Phonak Audéo PFE (Perfect Fit Earphone) Review

phonak 00 main Phonak Audéo PFE (Perfect Fit Earphone) Review

Phonak, a market leading Swiss hearing aid company that has been around for over 50 years, recently joined the competitive in-ear monitor game with the release of their single armature based Audéo PFE (“Perfect Fit Earphones”).

While Phonak’s high-end hearing aids go for several thousands of dollars, their earphones are quite reasonably priced at $139 for the regular phone version and $159 for the headset version with microphone.

Read on for the full lowdown, but hold on to your wallet if you’re easily excited about earphones with near-perfect clarity and resolution – for a lower price than most of the competition offers…

  • Phonak Audéo PFE (“Perfect Fit Earphone”) Specs
  • Driver: single balanced armature
  • Sensitivity: 107 dB @ 1 mW
  • Impedance: 32 Ohm @ 1 kHz
  • Frequency range: 5 Hz – 17 kHz
  • Cable: 110 cm / 3.6 ft (Y-style), straight 3.5 mm gold-plated plug, microphone (optional)
  • Accessories: Carrying case, silicon tips (S/M/L), Comply foam tips (M), cleaning tool, acoustic filters, silicon ear guides
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Accessories

The Audéo PFE come with the usual accessories one would expect with a medium-priced ear monitor – but the items that stick out in a very positive way are the ingenious silicon ear guides which provide a proper over-the-ear fit and reduce cable noise. These silicon “memory wires” are removable and fit on most other earphone cables as well. All other in-ear phones I tried them with did also benefit from a better cable fit and reduced cable noise transmission. Phonak had a quite bright idea with those, and it seems they are going to sell these cable guides separately – if you have cable noise issues or cables slipping you should give them a try.

The carrying pouch is quite nice as well, as it has two compartments – one for the phones, the other one for the accessories. Since it’s made of quite thin fabric it won’t keep your phones from cracking when you sit on them, but it’s a good way to keep all the tiny parts in one place.

Silicon tips are very similar to the ones that come with Shure earphones, thick and sturdy, with unobtrusive injection mold ridges. They do their job very well and aren’t likely to tear. Foam tips supplied with the Audéo are of the fancy, expensive Comply kind. The PFE only come with medium sized Comply foam tips, which are probably too small for a lot of ears out there. Well, they give you a “fix” of the good stuff and expect you to buy the ones fitting your ears separately…

Phonak took a welcome modular approach with the Audéo PFE’s sound signature. They provide two varieties of acoustic filters and a filter changing tool with the phones. One kind of filter (white) gives a more midrange-centric signature, the other one (black) is more of a loudness-contour kind of sound presentation, boosting bass and treble a bit. It might not be as sophisticated as the Sleek SA6’s tweakability, but it gets the job done – and the difference between the filters is audible, to a certain extent.

The downside to these filters might be that they need to be replaced over time, but I can’t say how long the filters hold up, and how much some replacement filters are going to cost (two pairs of both filter variants come with the Audéo, four black, four white).

Design, Build, Specs

Phonak clai
ms their single armature drivers go from a 5 Hz earthquake-simulation straight up to 17 kHz. While I (and probably many other humans) don’t hear these absolute extremes or have music that contains these bass frequencies, the Audéo’s drivers certainly cover the audible frequency range perfectly well. A 20 Hz bass is no issue for them; neither do they lack the upper-most treble extension.

Their decent impedance of 32 Ohm and their not overly exaggerated sensitivity of 107dB means one thing for real-life usage: they don’t hiss much, even with problematic players. They behave very well on the Cowon D2, known to be a somewhat hissy player with many low impedance phones, and they even passed the most devious of tests: plugging them into the epitome of hiss-inferno, the Nintendo DS. The Phonaks aren’t the loudest phones available, but of course they perform well with any modern player, being more than loud enough for anyone’s needs. Trading a little sound pressure level quantity for noiseless background quality certainly is the right thing to do.

Build quality is ok on the Audéo PFE; they’re neither the shabbiest nor the best built phones around. They’re all-plastic, with a decorative metal plate hiding two screws underneath, for access to the armature drivers. There aren’t any other in-ear phones I know of that use standard Phillips screws to hold them together. This might be a welcome target for DIY repairmen or other “tweak-a-holics”, since recabling the Audéo seems like a very easy task, compared to other earphones which are usually glued or snapped together.

The Audéo’s cables are top notch. They remind me of Shure’s SE530 cables in certain ways: thicker diameter than usual, very soft, little noise transmission, and virtually tangle-proof. The strain relief on the 3.5mm plug appears to be a bit stiff, the Y-splitter has no strain relief, and the part of the housing where the cable enters the earphones is rubberized… I’ve seen better solutions, but it work so far. Cable length is 110cm, which is slightly shorter than what most other companies use. I find this to be a great length, as there is no excess cable getting in the way, be it with the player in my trousers’ or in my jacket’s pocket. It might not be the perfect length for a basketball player or similar beanpole, but for me it’s just right.

On a side note: the Audéo PFE are made in Vietnam, which is somewhat out of the ordinary. Most other mass-manufactured phones usually come from China, Taiwan, Japan, or Korea. Vietnamese quality control certainly seems up to the task, no complaints there.

Let’s talk wearing comfort. The Audéo are marketed as “Perfect Fit Earphones” with “exceptional comfort” – well, they don’t really come close to that bold claim, at least for using them while sleeping. Phonak might be a company that has 50 years experience with hearing aids, but they sure failed at making their first earphones as comfortable as their advertisements promise. It’s rather simple, actually: doesn’t Phonak’s design team know that you don’t put sharp edges on earphones?

When using the Audéo for sleeping my ears feel like they’ve been resting on a two-by-four piece of lumber for the night. Anatomically speaking, these phones put pressure on some sensitive parts of my ears, specifically the inner side of the tragus, the part above the tragus, and the anti-helix. “Simple” shaped earphones like the Sennheiser CX300 or V-Moda Vibe are more comfortable for me and even bigger, bent ones like the Shure SE530 provide better comfort while sleeping.

However, to be fair: for regular use they’re ok and don’t hurt like when using them in bed, but my ears still get slightly irritated after some time when using them on the go. The bottom part of the housing is the main culprit here, the lower edge of the metal veneer tickling my ear’s anti-helix. It might just be me, though – people with bigger (or less sensitive) ears might have fewer issues.

This being said, the other part of Phonak’s “perfect fit” claim is true – they fit securely and aren’t likely to fall out. I’ve been working out with them, and they never even broke their seal. The silicon ear guides aren’t really necessary for a secure fit since the phones stay put on their own (well, I didn’t do cartwheels and similar capers). The guides are more useful for counteracting cable noise, but that might vary depending on a person’s ear shape. In any case, the Audéo PFE are a very good choices for people looking for workout phones.

The amount of outside noise isolation can be altered to fit one’s needs. With silicon tips the Audéo isolate about as much as every other IEM out there, with Comply foam tips they attenuate quite a bit more. They won’t block noise as efficiently as Shure SE530 foamies or Etymotic triple-flange tips, but they work well enough for reducing road, train, and similar noises so you don’t have to turn the volume on your MP3 player to unsafe levels.

Which brings me to a point that’s quite important to me personally: I hate having to listen to dangerously high volume levels; I want to preserve my hearing for years to come. Fortunately, the PFE are phones that work quite well even at very low listening levels. Many other earphones don’t sound good at quiet levels (especially when driven by a wimpy MP3 player amp); they often lack bass impact, detail, and dynamics. The Audéo are an exception to this rule, they sound very acceptable at low volume settings. Some day your ears will thank you for that.

Sound

Phonak sent me a prototype version of their Audéo PFE a few months ago. Back then I wasn’t overly pleased with the small amount of bass this preproduction unit delivered. Now, a few months later I was quite surprised when I put the bass-enhancing filters onto my new final-version Audéo, started listening, and noticed these things now actually got some of the desired “oomph” going on. The prototypes had about as little bass as Etymotic ER-6, and the various filters didn’t really help much. Now they have about as much as the q-Jays, but with slightly deeper bass extension and less roll-off. Furthermore, none of that silly midbass exaggeration that can be found in cheap boomy phones is present in the Audéo’s sound; it’s all the real deal, all the way down to 20 Hz, tight and punchy. However, as good as the quality is, the quantity certainly won’t please a diehard basshead – at least not without some EQ tweaking.

Midrange is very neutral, detailed, and smooth. Where phones like the q-Jays might sound “hollow” and Etymotic “too forward” with certain audio material, the Audéo sound very natural and balanced. They’re not quite up to the glorious smoothness of the SE530’s midrange, but considering the Audéo’s price range, they’re more than fine. Even very complex music like orchestral pieces or dense heavy metal tracks sound good and are reproduced with ease. It seems as if Phonak’s history in creating hearing aids shows here as well, as human voices seem to have a particularly great intelligibility on the PFE. I would say the Audéo fit well in the noble “ear monitor” category; a mere “earphone” denomination is a bit of an understatement.

Treble quantity is just about right – less than the q-Jays, more than the SE530, about as much as the UE11. The actual quantity depends a bit on the acoustic filters used, but I didn’t notice as much difference between the two filter varieties as with the bass response. Treble quality is great, in every way. It’s never harsh or sibilant, yet there’s no detail missing in the music. They sparkle without hurting, so to speak – and that’s a good thing. I didn’t notice any significant roll-off, which isn’t the norm with single armatures trying to reproduce the whole audible frequency range, but the Audéo don’t disappoint; right up to my hearing’s limits (ca. 16.5 kHz).

From the above paragraphs you might already have g
uessed that the PFE’s clarity, resolution, and instrument separation is nothing to sneer at. Usually you find this kind of precision only in a higher price segment, but the Audéo take on the big boys with ease. The PFE do match the clarity of my personal reference – the Ultimate Ears UE11 – to a certain extent, so that’s probably as good as it gets for earphones (to the best of my knowledge). They stomp all over dynamic driver IEMs when it comes to detail and precision. They even make some of the medium-priced “benchmark” armature phones like the Etymotic ER-6 or Super.Fi 5 Pro sound a little muddy and anemic in comparison.

The Audéo’s armatures are “edge-firing”; they are mounted at a right angle to the nozzle that leads into the ear canal. I can’t be certain this has anything to do with the rather decent stereo imaging (“soundstage”) the PFE’s deliver, but it might be a contributing factor. As it is the case with all other ear monitors, the soundstage is pretty much in your head and doesn’t psychoacoustically expand beyond the physical limitations. However, I’ve certainly heard worse ones. The Audéo’s soundstage isn’t as wide as the SE530’s, the V-Moda Vibe’s, or similar phones, but it is wider than the Etymotic’s, Super.Fi 5’s, and even the UE11’s. However, it doesn’t deliver the pinpoint accuracy and 3D feeling of the UE11; the PFE is more of the usual “three blob” soundstage.

Conclusion

Bassheads have perhaps stopped reading this review already a few paragraphs above – but to reiterate: these phones are probably not for you. The PFE are the right phones for people who appreciate the sound signature of, say, the q-Jays, Etymotic ER-4, or the AKG K701. They do have a certain quantity of bass, with better quality than many other earphones, though.

Considering the comparatively low price of the Audéo PFE, it’s a no-brainer: they give you the perhaps best clarity and precision in the sub-$150 earphone price range. They have better treble than the SE530, better midrange than the q-Jays, and a decent soundstage for an IEM. They are definitely worth their price. Sure seems like certain single armature implementations have come a long way… Higher priced multi-armature IEMs like the UE11 or the SE530 are of course better in certain aspects, but the improvements stand in no relation to their price.

With the bass boost filters I find them to be reasonably fun and exciting to listen to, with the midrange boost filter they are a little more “polite” and analytical. Both variants sound quite punchy and dynamic to me; however I do prefer the more bass heavy approach. I wouldn’t mind if they had slightly more bass quantity overall – let’s wait and see if Phonak releases some bass heavier filters in the future. In the meantime, a little EQing won’t hurt.

If you have a good source and properly encoded audio files you will enjoy them – mostly when listening to classical, jazz, folk, or other varieties of acoustic music. Various genres or rock and heavy metal are equally well reproduced (as long as you can live without an overly visceral “oomph” in the lowest octaves), since the Audéo’s armatures handles dense, complex material quite well. A personal anecdote: the Audéo almost appear to be specially made for listening to the band Opeth – they handle both their airy acoustic interludes and their brute metal parts equally well. I can’t say the same about too many other earphones.

They might not be the most comfortable (despite all of Phonak’s marketing speech), but they should be comfortable enough for most people, and the price/value ratio is very fair. So I can say with good conscience: highly recommended. Phonak Audéo PFE are among the nicest things to come from Switzerland since wristwatches and cheese.

Now excuse me while I’m off to slap an “Editor’s Choice” badge on them.

Pros

  • Very good dynamic midrange and treble, decent bass
  • Excellent clarity, precision, resolution – perhaps the best in this price range
  • Acoustic filters to change the sound signature
  • Barely noticeable background hiss with problematic sources
  • Ingenious silicon ear guides, little cable noise

Cons

  • Not quite as “exceptionally comfortable” as advertised (but very secure fit)
  • Acoustic filters might need to be replaced over time

Purchase

These phones can be picked up on Amazon or directly from Audéo. Price is $139/€119 for the standard version and $159/€139 for the version with microphone.

75 Comments

wise guy on November 19, 2008 2:16 PM

Great review guyz cool phones nice price might get one soon if i see it on market

Caleb on November 19, 2008 3:24 PM

“the Audéo almost appear to be specially made for listening to the band Opeth – they handle both their airy acoustic interludes and their brute metal parts equally well. I can’t say the same about too many other earphones.”You had me sold with that phrase. :D

Martin Sägmüller on November 19, 2008 3:52 PM

Heheh… Opeth certainly deserve good phones.

Rick Spoketire on November 19, 2008 7:13 PM

Wow, these make my super.fi 3 look really bulky.

Martin Sägmüller on November 20, 2008 9:18 AM

Thanks to Morfic for the info, here’s the prices for the accessories:$10 for 8 filters and changing tool. Black and gray.$8 for 3 sets of silicone tips and cleaning tool.$13 for 3 sets of comply tips with cleaning tool.$8 for 3 sets of silicone ear guides.

Paul on November 21, 2008 11:57 PM

Where can I buy these? I can’t find where on their website.

aleks on November 23, 2008 9:35 AM

I really appreciated your sentence on the Switzerland. I’m happy you will discover more from this day.Seems to be good IEMs.

Martin Sägmüller on November 24, 2008 2:39 PM

Here’s a German store that has them for EUR 99.50 (thanks to Taron for the link): http://shop.hoergesundheit.de/product_info.php?info=p129_Phonak-Aud-o-Ohrhoerer.html

Nero on November 25, 2008 10:10 AM

With the Vibes now in their maturity, and easily found at $80 and less, would you say that these new phones are a significant upgrade? I absolutely LOVE my V-Moda Vibes, and even though $140 or so is not a huge ton to pay for good IEM’s, it would have to be a huge improvement before even considering upgrading.Has anyone done any kind of a direct head-to-head comparison (lately) between these newer-generation sub-$150 IEM’s?

Martin Sägmüller on November 25, 2008 4:54 PM

I did not mention phones like the Vibes and similar in my review because the Phonaks are quite a bit better (or at least very different from the Vibes, depending on one’s taste). They can only be compared to q-Jays, SE530, and the like. Comparing them to sub-$100 phones is pretty much futile…

Marcel on November 28, 2008 8:52 AM

Today I got my pair of Phonaks and I have to say they’re worth every cent. I had my Shure E2Cs now for 2 years, which I thought to be good earphones. But since the cable started to crack, I thought I could finally take a step up. And what a step it is. I didnt think they would be so much better. Well I could ramble on, but I would just reiterate Martins review. Its true that they could lack the certain “oomph” for some people, but I’m not that bass-addicted. What the Phonaks lack in bass quantity, they compromise through perfect sound-quality overall. As for Martins complaints about the comfort, I personally dont have any; no edges pressing on any parts of my ear, but that could just be lucky me.Because I live in Germany, I had problems with finding good IEMs, which werent overpriced. But 99€ for the Phonaks is really cheap.So I can definitively confirm the recommendation, especially for the people living in europe, who dont want to buy tax-loaded earphones.In the end I’d like to thank Martin for guiding me through this vast sea of mp3-players and earphones.(I use the Phonaks with the Cowon D2 by the way)

Mads Olsen on November 28, 2008 3:23 PM

Thanks for the review!I’m a miserable fool. I’ve lost my Shure SE500PTH. Yes, lost them in a subway train..!I thought about buying a new pair (530s), but your review has got me considering the swiss way.Now, are the Phonaks more or less bass heavy than the Shures? I don’t think I can live with lesser bass than what the Shures deliver.

Martin Sägmüller on December 1, 2008 7:27 PM

The Phonak certainly have less bass than the SE530 – but better quality, more punch, and deeper extension.

CJ Hansen on December 3, 2008 2:39 AM

Enjoyed the review, thank you…I have been looking far and wide for a good IEM for a good price and it appears that Phonak fits the bill. You mentioned the Etymotic ER-4 at the tail end of the review… How would you say they compare with the Phonak?

Martin Sägmüller on December 3, 2008 7:12 AM

I believe the Phonak surpass the 14 (?) year old ER-4 design in quite a few aspects: more realistic bass response, higher treble extension without roll-off, far better soundstage.

Xander on December 5, 2008 9:24 PM

How would you compare the PFE’s to Future Sonic’s Atrio M5′s? I’m debating between the two… similar price range and I’ve heard good things about both.

Martin Sägmüller on December 6, 2008 9:57 AM

The Phonak and Atrio are as different as night and day. Atrio have insane amounts of bass, rolled off, recessed treble, and a general “warm”, “laid-back” sound, with way less precision than the Phonaks. Both phones are great, but they’re certainly polar opposites.

SoundFreak on December 17, 2008 7:37 PM

Now I have the q-Jays ive had them for 6 months I was wondering Martin would you suggest these over the q-Jays and what do you mean about the mid-range sounding hollow in the q-jays ive never ever experienced this.

Martin Sägmüller on December 20, 2008 11:52 AM

Well, the Phonaks replaced the q-Jays as Editor’s Choice… yes, I would suggest the Phonaks over the q-Jays – better sound in general, for a smaller price.The Phonak’s midrange sound “fuller”, less recessed. This might be because the Phonaks have a bit more bass and less treble than the q-jays.

deton8 on December 29, 2008 2:46 PM

Martin, how would you compare the bass of these phones to the Atrio M5 and UE Super.Fi 5 (non-EB)?I listen mainly to hip-hop (with a bit of almost everything else) but I’m not after exaggerated bass, just “faithful” to the source (and better than the stock D2 buds!)

Martin Sägmüller on December 30, 2008 9:01 AM

“Faithful” is what you get with the Audéo. No exaggerated bass, but a very detailed, textured, layered one – contrary to the flabby one-note boom you get from cheap basshead phones. Furthermore, the Audéo might even extend deeper into the sub-bass than those phones that are tuned for exaggerated midbass.

walker on December 30, 2008 8:20 PM

i just ordered these to replace my sonys that i lost. im extremely excited!

Brahma on January 1, 2009 1:08 AM

I listen primarily to a lot of metal.. Will these earphones be good or do u have any other recommendation within the same price range…

Martin Sägmüller on January 2, 2009 12:11 PM

They’re very good for metal, hence my Opeth comment in the review.

Konrad on January 2, 2009 5:19 PM

I was about to get the SE310, when I saw your review yesterday. Now I’m not sure anymore. I’m particularly concerned with good isolation as I live in a very noisy environment, and an overall good sound. I listen primarily to jazz and blues. What would you say Martin? Many thanks.

Huva on January 7, 2009 7:48 AM

Martin , how you compare them to the new UE superfi 5 ?are the low impudence of superfi 5 a weak in bass performance ?when could we know that the filters of Audéo has to be replaced , and where we can find them ?

bigtonio on January 9, 2009 6:16 PM

Hi there.I listen to metal music, and progressive rock, that is rather energetic music …I had the opportunity to test this afternoon the Westone UM2, the Shure SE530, the phonak and the triple.fi 10.ProI was ready to put 300€ in a good pair of IEM … And after more than 2 hours of intensive tests … No IEM was at the level of perfection that that PFE 112 delivers.They are absolute madness for the price, and this is all the more insane … that it’s a single driver model.Seriously this IEM have an exceptional clarity (sound like cristal clear) and offer a great and precise bass line (even for metal !!)I’m totally under the shock of their sound quality. I was planning to buy the UM2 but they were really no match for the phonak regarding the treble section …BTW : I used the black filter for the test (the one that add both bass and treble). If u choose to put the grey filter u’ll have a great pair of Q-jays for 50% less of the cost …Everybody should at least give it a try.

travelfotografer on January 9, 2009 7:08 PM

I am really glad I got the PFE. Thanks Martin for the review and recommendation!I initially found the PFE with the Fuze terrible; there was no bass! I switched to the black filters and it became much better, but the bass was still weak and it added a veil over the wonderful mid-range I heard with the gray filter.I then switched back to the gray filter and added my Fiio E3 between the Fuze and PFE… and I am in sonic bliss! The clarity and musicality of the mid-range is retained by the gray filter (I listen to vocals a lot) and the Fiio put in all the missing bass! And the bass is not muddy at all! It is much more impactful and still retained the deep multi-layered bass of the PFE, just louder and richer!I am so happy with the Fuze – Fiio E3 – PFE that I ordered the Fiio E5 for my portable setup.My current reference setup for is the Fuze – Griffen Dock Line Out – Total AirHead – Senn HD650.

Confispect on January 12, 2009 7:42 PM

Excellent earphones my review on them is in the forum. I agree with Bigtonio Cristal clear you know I was thinking I want a new pair of In-Ear’s I saw the Phonak’s and thought what better In-Ears to get then a In-Ear thats made by a hearing aid company!.Anyhow,read review in the Phonak Audeo PFE Thread started by Martin.

Huva on January 12, 2009 9:33 PM

I initially found the PFE with the Fuze terrible; there was no bass! I switched to the black filters and it became much better, but the bass was still weak and it added a veil over the wonderful mid-range I heard with the gray filter.Again…I Think i m going straight a Head for UE Sfi-5, at least it guarantied my Low-End Bass .( Coz oftenly, m listening to Electro-dynamic music)

Huva on January 12, 2009 9:37 PM

32Ohms of impedance ..I think there are a need for an amplifier here ?

detroit on January 14, 2009 12:35 AM

Review mentioned these phones are not for Bassheads several times but the reviewer failed to mention candidates for us bassheads to investigate. So exactly what phones do your refer to which performs well in the bass department? I don’t have time to be reading every single review on your site but a nice little reference would be useful in this review and future reviews.regards

Konrad on January 14, 2009 4:31 PM

Future Sonics Atrio, the newer version released last year is supposed to be even better in terms of sound, and built quality.http://www.anythingbutipod.com/archives/2007/06/future-sonics-atrio-m5-m8-review.php

Martin Sägmüller on January 15, 2009 11:06 AM

You really can’t compare the Atrios and the Phonaks, they’re totally different sounding phones. One isn’t “better” than the other, there are many factors to consider.But indeed, for bassheads the Atrio and the Sennheiser IE8 seem to be among the best high-quality IEM choices.

deton8 on January 17, 2009 10:47 AM

Martin, you were dead-on about the sub-bass! I have this one track with a good down low rumble my subwoofer picks up, but the Yuin PK3s miss… With the Phonaks, I got it back :) Thanks again for the recommendation!

Don on January 23, 2009 12:56 PM

Great review and a very tempting product. I JUST bought and have been trying out Westone UM1′s on my 8gb Zune. Listenting to a lot of Dave Matthews live, Tragically hip, and Ben Folds and i’m tremendously disappointed in the UM1′s, however the Zune doesn’t have an EQ of any sort so the entire process results in a very flat experience, with my girlfriends ipod WITH the rock or bass boosted setting turned on the UM1′s improve a fair bit…but i want to keep the zune as i like the interface and audio quality a lot more). I want accurate represenatation of voices and instruments. Symbols and bass both. Is the Phonak the choice or is something else (sub 200$) a more appropriate match.I plan to use them for sport (cycling) and for training. Travel and for that hour or so before sleep. The UM1′s fit into my ear and don’t protrude so i really like that and i find them super comfortable.upgrade to a um2 is an additional 200$ (total about 299$) and that’s a bit more than i want to spend now…but would if it absolutely made the difference as a long term pair of quality phones.thanks.

Gary Stepic on January 28, 2009 10:46 AM

I really appreciate this site and the reviews!I just bought the Phonaks and am a little disappointed. It sounded kind of tinny and very weak bass. I did replace the grey filter with the black one and that helped and having them placed correctly in the ear really makes a huge difference, so they sound much better then when I first tried them.I have no idea why this makes a difference but I know electronic products often need break in time. I bought the Sansa Clip because of the review and was disappointed at first but now love the mighty might player.So am I correct in assuming I should give the Phoneks several hours of break in time before I pass final judgement? I used the supplied foam tips so maybe I should also try the silicone tips as well, but don’t think that would make a difference.I don’t think I am a basshead but I do like a little thump in the bass. Even the voices sound more full with my Creative supplied earbuds, but again I think I need to break in the Phoneks, I hope so anyway.

D on January 28, 2009 4:58 PM

Great review as usual. Totally convinced me. I actually spotted them on Amazon for $109, so I jumped at the opportunity. All I can say is WOW! Well, actually more….. I was previously using some UE metro.fi 2′s, so upon first listening to the PFE, I was amazed! I kept telling myself, I’ve never heard that before! Anyway, I’m using my trusty Nokia 5800XM and music sounds great, maybe I should “borrow” my daughters Clip? LoL. Great stuff here, keep it coming!

Peter on January 28, 2009 5:54 PM

I’ve bought Audeo recently. And what can I say… They are just the best earphones I’ve ever heard. To compare with my UE super.fi 5Pro: Audeo has deeper bass, better controlled and better quality. They are more detailed, treble and mids are just amazing. Soundstage is also better. So in a word super.fi5pro lost competition at the begining.I’ve also compared them to Harman Kardon 730HD and the Phonak’s are just the best. I’ve heard many of IEM’s like UM1, ER6i, even LiveWires T1 – they’re no competition for the Audeo PFE 112.In my opinion they sound best with D2. But iPod is also a good source.Audeo’s are worth buying!

jacky on February 11, 2009 11:03 AM

Hi,is it possible to wear the phonaks as u use most of the iems? Meaning that the cables go straight down from your ears without going behind your ears?

akatsukiotoko on February 11, 2009 11:10 AM

Fantastic review!!!

Martin Sägmüller on February 13, 2009 1:01 PM

Jacky, that’s not possible with the Phonaks.

Molikugoto on February 14, 2009 8:25 PM

Thank you for a review. It push me to purchase the Phonaks, the phones are absolutely lovely, they became the best comrades with my D2. I burn-in them periodically already in total for 50 hours with pink and white noise, honestly so far no difference compare to out of box sound. I guess the EQ settings required on D2 to squeeze a bass.

Ten4 on March 6, 2009 2:05 AM

I’ve been using mine for two months now on a Q1 and a Clip and I do have to say that Martin’s review pegs them very well.I would have to say the over ear plastic guide isn’t the best, very cheap option for such quality buds. A more solid and form fitting guide would have been better for sport use let alone everyday wear and tear.

Greg on March 6, 2009 10:02 AM

I just wanted to thank Martin for his detailed reviews. In fact, his reviews of Shure SE530 and the Phonaks were right on. I first purchased the SE530 and my impressions were exactly like Martin’s. Now I have returned the 530 and got the Phonaks. They are absolutely lovely and very very comfortable to wear. SE530 just did not have that sparkly treble + they were uncomfortable for me.Thank you, Martin, these IEMs are really great.

Greg on March 6, 2009 10:04 AM

P.S. Listening to Opeth :-)

parkpy on March 7, 2009 1:57 AM

I had the pleasure of owning Shure E2Cs that started to disintegrate very shortly after purchasing them. They finally bit the bullet not too long ago, and my significant other decided that she loved the replacement pair of shures I had lying around (I thought I lost the disintegrating ones quite a while ago). This meant upgrade time for me.Thanks to your review, I am now enjoying the Phonaks. They are truly fantastic, and sound so much *fuller* than the Shures. They don’t sound as nice as the Grado SR60s that I have, in my opinion, but these Phonaks are so good that I don’t feel the need to ever put the Grados on ever again.I don’t want the significant other ever putting these on. I have a feeling that I’d be buying her a pair when she mysteriously brings them to me in pieces shortly after experiencing how wonderful these IEMs are.Thanks again!

topkop on March 9, 2009 1:22 AM

Hi, great review as always.One question though, how would you compare this to Nuforce NE8?

KaaGeej on March 14, 2009 4:53 PM

The review of these things make me want to insta-buy them. But I am concerned about the noise isolation, a big role for my next in ears is using them as a monitor while I’m drumming.I’ve had Shure E2C’s before and they did the trick, are the Phonak’s up for the same ammount of isolation?Thanks!

Greg on March 17, 2009 9:07 AM

KaaGeej:They will not be firing range-proof Etymotics, but once music is playing, you cannot hear a thing. Once music is off, you could hear muffled conversations, etc.

roolins on April 2, 2009 8:40 PM

Martin,I really like the idea of the Phonaks apart from the bass issue. I like to listen to all range of music from metal to drum and bass and love a crisp clear bass, but it doesn’t need to blow my eardrums. Will I be dissapointed (I can’t test for myself as can’t find anyone in NZ that does them)? Can they ‘handle’ the bass if the EQ is turned up? Thanks for your help

Dennis on April 29, 2009 11:20 AM

I am looking to use earphones for both my ipod and my phone and I am in NYC a fair amount walking around. From your review do you think the audeo would be better than something like the etymotic ef2? Noise cancellation is important for me in this environment too.

TR on May 1, 2009 3:17 PM

To Dennis: They arn’t the best choice if sound cancellation is very important to you. Heavy traffic ruins the listening experience for me. You should check out http://www.anythingbutipod.com/archives/2008/06/shure-se530-pth-review.php

Dennis on May 4, 2009 5:31 PM

Good input, I am going to try out the Shures and will let you know how they work.

Geoff on May 19, 2009 6:07 PM

Knowing I only want to invest $200 on a set of earphones with a mic…do you prefer these Audeo Phonak’s over the Shure SE210′s and the Etymotic hf2′s…thanks for your input

Twitchy on May 21, 2009 10:45 AM

@travelfotografer”I switched to the black filters and it became much better, but the bass was still weak and it added a veil over the wonderful mid-range I heard with the gray filter.”Yes! I had the exact same thing but I didn’t know quite how to describe it (everything was a little more noticeably muffled); switched to the gray filters and put the EQ to BBE Mach3Bass on my SQ and everything is 10x better :) .

Tams on May 25, 2009 4:51 AM

I find the PFEs exceptional. I can’t compare them to much else, because they are the first step up from stock earbuds that I have taken. The PFEs, though do seem to deliver a brilliant sound.I got the PFE 121s (with the microphone). The sliding piece of plastic that keeps the two phones together can’t go past the microphone (you’d have thought that would have been obvious). Also, the microphone unit would have been better if it was more like the Apple one, but I suppose you can’t have everything.Another problem is I found is that the filters don’t seem to last very long and when they do deteriorate they go very quiet. It is however stated that the filters do need replacing.For those who are prepared to go that little bit further, these may be of use: http://www.hearingprotection.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=60&Itemid=117.If they are compatible and someone does buy them, please leave a comment here!

aryahave on June 8, 2009 5:03 AM

Just bought’em here w/ 10% discount:http://yhst-19406721107629.stores.yahoo.net/earphones.htmlSounds great for Iron Maiden’s The Duelists, IMO felt like Alessandro’s MS-1.

zeffa on June 17, 2009 11:11 AM

Bought these about 4 months back, after reading this review. Well worth the money… I’ve not heard such detailed bass before.I previously had a pair of ER-6i’s which are way outclassed by these, in terms of sound, and comfort. I also find the slightly thicker wiring seems to reduce transmitted wire noise. Needless to say, I’ve not touched my ER-6i’s since.There are only a few small issues that annoy me from time to time. The silicon ear guards got loose quite quickly, and I eventually lost one. Fits well without it, but they probably could have come up with something better. I’ve also found that the olive eartips can easily come off. Luckily I haven’t managed to lose one yet.Martin, probably a silly question, but how do these compare to the UE11′s?

bearmann on July 14, 2009 1:52 PM

Hey there Martin,just wanted to let you know that I bought these little cuties a week ago – mainly because of your thorough review! Thanks a bunch! :) I’m 100% satisfied and enjoy every minute with my new Phonaks.I’m using the grey filter as I’m listening primarily to singer/songwriter stuff and soundtracks… love the details and clarity of the Phonaks.Best regards from Germany and keep up your good work!bearmann

jimi on August 12, 2009 10:17 AM

Hi, nice review.i was wondering if u have heard of the etymotic’s HF5, since these are about the same price range as that one can you do a comparison between them becasue im looking to buy either the HF5 or the PFE. Also on a side note, as sound signatures go, do u think etys or this PFE would be better for slow pop music i.e. vocals + piano/violin..etc. Thanks for such a thorough review =)

bigtonio on October 8, 2009 11:15 AM

I have owned these 2 pairs of headphone, and the phonak is definitely better. Both have wonderful high frequencies, but the phonak have good tigh bass, whereas the Ety have no bass section at all …I’d like to add, that the PFE are wonderful with an amp … like the P3+ Heron Ibasso for example … It adds openness and bass quantity to the global signature

Melvin on November 13, 2009 11:57 AM

Agree with bigtonio above.This divine combo makes Hotel California’s bass sounds AWESOME !Diana Krall seems to to singing next to my ear !

marvin on November 22, 2009 8:47 AM

“They’re all-plastic, with a decorative metal plate hiding two screws underneath, for access to the armature drivers.” — pls explain to a dummie how _do_ you remove the metallic-colour plastic plate? seems glued on doesn’t it? :-/

jonathan on December 29, 2009 7:29 PM

I’ve owned a pair of Shure E2Cs and a pair of E4Cs. These are great buds – the bass is clear and the highs are crisp. No fuzz, no distortion. Sounds like live music is coming from the center of your skull. Great buds.I recently bought a pair of Phonak Audeo PFEs (based largely on the review here). I’m now returning them because they don’t sound anywhere as rich or clear as the Shure buds. Bass is fuzzy and I’m picking up lots of crackle and static in the background.Yes, I am inserting them properly and yes I am testing them against high quality MP3s.I will likely be saving up for another pair of E4Cs, unless someone in a similar situation can suggest another option.

aaron on February 9, 2010 4:02 PM

I was looking for something to passively block noise that is reasonably comfortable. I bought the PFE 122 version, and have found the listening experience horrible.This is my first set of IEMs, so maybe my expectations are off, but tere is TONS of line noise. I can’t move at all without hearing it loudly. For someone that walks alot, this totally defeats the purpose. I tried both silicon and comply filters, and have the eargaurds and all that. I hope that a set of small comply filters will help, as the mediums feel a little big.The audio quality is terrible, but this may be because they are not burned in yet though. I listen to audio books and the color and tonality of all vocals are very lacking. It’s easily the worst set of headphones I own (out of 6 ranging from default ipod earbuds to Sennheiser HD600).The grey “midtone” filters cut out almost all tonality in female vocal authors. The reader for the Sookie Stackhouse series sounds like a totally different, less expressive, person.The black “bass and treble” filters leave vocals sounding warbly and distorted.Overall, very disappointed with the money spent. I hope that burn in fixes the issue, otherwise I’ll try to return or replace.

jiamenguk on February 18, 2010 4:44 AM

@aaronThe thing about audio books is that most of them have a relatively low kbps (I don’t listen to them, but internet research shows that they’re mostly 128kbps). Since that the Phonaks are more about producing an accurate representation of a music file, a low kbps will mean that the sound will be terrible, have you tried audio books with higher quality?However I also did find the Phonaks sound relatively harsh in terms of sound, but after using the Sennheiser CX500′s for a few months, I’m getting almost sick of bass.I also thought that the cable noise was pretty low, considering that I could play a bass guitar with the wires on my other earphones and headphones.Anyways,I sent my Phonaks back to swap for a black pair, and now I’m dying to get them back… ergh… come back!

Anato on February 18, 2010 3:36 PM

I’m afraid of imitation. Does anyone know a safe place from which to order the original headphones. I tried the official site, but no support for my country

jiamenguk on February 19, 2010 7:05 AM

@ Anato:I think it might help if you tell us where you are, lol, I (just got mine back today, quite happy) ordered from SwissHearingAids.co.uk, which I’d recommend as a good site, they sell them £10 cheaper than Hifi headphones (though they’re still £120), with no shipping fee within the UK. They also seems to do international shipping as well

Martin Krencey on February 21, 2010 5:01 AM

Hey guys,I have to say this site has the best reviews I have ever read in my life.I really appreciate it!Anyways, I am considering buying the Phonak’s but would like to ask if anyone could compare them to Ultimate Ears 700?I include a link in my name for more info.Thanks!

Martin Krencey on February 22, 2010 4:49 PM

Hey guys,has really no one heard both the Phonaks and UE 700 to compare?Please help!Thanks.

jiamenguk on February 23, 2010 5:29 AM

@ MartinNobody really posts on here very often Martin, I think you’d have better luck trying the headphones forum, or the head fi forum (from what I can see, the people there’s really nice and posts a tad more often)However, I was actually on almost exactly the same boat as you, I’ve been eyeing the £120 or so earphones for quite a while, and was really excited when Trustedreviews also posted a very positive review of the Phonaks, and mentioning the UE 700′s in the process, saying that it’s superior. But ever since they rate apple products (especially the nano and the touch) like the next best thing to Jesus and the Beatles, I always took their reviews with a grain of salt. Furthermore Abi and Trustedreviews seems to have different preferences for sound, like they’d rate Shure’s really highly and the UE Super fi 5′s relatively low, whereas on Abi rates them the other round.So since both websites, with different preferences in sound and music, rates the Phonak’s highly, I just went with it.Besides, the Phonaks look prettier

jiamenguk on February 23, 2010 5:32 AM

Just reread my first paragraph, and I sound like as if the Abi headphone’s forum’s less nicer, which, I’d like to instate, is definitely not true, lol, the forum here’s been absolutely brilliant and informative in so many different dimensions

lockdocker on April 4, 2010 11:41 AM

I would like to add that Phonak customer support is unbelievable responsive. Warranty is great, exchanged mine e.p. in 7 day not being charged a penny.

Justin on May 11, 2010 1:19 AM

Funnily enough, I find the black filters do, in fact, roll off a bit of treble- akin to using a 20 ft. instrument cable instead of 10 ft. with a high-quality instrument. I can say with a great deal of certainty, however, that the treble quality and precision is exceptional with the gray filters. A little EQ helps the bottom somewhat, but they’re nowhere near bassy, more balanced with a slight treble bias. Remarkably balanced and capable set of phones for the money.Do note: there is a 2nd revision on the market with slightly improved cables- same price, and available from the audeo site.

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