UNBOXED: Reviewing the Phiaton Curve BT 120 NC Earphones
In another review of a similar, around-the-neck headphone recently, I went off on a bit of a tangent about my disdain for this segment of headphones. I think part of the problem I’ve had is that early versions often included these bulky, plastic neckbands that were more of a hindrance than anything. They were supposed to help keep the cables out of the way, but they just ended up being awkward to wear and leave you looking like a bit of a douche. But, as the segment has progressed, headphone makers have been improving the design and comfort of around-the-neck headphones with the latest example being Phiaton with their Curve BT 120 NC earphones, which launched in late December.
For starters, the Curve BT 120’s are flat out comfortable to wear—both from the around-the-neck perspective and in-ear. During a typical workday, aside from the fact that I had the earbuds in and music playing, it was easy to forget that the headphones were slung around my neck. Occasionally, the headphones would remind me that they were there by offering a muted vibration when notifications would come in.
From a sound performance standpoint, headphones are strong. The bass wasn’t overly aggressive or the strongest that I’ve ever heard, but it was certainly there. These aren’t audiophile-grade headphones by any stretch, but as a workout pair of headphones—supported by their IPX4 sweat and water resistant rating—they do the job, and they do it pretty well. Phiaton did build in an active noise cancelling feature into these headphones, and when activated the music does become a little clearer and louder, but there wasn’t that noticeable sensation of being in a vacuum. I could still hear some of my surroundings, which maybe had something to do with the fit of the ear tips.
An important part of the listening experience with this category is the ease of access of the controls. I’m still not a fan of having to reach up at a tight angle while fumbling with a neckband to find those simple controls, but Phiaton’s is close to the best experience I’ve had. The rubberized buttons are easy to find and are intuitively placed on the inside of the band itself. The ANC button is a little more difficult to get a good grip on with its positioning on the bottom of the headphone, but having it there prevents accidental hits, which is nice.
The only other complaint I have about these Curve BT 120 is the length of the cables between the end of the neckband and the earbuds themselves. They’re a bit long for my liking, which left them kind of annoyingly jutting out away from my face and in my field of vision at times. Maybe it’s not an easy fix to manufacture into these kinds of headphones, but it seems like the ideal neckband headphone would allow you to pull out and retract these cables so you can get them to a length that’s ideal for you. Necks, as we know, come in all shapes and sizes. So, why then, do we think it’s OK to launch these one-size-fits-all neckband headphones?
Either way, for $80 the Phiaton Curve BT 120 NC headphones are a very, very solid option in this category. They perform great in all kinds of situations and the secure-fit ear tips make them very comfortable to wear for long stretches, be it a long run or a long flight. They’re another step in the right direction towards the optimal around-the-neck headphone design.