Phiaton Bridge MS 500 review

The Phiaton Bridge MS 500 packs a powerful bass response in a handsome design, but the headphones can be uncomfortable.

Phiaton’s latest headphones take a page from the Beats school of red flourishes paired with deep bass response, but the company gives them their own unique spin. The Phiaton Bridge MS 500 is a striking, modern headphone design with perforated leather accents and triangular ear cups. For $200 (list), lovers of deep bass won’t be disappointed, but anyone seeking flat response should look elsewhere. These headphones are powerful and offer distortion-free audio even at high volumes. Extra design touches like detachable cables and a snazzy leather carrying pouch make the Bridge MS 500 earn its price, but an uncomfortable fit threatens to ruin all the positives.

Design
Visually, the Bridge MS 500 is stunning—it’s that rare design that takes cues from the present (red highlights mixed with black á la Beats) and yet seems entirely unique, thanks to its triangular earcups. Even the red trim on the headband seems born of the fashion world—it bends and folds slightly, intentionally, in a manner that stands out in the tech world of clean lines.

So, it’s a bit of a bummer that this great looking headphone pair isn’t terribly comfortable. This will likely vary from user to user, but even if Phiaton has tried to more or less make earpads that match the shape of the typical ear, the circumaural pads are small on the inside, and if you have medium-to-large ears, they get stuffed inside the ear cushions. It doesn’t take long for things to feel uncomfortable, despite the well-padded materials. The headband’s padding never feels uncomfortable nor puts too much pressure on the scalp—this is purely a problem with the earpads.

That’s a big issue to get past, but if you can, the Bridge MS 500 is otherwise well-designed. It features a removable cable, and ships with two—one with an inline microphone and remote control, the other with none. Each cable is wrapped in protective red cloth and can connect to either the left or right ear. I’m a sucker for such flexibility of design and added value, as it’s cheaper to replace a bad cable than an entire pair of headphones.

The Bridge MS 500 is by no means inexpensive, but headphones in this price range and higher often don’t come close to this type of attention not only to detail—but useful detail. Thus, the uncomfortable fit is all the more tragic. If at all possible, it’s worth trying a pair on for ten minutes or so to see if the ear pads work with your ears.

The inline remote for the Bridge MS 500 is of the single button variety—this means more compatibility with various models of cell phones, but it also means no volume controls, which is a serious bummer in this, or any, price range.

Call clarity through the inline microphone is par for the course—keeping in mind that no inline mics really sound great for cellular calls. Your call partner and you will understand each other just fine. 

The Bridge MS 500 also ships with a stylish black perforated leather carrying pouch that the headphones fall down into, as well as a ¼-inch headphone jack adapter.

Performance
On songs with serious sub bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Bridge MS 500 shows off its impressive bass response. There’s no distortion at top volumes (and there shouldn’t be in this price range), and at more reasonable listening levels, the low frequencies still sound intense. Phiaton doesn’t go so overboard that things sound muddy.

On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” the constant drumming in the background moves to the forefront due to the serious boost it gets in the lows. It doesn’t quite seem to compete with Callahan’s voice for your attention, as can sometimes be the case when heavy bass boosting occurs on this track, but his baritone vocal delivery and the low-end of the drums both receive some extra low-end power.

The mids and highs are sculpted enough to more or less balance things out—Callahan’s voice still retains its natural sibilance without getting too bright. Overall, this track seems to have a bit too much low-end going on through the Bridge MS 500 for my taste, but bass lovers will enjoy it. It’s never muddy, which is crucial, but I wouldn’t mind a little more crisp, treble edge gracing the vocals and guitar strumming.

Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild” benefits a bit more from the Bridge MS 500′s sound signature. The attack of the kick drum loop could use a touch more high-mid presence, but the hits never sound dull. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the drum loop are delivered with just the right amount of gusto—they provide the round lows that make this track sound so powerful, without upsetting the overall balance too much. 

Classical tracks, like John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances,” can often sound ridiculously unnatural when serious bass boosting is involved, but the low frequency response of the Bridge MS 500 adds a nice low-end richness to the lower register strings and brass. The naturally bright higher register strings and brass need little help here, and so the bass response doesn’t really run the risk of overshadowing the highs like it does occasionally in other genres. The real test as to whether the bass boosting is too much comes at the end of this track, with the large drum hits. While the hits do sound bigger and bass-heavier than they need to, it’s an exciting sound that only purists will be bothered by.

If you care less about balance than booming sub-bass sounds, there’s always the Jabra Revo. And if you you’d rather have a less bass-heavy frequency response without sacrificing low end, the Marshall Monitor is an exceptional choice, as is the Sennheiser HD 558. If all of these are a bit pricey for your budget, the Logitech UE 4000 is a solid, less expensive option that delivers crisp audio without throwing the bass out the window.

I think rabid bass fiends and those who lean subtly towards the low frequency realm will both enjoy the Bridge MS 500. It has a round, rich low end but brings enough high frequency presence to maintain a certain sense of balance, albeit a balance that favors the bass. For $200, I have few complaints about the powerful Phiaton Bridge MS 500, but my main one is how uncomfortable, at least for me, they were. All ears are different, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Specifications
Wireless No
Connection Stereo 3.5mm
Removable Cable Yes
Phone Controls Yes
Impedance 16 ohms
Type Circumaural (over-ear)
Frequency Range 15Hz-22kHz

Verdict
The Phiaton Bridge MS 500 packs a powerful bass response in a handsome design, but the headphones can be uncomfortable.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc