Phonaudio seems like a simply named brand, combining phone and audio it comes as no surprise that they solely are a headphone producer. The creation of the brand is as simple as it is classic. Heralding from Britain and started by husband and wife Emma and Steven Arinze, the couple looked at the current ideas on the headphone market and thought “I could do that. And I could do it better.” I would say that is very bold talk because while there is utter trash out there, you can also find a lot of marvelous products. Their brand ethos seems solid, they want to provide the end user with a “stylish, smart and simple pair of headphones that tick every box” and also believe that “studio quality sound is just the start of an incredible audio experience”. They are hardly claiming anything out of the ordinary or instantly doing anything special to grab my attention but you can’t find fault with what they want to achieve. The question is, will they? You would hope so as they have apparently been working on their current range of two headphones for 4 years. That’s quite a considerable time and I would hope that has allowed them to create something very special. Quickly mentioning what their product range consists of… you have the (supposedly) circumaural PHN100 (£189) and superaural PHN200 (£169).
They come in the traditional big cardboard box, that upon opening unveils the headphones embedded into a cutout. It really is a simple package at almost £200. I expected a more supportive carrying case than the velvety drawstring pouch that is included and also perhaps a few adapters, which you get none of. It is a quick to end unboxing experience and not really one to make much note of.
These are finished in a combination of glossy plastic and a more squidgy matte plastic. Mine are all black but you can change the glossy parts for silver or gold if you are more blingy than me. There is metal used under the headband and what it is adjusted upon but beyond that plastic is the material of choice. They plastic they used is apparently a special kind called TR90 titanium plastic. It is a newer type of polymer that is more often used in eye glasses frames. It impressively boasts heat protection up to 350 degrees and even resistance to both scratching and deformation. On top of that it is very lightweight and the headphones only weigh 187 grams. What this means is you can fully contort the headband with it springing right back into its natural shape and even drop it safely into your house fire. That being said I don’t think the build quality is anywhere near perfect.
Firstly the headphones generally rattle where the cups are loose on the yokes. It is good that they pivot but they really don’t need to make any noise. You then have the fact they are foldable. That I like, in fact I think it is almost necessary in this style of can but after learning that you can fold this, for a short while I didn’t believe it. On applying pressure they didn’t seem like they were going to fold and that I was actually going to snap the headphone. When they finally did fold they do so in a very clunky manner with a big click. It was not a comfortable process.
The only thing unique that Phonaudio have implanted into this headphone is putting a super microphonic button on the ear cup of both channels. While I have seen some types of button and controls on wireless headphones, I never have on wired headphone because controls can be handled much easier on the cable, as is the case here. Also when they do have controls, like on the Fiil Diva, they are touch sensitive controls so they don’t make any noise when used. They are also normally on just one channel. I really don’t understand the appeal or reasoning for this, maybe you will but I certainly do not…. Perhaps the only cool thing they have done is put a microphone on the headphone. I never use my headphones as a phone but if you do this may be a nice touch.
Moving onto the basic and thin 1.3m included cable and it has some weird quirks to it. While it may not be the most impressive specimen itself it does have decent enough strain reliefs on its jacks and even more importantly is removable. Beyond that the only thing to note is the little remote console it has at the upper end of the wire. It has a single button that has the multi functions, funnily enough identical to those on the cups. So that is three buttons you have for one job! On the other side you have a volume slider and Phonaudio have once again done it their way. Instead of volume buttons that directly control your sources volume, this has its own resistance network and takes volume into its own hand regardless of the volume of your device. Not only is the slider a pain to use and finicky to adjust but if you have that on bottom volume, even when you turn your source up it sounds rubbish, so the most effective way to use it is put it on top volume and then have to get your source out to change volume. I think this may have been done to allow this to be used with all phone types be it Windows, Android and IOS instead of needing to specify what model you have and getting the specific cable but I think sadly that is the way things have to be now, because this is not really a viable alternative.
Finally I want to talk about actually wearing headphones. Now as the bigger of Phonaudios two models this is classified as their over the ear model. My first observation when putting this on is that they are 100% on the ear headphones. The pads sit on my ears, they don’t engulf them. They do look like a bigger headphone than the PHN200 but it seems they are both a superaural design. While they are clearly not the type of headphone they claim, the soft pads sit just lovely on your ears and these really are a comfortable headphone to wear without ever getting fatiguing. Isolation is pretty average, not near Fiil or Bose ANC circuitry.
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