Phiaton’s new BT 460 ($200) is a lightweight wireless Bluetooth headphone that packs some good tech ideas, but has some issues with the details. The BT 460 is, at first, refreshing in its simple and understated design. This minimalism starts with its packaging, which is clean and straightforward except for the curious “Teddy Artist Edition” branding. Inside the box, we find a large carrying case, charging cable, and 3′ headphone cable. On the headphone itself, there are no flashy logos or loud colors. BT 460 is a classy-looking black and gray headset made of plastic and rubber (the headphone also comes in white). Other than the power button, there are no visible volume or track controls — everything is handled via a touch interface on the right ear. The BT 460 makes a good first impression, promising some interesting features for a wireless headphone.
When the BT 460 was taken out of the box, our positive impression immediately began to fade.
The headphone is light, but feels somewhat cheap, with loose ear cup joints that wobble freely. The BT 460 folds for easy storage, but its plastic joints don’t inspire confidence for long-term durability. Its non-removable ear pads are soft, but sized somewhere between on-ear and over-ear — we adjusted them often, and ultimately, found them uncomfortable in long listening sessions. Battery life was acceptable in our testing, and call quality was muffled but also acceptable.
Using the BT 460 can be a confusing experience. Pressing the small power button on the right ear causes two small LEDs to flash and, oddly, triggers a vibration motor — this is the first time we’ve had a headphone buzz in our hands. All controls are handled by the touch interface on the right cup, but they’re less intuitive than we expected. Two taps will play/pause the music (we had to consult the user manual for that one), a left or right swipe handles track controls, and swiping up and down adjusts volume. We found the touch pad to be less responsive than we would have liked, requiring more precise and deliberate swipes than are practical when walking around outside.
For us, it recalled Harmon/Kardon’s Soho Wireless Headphones, which also have an unnecessarily difficult touch interface.
The BT 460’s volume controls are a perfect example of why we struggle with Phiaton’s design choices in this headphone. You can move through almost all of the BT 460’s volume range by sliding your finger up and down the right ear cup, but we found that it often took more than one swipe to adjust all the way. Where most wireless headphones provide feedback in the form of a beep to indicate volume is changing, the BT 460 instead uses a line of white LEDs on the outside of the headphone. Since we obviously could not see the lights while wearing the headphone, it appears that this feature is more about advertising the headphones to others than providing a good experience to the user. To make matters worse, the BT460’s volume level is not linked to that of iOS devices.
Overall, these technical choices leave us with more questions than answers. Why include a vibration motor if it won’t be used for calls or control feedback? Why not provide the user with auditory cues from the controls? Why add colored LEDs if the user can’t see them? The BT 460 also has a ShareMe feature, which allows two BT 460 users to listen to the same song. We didn’t receive a second unit to test this function, but features such as these generally only appeal to a very small subset of possible customers.
Design oddities aside, we believe that the sound of the BT 460 will be very polarizing. This headphone has an extremely “V-Shaped” sound signature — bass and treble are emphasized, with mid-range frequencies far in the background.