Up until this week, I was thoroughly in the wired headphone camp. Bluetooth headphones never seemed to provide the comfort, sound and ease of use of a pair of USB or audio jack headphones. That's all changed with the Phiaton BT460 Wireless Headphones (US$199.00), which I'm bestowing with an Apple World Today Top Pick award for 2016.
Phiaton's designs have always been quite classy, and the BT460 design is no exception. It's a very minimalist design with two very comfortable padded ear cups that cover the ears joined by a thin and strong band that is padded on the side that touches the head. The band is at a slight angle to the ear cups, which is unique to these headphones and seems to be the reason they're so darned comfy.
There's just one little "door" on the right ear cup, which hides the micro-USB charging port and an auxiliary 3.5mm port if you wish to use a cabled connection. A power switch is also on the right ear cup, along with an LED indicator and a microphone for answering calls.
The most unique parts of the BT460 design are the touch controls and LED display built into the right ear cup. There's no need to fumble around with the headphones to find a button to pause or play music, or to raise or lower volume. Instead, a double tap with your finger on the right ear cup pauses or restarts playback, and volume is controlled by "swiping" a finger up or down a subtle groove on the right ear cup. Want to skip to the next song in a playlist? Swipe forward. Go back to the previous song? Swipe backwards.
While you're swiping that volume control, a line of LEDs indicates just how loud or quiet you have it set -- of course, you can't see it when the headphones are being used, but others can see it and be duly impressed. There's also a function that pauses music when you remove the headphones.
The ear cups fold neatly into the headband for compact carrying. Oh, and one other thing I love -- the inside of each ear cup is marked with a large "R" or "L" that you don't have to squint at. Why doesn't every headphone manufacturer do this?
The BT460 headphones offer great sound reproduction across the spectrum from low pounding basses to clear and crisp highs. Using Bluetooth 4.0 and most Bluetooth music playback protocols (including aptX and AAC), you'll get upwards of 20 hours of playback and I'd be willing to bet you won't get a single dropped note in any song during that time. The BT460s provided the best Bluetooth connectivity of any BT headset I've ever tested.
The touch controls are amazing. It's so nice to be able to double-tap the right ear cup to pause music, then do it again to start up again. Adjusting volume for a track that's a little too loud or soft, the swiping feature works great. One other feature I loved was that when the music comes back after a pause, the volume builds up over a few seconds so you're not immediately blasted with loud music.
One feature I didn't get to test is intriguing; Phiaton has created ShareMe, which allows a person who's wearing a pair of the BT460 headphones to "pass along" their music to a second person wearing BT460s. Brilliant!
The Smart Play / Pause feature is so cool I think it's almost worth the cost of admission alone! At one point during my testing a FedEx delivery guy showed up; I took the headphones off and laid them on my desk. When I came back, I picked the headphones up and put 'em on, and the music started where I had left off.
The BT460s can be paired with two devices at once; I tested this with my iMac and iPhone, and the dual pairing worked as one would expect.
The Phiaton BT460 Wireless Headphones are the first that I've tested that totally surpassed my expectations in every aspect. Between being so comfortable you could wear 'em to bed, providing superior sound quality, and being equipped with touch controls that work as advertised, I'd recommend the BT460s to anyone who wants a perfect set of Bluetooth headphones. At $199, they're also priced at a point almost anyone can afford.