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Mini Comparison - Vibe (1st gen), C700, PK2, RE0, NE-7M, PFE, ER4S, OK1, TF10, UM3X, SE530, IE8 - Page 2

post #16 of 142
Thread Starter 
Phonak Audio PFE came! Weeee!

Initial impressions...very nice.

They start with the grey filters, and after a short listen, I went to the black. The grey offer a midrange focus. The black offers the flattest response and takes out the emphasis.

EQing is minimal. The top end is rough, but it isn't easily fixable without 30 band EQ or something. It's basically focused stock at the happy medium. The EQ I have in my PC can't fix it.



I don't have bands at 3kHz, 6kHz, 10kHz, 12kHz to work out the top end. It is noticeable but forgetable.

Sound is clean, fast, uncolored. It doesn't hide crap, so you sort of hear everything. It has good energy, and the dynamic range is...interesting, the range being more then I'm used to. There's less compression. You'll listen to something at normal volume, and there will be this part that's really loud that never sounded that loud before.

I like this earphone a lot.
post #17 of 142
Thread Starter 
I've been using my new Phonak Audeo PFE for a few days. My ER4S just came today, got a used pair at a good price.

Mmm, fun headpones. The PFE is neat that it offers a lot of intensity and dynamic range. The upper end frequency response needs work, but it's livable and can be EQed some. The ER4S is very reference like, very even, great depth, better spacial cues, more appropriate attack and decay that gives a more realistic and big speaker presentation. It's better balanced then the PFE but doesn't share the intensity. It seems like it wants a ton of amperage. It seems to have a little bit of resonance issues in the phone itself that build up at certain frequencies. The PFE doesn't do this and seems to have a greater SPL limit. The PFE has a greater impact and energy in note. Both are really need headphones. The PFE is more invisible to wear and listen to. The ER4S brings attention to itself more so when wearing and listening as you can sense the vibration. It's most likely the lack of mass. The PFE is phsyically large and doesn't get shaken by the driver. The ER4S has a bigger sound, like you're listening to a full-size speaker setup, enveloping, because of it's great note presenation. This is something I liked a lot from the Vibes, but the Vibe was warmer, smoother, muddier, but you always got a good sense of space and body. The ER4S just does it a lot cleaner and with better balance.
post #18 of 142
Very nice and informative review. I would like to see how the OK1 compares to these. Would you say that the PFE is better than the C700 in terms of treble, mids, and bass?
post #19 of 142
Thread Starter 
They're different, significantly, in many ways.

Yes, I'm curious about the OK1 too.

I haven't written an official review of the PFE yet, but I can run down on a few differences.

First, they sound quite different from each other. The Denon has a more effortless sound because it is a very efficient design. The sound is "real" but in a dry. The Phonak isn't quite so "real," but it also doesn't color and make it sound wrong either. Both need EQing to sound their best. The PFE makes good use of an amp if you've got one. The Denon has zero need of additional amping. The Phonak is much more output capable, think 3x. Because of this, the Phonak can better represent a dynamic range from quiet to loud where as the Denon really needs a quiet environment to do similar. Little sounds are more noticeable with the Denon, like clicks or a finger sliding across a guitar string. It's not that it's not there on the PFE, but it's presented differently.

Bass, PFE wins by a mile. The Denon is critically flawed in output capability and bass response suffers a good deal at anything above quiet to medium levels. The Denon doesn't play as low and is poorly controlled making for a sloppy experience. It also doesn't extend in frequency as far as the PFE. The PFE is clean, exended, and with great big woofer type energy.

Midrange, both are kind of on par, neither doing anything wrong, but both do present sound in different flavors, the PFE a bit more analytical and ultra clean. The decay of note is shorter. With the PFE you get lots of crispness and cleanliness but without the depth of note. Without EQing, the Denon's treble and bass overshadows the mids some making they sound more recessed then they should be. However, the Denon has better body in note and has a better representation of breadth of note. This is a unque aspect I liked much about the Vibe and the ER4S shows this exceptionally well too. Not enough breadth creates a shortended, analytical presentation, squeaky clean but less real.

Treble, the Denon wins. The PFE simply needs EQ work to sound as good as it should be. The highs are strong and clean though. Highs are there but not the best in balance. The Denon also needs some EQing, but it takes less work to fix, and once the highers are brought down to midrange level, the treble is just as good as the mids. Both are good really, but the Denon just needs less work.

Overall, the PFE has more energy, especially when amped. The Denon offers more body in note. They are pretty different in sound from each other. The PFE is very clean sounding and with a lot of energy. The Denon a little drier and fuller. I would lean more towards the PFE with normal use because it's easier to work with and offers more overall capability. The Denon is output limited and needs more EQing to get to a really good state. The PFE can be used as is with the black filter, but can improve with some top end work. The PFE is just easier to enjoy out of the box.

Right now I do feel the ER4S beats both, but pricing is a step above either. The ER4S lacks the intensity of the PFE and the effortlessness of the Denon but is a whole lot better balanced everywhere then either. Frequency response is really good, attack and decay of note is "correct" offering great breadth and a realistic sound. The PFE has a more robust bass response, digging deeper but the ER4S is fuller in note, the PFE giving intensity and impact, ER4S giving body. The ER4S is more like the Denon but less effortless sounding but a lot better balanced in frequency response. The ER4S is cleaner. The ER4S is more spacious.

I would consider the PFE and ER4S a step above the Denon. I'd LOVE to see Denon retry the IEM game with a new, better headphone. If they could provide greater SPL capability and a flatter frequency response, I'd love to hear it. As the Denon stands now, it's simply too flawed, enough so where it's intended use becomes limited.
post #20 of 142
You are talking ER4S, with an amp, right? Not ER4P? Just wanted to be clear. No doubt your comparison is with both the Ety and the ER4S amped.

I once owned the CK700s and felt their highs were very harsh, shipped them back. Maybe not burned in enough. But they really were painful almost. And I truly disliked them sticking out of my head. With Etys, which I also owned, listening fatigue was problem (and painful to keep in my ears for extended periods).

Anyway, very detailed work, but don't forget aesthetics, comfort, etc.
post #21 of 142
Thread Starter 
Yes, ER4S.

I'm comparing the Denon C700/C751 (no K) with the Phonak PFE but also discuss the ER4S relative to the PFE too.

If you thought the C700 had sharp highs, it's only because they were too strong relative to the midrange. EQ the highs down, and that goes away. You just have to be willing and able to EQ to make it work.
post #22 of 142
Thread Starter 
Been swapping back and forth between the ER4S and PFE. With the PFE using the grey filter, they are relatively comparable frequency response but with characteristically different presentation.

The ER4S is like listening to a home speaker set. It's the closest way I can describe the sound. It's not like a headphone. There are signatures like body and blending that is very full sized speaker like, not headphone like. It's not a monstrous sound thing. It's simply how the information is presented. The PFE doesn't really sound like a headphone either but it is more sound then speaker. With the PFE, it's basically source audio -> ear. With the ER4S, it's source -> good floor standing speakers -> ear. The ER4S is better balanced and bodied but slightly less dynamic and not as authoritative. The PFE is more invisible in the sense that it doesn't sound like anything other then the source, although it does color that some because of lack of tonal balance. The PFE presents with more energy and transparency. I get a more toe tapping experience with the PFE because it has a more authority/energy in note, and you get a greater sense of beat. The ER4S sounds like a big speaker setup which is a really cool experience, but it comes across less dynamically effortless.

Both are really neat headphones and represent some of the better options on the market. I don't really consider one over the other. It's sort of different packages.
post #23 of 142
Which of the ER4S and PFE has more bass, and how does the bass extension compare (in a sine sweep)?
post #24 of 142
Maybe i missed it but what amp u use for er4s and pfe?
post #25 of 142
Thread Starter 
FiiO E5, not the greatest but functions well enough. It colors a little bit and noticeably decreases stereo separation, but it does improve control and articulation of note on most headphones. The benefits outweigh the disadvantages. I'd love to run a better amp, but I really don't want anything big and bulky nor am really willing to spend towards some of the three figure good options.

The PFE has more extended bass frequencies. A techno track throws down a 20Hz tone, you'll hear it, perhaps slightly light on the very bottom. The ER4S has a fuller note that does end up making the higher bass/midbass well pronounced but does roll off a little early. The ER4S is more even and with less emphasis. They're much like listening to a good floor standing speaker but without the sub. It's mostly there, but you know a subwoofer could help. Raw amount, the PFE has a bit more and is more pronounced and energetic. It's not heavy enough to come across being bass monsters and sounding artificial, but they are slightly bottom heavy.

b0dhi, if you like bass, the PFE will make you more happy. The ER4S isn't terribly lacking, but the PFE is more robust and energetic on the bottom end. You'll have a more toe tapping experience with the PFE then the ER4S.

PFE better then the ER4S? I feel they're sort of different flavors of the same level. Certain characteristics will favor certain people.

Here's a comparison of the frequency responses of both earphones. This is a copy of Etymotic's response graph from their ER4 user manual and I resized and overlayed Phonak's PFE response graph on Etymotic's image. You'll notice the similarities with the PFE gray filter.
post #26 of 142
Thanks for the run down. I am getting closer and closer to buying the PFE, but I need to see how it compares to OK1 first.
post #27 of 142
Thread Starter 
Me too.
post #28 of 142
Thread Starter 
Phonak PFE and Etymotic ER4S are up. These are two phones I've really enjoyed and have gone back and forth over and over again. They both offer great sound quality but present it in two different ways. I think the ER4S is a little better overall, less faulted, but there are aspects the PFE shows that I wish the ER4S had, mainly the effortless sound and dynamics and the slightly more extended low end. With the PFE, I wish it had the body of note of the ER4S and a less peaky top end. Both are great earphones.

The OK1 is on its way to me and should arrive early-mid next week. I'll break them in and give a good amount of listening time and see how I like them. Expect a review in about 2 weeks.

After that, I think I'm done buying earphones for a while. What I have is good enough, and there really isn't anything on the market that compels me to shoot for better.
post #29 of 142
Thanks for the informative reviews. I just have some questions, as my experience with some of the reviewed IEMs differs from yours. You have the NE-7 and PFE soundstages being equal, both small. I thought with the grey filter the PFEs soundstage was very wide, much superior to the NE-7. And with the black filters, still wider. Now, this did vary between the 2 sources I used for testing (Fuze and Icon Mobile as a DAC/Amp).

Also, with both, soundstage for me is affected by how deep they are inserted. The NE-7 has a wider soundstage (by a little) if I don't insert it too deep. Same with the PFE, but the PFE is naturally inserted deeper.

I haven't heard any others in your review, but I have the PK3s, and their soundstage is much wider than the NE-7 to me, about where the PFE's is.

Did you try multiple sources? How did you determine insertion depth/angle. What tips were you using?

Thanks, just trying to get a grasp on how all these IEMs sound without sticking em in my ears, so trying to clarify my baselines.
post #30 of 142
Thread Starter 
Yes, stage width will depend on location. Shoved way in ear versus loose in ear affects width. As well, a bud or semi open IEM can generally get a wider stage it seems then a fully enclosed IEM.

The filter doesn't affect the stage, only frequency response. It has no other mechanical capability. Any other perception is physcoacoustic, i.e. your mind makes up stiff to make sense of what it hears. The midrange bump could be perceived as more open, spacious. As well, you would listen to the earphone quieter, creating less physical vibration and thus bringing less attention to the source point.

I do brake the sound stage into two parts. One is raw width. How wide does the stage sound. The second is depth. Basically, how open and spacious does it mentally seem. Raw width is generally the physical location of the source. Stage depth/space more has to do with the ability to create separation, space, and independent location of instruments, singers, etc. and provide a wide left to right spectrum. If things sort of blend together, the stage seems very narrow and in your head. If everything is well separated, the stage feels big and open and outside the head. I kind of do the depth/space aspect and how in-head or out-of-head the presence sounds.
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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors › Mini Comparison - Vibe (1st gen), C700, PK2, RE0, NE-7M, PFE, ER4S, OK1, TF10, UM3X, SE530, IE8