Phiaton Fusion MS430 Stereo Headphone Review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Jan 9, 2014.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Youtube review: Phiaton Fusion MS-430 Stereo Headphone Review by Dale - YouTube

    Photos:
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Gm1/Headphone_Phiaton_Fusion_01.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Gm1/Headphone_Phiaton_Fusion_02.jpg

    Sources: iPhone5 alone, iPhone5 with FiiO E07k using LOD, various computers using the Microstreamer and Audioengine D3 DACs/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the Phiaton Fusion MS430 are based on direct comparisons to other headphones - in particular the Shure 1540, B&O H6, B&W P7, Beyerdynamic T51p, Thinksound On1, v-moda M80, Harman/Kardon Soho, and the notes that I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I describe how I relate to the MS430 (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    First impressions of the Phiaton Fusion MS430: A slightly recessed lower treble or 'Presence' area, a fairly flat, deep, but not over-emphasized bass, and a very good midrange whose clarity is compromised a little by the combination of the strong bass and lower treble recess. While I play the H6, P7, ON1, Soho, M80, and many other headphones without EQ, the MS430 requires a slight boost in the lower treble to qualify for best hi-fi listening. I ran a series of tone sweeps and discrete tones from different sources to get a sense of where the frequency response deviates from the average of my better headphones, and the bass and midrange were unremarkable - no significant issues. The treble has a moderate emphasis around 4 khz followed by a sharp drop at ~5 khz. There's another small emphasis around 7 khz and again at ~9 khz relative to the rest of the treble range, such that the upper treble gets closer to hi-fi standard than the lower treble does.

    My judgement of the MS430's sound: Excellent on computers and music players which have flexible EQ settings, since the MS430's design and build quality provide a lot of headroom for adjusting the frequency spectrum differently at different points. I don't recommend complex settings as a rule, since they can create more problems than they fix. A couple of small adjustments at ~2 khz and ~6 khz will liven up the sound as long as the adjustments are kept small. Some experts recommend 'parametric' equalizers for this kind of task, but without expensive test gear to perform automated measurements, it wouldn't be practical since it requires considerable time and effort.

    Since a good soundstage depends on having a full treble, I can't say that the MS430's soundstage is better than average unless EQ is used as described here. For any good quality headphone, soundstage will vary mainly according to the recording rather than the headphone. Exceptions are certain designs (i.e. Sennheiser HD800) which exaggerate soundstage using extra-large earcups and highly angled drivers, so the sound is bounced around before entering the ears, like speakers in a room. Using a headphone amp attached to the i-device LOD (bypassing the i-device volume control and headphone jack), the sound is much improved over using the i-device alone, with better soundstage and frequency extension, especially in the treble. Using a computer and a USB mini-DAC like the Microstreamer or Audioengine D3, the bass is tighter and the highs are more detailed and extended. Isolation with the MS430 is good - 10 db or better in the midrange and more higher up. Leakage is low enough for average office use.

    The MS430 looks and feels very different from the lightweight MS300 and MS400 headphones I had previously, even though the earcups are built with carbon fibre. The MS430 earcups are rounded rather than oval and they fit differently than the MS300, although they are very comfortable owing to the moderate clamp and the very soft squishy earpads. The headband is beautiful (in a word) and seems to be extremely well made. The red Phiaton cable has a start/stop button and an analog volume control slider, which work well on i-devices and probably will work OK on Android devices as well. I didn't test the microphone. I do recommend keeping the volume slider all the way up and controlling volume from the music player, in the hope that the cable's volume control will be "out of circuit" at 100 percent. If an analog volume control were extremely high quality and the digital volume control of the music player were out of circuit, that might be a better way to go.

    Although the MS430 cable has the Apple-style miniplug with the extra connector that provides the start-stop and microphone functionality, I discovered that a generic cable with standard 3.5 mm miniplugs on both ends also works with this headphone. The cable is detachable and can be plugged into either the right or left earcup. The included carrycase is just a bag with a drawstring that offers basically no impact protection, unlike the much better stiff and zippered cases included with the MS300 and MS400.

    The music tracks below were listed in prior reviews, and are a random sample selected from the 400 most recent tracks I've acquired. Since these tracks cover many genres and were selected when I was using several different headphones, there won't be a bias toward the MS430 headphone with this music. My suggestion is instead of reading each comment below as an absolute unto itself, you could compare the notes to those prior reviews and other reviews as they get posted, and see how the MS430 compares with each individual track.
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Phiaton MS-430 review part 2 - music tracks

    Ana Victoria - Roxanne (Pop Vocal): Spacious sound, good bass tone and impact, and the vocal sounds natural. Excellent reproduction by the MS430.

    Ben Goldberg - Root and Branch (Jazz): Realistic you-are-there sound with great instrumental reproduction. The MS430 plays this extremely well.

    Benedictines Of Mary - O Come Emmanuel (Medieval/Female Choral/Acapella): Very spacious sound and natural reverb for a large recording venue (cathedral). The MS430 makes the voices come alive.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Excellent instrumental detail - the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The MS430 plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Candy Dulfer - Lily Was Here (Jazz): Narrow soundstage, but excellent detailed instrumental tone. The MS430 gives this a reasonable sense of space, but in spite of being a modern recording, the net effect is only slightly better than enhanced mono.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The MS430 plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The MS430 plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are detailed but not sharp or edgy.

    Daft Punk - Lose Yourself to Dance (Electronic/Disco): Less than hi-fi quality recording, but the voices are very good. There's a good amount of bass impact, but the bass doesn't have much detail.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The MS430 reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.

    David Lynch-Lykke Li - I'm Waiting Here (Soundtrack/Vocal): Dark, moody song - Lykke's voice is very detailed, the bass impacts are good, but most of the instrumentation is soft and kept in the background. The MS430 plays this music extremely well given the sonic limitations.

    Dream Theater - Take The Time (Metal): The sound quality here is limited, but the MS430 is smooth enough to bring out the details in this very busy music without verging on harshness.

    Genesis - Follow You Follow Me (Pop/Rock):The MS430 plays this old and less-than-ideal recording well enough to be very enjoyable, but the soundstage is fairly narrow.

    Giant Drag - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): Annie Hardy's version of the Chris Isaak hit has a lot of energy, but the quality is limited - still the MS430 pulls out enough detail to be a pleasant listen.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The MS430 plays this music perfectly.

    Hubert Kah - The Picture (New Wave): This track has great bass detail and weight at the same time, which I find unusual for this type of 1980's pop music. The MS430 plays this music very well.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The strong deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the MS430. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Korn - Another Brick In the Wall (Rock): Aggressive rock that's very satisfying for hard-rock fans. The MS430 plays this near perfectly, which is to say, with proper edginess and bass impact, yet without unintended sonic harshness.

    Kunika Kato - Fur Alina (Vibraphone): A very unusual instrumental - the tone quality is unlike anything I've heard before. Recording close-up is part of the magic here, but the MS430 does the rest in reproducing the full harmonics of this amazing instrument.

    Michael Buble - Nice 'n Easy (Easy Listening/Jazz): This is the only track I bought by Michael Buble, but it's a great recording and vocal performance. The sound of the backing band here is rendered extremely well by the MS430, and the voice isn't pumped up for Loudness Wars thankfully.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is just discernable with the MS430.

    Muse - Madness (Rock): The bass in this track has good impact and detail with the MS430, and although the voice is somewhat forward, it doesn't interfere with my appreciation of the bass line here.

    Phaeleh - Afterglow (feat. Soundmouse) (Electronic/Vocal): The instrumental sounds that begin this track are played very nicely by the MS430, but the voice tends to overwhelm those background sounds - until the heavy bass impacts kick in. If there is any doubt about whether the MS430 will play heavy impactful bass with good detail (if such sounds are really in the recording), this track is the proof. If you were to begin your MS430 listening with this track, you might think you were listening to a headphone that has a boosted but tight and detailed bass. Simply amazing.

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The MS430 conveys as much of that experience as is possible on a more-or-less neutral headphone. The tympani also have great impact here.

    Sargis Aslamazian - The Sky is Cloudy (Classical/Armenian): The National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia has a great classical program, and the MS430 plays this music with good separation, tone, and big-orchestra precision.

    Satri-Tomoko Sonoda - All The Things You Are (Jazz): This track came from Bakoon Products, who make high-quality audio amplifiers. There's a lot of upright bass plucking in this track and the MS430 plays it fairly well, although it's recorded pretty close-up and sounds slightly boomy at times.

    Tommy Smith - Johnny Come Lately (Jazz): Small-combo jazz - sax, piano and drums. The sound is fairly close-up but well-recorded, and sounds very nice with the MS430, although the wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are not as extended as on the David Hazeltine track above.
     
  3. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    I should have mentioned that with the first MS-430 I purchased, the detachable cable went bad, and since the plug going into the earcup (left or right) is a generic 3.5 mm miniplug, I plugged in a cable with standard 3.5 mm miniplugs on both ends, which worked for a couple of hours until the right earcup dropped way down in volume. I tested the original MS-430 cable on other headphones and it wasn't working, even with the analog volume control on the cable at 100 percent. My generic cables play left and right channels at equal volume on other headphones, so there are no issues with those cables.

    After getting the replacement MS-430 and verifying that it works correctly, I thought I'd plug in the generic cables to see that they worked, in hopes that I could eliminate the analog volume control in the MS-430 cable. With the generic cables, which work correctly with equal left-right volume on other headphones, the balance shifted left on the MS-430 by at least 3 db (twice the volume). Replacing the original MS-430 cable, the volume went back to center as before - same as several other headphones I have.

    One good way to test for equal volume in headphones that have left and right earcups and earpads that are exactly the same (round in my case) is to play test tones around 1000 hz and listen to the output from both earcups with just one ear, so the ears aren't a factor.

    Using the MS-430 cable on other headphones, the volume shifts too far to the right, and I suspect some coloration occurs in the sound, but it isn't easy to determine without full volume on both sides. I can't say that both MS-430s I received are bad, but having a cable with a volume slider compensating for a mismatch between left and right seems like a very peculiar design, if it were actually designed that way.
     
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