The Phonon 4400 is the most foldable and most compact headphone in the PHONON arsenal. These are the heirs of the DJ SMB-02 in terms of sound, and the upgrade of the “home” 4000 in terms of reliability and convenience. But the most important change in the new model is its exit to the street, urbanity, so to speak – the 4400 not only folds up and stows away in a case, but also sit on the head in a different way: so that the city noise does not interfere with listening to music.
This is exactly the task set by the head of PHONON, the famous Japanese producer and sound engineer Isao Kumano, who, as always, personally participated in the development and sound profiling of these new headphones, which are classified as press-on by the type of “fit” on the ear and closed by the type of acoustic load (dense ear pads, housing without holes).
Appearance, kit and ergonomics
The earbuds are delivered in a neat black box, on the front side of which you can see the brand logo, model index and the profession – “Mobile Hi-Fi Phone”. Detailed specifications are listed on the back.
Inside, in addition to the headphones themselves, we find an adapter already installed on the jack-plug of the cable, a nice soft leatherette case for carrying and storing headphones and instructions, which are also a warranty card.
The package bundle, as it happens with professional models of headphones, is unpretentious, which I consider absolutely the right decision, because a cool device does not need anything superfluous. And with all sorts of useless “tricks” put in a box, let the manufacturers of devices show their dust in the eyes, where the entourage is designed to distract from the weaknesses of the product. In our case, as you can imagine, everything is exactly the opposite.
Looking at the headphones, I would like to use the term “aristocratic asceticism.” I’m not sure if such a thing exists in principle, but for the sake of the PHONON 4400 it should definitely be put into circulation. Perhaps it is necessary to introduce more specificity into the expression we have just invented. Laconism and restraint of appearance in this case speaks not of artlessness and simplicity, but of simplicity cleared of any unnecessary extraneous layers, which helps the listener to fully focus on the sound. One of the principles of the Japanese aesthetics “wabi” is devoted to about the same.
But let’s tie up with kulturtragerstvo and proceed directly to the description of the headphones. The main material is high quality plastic. The total black color scheme is successfully diluted with the silver lettering “PHONON 4400” on the round metal plates covering the cups. The arc plate, which adjusts the size of the headband, hidden behind the plastic base, is also made of metal. The ear cushions and headband are made of soft and very comfortable, just airy leatherette, which pleases with the absence of unpleasant odors.
There are no questions about the build quality either: everything is fitted extremely accurately and clearly, without backlash and gaps.
The design of the headphones was designed taking into account the wishes of both studio sound specialists, professional DJs, and connoisseurs of high-quality portable sound, and this is immediately noticeable.
Conveniently adjustable headband, foldable hinge design, pivoting ear cups, low weight (260 grams) – all this makes the 4400s a convenient and indispensable travel companion, allowing you to get the highest quality sound in a compact body anywhere.
The ears sit very comfortably on the head, so you can enjoy your favorite music or use PHONON as a working instrument in the studio or on the dance floor for long hours.
A durable cable made of high-quality conductors (I was convinced of this personally when, for the sake of convenience, I replaced the jack with an angular Oyaide P-3.5GL), with a separate ground (an unambiguous sign of a pro-level), the cable has a length of 1.8 m. for me, this is the optimal size, suitable for both work and portable use. With such a wire, it is equally convenient to listen to a desktop / stationary system while sitting at a table, as well as to take walks with your favorite music when the player or “claw” is in your bag. Jack straight 3.5 mm gold-plated and threaded for the included adapter 3.5 / 6.3 mm.
Now it’s worth dwelling on sound insulation. The 4400 is definitely better than the SMB-02. However, this is understandable: the older model is more focused on studio monitoring and listening to music at home, and our today’s guest was created for DJs in rumbling clubs or audiophiles while traveling in transport or on hectic city streets. However, even here you should not expect maximum noise reduction, which can be provided by either in-ear custom monitors (CIEM) or ears from the Etymotic ER series (but everything is very difficult there with wearing comfort and fit).
However, after my walks with PHONON around my hometown and trips in public ground transport (the metro was not “brought to our area”), I can say that, in general, for the 4400’s on-ear headphones with noise isolation, everything is more than decent and in this sense they are nothing inferior to the most “anti-noise” overhead ears, if you do not take into account the individual know-how in the form of NC (noise-canceling).
In general, we are doing well here. But the most important advantage of the 4400s, as you know, is ahead of us: let’s prick up our ears and move on to the sound.
The headphones were warmed up for 50 hours before listening.
The audition was conducted on MyST DAC 1866OCU V.2, Lotoo paw Gold, QLS QA-361, iBasso DX200 (AMP7), DX220, DX220 MAX, iFI micro iDSD Black Lable and Lotoo paw S1.
In all the combinations obtained, the headphones played at a high level. The handwriting changed slightly depending on the source, giving the PHONON 4400 its unique flavor. In general, the headphones add up decently when you connect them to more powerful sources and with an increase in the quality of the path.
From the very first minutes of listening, we discover a completely adult approach to “sound production”.
The 4400 has a powerful and accurate low-frequency response with an elegantly boosted midbass section, naturalistic and clean mids, accurate display of all the smallest details of the composition, and smooth, without a hint of distortion, high frequencies. This is a harmonious play of macro- and microdynamics, where the lower register gives out a dynamic and clear beat and extends the hand of friendship to the midrange in the form of a tight and fast bass, which contrastedly draws the depth of the sound canvas and fills the middle with a life-giving thick substance. High frequencies, in turn, having taken the baton from the central part of the frequency range, complete the whole picture precisely, consistently and unmistakably, not trying to stick out at all costs, but accurately understanding their place and meaning.
If we compare the sound of the 4400 with the SMB-02, we get the following picture: 02 sound more neutral, open, with a greater emphasis on displaying the composition’s micro-nuances. 4400, in turn, give a slightly more massive picture with better depth and macro detail. In general, the handwriting of the “older” model in the “younger” is recognizable, and the sound of both headphones is similar, but each of them has its own charm, shade and personality. In my opinion, the manufacturer was extremely scrupulous and thoughtful about setting up his “offspring”, which gave the right result. SMB-02 are perfect for working / listening and analyzing sound in a studio or at home, and 4400, accurately compensating for the desired area in the lower register, paint a sound picture that will not fade even in non-“sterile” conditions (street, traffic and other noisy places ).
But let’s get back directly to listening to the hero of our today’s review. PHONON 4400 render the audio canvas as a whole, in contrast, with enviable pressure and accurate reproduction of sound timbres.
Low frequencies are worked out tightly and expressively. The hit is tight, focused and powerful, the embossed bass parts sound thick and rich, they roll throughout the body, outlining the rhythm with a biting and crushing blow, as if with a whip adjusting the sounding composition, filling the middle with depth and lively weighty substance. No artificial pumping and hum, everything is powerful and accurate, honest and to the point.
Take Brian Bromberg’s test track “Freedom jazz dance” , where the 4400 accurately reproduces the playing of the bass guitar: vibration, pressure and tension of the strings, sonorous slaps and beat of the string against the pickup.
Or another variation, The Stranglers – “Nice ‘n’ Sleazy,” where Jean-Jacques Burnel produces his disheveled growling notes that, like punks in concert, jump frantically across the neck of the bass guitar. Powerfully, driving, lively, for real! The headphones perfectly manage to convey the perky atmosphere of this composition.
But it’s worth noting that the 4400s are not basshead headphones. There is no mumbling or hum, there is only an accurate and verified sound tuning, with an AFC close to the reference.
The middle is flat and smooth, with naturalistic reproduction of textures and good resolution. The positioning of the instruments in space is precise and realistic. Any sound is endowed with its own bodily shell. The midrange presentation is simultaneously solid, velvety and extremely detailed. Power, emotions and monitoring, drive and academics are perfectly combined here. Every timbre, every vibration of a voice or tremor of a string is transmitted extremely naturally and deeply.
Now let’s listen to Talking Heads – “Mr. Jones “ . We are immediately carried away into the sound jungle by Byrne ‘s Africanized jerking rattling on the strings. And right there after the composition burst into the composition, as if trumpeted by alarmed elephants, bravura and wild winds. The celebration in the song meadow continues with a shamanic dance performed by Tina Weymouth’s energized bass . Another moment and all the instruments are intertwined in an unbridled ethno-jazz riot, in which, however, each passage is clearly read and transmitted as authentically as possible. And Byrne’s ironic-exclaiming vocals charmingly give out:
“Mr. Jones is back in town
It’s his lucky day
Hold up your hands and shout
Jones is on his way … “
Bright, juicy and not a single note is lost in this amazing whirlwind!
High frequencies are reproduced clearly, smoothly and harmoniously. Their quantity and quality raises no objections. The register is transmitted clearly enough, without excessive sharpness and distortion. They harmoniously contribute to the common work, without whims and willfulness.
Well, and some more great music. Bob James Trio – “Bold Conceptions ” is a beautiful jazz composition, where the 4400s amazingly demonstrate their extremely correct and accurate reproduction of the high frequency range. Any touch of a hi-hat or a cymbal by the drummer, each beat – everything sounds so clear and precise that I won’t even be scattered with numerous complimentary epithets, but simply call such a polished study of the register a reference. There is no brightness, scattering or distortion, but there is a clear and extremely jewelry working out of the range.
In terms of genre preferences PHONON 4400 are not whimsical at all. They play interestingly both instrumental music, jazz, electronica, rock, and brutal genres.
The PHONON 4400 is an excellent headphone that will undoubtedly be appreciated by both professionals and the most demanding connoisseurs of high-quality sound.
They have everything: compact size, convenient folding design, solid assembly, comfort and, most importantly, high-quality genuine sound. In my opinion, the 4400 and SMB-02 models are worthy of our closest attention.