A Day with the Phonak Audéo Team

 MG 8449 480 A Day with the Phonak Audéo Team

Phonak – one of the world’s leading hearing aid companies and manufacturer of our current editor’s choice in-ear phones, the Audéo PFE – invited me to participate in an earphone workshop in Zurich, the largest city of the country the Japanese Heidi, Girl of the Alps cartoon originates from.

Not sure what to expect but very excited about the opportunity I hopped on the plane. Arriving in Switzerland, I joined the very enthusiastic and motivated Audéo team for discussions and feedback on their current phones, different possible color variants of the housing, different acoustic filters, outlooks on possible upcoming models, and some general geeking out and brainstorming with this merry bunch of Eidgenossen.

 MG 8462 640 thumb 150x100 A Day with the Phonak Audéo Team
 MG 8458 640 thumb 150x100 A Day with the Phonak Audéo Team

Highlights of the day included listening to several prototype IEMs Samuel Harsch, the acoustics engineer responsible for the Audéo PFE’s sound signature, whipped up. I can’t tell you much about them in detail except that they all sounded mighty fine, and quite a bit different compared to the currently available model. One or two of these could very likely satisfy people that appreciate an equal-loudness contour applied to their music instead of a flat ‘studio monitor’ response. Since what I heard was definitely very refined I would say those prototypes are tuned for the connoisseur ‘bass aficionado’, not your lowly common ‘bass head’ – while still keeping the trademark sparkling Audéo treble and clarity intact. Needless to say, I can’t wait to hear what the final product will sound like.

 MG 8465 640 thumb 150x100 A Day with the Phonak Audéo Team MG 8452 640 thumb 150x100 A Day with the Phonak Audéo Team

I brought some of my personal stash of IEMs to the workshop for the people to listen to, and Samuel, a true engineer at heart, of course couldn’t resist analyzing and measuring them.

 MG 8459 640 thumb 100x150 A Day with the Phonak Audéo Team

One eye-opening experience of the day was seeing on precise testing equipment how strongly silicon and foam tips can affect sound reproduction, especially in the upper treble regions. This – badly framed, sorry – screenshot shows a competitor’s IEM frequency response with its stock silicon tips and with the acoustically optimized PFE tips in comparison. The photo shows that the thoughtfully engineered PFE tips manage to get more than 2 kHz higher treble response from any phone, not just the ones they’re intended to be used with. It’s all about filters, resonance, and sound tubes for armature IEMs… fancy braided silver cables and similar voodoo won’t give you that improvement in sound quality.

Oh, another thing I learned: Swiss restaurants serve excellent coffee, just like in Italy – Austria and Germany, better take note.


WalkGood on February 1, 2010 7:47 PM

Good to hear, sounds like you had fun :) Am I imagining or are those your ue11s being analyzed and how did they fare out?

Martin Sägmüller on February 2, 2010 8:13 AM

They turned out to have enough bass. ;)

Swiss Guy on February 3, 2010 8:32 AM

Now if only they would start selling the PFE at a reasonable price in their home country. 170 USD is beyond reason for what looks too flimsy to be of real use. I’ll stick with my new JVC FX500 (which is no cheaper but bass wise the most impressive headphone, IEM or not, I’ve heard so far – much clearer than the Bijou 3 but similar amounts of raw power plus headshaking lows)

Joeey Danny on February 13, 2010 9:17 PM

“170 USD is beyond reason for what looks too flimsy to be of real use.”The victors are piss-poor compared to the PFE, not to mention being dynamic drivers as supposed to balance armature drivers in the PFE.Sound is what matters. In addition, just because it “looks flimsy” does not mean it is. I had trouble tearing it apart with pliers, unless you are chewing on it you have absolutely no reason to worry about the build. I have no idea why you would.

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