Pros: Best highs ever?
Audeo Phonak PFE232
Let's start with comfort. I have an ear that doesn't work perfectly with the pfe232. This may be rare, but I get a lot of forward treble that is almost sibilant, but more "in your face" with instruments like cymbals. This is not normal, as I can tell it is too far unbalanced to be intended. The cymbals are so far forward I can't listen to the song comfortably. Any song with cymbals and like frequency instruments.
However, if I push them further into my ears this goes away completely. 100%. Everything sounds "correct" and natural with great balance between everything. Unfortunately, this takes away from the amazing comfort they normally have. I know this also, because I have used the pfe112, which had no problem in the standard fit position for me, and they were amazing in terms of comfort. I'm assuming it is the shape of my ear canal, but nonetheless the problem occurs for me. I've also read half and half reports of too much sibilance and zero sibilance. I wonder if the people experiencing the sibilance have the same fit/ear issue I have?
Anyhow, assuming most people won't experience this issue, when sitting in the ear in the intended position, these are the most comfortable earphone ever designed that I have tried so far. They are very ergonomically molded and extremely light with all rounded edges. This makes them fit smoothly and comfortably in the ear, and you forget they are even there. Literally. The ear guides are soft and flexible and the cables going over the ear don't interfere at all as well. The cable is reasonably light as well. All together excellent design.
The accessories are good as well. Some filters to adjust the frequencies to you optimum ear interaction. Basically, each successive filter lowers the mid range a bit. These changes are noticeable but not extremely drastic. They are also smooth in nature. There are no harsh cuts or boosts between filters.
You get a standard array of S/M/L silicone tips and foam tips. The case is mediocre. I like that it has two pockets to store "all" of the accessories. That is a nice touch. However, I find that the case is too small to easily and comfortably fit the headphones. Most headphone failures occur when a cable is damaged, usually at the connector or earpiece entry. As such, I am cautious to wind a set of earphone very tightly to squeeze them in a case. It also doesn't provide a lot of protection as it is fairly soft. Luckily, they have included a spare cable.
The main cable has an iphone/ipod control, but the spare is a basic cable. They easily disconnect at the armature casing. The cable is very "normal" between the earpiece and split section. However, where it splits it becomes very durable feeling and also has a nice level of rigidity and flexibility. This allows the cable to "spring" out of tangles very nicely. I would consider it very tangle-free for a cable.
As for the sound quality, when the fit is proper these things are pretty impressive. They offer the best treble extension I've heard. The treble sounds very natural and fairly smooth. It is bright, but never fatiguing or sibilant when fit properly. The bass is also very good for an IEM. Probably close to the perfect "level" for me. It has enough punch and sub extension and overall "bassiness" to really allow you to be involved in the music. But it never sounds like it is veering to far from a neutral bass. The bass never ever drowns out the rest of the music. It is well controlled and sounds very precise. The entire spectrum sound the most precise I've heard. The instruments sound fast and realistic.
If there was one area I had to take points away, it would be the mids. Let me explain. The mids don't sound "recessed" in the fact that you can always hear everything reproduced. However, they are a bit thinner in "body" than I would consider neutral. But keep in mind that these are a slightly V-shaped signature. With that said, the mids are excellent. But if you want to hear sweet thick mids, these aren't probably the phones for you. They respond very well to EQ, so you can sweeten the mids a bit and it sounds great, but don't expect it out of the box.
Overall, I would say the sound quality is excellent. There are no noticeable flaws. No missing frequencies in the spectrum (pretty rare). It seems to cover everything from the lowest sub bass to the high highs. It does this in a way that "accentuates" the low/high end creating the slight V shape. However, it maintains a very natural sound and everything flows smoothly together with no apparent humps in the frequency range.
I would say these are pretty expensive, but if you want some of the best music listening you can get these are going to be hard to beat for a universal. Definitely up there with the best of the best universal IEMs.
Check out my video reviews for a look at the pfe232: