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Phiaton Chord MS 530 Bluetooth headphones: A joy to wear and listen to

Bluetooth headsets are becoming much more popular for iOS and Mac users. There's no cable to get tangled around, and they're usually quite lightweight and comfortable. Phiaton has released its new Chord MS 530 Bluetooth 4.0 Noise Cancelling Headphones (US$299.99 MSRP, available online for as little as $200) to the market, and if you're in a pinch for a really special holiday gift, a pair of these would make any iOS or Mac owner a very happy person indeed.

The headphones come with a nice carrying case, and they fold up into that case with little effort. Once out of the case, the Chords weigh just 10 ounces (283 grams) and adjust to just about any head size, my mammoth hat size 7-7/8 head included. Pressing the power button on the right earcup for two seconds turns the headphones on, at which time a voice prompt informs you that "Pairing mode is enabled". There are other voice prompts as well -- once pairing is completed and you connect to the headphones from a Mac or iOS device, you'll hear "Device connected" in a female voice. Disconnect the headphones using your system preferences or settings, that voice says "Device disconnected". The verbal prompts are very useful; much better than interpreting what a few flashing LEDs mean.

But it's when you start playing music through the Chords that you realize just how good these headphones are. Unlike some of the other headphones I've reviewed for TUAW, the Chords do a remarkable job of handling bass, providing a more realistic lower end than I've heard before.

That's not to say that treble is given short shrift -- quite the contrary. The headphones have good response throughout the usual range of music frequencies, and I found them to be amazing for listening to just about any genre of music.

The Chords feature a complete set of controls. On the right side are the aforementioned power button, a call button (for use with your iPhone) and a pause/start toggle that doubles as a volume up/down switch. There's also a micro-USB port for charging on the right side covered by a small door.

On the left side is another small door, this covering a port for a headphone cable if you prefer a wired connection -- or if the battery runs out on your Chords. There's also a switch for turning on noise cancellation, which seems to work better on these headphones than any other headphones I've ever tested. I was listening to my iTunes Radio Supertramp station beaming from my iPhone, and pulled up some songs on my iMac at the same time. With the iMac's volume cranked all the way up, I could actually feel the bass, but couldn't hear it through the headphones.

Speaking of cables, Phiaton thoughtfully provides a set of cables with mounted controls and a microphone if you want to forgo the use of Bluetooth.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with noise-canceling headphones, note that they don't block all ambient sound if you just have 'em on, but turning on noise-cancellation and listening to tunes will provide a respite from whatever low-frequency noise is around you. In that respect, they do a very good job of tuning out the rumbling background noise of an airplane or train.

I was pleasantly surprised when the Chords were connected to my iOS devices that the Bluetooth indicator in the status bar actually showed a small battery icon next to it for determining the amount of charge left in the headset. I don't know if I've just been missing this with other Bluetooth devices or if it's something new, but that's very useful.

Making or answering calls while listening to music was nice as well, as the headset supports Siri. Just a quick push of the Call button brought up the Siri prompt, at which point I was able to ask Apple's intelligent assistant to make a call for me -- or do anything else that Siri is able to do.

Conclusion

All in all, I loved the comfort, the compactness (when folded up), and the controllability of the Phiaton Chord MS 530 headphones. The sound quality -- to me, at least -- was incredibly good, and I don't think I've ever worn a more comfortable pair of headphones. These are not inexpensive headphones, but since they support the latest Bluetooth release they should be able to work for you for years to come.

Pros

  • Lightweight and comfortable for hours of wear
  • Up to 30 hours of listening time per charge
  • Excellent sound quality on both low and high end
  • Noise cancellation technology blocks ambient noise well
  • Controls are easy to find and operate
  • Voice prompts tell you when different modes are engaged or disabled
  • Fast and easy Bluetooth pairing with both Mac and iOS devices with no need to enter a pairing code
  • Carrying case is a bonus
  • Ability to use headset with a cable when the battery is dead

Cons

  • A little pricey, but you get what you pay for

Who are they for?

  • Anyone, audiophile or not, who wants a pair of lightweight and good-sounding Bluetooth headphones

Giveaway

These headphones sound great, and we want one lucky TUAW reader to get a chance to use 'em. Here are the rules for the giveaway:

  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
  • To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
  • The entry must be made before December 18, 2013 11:59PM Eastern Standard Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • One winner will be selected and will receive a set of Phiaton Chord MS 530 Bluetooth headphones valued at $299.99.
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.

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