Phonak Audéo PFE 112 – Review

I like listening to music on a headphone/earphone setup for the following very practical reasons (I just like it that way, not being one of them!). I move around a lot and don’t want to lug around massive speakers (though sweet as they are, oh those Audioengines, KEFs….), my neighborhood is a silent one and I dislike keeping my speakers “tamed” ;-).

This is not going to be a detailed review cause there are better ones out there ( linked in this post).The Phonak Audéo PFE 112 is an IEM that simply wipes out most if not all of its similarly priced competitors. Ok, you can now stop reading and go get the Phonaks.. still not convinced!..read on.

Phonak Audeo PFE 112 - Black

Phonak Audéo PFE 112

I was a believer in “the gear doesn’t change the music” school of thought (oh, that school does exist!). Seriously, I’ve enjoyed songs playing out of a scratchy old tape player found in most typical South Indian tea-stalls, I’ve been there and listened to the slow transformation of these music systems into the mp3 CD music systems blasting out outrageous bass and highs touching the limits of human treble tolerance! All along I’ve to say that I’ve enjoyed the music..though weird as it sounds! Gradually I moved onto more refined audio listening and have to say looking back, it definitely is a transformation. Often I go back and re-listen to the same tracks and come out with a smile, enjoying the subtle nuances that I’ve never noticed. Good gear definitely doesn’t change music but it does change your perception!

I will stop my nostalgic meandering there and get back to the Phonak Audeos.Though I started out this post as a complete review, I don’t think I can add anything more than what is already covered at In-earmatters review of the Phonak PFE 112 or the Innerfidelity review of the Phonak Audéo PFE and Perfect Bass.The Audeo PFE or the  Perfect Bass is the only option if you are looking for earphones that are detailed and bright in the price range that they sell. They are well designed and coming from Phonak, a Swiss company that makes hearing aids – comfort is supreme. The elegant yet simple design is actually a deviation from the usual in-ear models available on the market. Depending on the model you buy, the accessories (carrying pouch,ear tips, comfy foam,ear guide, filters – all these are part of the PFE package only!) are sufficient and functional. The Perfect Bass version of the Audeo is an economically priced offering! (See Tip). The set of filters that come with the Audeos allow for subtle but recognizable modification of sound. The grey filters are default on the PFEs and the green default on the Perfect Bass. The green filter provides enhanced bass, the grey is much more neutral and the black makes things warmer (a small bump in the bass). By default the PFE  has highs that are sparkly, mids – just as i like them, lows are defined…may be a little anemic but I will take clarity over boomy bass!

The Phonak Audéos are absolutely the best earphones available in their price range and will make most listeners happy. The amount of clarity and detail that you’ll hear will just knock you off on first listen! I’ve added the Innerfidelity video review below which gives you the picture want you to get.

Tip:         So if you are a bit cash strapped (who isn’t these days..right?) then try the cheaper version of the PFE 121 the PFE 022 Perfect Bass – you’ll have to live with the enhanced Bass response from the 022 but once you got the cash get the remaining filters from Phonak and you’ve got a multitalented IEM! Oh the 022s retails for about 30 bucks or so cheaper than the PFE 121s.

To conclude let me borrow from the Anythingbutipod review (see related links below) of the Phonak Audéo PFEs

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.

Phonak Audéo PFE are among the nicest things to come from Switzerland since wristwatches and cheese.

To Amp or Not:

Now that we’re done discussing the performance of the Audéos let us talk about using an Amplifier. I know that most portable audio gear users don’t like adding bulk to their music player but there are times when it really is worth it! Considering that there are slim portable amplifiers available out there at reasonable prices and that you’re a discerning listener – get an amplifier to go with the Audéos. Good as they are, the Phonaks seem to come to life when amped. The base gets tighter and the overall definition becomes discernibly better when I added an iBasso T3 or a Fiio E7 to it. Also it is quite possible that you’re portable music player may not be able drive the Phonak in an authoritative manner starting with the volume. I noticed that my iPod Nano had reduced volume output and the iPod Classic, some lack in definition which was remedied by adding in an amp. There are portable amplifiers like the newly released Fiio E6 which is cheap (around 30 bucks!) and does an admirable job for the price. Adding an amp does definitely enhance the Phonak Audéo in a noticeable manner.

On Indian Music:

Though the Phonak Audéos are a great pair of IEMs to listen any genre of music (especially with the filters provided) they seem to be a very natural choice for Indian music. The attributes of the Audéos like clarity, brightness, sweet mids and well defined bass make them an ideal accompaniment to movie soundtracks as well as classical performances. The black filters seem to work really well with Bollywood, Kollywood and Tollywood dance numbers and the greys work their magic on tuneful melodies.

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