A Sum Greater Than Its Parts: The Outstanding Phiaton Chord MS 530 Bluetooth, Noise-Canceling Headphone/Headset Page 2

Phiaton_ChordMS530_Photo_Folded

Sound Quality
The biggest problem I've seen with headphones designed to run passively off a wire, active with noise canceling, and wirelessly over Bluetooth is they tend to sound different in the various modes...and usually very poorly in one or the other...or both. The Phiaton Chord MS 530 suffers very little of this problem; it sounds pretty good and much the same in every mode. Not great, but quite good, all things considered.

In passive wired mode, the bass is well extended and tight though a tad high in level, making the MS 530 an warmish sounding headphone overall. Midrange, other than being slightly overshadowed by the bass, is is fairly well balanced with a slightly emphasized upper-mid making it a tad forward. The treble is a bit hit-and-miss having a deep notch at 4.5kHz and a pretty significant roll-off above 10kHz. Fortunately, all its sins are of omission and, other than the slightly emphatic bass, there are no significant peaks to annoy or overly color the sound. Basically, its a nice warm sound with a slightly muffled treble...no screeching highs or honkiness in the least.

Once untethered in Bluetooth mode, the cans modestly loose a little refinement and bass slam, but otherwise they retain their character. Turn on noise canceling, either tethered or on Bluetooth, and a little more bass is lost, as is some of the mid treble making the cans slightly more mid-range heavy and delivering a slightly less meaty sound. None-the-less, all these changes are modest and the MS530 retains its competent and pleasant sound pretty consistently in all modes.

So no, these are not cans that deliver an audiophile quality listening experience...but I've never heard a Bluetooth or noise-canceling headphone that did. No the Chord MS 530 is a solid mid-fi performer, that delivers much better quality sound performance consistently in all modes of operation than I've previously experienced with a headphone of this type.

Noise Canceling
The Chord MS 530 doesn't do a really good job of noise canceling. If you really want to get rid of noise for air and train travel, you really want to be looking at the Bose QC15 or QC20 (I prefer the 20), or in-ear headphones. BUT! The MS 530 noise canceling does do an decent job of attenuating the lower frequencies---high frequency outside noise may actually be a bit more audible. Now, this is actually a good thing for a pair of headphone you might walk around town with. Lots of people get hurt walking out into traffic or in front of a train due to inattentional blindness. The Chord MS 530 with noise canceling on will allow you to hear some of the sound around you and will provide the opportunity to retain your situational awareness while walking and listening, but does a pretty good job of getting rid of low frequency rumble.

I did have a weird experience with the noise canceling under some special circumstances: In bed at night with the MS 530 on and my head the headphone earpieces become somewhat buried in the pillow. Once captured in this acoustic hollow, the mics in the earpiece must have some opportunity to set up a resonance because at times I get this "chuff-chuff-chuff" sound at about 5-10Hz from the cans. I also had this happen when bundled up tightly with sweater, scarf, and hat to stay warm out-of-doors here in Montana. Kind of odd.

On the other hand, if the headphones were just rubbing against my sweater collar with the noise canceling off, the mechanical noise could be fairly disturbing, but with noise canceling on, all the mechanical noise from rubbing against the sweater disappeared.

Telephony Quality
I've got an audiophile buddy I call regularly when testing headsets. His comment was that he heard a few clicks and pop here and there, but for the most part the sound was clear and intelligible...insofar as cellphones are ever really clear and intelligible. He thought it was quite good but not great.

Summary
Being able to do everything it sets out to do to a level of "good" to "very good" makes the Phiaton Chord MS 530 a "great" headphone in my book. It looks good, it folds nicely, it's very comfortable (for an on-ear), it does Bluetooth like a champ, it does noise canceling nicely for a walking-around headphone, it runs wired, and most importantly it sounds good in every mode. There's simply nothing not to like.

No, it's not an audiophile reference headphone. Wired, the tonal balance is just a tad warm, and the treble a bit uneven and rolled-off in the top octave, all-in-all making it slightly warm and muffled sounding...just slightly though. In Bluetooth and noise canceling modes some refinement is lost, bass loosens and a bit of extension is lost, and top octave looses it a bit more. However, it has no egregious sonic fault, and the music is able to come through just fine. More importantly, where other headphones of this type fail to sound good in one operating mode or other, the sound of the MS 530 remains in character and competently delivers the tunes in all modes.

I love this headphone. For $299 you get a great general-purpose, jack-of-all-trades, headphone/headset that just plain works, and works well. This baby is going up on the "Wall of Fame" as the best general purpose headphone/headset for the average person. It's price/performance ratio is simply outstanding. If you need something like this, this is the one to get.

Video

Resources
Phiaton home page and Chord MS 530 product page.
For exact description of controls see manual.
Other reviews here, here, here, and here.

COMPANY INFO
Phiaton Corporation
18662 MacArthur Blvd, STE 405
Irvine, California 92612
info@phiaton.com
(949) 756-8918
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
tony's picture

Thank you again , Tyll , but...

   Are we to accept this nice submission whilst Steve G Snatches the Spotlight with the OPPO PM-1 details and hands-on observations ?

 Of course , Steve leaves the Wall of Fame for our leader's careful - thoughtful - consideration .

 I will wait patiently for the insightful analysis .  

Pleezzzze Tyll , I can't hold my breath much longer .   

Just now there is only one other PM-1 review out-there and that submission is from a Brit using 320 mostly and some stale Brit Pop CD's

veggieboy2001's picture

There is another very positive review:  http://stereos.about.com/od/Headphone-Reviews/ss/Review-Oppo-Digital-PM-1-Headphone.htm worth a read...

 

Have a little faith...Tyll will get to it! lol.

 

in the meanwhile, hopefully the other review will help for a while.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I've got them in house, they're good and will get a review.

But it takes time to really get a grip on the sound of things, and for a headphone that intends to take a spot in reference land you just can't pull it out of the box, have a quick listen, and then write a review.  It takes time.

Sorry.

Jeff Y's picture

I fell in love with Phiaton MS500s (a little V-Shaped sound but otherwise great for everything) now I have to check these out.

Audioaddict's picture

If this headphone is a jack of all trades for a noise canceler and a blue tooth i'm very interested to see how the new V-moda XS will stand up to this. Also anxiousily awaiting the Oppo PM-1 review ever since I laid my eyes on it in a headpfi article i've wanted that headphone. I feel like i will suffer through another spell of broke student syndrome soon. 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

...the XS is a completely different type of headphone, so I'm not sure a comparison is relevent, but it seems like a nice little headphone so far.

tony's picture

   Thank you for mentioning the OPPO plans , your reveiwing  standards are well-worth the wait , please take you time , I'll stop nudging you .    

Chancie's picture

​Hi Tyll, having read your reviews I would be most grateful for your expert opinion. Which would be your one recommendation over the following NC wireless headphones...and why?:

Sennheiser MM 550-X TRAVEL
Phiaton Chord MS 530
Logitech UE9000

My priorities are audio quality and noise-canceling​ quality.

Many thanks!

(PS - the Parrot Zik is not for me btw).

Invalid's picture

Hi Tyll, I'm planning to buy these and I'll be using them wirelessly, I would like to hear your opinion on them compared to the 2 wired headphones when on bluetooth. Thanks in advance.:)

Turel_Nos_Ferrat's picture

Hello Tyll,

as I'm really no fan of On-Ears this doesn't seem to be the right headphones, even if they sound fine enough.

I've read your review of the Sony MDR-1RBT and now I wonder the merit of the second generation of them. Any Chance you'll get to review the Sony MDR-1RBTMK2? Or the MK2 series in general?

evensteven's picture

Hi Tyll,

How do these Phiaton 530's compare to the UE6000 in terms of sound quality?

Thanks!

X