The Phiaton BT 20 wireless earphones are quite stunning in the sound department, but they just don’t sit right with me (or, rather, on me). What I really want from wireless earphones is the ability to simply forget about being tethered. I understand that sound is travelling from my iPhone and into my ears through a set of wires, but I don’t want that fact to actually impede me in any way. I don’t want to reach for a doorknob or walk through a turnstile and have my earphones yanked right off of my head because a wire has been caught somewhere. So while the Phiaton 20 BT address the long-standing issue of Bluetooth headphones sounding crappier than their wired counterparts, this set of earphones just don’t feel wireless enough. Here, let me explain.
How Do I Wear This Thing?
The PS 20 BT is wireless in the sense that you don’t need to plug it directly into your iPhone (that’s what the Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity is for), but the battery and Bluetooth transmitter have to be housed somewhere, so you’ll still have wires coming out of a small control unit. The control unit isn’t all that heavy, but it does like to swing clumsily around your belly button if you don’t clip it to something.
All of Phiaton’s ads show people using these earphones clipped to a button-up shirt, a dress, or suit jacket. But if you’re not wearing one of those garments, it’s a lot harder to find a place to clip the control unit. I tried clipping it right to my t-shirt collar and felt the wires brushing my jaw every time I looked down at my iPhone screen. Phiaton does include a lanyard to hang the entire kit from your neck, but the lanyard is significantly shorter than the earphone cables, so it makes everything looks like a tangled mess on my chest (Chuck Norris knows what I’m talking about).
The cables on the PS 20 BT are stuck in a strange limbo. They’re too long to hang at chest level, but too short to allow me to clip the control unit to my belt or stuff it into a jacket pocket. Attaching the control unit to the strap of my messenger bag has yielded better results, but the clip itself isn’t completely secure, so I find myself having to adjust it often.
Setup & Controls
Pairing these earphones is a painless process, requiring only that you hold the power and lock buttons for a few seconds until “PS 20 BT” shows up in the Bluetooth devices list on your iPhone or iPad. The battery is supposed to last about six hours, but I can actually squeeze an hour or two more out of the PS 20 BT. These earphones should last you right through a day of listening.
The control unit features a mini joystick that controls volume, track changes, and a play/pause toggle. The right side houses the micro-USB charging port (the PS 20 BT comes with a cable, but no AC charger) and a hardware lock button. The left side features a call button that can be used for Siri, as well as the power button. As mentioned before, the control unit isn’t especially heavy, but it is a little thick (too thick to tuck under any clothing).
The medium PS 20 BT earbuds fit securely in my ears, but there are two other sizes included in the package, in case your ears are of the “larger” or “smaller” variety. The sound is warm and bassy thanks to the silicone tip seal, but the half-open design allow me to still hear other sounds around me (very helpful when you’re walking around town).
The sound quality matches many of the $80–120 wired earphones I’ve used over the past few years. This is likely due to Bluetooth 3.0, but whatever it is, it really works. I can walk about 20 feet away from these earphones while in my basement apartment before they start to lose their connection.
The built-in microphone does not disappoint either. I could engage in cellular and Skype calls with the control unit around chest level, and nobody complained about voice quality or volume.
I really wanted to like the Phiaton PS 20 BT, but the cable length issues make it a difficult recommendation – especially considering the $130 price tag. Phiaton really should have made the cables longer or shorter so that these earphones could cater to users who don’t wear button-up shirts, blazers, or messenger bags on a daily basis. I’m of the mind that wireless earphones should be about flexibility – freedom from physical tethers – so designing the PS 20 BT to basically require a clip just seems counter-intuitive to me.
The Phiaton PS 20 BT was provided by the Max Borges Agency for review on iSource. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.