We’ve reviewed a number of Phiaton headphones over the years; they’re a brand that is slowly gaining recognition without being juiced by big marketing dollars, which is no small feat in this saturated world. Their newest offering, the BT390 ($79), is an on-ear Bluetooth headphone with clean, simple styling and ultralight weight. Though this headphone has a lot going for it, we think Phiaton might have taken their cost-cutting measures a step too far.
Included in the box is the most basic set of accessories — just a charging cable and a microUSB-to-3.5mm analog cable (branded “Everplay-X” by Phiaton). The BT390 has a simple yet attractive design, and sits comfortably on the head even for an on-ear headphone. The BT390 features hinges that allow it to fold into a very portable size; we appreciate this, but would have liked at least a fabric pouch to store the headphone in while traveling. Phiaton describes these as “compact headphones”, and they are — small, minimalist, and portable.
Using the BT390 was about as easy as it gets. Holding the power button switches the headphone on and into pairing mode. The BT390’s controls are all handled via a rocker switch on the right driver cup. This switch has good, positive movement, making the headphone easy to control — this switch works significantly better than that of the BT330 we reviewed back in November 2015. In our testing, the BT390 lasted about the 30 hours claimed by Phiaton.
Plastic giveth, and plastic taketh away. The BT390’s simple all-plastic design makes it light and, we assume, keeps costs down. However, the BT390’s plastic joints squeak loudly — embarrassingly so — which is not uncommon, but really not acceptable on a brand new unit. This is not to say that the BT390 is badly built — it doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart — but all this plastic simply doesn’t make us confident about the BT390’s long term durability.
The BT390’s sound quality is adequate for a Bluetooth headphone in this price range, but uninspiring. The music we heard from the BT390 sounded generally veiled; we might be okay with this on a commute, but we can’t say we’d reach for the BT390 for a home listening session. There’s certainly a place for basic Bluetooth headphones in this market — not everyone wants to carry an expensive headphone that they have to baby — but, unfortunatley, the BT390 lands closer to “cheap” than “basic.” There are simply too many competitors in the market now, especially with the influx of China-based brands like Anker in recent years, that make basic headphones with build quality and sound as good or better than the BT390, making it hard to justify even its relatively low $79 price.
Review Update: Recently, Phiaton provided us with a new review sample of their BT 390 headphones. It appears that the company may have refined the manufacturing process for these headphones, as the new review sample did not exhibit any of the creaks and squeaks that soured our experience the first time around. Our original review score will remain, since that’s the experience we had with the review sample we received, but we felt it was worth updating for future readers.
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