Headphones are one of those device categories where more money does not necessarily equate to a better quality product. Many branded, read “designer,” headphones cost extra simply because they have a celebrity backing them. There is a single branded headphone line that gets most of the attention and offer a high price tag for entry.
There are ways to more intelligently choose a pair of cans. Make sure the sound is superior quality. Of course, pay attention to build quality, but sound is paramount when purchasing headphones. Start with plastic. If the entire headphone is plastic, start second guessing your purchase. Pulling the Phiaton Bridge MS 500‘s from the box was quite a rewarding experience, complete with machined aluminum, perforated leather, and red stitching.
Released earlier this year, the Bridge MS 500 headphones received a prestigious Reddot Design Award, which is an international product design designation granted by the Design Center in Nordrhein Westfalen, Essen Germany. The headphones received their name “Bridge” for the bridge on musical stringed instruments, key to producing sound. Striving to play the same important role, Phiaton developed the premium MS 500 headphones.
Phiaton built the Bridge headphones with qualities similar to those found in a quality instrument, intent on closely replicate superior audio performance. To achieve the replication, 40mm drivers use a vibration system to emphasis high frequency clarity. Additional Neodymium magnets produce the bass.
As seen below, a dual chambered system allows the hardware to produce the bass and high frequency tones separately, which Phiaton calls “Multi-Tune Acoustic Design.” Leather ear cushions complete the package forming the seal for noise isolation. While this headset is not noise canceling, the noise isolation is fairly strong. With music playing at a reasonable volume, or even softly, it is extremely difficult to hear speaking in the same room, even if the person is next to you.
Ear pads and an adjustable arm make sure the headphones fit squarely. My wife found it difficult to wear them for long periods because they did not fit perfectly. The designed depth is more suitable to a larger male cranium. The can arms have about 1.5″ of play to adjust the headband height. I found they are very enjoyable, even for long periods. Sometimes over ear muffs are not large enough to allow ones ears to sit naturally inside the enclosure. Thankfully, my ears fit perfectly inside the opening.
The band is fairly heavy. It prevents you from leaning over while wearing them. If seated at a desk, you will feel comfortable writing or looking at things on your desk, but bending your neck at a complete 90 degree angle may cause them to fall off.
A matching red cloth lined audio cable ensures there will be no tangling, even if balled up in a pocket. However, I recommend traveling with the included soft case. It also comes with another cable, including an in-line microphone playback and phone call controls. Everything is packaged in an extremely well constructed retail box. A custom cut foam lined box makes sure you are greeted with a premium experience from the beginning. You cannot say enough about companies that care about their packaging. The attention to detail flows into their product. You can tell there is a certain pride.
A frequency range of 15Hz – 22kHz and 16Ohm impedance lets the music run from deep bass to crisp highs. Overall, the sound is most accurately described as well-balanced. Using a headphone testing playlist from the Jam Blog, I found the headphones performed the best while listening to The Eagle’s Hotel California. Across all songs, the mids and highs caught my attention the most. Crisp guitar riffs and clear resonance place these headphones exactly where I want them for music replication.
Cheaper headphones would distort both the high and low end, muddling everything into a single small medium range sound. Lows would be cut completely and high tones would sound muffled. The Bridge MS 500 does no such thing. It is worth noting, the bass is a little lacking if you crank up the low end equalizer on, say, a Wiz Khalifa song.
It has the frequency to get really, really low notes, as produced in Massive Attack’s Unfinished Symphony, but the headphones are going to punch a little less hard than you would expect in modern pop music. This takes me back to the sound being extremely well-balanced, but full ranged. If you want bass overriding your listening experience, go talk to Dré. These headphones are not for you.
For more details, check out the Phiaton spec page.
Phiaton Bridge MS 500 headphones run at $269, from $300, making them a connoisseur purchase. No one is going to troll their way down to Best Buy and impulse purchase a pair of these guys. After all, that isn’t the market Phiaton is hoping to attract. With stunningly simple, yet aggressive design appeal, they are geared more toward a professional environment.
The ambidextrous headphone cable input allows you to switch sides and if you want an in-line mic, there is a cable for that too. Premium build ingredients and excellent sound make the price justifiable, but certainly on the high side.
Most importantly, the Bridge MS 500 drive music like you would expect from a pair of in-ear buds. There is a healthy sound replication here that eliminates the gab between your ear and the giant 40mm drivers. Often, over-the-ear headphones leave a bit of “airy” sound. The well-crafted Bridge MS 500 cans will leave you satisfied.
Alternatively, the Chord MS 530 headphones have similar features but offer Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity and active noise canceling technology with a microphone for calls. The upgraded version is on sale for $299, down from $350. If you were entertaining a $270 purchase for the MS 500, I would spend the extra $30 and upgrade to the wireless noise canceling version.
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