My first thought upon opening the box for the Phiaton BT 220 NC Wireless Active Noise Cancelling Headphones (US$179.99 list price, $160.55 via affiliate link) was that for a wireless headphone, there were sure a lot of wires. There is a USB to micro-USB charging cable, an Everplay-X cable to let you listen to tunes from your iPhone or iPod touch even when the battery on the headphones isn’t charged up, and even two wires going from the receiver box to the earbuds. I don’t have anything against wires and cables; I just thought it was rather ironic that a “wireless” device came with so many cables.
Like many other “wireless” Bluetooth earbuds, the Phiaton BT 220 NC suffers from a design issue with Bluetooth headsets; it’s simply impossible to create them without physically connecting the left and right earbuds with some sort of cable. That’s why most fitness wireless earbuds still have a cable strung between the earbuds, even though they may be able to fit the Bluetooth electronics into one earpiece. It’s easier to hide the wire with a pair of over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones like the Beats Studio Wireless Over-Ear Headphone ($335, affiliate link).
The BT 220 NC says that you’re able to pair with a tap thanks to NFC (Near Field Communications) capabilities built in. Although the iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch both have NFC built in, I was unable to use that functionality for pairing. That wasn’t an issue as both devices were quite simple to pair using traditional methods.
Phiaton includes five different sizes of earbuds with the BT 220 NC, making it easy to find one size that fits perfectly. The receiver is a small silver and black box about two inches long and an inch wide, with a metal clip that can be placed on a shirt sleeve or collar. There’s a single button on the front that powers the device on or off with a long push and dials the last dialed number on your phone with a tap.
On one side of the receiver is a monitor button, and a button to turn noice cancellation on and off, while the other side has buttons for play/pause, rewind/fast-forward/volume up/volume down. There’s a single LED on the front to provide pairing and connection status.
As with all earbuds and headphones, the main thing we’re looking for is sound quality. I tried the BT 220 NC earbuds with and without noise cancellation turned on, and in both cases found the sound quality to be acceptable, but somewhat biased towards lower tones. To my ears, that made music sound somewhat “muddy”, but if you like bass, you’ll love these earbuds.
The Noise Cancellation feature works very well. Switching it on and off, I could tell just how much ambient noise it blocked. My office always has a slight sound of moving air in the background that was totally blocked out with Noise Cancellation turned on. Most noise cancelling headphones are designed to help block out background noise in transportation (airplanes, cars, trains…), and the BT 220 NC does a good job of that.
Finally, I used the BT 220 NC to make several phone calls. As with the music, I found it to lack a lot of crispness although voices were clear for both caller and recipient. Once again, your ears are different from mine and you may find the slight “muddiness” of the voice quality to be to your liking.
The Phiaton BT 220 NC earbuds are reasonably priced for Bluetooth noise cancelling headphones and produce acceptable sound quality. The clip-on design works well, and the earbuds themselves are very comfortable. However, if you’re looking for a truly “wireless” headphone experience, I suggest that you look at over-the-ear headphones with a band over the top of your head, as that design will eliminate all wires from your immediate area.