Like other members of Phiaton’s Primal Series, the PS 320 are, in a word, superb. The dual-driver design, solid craftsmanship, and incredible comfort make these headphones just about perfect.
Although not strictly necessary for good sound quality, the design and appearance of your headphones is important (if you work in an office , your coworkers see as much of your headphones as they do you!). Although mainly plastic, the PS 320’s design is sturdy and lightweight, striking an excellent balance that is very apparent in how comfortable these headphones are. The slim and compact design features a mixture of black leather, black matte plastic, and shiny gunmetal accents, making the PS 320 a stylish part of your head rather than the Frankenstein-esque protrusion of some larger studio-grade headphones.
The PS 320 also feature swiveling/folding earcups, which lets you break down the headphones to about half their size and a fairly flat profile. The included carrying cases is soft, so it will protect from scratches but not hard drops. When encased, these headphones can easily be slid into a purse or briefcase, making them great for commuters or travelers who want portability in addition to sound quality.
Though you will find better-sounding headphones, you will not find them for anywhere near the price of the PS 320; the extra $500 you would pay for the better sound would be very hard to justify unless you make a living in a recording studio. The reason for the PS 320’s superlative sound is their dual drivers; each earcup features a 40mm woofer and mid driver and a 16mm tweeter driver. This setup allows each driver to reproduce a narrower range of sound with better quality, and the results are spectacular.
In mixed listening, the PS 320 performed exceedingly well with live recordings, jazz, pop, and rock music; dance and highly electronic bass were accurately reproduced, but lacked a heavy punch. With a closed design this is hardly surprising, though the closed back enhances the noise isolation the PS 320 provides.
These headphones also offer amazing stereo separation; the staccato ukulele opening of Florence & The Machine’s Dog Days Are Over is the equivalent of an auditory game of Pong—you can hear each note plucked on the left and its answering note plucked on the right. The PS 320 also reproduce fantastic resonation/echo, like the dramatic roll of a drum or echos of a soloist, which greatly enhances the feeling of having a box seat in a concert hall while listening to your music. The massive choir and thundering drum beats of the final movement to Beethoven’s 9th symphony feel like a live performance from a massive stage with the music reverberating all around you.
As other reviewers have noted, the sound is bright, meaning high- and mid-range is more present than bass. Acoustic bass lines, such as string bass, bass guitar, and timpani hits are reproduced accurately and clearly, but thumping electronic dance bass is not highly emphasized. If you are looking for a product to compete with Beats ‘phones, look elsewhere. Listeners of all other genres can easily put the PS 320 on a buying short list.
Two factors contribute to the comfort of these headphones: they are lightweight at 4.3 oz (just a smidge heavier than the iPhone 5 and a hair lighter than the iPhone 4S), and they are well padded with earcup foam that is neither too stiff nor too soft. Overly soft earcups often end up pressing the hard plastic or metal frame against your ear, while overly stiff foam just crushes your ears. The PS 320 simply cradle your ears, while the lightweight (yet sturdy) plastic design prevents these headphones from weighing down your head. During extended listening sessions (up to 6 hours in tests), it is entirely possible to forget you have headphones on at all, and since the headphones are not overly tight, your ears never suffer that nerve-deadening loss of blood. In short, if you find on-ear headphones uncomfortable, give the PS 320’s a try—you may be pleasantly surprised.
Although Phiaton’s suggested price for the PS 320 is $199, you can find them at most electronics retailers for $139, at which price they are some of the best headphones for listening to anything but bass-heavy dance, hip-hop, or electronic music. If your music library does not trend towards club music, Daft Punk, or Jay-Z, the dual-driver setup in the PS 320 will offer some of the best sound you will find, and their extremely comfortable design promise that your head need not suffer just for great sound.