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

This story originally appeared at InnerFidelity.com

Phiaton Chord MS 530 ($299)
I've been carefully listening to Phiaton's offering over the years, and noticed them moving ever closer to really good sound over time...the good build quality and looks have been around for quite a while. Heck, I almost reviewed the Phiaton Bridge MS 500 last year as it was pretty good to my ears. Well, I think they've really done it this time with the new Phiaton Chord MS 530. This is a dandy headset, and really pulls off the "jack-of-all-trades" trick quite well. Let's have a look.

The Phiaton Chord MS 530 is a full-size, on-ear, sealed headphone, that can operate passively or with noise canceling both with a cable and using a Bluetooth connection. When cabled, all active Bluetooth headset audio and control (volume, FF, RW, pause, answer, etc) electronics turn off automatically and the controls and mic on the cable become operational.

Bluetooth pairing functions are super fast and reliable; accompanying voice notifications are a terrifically handy and provide you with a nice feeling of knowing what the heck is going on. Often times with BT headsets I find myself feeling a bit unsure of were I am in the pairing process and which flashing lights I'm looking for. With the Chord MS 530 the voice prompts always told me where I was, and most times—if the device had been previously paired—all I heard it say was "...power on...device connected..." and I was ready to go without having to do a thing.

The controls and cable ports are clearly labeled and easy to use once accustom to the layout. The multi-function toggle switch takes a bit of getting used to—flick it up or down to increment volume; hold up or down to track forward or back—but once I got used to it, it was pretty intuitive and very functional.

Overall I find this a good looking headphone. The design is simple, elegant, and very functional. The outside of the main headband arch seems to be made of a fairly stiff, semi-matte black plastic. Bonded to it on the inside is a one-piece rubber-ish black and red molded assembly that acts as the headband cushion. I was a bit skeptical about the effectiveness of this pad thinking it might not be ample enough, and that the soft rubbery material (likely a silicon) might drag on your hair enough to feel like its pulling on it excessively. I did not find this to be the case. In fact, the friction of the headband pad does a very nice job of keeping things in place.

The arms that extend off the headband are aluminum, and have ratcheted slides to move the ear-pieces for head size adjustment. These arms also fold inward to reduce the size of the headphones for storage and transport. I thought the clicking mechanism for adjustment was a bit loose as it shifted when putting the headphones on and off at times, but adjustment was easy and I didn't find it too bothersome. Adjustments were stable once on the head.


The ear pads on the MS 530 were quite a surprise. I don't expect on-ear headphones to be as comfortable as circumaural cans, and the Chord MS 530 wasn't...but it wasn't too far off. They're one of the most comfortable on-ears I've had the pleasure of wearing. The reason, it seems, they're so comfortable is that the pads are quite large—larger than most folks ears, I would think—and quite soft. The front of the pad looks flat, but under the protein leather of the pad there's a thin piece of red grill cloth, then a thin sheet of foam (none of the foam looks or feels like memory foam), and then there's a thicker sheet of foam with a hole cut out over the driver. The result is a pad that looks flat, but depresses easily and in all the right places—quite ergonomic it seems to me.

Overall, the Phiaton Chord MS 530 is an appealing headphone, understated but elegantly simple looking in a livery of black and silver (aluminum) with red accents. Fit and comfort are very good for an on-ear headphone; controls and functions are comprehensive and work great. Functionally speaking, these are a very convenient and feature rich headphone.

You know the deal, flip the page and we'll talk about the sound quality.

Phiaton Corporation
18662 MacArthur Blvd, STE 405
Irvine, California 92612
(949) 756-8918