With the number of people listening to music on the go, it's no surprise that portable headphones are flying off the shelves. For those who are looking for extreme portability, the obvious choice is earbuds, but certain users are uncomfortable sticking things in their ears. For them, there are compact on-ear models like the Phiaton PS 320 Primal Series headphones, a lightweight set that can be worn for extended periods without discomfort. This $199 set of earphones is a good option for travel hounds and commuters who are looking for an alternative to standard earbuds, but the set is relatively light on features.
The Phiaton PS 320 headphones are very similar to the Bose On Ear headphones in design. Two small, oval earpads measuring 2.7 inches tall by 2.2 inches wide are designed to be worn on the ear rather than cupping it. As with the Bose, a single cable descends from one earpiece (the left), although in the PS 320's case, the cord is not retractable--nor is it detachable. This is a slight gripe, as removable cables are easier to replace in the case of breakage (and retractable ones are less messy), but certainly not a deal-breaker.
The style of the Phiaton PS 320 headphones varies slightly from the Bose, but we're rather keen on it. The accents that ring the earcups are shiny gunmetal rather than muted silver, and the outer covering of the earpieces is a textured black leather. It's a high-end look overall, and one that we're not embarrassed to wear. Thanks to the padded, adjustable headband and super cushy earpads, the PS 320 'phones rival the Bose set in comfort. Of course, as with any on-ear model, you'll want to be aware that this design can overheat your ears after some time, but at least you won't have to stick anything in them.
When it comes to features and extras, Phiaton doesn't make much of an effort with the PS 320. The earphones fold flat and in for compact storage, and there's a thick leatherette pouch with two compartments included in the package. Beyond that, there's not much to speak of, which is a bit of a disappointment considering all the accoutrements offered by the Phiaton PS 300 NC headphones. For $100 more, you get noise-canceling functionality, a bass boost option, a removable cable with an inline mute button, a hard-shelled carrying case, an airplane adapter, a quarter-inch adapter, and an innovative battery charger with multiple international adapters. By comparison, the PS 320 doesn't seem like that good of a value.
However, the PS 320 headphones do provide very clear and detailed audio playback, and overall sound quality is on par with what we expect from models in this price range. The one potential drawback for some listeners is that these earphones err on the side of bright, crisp sound reproduction, meaning the low-end doesn't provide enough oomph in certain cases. For example, Ice Cube's "Good Day" sounds relatively deficient, though bass is not entirely absent. As such, hip-hop fans may want to steer clear of these 'phones. Surprisingly, electronica such as Skeewiff's "Coming Home Baby" perform better, perhaps because the bass is less forward in that track. Still, we tend to think the PS 320s aren't the optimal option for dance music either. Classical music lovers, however, will be infinitely pleased with the tinkling clarity.
In the final analysis, the Phiaton PS 320 headphones aren't an everyman's (or everywoman's) model; rather, they're suitable for users who prefer a super crisp and bright audio response. They're also plenty comfy for extended wear, but we'd like to see a few more extras offered for the $199 price tag.