Phiaton Bridge MS 500 Review
Phiaton's upgraded M-Series looks just as good as it sounds.
Under the Hood
Our laboratory testing process utilizes state-of-the-art audio generating and sampling equipment to test every aspect of a speaker's abilities, from frequency response to spectral decay. The Phiaton Bridge MS 500s (MSRP $299) tested with great tracking and almost perfect sound pressure levels, but its frequency response was shy of a gold medal.
In other words—they sound (and look) great at first listen (and glance), but in the long run fail to deliver a brilliant long-term experience.
A speaker's frequency response refers to a system's measured response to an original signal. The Bridge MS 500's maintain a fairly flat response along the lower frequency range, slightly increasing emphasis on notes from 20Hz (sub-bass) to about 100Hz (bass), before beginning to drop off, following the equal-loudness curve—a response curve aligned to the natural strengths and weaknesses of the human ear.
The problems begin just after 2kHz, the meat-and-potatoes frequency for piccolo, treble harp notes, and almost all instruments' overtone series. Significant drops in volume around 3kHz and 6kHz mean that details within the high midrange can be more difficult to decipher.
Channel tracking refers to the auditory balance between the left and right speakers. Ideally, audio will play at the same volume out of each speaker, but that is not always the case. The Phiaton MS 500s do a great job maintaining an equal tracking balance, however, swaying by very small amounts (about 2dB) across the frequency range and only favoring the right channel heavily after 7kHz.
Attenuation—a headphone's ability to block outside ambient noise—is more important for mobile cans, which these Phiaton on-ears aren't. As the Bridge MS 500s have no active noise cancellation, they only perform about average here. Practically no sub-bass or bass frequencies are blocked out, so things like bus horns and rumbling engines will still be very audible. After about 1kHz, the MS 500's begin to muffle higher-pitched noises, like crying babies. Midrange outside noises are reduced to half their volume, high mids to 1/4th, and really high-pitched junk to a whopping 1/16th.
When we discuss harmonic distortion, we're dealing with added noise and clipped harmonics that often hamper music listening. Ideally, we like to see less than 3% total harmonic distortion (THD) present across an entire frequency range. The MS 500s do a good job keeping distortion to a minimum in general, though measures do leap up to almost 10% in the sub-bass range. Luckily human ears aren't sensitive to sub-bass distortion, so this is nothing to worry over. The rest of the frequency response is largely free of significant flaws, so distortion just isn't an issue in general for the MS 500s.
Even loud-music lovers should enjoy largely distortion-free tunes, but if you're unwise enough to venture past 120dB, the distortion will leap right up past 3%. Fortunately, we tested a maximum SPL of 120.12 dB—but you shouldn't be listening to music louder than 100 dB, anyway, lest you risk noise-induced hearing loss.
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