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Last Updated: October 9th, 2012

It's no secret that most of us hate cables. We want wireless sync and charging. Wi-Fi. Bluetooth. NFC. The list goes on and on. Why then, would we settle for earbuds that remain physically tethered to our device? We wouldn't. Unfortunately, Bluetooth earbuds aren't nearly as commonplace as their wired counterparts, and they oftentimes costs thrice as much (or more). Still, if you just can't stand the thought of using a wired set of 'buds, it's really your best (and only) option.

Enter a new offering to the Bluetooth earbud arena (available for pre-order now, should be in stores early next week): the Phiaton PS 210 BTNC (MSRP $160). Yep, that's a lot of seemingly random letters and numbers, but it actually breaks down like this: the PS 210 is a set of premium wired half-in-ear buds from Phiaton, so the BT stands for, you guessed it - Bluetooth. And the NC? Noise-Cancelling. Basically, these buds are a Bluetooth, noise-cancelling variant of the Phiaton PS 210s. Now that we've gotten that all-important explanation out of the way, let's get down to the details.

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In the box:

  • Earbuds (of course)
  • Neck strap
  • Four pairs of tips (excluding the ones on the buds)
  • microUSB charging cable
  • 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable
  • Small Carrying case
  • Quick start and user's guide

The Phiatons take a different approach to "wireless" than some other Bluetooth headsets we've seen, which is both a plus and a minus. First off, they forgo the extra-large earpiece in lieu of a clip-on remote style. This keeps the buds small and comfortable, and the controls easy to access. At the same time, however, it also adds around 20" (or thereabouts) of cable. With that said, this additional cable has definitely not been bothersome to me during my time with the PS 210 BTNC.

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The in-line remote/Bluetooth receiver is both lightweight and functional. It offers all the standard controls: volume up/down (which is independent of the device's volume), track forward/back, power/lock, and a noise-cancelling toggle switch. The backside of the remote features a clip so the unit can be attached to a backpack, shirt, jacket... whatever. If, however, clipping it down isn't practical, it also ships with a neck strap that can easily be attached to the device, allowing it to be hung around your neck instead. This is how I wear it most of the time, as I generally use these buds while cycling, and clipping the receiver to my shirt simply isn't ideal.

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Along the bottom of the unit is a regular-sized microUSB port used for charging, which is excellent because it doesn't require some weird proprietary cable. Next to that is what could be one of my favorite features of this headset: a 2.5mm output jack so you can plug the included audio cable in and keep the music going even after the battery is dead. I say "could be" because there's a problem with that: the 2.5mm jack only allows for mono output. That means you only get audio output in one ear. Um... why, Phiaton?

Update: It turns out the that "mono issue" mentioned above was only a problem in the first generation of this headset. All current retail models are capable of producing full stereo sound from the 2.5mm jack, so go ahead and let 'em die! You'll still be able to get full sound while using the included cable. Just to verify this, I spent some time with a newer model headset  - the sound is virtually indistinguishable as a wired headset from wireless. Awesome job, on the update, Phiaton. Very practical.

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So, now you know how they look and function, but there's an aspect to any headphone/earbud that can't be overcome by all the practical design in the world. That, of course, is sound quality. I'm pleased to say that the sound quality has easily surpassed any expectations I had prior to putting them in my ears for the first time. As most of our regular readers know by now, I don't really listen to dubstep, techno, trance, dance, etc., but I can say that the low-end is not only noticeable, but also clean and uncompromised with these buds. The highs are audibly perfect, and the mids are sharp and crisp. Overall, these sound fantastic; no amount of distortion (granted, I like my eardrums, so I didn't crank them to max volume to check for distortion) or muddiness at all. I can honestly say that I love how these sound.

The noise-cancelling feature also works as advertised: Phiaton claims they can block out up to 95% of ambient noise, and I'm inclined to believe that (for the most part, anyway). Noise-cancelling isn't a feature that I hold in extremely high value on any headset, but there's no denying the audible difference when it's on with the PS 210 BTNC.

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Then there's the question of call quality: is it good? Again, I came away impressed. The last set of Bluetooth earbuds I reviewed were basically unusable for voice calls, so I didn't expect much. And I was pleasantly surprised. Calls come through clean and the other party was able to hear me clearly (even while I was on my bike, which was impressive). There really isn't much more to say about that; call quality was good, even under less-than-idea conditions.

But what about comfort? Fortunately, Phiaton realized that not everyone has the same needs when it comes to fit and feel. Thus, they threw in a handful of various tips in the package, included some rather nifty memory-foam-type cushions. All the usual suspects are present here: a couple different sizes that I would call small, one pair of medium (on the headset out of the box), a set of large, and the aforementioned memory-foam cushions. There should be something in the box that will fit everyone comfortably.

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As I previously mentioned, I usually wear this headset while riding my bike; ergo, a good, snug fit is very important to me. For those who don't know, I live in Texas, and I'm glad to say that the buds stay in my ears with very little adjusting even when I'm dripping with sweat from a 10+ mile ride in 114 degree heat. Yet another feature that I am extremely impressed with.

Finally, there's the topic of battery life. Phiaton claims that this headset can get around 12 hours of playback time, and I'd say that's pretty accurate. I use them for about five to six hours per week while cycling, and only have to charge up about once every two weeks. Thus, 12 hours is pretty much dead-on.

If you haven't already guessed, I really like this headset. They're comfortable, functional, practical, and they sound good. I don't know about you, but I can't think of anything else I want out of a set of earbuds - wired or not.

Buy: Amazon ($130, pre-order)

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • Lykos
    • Marcos Soler

      I have a pair of those as well and they've been excellent in the 6 months or so I've had them. Extremely comfortable and with amazing battery life to boot. I always have them around my neck whether I'm using them or not, they are just that comfortable.

      I'm a student in college so I'm frequently moving around a lot around campus and to and from classes/the library as well as outings in general. I've never had these bother me in anyway. Easy to wear and hide in dress shirts, the powerful battery life lasts me for several days before I have to recharge them (3+ hours a day) and as the sugar on top, they come with an android app for reading sms messages to you. I tried it out and it works but didn't really like it. Nice option to have available though.

      Really highly recommended set. I've already gotten 2 friends to buy a pair and they use them to work out. They work great for that too.

  • fixxmyhead

    the moment i saw over 100$ its a pass for me

  • BangIShotYou

    As a fellow Texan I can say good headphones that can handle the sweat created by 110 degree+ heat is something I need. However for $130 I'd have to pass.

    I happened to get the Sony Ericsson Hi-Fi Bluetooth Stereo Headset with FM Radio just two days ago. For $45 (the price went down $5 a day later, so it's only $40), it can't be beat in my opinion. I've literally forgotten I was wearing them and have walked off from my desk (where my phone was) at two separate places I work and been amazed by the sound quality and the fact that the connection thus far has been solid. (Tested at home as well, left phone in my room upstairs and it worked on the first floor in the kitchen, then tried going to the garage and outside (both were successful test). The FM Radio is a bonus, for when I'm in an area with bad reception (and thus have no signal to access my the music I have on my Play Music account/app). And I've yet to have any adjusting issues while working outside or crawling around under desks and whatnot (I am the IT department for an engineering firm). I just clip it to my shirt collar (have to wear dressy shirts, since we have all kinds of clients some of whom I have to help out regularly on site) and put the headphone wire around the bottom of the collar and it's perfectly out of the way.

  • Zack4

    Sounds like these earbuds are excellent quality and as far as I'm concerned should and could cost well over $300 for what you're getting. There's some similar ones out there that are in that range and these seem much better especially for the price point. Come on people, don't get cheap on good products. You get what you pay for!

  • Dipish

    Today's devices need to be smaller...

  • ECantona

    Are you sure the signal is mono when you connect it with a cable? It's not mentioned in any other review that I've read.

  • ECantona

    I have contacted an ebay seller over the mono signal subject, who then contacted Phiaton. I am pasting seller's message:
    """
    I
    just checked with Phiaton about that review. They recall the review
    and the reviewer...it was a pre-production sample and it had an issue.
    They offered to replace the sample but it was too late as he had
    published the review.

    So the items that we are now shipping are stereo!
    """

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Yep. They actually contacted me a couple of days ago about that and are sending a new unit for me to test out so I can update the review.

  • Confused

    This review is misleading. Is the 2.5mm jack actually an OUTPUT jack? Or is it an INPUT jack? The terminology is very important. If it's an output, I can take the signal I'm getting from the wireless and output it to my receiver in my living room. If it's an input jack, then I can only ACCEPT sound from outside sources to play them.