

The differences between the channels is never significantly more than 4dB, which isn't so bad it'd annoy you. If you were to look at this graph to the right, you should know that the headphones are not perfect, but, unless you're particularly finnicky, they're good enough.


How the Phiaton PS200 compares:

**What is tracking?

*Tracking basically refers to balance. When a set of headphones has perfect tracking, when we play a 10dB sound through both channels, each channel will output exactly 10dB. If the headphones have poor tracking, one of the channels will be outputting a louder decibel level than the other. Of course, this is not desireable. If you have ever listened to headphones where the right was consistently playing louder than the left, you know how unusuable it makes the headphones.

How the test works:

Tracking uses the same test procedure as our frequency response test; we just focus on different information. The tracking graph specifically looks for relative decibel differences. When the left channel is playing more loudly than the right, then the graph will jump above the zero line. If the right channel is louder, the line will dip below zero. If you want a link to more information, look no further than this very sentence.

**Maximum Usable Volume**     (10.00)

What we found:

The Phiaton PS200s were capable of about 121dB output. Our max score for this section is awarded for 120dB, which is a bit louder than any sane, safe person would typically want. Feel free to boost the volume on your PS200s without any distortion flaring up.

**What is maximum usable volume?

*Have you ever boosted up the volume on your Kenny G album only to notice that the playback started to sound blown-out or like there was a fistful of loose change rattling around the inside of your ear buds? Of course you have, that question is obviously rhetorical. The point is this: volume exacerbates distortion. Maximum usable volume refers to the maximum decibel output you can achieve before it sounds like a roll of pennies fell into Ken's saxophone.

How the test works:

This test is a series of distortion tests at varying levels. As mentioned in our distortion score, we test for distortion by playing a sound file through the headphones, then measuring the playback against the original file. For this test, we simply run that very same process over and over again until we find the magical 3% mark. If you were to hear 3% distortion, you'd likely frown or, if you're really into audio, perhaps grimace and vomit blood. If you want to know more about exactly what anatomical forces are at work to make the latter scenario happen, or if you want to know more about our testing, click here.

**Isolation**     (*6.07**)*

What we found:

The PS200s had an average isolation score. Like most in-ears, they didn't isolate well in the low end, but did a significantly better job towards the high end. Typically in-ears can block out slightly more sound overall, but the PS200s are definitely better than the average set of portable over-ears or on-ears in this regard.




How the Phiaton PS200 compares:

**What is isolation?

*Isolation refers to your headphones' ability to block out external noise. Headphones can isolate through two different methods: active cancellation and passive isolation. Active cancellation was the industry buzzword for a while, and it uses electronics and fancy scientific wizardry. Basically, the headphones have microphones in them and listen to your surroundings, getting a sense of what the ambient noise sounds like. It then produces a soundwave with inverse amplitude and plays that back over your music. If you will recall from your high school science days, wave + wave of inverse amplitude = no wave. Passive cancellation blocks out sound by just physically obstructing your ear canals. Although it's a bit basic in its implementation, a good ear plug can still beat active cancellation's effects without producing as much noise or interference as the latter.

How the test works:

This is one of our most straight-forward tests. What we do is put the headphones on HATS, then blast HATS with a known level of pink noise. That's it. Since we know the levels on the pink noise, we can examine exactly what's being blocked out and by how much. For more info, you will have to click here.

**Leakage**     (*9.02**)*

What we found:

The PS200s did a good job on our leakage test. If you're listening to your music at a reasonable level, you won't bother someone sitting next to you in a quiet room. If you amp up the volume, however, those around you might hear a tinny whisper. This is true of all headphones, however; they can't blockade infinite volume.

What is leakage?

Although leakage is a vaguely gross-sounding term on its own, in the realm of headphones it refers to the sound that's audible to others around you. If you've ever heard someone's music clear as day on the subway, it's not just because their music is at sickeningly loud levels, but also because their headphones leak like crazy. If you are that person rocking out to ridiculous metal or generic rap, then please stop.

How the test works:

Leakage is somewhat like an inverse isolation test. Instead of blasting HATS with noise, we play noise through the headphones. A microphone is set up a few inches away to detect any stray sound waves.

**Short-Term Use**     (4.00)

The Phiaton PS200s are comfortable enough, but they didn't stay in our ears well at all. We pushed them in as far as they'd safely fit, but we never got the sense that they were locked in place. Even a gentle tug or pull would make them fall out of place. When we wore them sitting down we didn't run into the issue, so the PS200s are probably better suited for use in the office rather than the gym.

**Extended Use**     (*3.00**)*

Typically when in-ears have an issue with popping out, over the course of six hours there isn't much difference. Chances are, if we think we're less comfortable than after an hour it's because we've had to deal with the headphones popping out six times as much as our one-hour session, simply due to the longer length of time. In this case, however, we also noticed some slight discomfort from pressure. We wore the normal-sized sleeves, then switched to the smaller ones for a second trial: there wasn't a significant difference in comfort level (and yes, we invested 12 hours of our time into this entirely subjective score, just so we could be sure before handing our knowledge over to you, our valued reader).

Of course, the heads used to test these headphones at the office are likely not yours and even more likely an entirely different shape altogether. Even without personal preference thrown in there's enough justification for you to try on the headphones and make your own opinions before buying; after you calculate each permutation of personal preference, there's significantly more justification to do so, so please, do try on all headphones for at least a few hours before you decide to buy/keep.

**Customizability**     (*2.25**)*

The Phiaton PS200s don't have a lot in the way of customization. It has a neck split and three different sized sleeves to choose from, all of the same basic design. This is a standard offering from an entry-level set of in-ears, but typically headphones in the PS200s price range come with a few extras, such as extension cords, or different sleeve shapes.


***The small, medium, and large sleeves are standard

customization options for in-ears.***


**Cable Connectivity**     (4.47*)*


The Phiaton PS200s' cable is just over 4 feet, 2 inches. This is an average length for a set of in-ears, meaning it'll reach down to the front pocket in your pants with a bit of slack, but it won't go much further. These are not good headphones for hooking up to a device on the opposite side of the room. If you're far away from the sound source you want to connect to, most in-ears aren't going to be able to meet your needs.

**Portability**     (9*.00**)*


As in-ears, the Phiaton PS200s are very, very portable. If you wanted, you could easily ball them up and shove them in a pocket. They also come with a snazzy case that manages the cord and has little pegs to mount the sleeves on, which will keep them from falling all over the ground every time you take out your headphones. The problem with the case is that it isn't portable itself. The case is pretty big; not something you could feasibly fit in your pocket, or at least do so without a giant cube-shaped protrusion on your thigh. The headphones themselves, however, are very portable.





**Maintenance**     (*2.00**)*


Some in-ear headphones come with a cleaning tool. Like many in-ears, the PS200s do not. You can remove the sleeves for easier cleaning, however. This is the average level of maintenance you'll see on a pair of in-ears.

**Other Features**     (*5.00**)*

Battery Independence

Some headphones require batteries, which is totally lame. Batteries die and need to be replaced or charged, which is an additional hassle in your life that we're pretty sure you don't need. We don't care what awesome feature the battery is powering; batteries themselves are a pain. For not having anything to do with batteries whatsoever, the PS200s get some points.


The Apple In-ear headphones have the better design. The Phiaton PS200s suffer from the same bad plug, but they don't have the cord guard issue they simply don't look as good as the Apple In-ears. Sure, the Apple In-ears have somewhat worn out their aesthetic novelty, but they still have a better overall aesthetic.

**Sound Quality**

The two headphones have pretty much equivalent frequency responses. They both have decent bass, weaker mid-range tones, and a screwy high-end. The PS200s result was slighty better than average, while the Apple headphones were slightly worse than average. On this one, the PS200s come out in the lead slightly.

The Apple In-ears had less overall distortion. Even with the noise towards the high end (that little plateau towards the right in their graph), they still have much less overall distortion. The only time the PS200s have a leg-up in this situation is if you like listening to quiet or a capella music, where the Apple In-ear's noise will likely be more apparent than the PS200s evenly-spread distortion.

If you couldn't guess by looking at the graphs, the Apple In-ears have a much better tracking.


The Apple In-ears actually take home the gold here, although it might not be 100% apparent from looking at the graphs. If you'll notice on the low end, the Apple In-ears have a giant bump while the PS200s maintains a low overall isolation level. Also, towards the high end the PS200s have a bit of a divot while the Apple In-ears are more well-rounded. For isolating either bass or higher-end sounds, the Apple In-ears are better headphones.


This section is a bit of a toss-up. If you plan on moving around, the Apple In-ears will fall out less. If you're sitting down, however, the PS200s will fall out less. If you wear them under your jacket/shirt/blouse/torso covering, the friction between the fabric and the cord will be enough to pull the PS200s out of place constantly. The Apple In-ears will still fall out, just not as much. When sitting, the PS200s will stay in, while the Apple In-ears will gradually fall out all on their own.


These two headphones are actually very comparable, providing you aren't necessarily looking for a remote and mic. The PS200s had slightly better frequency response, the Apple headphones had slightly less overall distortion: in the end, the PS200s have slightly better audio quality.

The main deciding factors in this match-up will be your personal preference and price. Personal preference we really can't touch upon since we have no idea who you are (aside from whatever our traffic analytics software tells us). If you're looking for a deal, the Apple headphones are a better choice. We think the Apple In-ears might be more suitable for commuters, while the PS200s are a better set of office headphones.  


The main thing others see when you're wearing in-ear headphones are the backs of the ear buds. Which would you rather have, a fan blade or a somewhat plain set of headphones that have a splash of red? If it were up to our office to pass down an unbreakable mandate on this entirely subjective subject, we'd have to side with the splash of red. Just about everyone in the office agreed that the fan design looked a bit off. If it strikes a chord with you, however, remember this when you read our verdict.

There is the other end of design, however, which is how well-constructed the headphones are. In this regard, the CX 300-IIs

**Sound Quality**

The Sennheiser CX 300-IIs had a better frequency response overall. The curves of the two response graphs are very similar, but the CX 300-IIs managed to do a better job overall: they don't stray as far outside the limits, emphasis doesn't shift as starkly, and the two channels remain more consistently in sync.

This is a pretty cut and dry case of 'the Sennheiser CX 300-II headphones have less distortion than the Phiaton PS200s.' This classic truism aside, the differences in distortion levels aren't likely to bother the average listener.

Both headphones have about the same level of above average tracking. The PS200s start heavy on the right and gradually stabilize, but there are a few bumps along the way which will be more noticeable shifts in volume distribution. The CX 300-IIs started out way off to the right but quickly correct themselves. This quick correction might mean a bass instrument playing across these frequencies will sound as though it wanders off to the right every once in a while.


The PS200s actually do a slightly better job isolating sound, but not by a giant amount.


The CX 300-IIs are definitely the more comfortable headphones to wear. They pop out much less and fit much better overall.


In terms of audio quality, the CX 300-IIs are better than the PS200s. In terms of comfort, the CX 300-IIs are better than the PS200s. In terms of value, the CX 300-IIs are better than the PS200s. Those looking to hedge their bets are probably a lot better off picking up the CX 300-IIs.


In this category, the PS200s have a better chance of winning. We say this because, although we didn't personally like the aesthetics of the PS200s, they at least look different from the run of the mill. The Shure SE420s are pretty blah.

The SE420s are much more durable than the PS200s. The PS200s have a flimsy transition from the plug to the cord while the Shure SE420s have one of the best-protected plugs on in-ears. Of course, the unfortunate downside of the SE420s is their lack of a cord guard at the ear buds. Although this junction will likely receive far less stress than the plug juncture, it's still an issue, especially if you routinely crumple up the headphones and shove them in your pocket. In this area, the PS200s have a better design, but overall the SE420s take this section of the comparison.

**Sound Quality**

Both headphones had frequency response results that were roughly average. The PS200s had a response that went a bit outside the limits and featured emphasis changes that were a tiny bit more extreme than we would've liked. The SE420s have a much more stable frequency response, but towards the very high end of our limits they fall down sharply. The PS200s squeak out a slight advantage here.

Both headphones did pretty well here. The Shure SE420s had slightly more distortion than the PS200s. Most people won't be able to notice this difference, but those that do should be aware that there is a small difference.

While both headphones did a pretty good job on this test, the SE420s' tracking curve is noticeably more flat. Again, however, the difference in quality is very likely to be lost on most sets of human ears.


Unlike the past few sections, the SE420s soundly best the PS200s on isolation, not only overall, but on just about every individual frequency along the way (minus the few at the 1kHz mark).


The Shure SE420s are actually pretty comfortable for a set of in-ears and have a lot of customization options to choose from. Shure offers more sleeve options than the great majority of headphone companies out there (with Etymotic Research the only company that's given them a good run for their money). The PS200s fall out a lot and are, in general, less comfortable than the Shures.


One chronic problem with Shure headphones is that they're just a bit over-priced. They're great headphones, but other companies offer generally equivalent headphones for less money. In this case, the Shure headphones are actually under-priced by comparison. While the PS200s have slightly better audio quality overall, we're not sure the change in price is necessarily indicative of the increased quality.  

If you're looking for a pair of commuting headphones, the SE420s are the better bet because they isolate better. If you're just looking for a pair of headphones to use around the public library (and who isn't?) then it's more of a toss-up. Both headphones have significantly different fits, so try both of them out. 


The AH-C351s look simple but sharp and professional. The PS200s, on the other hand, look a bit less plain. In terms of durability, both headphones are about the same level of average. This one is too close for us to call: they're similar enough that it'd come down to personal preference, and whatever opinion you can muster just from looking at the two pictures below is more relevent than our own.

**Sound Quality**

The PS200s have a better overall frequency response in this comparison, by quite a large margin. They have a valley in about the same spot as the AH-C351s, but the AH-C351s' valley is far deeper and steeper. The depth and angle of the slope indicate the severity of the shift. In the AH-C351s' case, an instrument in this area would sound a bit muted and if the instrument straddles this area, it will sound like it fades in and out.

Both headphones performed about the same on this test, with the AH-C351s narrowly edging out the PS200s. There isn't enough difference between their distortion levels to influence anyone's purchase, however.

The Denon AH-C351s have a slightly better tracking overall. There is a bit of a bump towards the 1kHz mark, but the PS200s feature two bumps of about the same magnitude and are slightly more off-kilter.


The PS200 was able to block out significantly more sound than the Denon AH-C351s.


The Denon AH-C351s were more comfortable overall and popped out far, far less.


If we took price out of the equation, the PS200s are probably the better set of headphones. The AH-C351s have better tracking and are definitely better headphones to take to the gym, but the PS200s have a better overall audio quality. If you're not going to move around much, the PS200s clinch a clear victory. Once you account for price, however, the PS200s become a horrible value in comparison. Sure, they're better headphones overall, but their price is scaled on an entirely different magnitude than the AH-C351s. If money is no object and you're looking at only these two headphones, the PS200s are the better pick.

Meet the tester

Mark Brezinski

Mark Brezinski

Senior Writer


Mark Brezinski is a senior writer with seven years of experience reviewing consumer tech and home appliances.

See all of Mark Brezinski's reviews

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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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