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PHONON SMB-03 Test by Bonedo


Here is a translation of a great detailed test review (4.5/5) by Mijk Van Djik on the top German music equipment related site Bonedo on our low-end monitoring headphones model the SMB-03:

The Phonon SMB-03 is equally suitable for playing and working on music”  

“symbiosis of DJ and studio headphones”

The small Japanese headphone manufacturer Phonon has already attracted sustained attention with its first product: The SMB-02 headphones have found their way into the studios of many well-known DJ producers because they are particularly suitable for producing and mixing club music when not on Monitor boxes can be used, e.g. B. on tour in the hotel room or in small, noisy Japanese apartments, where bedroom producers work most of the time under headphones on their music, because very few can afford the luxury of a soundproofed room with a loud monitor system and thick subwoofer.

With the SMB-03, Phonon has a cost-effective alternative to the SMB-02 in its portfolio, which is also highly suitable for DJs: foldable ear cups and high volume. We took the new Phonon into the studio and into the DJ booth.


The Phonon headphones from Kawasaki / Japan enjoy a high reputation in the international DJ guild. According to company boss Isao Kumano, the drive for the first product, the SMB-02, was "to reduce the difference between monitor speakers and monitor headphones", so that the headphones represent a good sound reference even without dedicated speakers.

With the Phonon 02 stick , the Japanese brought back the lollipop DJ headphone, as it is currently cult in the house and soul scene. Instead, the Phonon 4400 DJ headphones have meanwhile disappeared from the company portfolio. Instead, the SMB-03 is now available for the same price of 239 euros. However, it is not a designated DJ headphone, but was developed as an inexpensive SMB-03 alternative for studio use - but ...

The packaging

The SMB-03 comes in a brown cardboard case. The headphones and the detachable spiral cable are protected in a transparent plastic bubble bag. A real carrying bag or even a padded pouch are unfortunately not included in the scope of delivery.

The processing

The build quality of the SMB-03 is serious and solid. The auricle parts are made of sturdy plastic, the pull-out headband  is made of metal and the auricle and the headband pad are made of soft synthetic leather.

Headphones that are taken on tour and often stuffed roughly into side pockets that are already full should be extremely robust, especially if they have rotating auricle joints.

The Phonons give the impression that they can take a lot of poke. Nevertheless, I would advise not to overuse the auricle suspension.

The Ear cups

The oval-shaped ear cups lie very comfortably on the ears, because the soft synthetic leather cushions frame the ear perfectly. Although the headphones are not absolutely lightweight at around 250g (without cable), the ergonomically shaped shells are comfortable to wear for many hours, even if you are wearing glasses.

Also important for DJ headphones: The shells can be folded in by 90 ° so that the headphones fit flat into every DJ bag. I used another DJ headphone case because of the missing pouch.

The Headband

The robust headband is almost completely covered with soft synthetic leather, which does not rub even when worn for a long time. Even when wearing it around the neck, you hardly notice the strap in the neck and the chin rests comfortably on the soft auricle pads. Ideal for "lifestyle use".

The shells can be pulled out by up to 33 mm on both sides, so that even large heads can comfortably fit under the SMB-03

The Connection

I really like the connection cable. Not only because the gold-plated stereo jack plug with the screw-off adapter allows connection to both 6.3 mm and 3.5 mm headphone sockets. The black rubber-coated cable  itself brings the best of both worlds together: half on the plug is spiral-shaped, half on the left auricle is smooth. The spiral-shaped part hangs down comfortably in front of the DJ booth without twisting your knees or even stepping on it with your knees when you bend down for the records and tearing down the mixer or destroying the cable when you get up.

The smooth part, on the other hand, hangs straight down on the body without getting tangled in clothing and causing damage if you move the wrong way. It's all happened to me with other headphones, and not just to me. So kudos to Phonon for these small, very practical details. And although I prefer textile-sheathed cables, I find the rubber sheathing of the Phonon cable to be quite pleasant because it is slightly rough, so that it is easy to untangle even when it is tangled and does not rub nastily when it comes into contact with the skin. Festival DJs know what I'm talking about.

The length of the cable is also ideal: 130 cm (4.3 ft) in normal condition is perfect for use on the desk. And thanks to the stretching of the spiral cable, an additional 200 cm (6.5 ft) was possible in the test until the stereo mini jack plug slipped out of the headphones.

Yupp, the cable is detachable. According to Phonon, above all to connect the separately available and even better 4-wire LR ground connection cable of the SMB-01L for absolute high-end sound quality. But you can also use other detachable headphone connection cables, for example the textile-wrapped cables from V-Moda. Since I always clamp the left hand side when pre-listening, it's not unimportant for me: the cable is on the left earpiece.

The plug for the detachable cable is made of gold-plated metal and is equipped with a screwed-on adapter



The SMB-03 is loud. Unlike some other competitors, however, this is not expressed in a pronounced bass-heavy sound. It sounds very neutral, after all, it was primarily developed as a studio headphone. The panorama image is very open and natural, almost like sitting in front of a nearfield monitor. Disturbing frequencies are not glossed over and can be easily localized. The bass range can be assessed well because the bass is not reproduced overemphasized. The separation of bass drum and bass line is satisfactory even without a subwoofer, as is the detection of superfluous bass frequencies on tracks that have no place in the bass range.

Compared to headphones that are more bass-heavy, the SMB-03 may initially seem a bit bony in the bass range. This impression disappears quickly when one has accepted the neutral reproduction philosophy of the Phonon.

Phonon has left the SMB-03 nice and simple and dispensed with too much logo bling-bling - a headphone "for those who know"

What is missing?

As already mentioned, a small carrier bag would be nice. Nowadays, even cheap headphones are often supplied with their own bags and it is a real shame that Phonon does not make use of the option of printing your own logo in large on the headphone pouch included in the scope of delivery.

It is also a pity that the SMB-03 does not have a Bluetooth connection. The part is also so comfortable to wear as lifestyle and street headphones, it would be perfect if the DJ could quickly check the playlist of the evening via Bluetooth on the way to the gig. But there are dedicated Bluetooth pods for that and there are still too few good DJ headphones with this functionality, so I don't want to chalk this up for the SMB-03.

For whom is it?

The Phonon SMB-03 is a very successful all-round headphone for DJ / producers. This is particularly evident in day-to-day work: listening to promos on the laptop in the morning, assessing the depth and bass range of a production in the studio in the afternoon, and hanging up in a noisy club at night - all this is possible with these one headphones.

As the sole studio headphones for budget-oriented producers, there are certainly other solutions. The Phonon is particularly fascinating because of its all-rounder capabilities.

The Phonon SMB-03 is equally suitable for playing and working on music


Conclusion (4.5 / 5)

The Phonon SMB-03 became a constant companion in the course of this test and I had it with me almost everywhere. It fits in every pocket, is robust on the road, nice and loud in the DJ booth and sounds great in the studio. There are certainly more neutral and specialized studio headphones, but for “international touring artists” who like to travel with small luggage, the SMB-03 is ideal for the stage, studio and hotel room. And even "normal" DJ producers who are looking for all-round headphones for all situations and who do not need Bluetooth functionality will find the perfect companion in the affordable Phonon SMB-03


  • high volume
  • good neutral sound
  • very good wearing comfort
  • very practical connection cable
  • stable construction
  • Artificial leather covers of the auricles
  • affordable price


  • Delivery without carrying case
  • no bluetooth functionality

Phonon SMB-03: symbiosis of DJ and studio headphones

  • Model: Phonon SMB-03
  • Type: closed dynamic DJ headphones
  • Driver: 40 mm
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB / mW
  • Frequency response: 10 Hz - 24,000 Hz
  • maximum power: 450 mW
  • Impedance: 32 Ω
  • Weight: 250 g (without cable)
  • Plug: 6.3 / 3.5 mm, gold-plated
  • Cable: detachable spiral cable (OFC)
  • Price: 239.00 euros

You can find more information on the  SMB-03 Here 

For the full article in German and with photos please go to here to

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