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


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.

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.


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

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