Bluetooth Headphones Review: Phiaton BT 150 NC

Even as the audio world accelerates its migration toward an entirely wire-free mobile listening experience, Bluetooth earphones anchored to battery and control-hosted bases will still have their place for some time to come. Phiaton is one such company that has done just that with its BT 150 NC Earphones ($149). Does this new headset offer a huge leap or just a minor incremental improvement over the company's initial BT 100 NC released a few years ago?  Read on to find out.

Related: Best Workout Headphones for Running, Hitting the Gym & More

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The first physical difference that stands out compared to Phiaton's original headset is the new headset's size. The BT 150 NC is noticeably larger and slightly heavier than its predecessor. Fortunately this translates to phenomenal battery life. Having regressed on battery charge as a result of using entirely wire-free earbuds and their meager 2–3 hour operating time, it was refreshing to revert back to earphones that lasted a full day of constant use without a recharge. 

Thanks to Phiaton's collar design and smaller earbud assemblies, the BT 150 NC also didn't fatigue or dent my outer ear as a result of heavy earbuds weighing down on it. I still occasionally snagged the wires between the earbuds and the collar base a few times on my shirt collar, but not nearly as much as I did when I used the original BT 100 NC.  Speaking of the wires, they are no longer free floating in the BT 150 NC and now extend or retract from the collar base. I am concerned about the wear and tear that this new approach will place on the tiny wires, especially after hundreds of tugs to extend the earbuds. I also wonder about the durability of the internal spring coil that allows the wire to be pulled back into the collar's protective housing. If this engineering design ultimately proves to be flawed, hopefully Phiaton will offer some sort of inexpenisve repair or replacement policy affected by such issues.

Other improvements I was glad to see in the BT 150 NC were little things like an angled microUSB plug for wired headphone jack connections. The original BT 100 NC had its microUSB plug straight, sticking outward like a post ready to get caught on a shirt or jacket collar. The "Memory Flex" neckband retained the snug shape of the collar, allowing for a much better adjustable custom fit.

One change that I am still not sure I like is the change from click-button to touch-slide controls to increase and decrease audio, skip to next/previous tracks and so on. Fewer moving parts means more durability but the new touch controls do not allow you to change volume settings as quickly as the buttons on the original earphones. I also tended to oversteer on volume as I learned the touch controls response timing. While I am certain I will master these controls in the months ahead, it does require patience and relearning for those like me used to old-fashioned click button volume and playback controls.

How does the BT 150 NC sound? In my ears, they sound the same as the BT 100 NC. While it is possible that Phiaton tweaked the sound dynamics with this new version, I could not tell the difference. However, the noise cancellation does seem to be an improvement, though it's hard to tell if it's because of better technology or the earbuds having a tighter fit within my ear canal. Either way, sound quality is more or less on par with the original earphones, which is good enough (though I would prefer deeper bass and higher range myself).

Final Verdict

In conclusion, the Phiaton BT 150 NC is a nice, incremental improvement in the functional design compared to the original. It doesn't make much of a noticeable improvement in sound quality, but considering that the sound from the original BT 100 NC series was more than acceptable, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you are looking for a comfortable headset with decent sound quality (and great noise cancellation) that will last all day on a single charge, the Phiaton BT 150 NC is worthy of inclusion into your tech budget expenditures.

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Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.