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[REVIEW] Phonak Audéo PFE 022 Perfect Bass

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 

First, I will like to thank Phonak for the review sample. I have reviewed the PFE121 about half a year ago. Not only do I find the original PFE one of the best sounding IEM under the $200 mark, but also one of the most attractive IEM package around. The Perfect Bass series is a continuation of the original PFE, but tweaked more toward the beginner class of IEM user who are looking for a good quality, smooth and warm sound while avoiding the usual “premium” audiophiles’ price tag. For those who are interested in the Perfect Bass series, I do recommend you to read my previous PFE review. It will give you the basic understanding about the PFE series. The Perfect Bass with mic is about $99 while the regular mic-less verion is about $89.

 

PFE022-01.jpg

 

PFE022-02.jpg


Spec
Driver: Single balanced armature
Sensitivity: 107 dB @ 1 mW
Impedance: 32 Ohm @ 1 kHz
Frequency range: 5 Hz – 17 kHz
Cable: Y-cord, 120cm
Connector: 3.5 mm gold-plated straight mini plug
PFE 02x comes with iPhone / iPod compatible microphone.

 

PFE022-03.jpg

 

PFE022-04.jpg

 

PFE022-05.jpg


Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality
Packaging on the Perfect Bass series is more on the minimalist’s approach, though it is not to say it is poor in any way. It is not quite as classy as the original PFE, but still sufficiently enough to showcase the IEM itself. Unlike the original PFE where the accessories are abundant, the Perfect Bass series is aimed to cut down the price tag by reducing the amount of accessories to minimum. This means all you get from Perfect Bass are the basic three pairs of different sized single flange silicone eartips and nothing more.

The IEM itself is actually identical between the original PFE and the new Perfect Bass – well, almost. To give the new IEM a different sound, or should I say a more “crowd-pleasing”/ bass oriented sound, Phonak use a new green colored filter on the Perfect Bass series as opposed to the grey and black filters on the original PFE (and we shall discuss more of this on the next section). By swapping the filter, you can actually make an original PFE sounds just like the Perfect Bass series, and vice versa.

Since the IEM itself is identical to the original PFE, the build quality is the same as well. Some of you might have heard the build quality issue associated with the original PFE (the v0 batch) – no need to worry though, the problem has been solved (with the v1 batch) for over a year now on the original PFE , and certainly way before the introduction of the Perfect Bass series. I have been using my original PFE for just over 6 months now and do not notice any problem and it is still as solid as the Perfect Bass IEM I just got two weeks ago. Like the original PFE, microphonics is very low since it is meant to be wore over-the-ear. Even without the silicone ear guide, it is fairly easy to keep the IEM in place. I find the original PFE to have a great fit, and the Perfect Bass is just as great. Isolation is about average with the stock silicone, though you can get either Comply T130 or Shure Black Foam tip to improve on it.

There is an iPhone / iPod compatible mic on the 022 model that has a button that doubles as remove control. The mic functions well though not quite as useful as the +/mic/- remote control that are commonly found on Apple’s own IEM these days.

 

 

Comparison betwwen the original PFE 121 (white) and PFE 022 Perfect Bass (black):

PFE022-06.jpg

Y-splitter

 

PFE022-07.jpg

iPhone / iPod compatible mic

 

PFE022-08.jpg

The earpiece without eartips

 

PFE022-09.jpg

Green filter on 022 and grey filter on 121.

 


Sound Quality
There are plenty of bass oriented IEM out there - In fact, way too many. While we often place a lot of emphasis on detail, accuracy and resolution on treble and mid range, many seem to care more about quantity over quality when it comes to bass. I am not a bass head myself, and do find the occasional excessive bass causes motion sickness more than anything else. But I do like bass as much as the next guy, provided that it has as much quality as it is in quantity. So what shows a quality bass? The texture! For an example, when a drum was hit and the initial impact spread out, the drum head / membrane continues to vibrate while losing in strength. As the fundamental frequency and overtones decay in different rates, you can hear the ‘decay’ of bass like a series of up and down wave quickly vanishing away. That is the timbre of the drum in which it gives a sonic texture where you won’t mistake a drum note to be something else. When it is done right, it feels just like you are standing next to the drummer and feeling every vibration of the drum head passing through your body. When it is done badly, you only hear the initial impact followed with decay that is totally smooth and hallow without any structure or texture. That is what you will find in most dynamic IEM with bloated / boomy bass, where quantity is emphasized over quality. Balanced armature based IEM on the other hand are often being criticized for not having enough bass. But they often do able to reproduce a textured bass, just not enough in quantity. That is what we called a ‘tight’ bass, where the note is too fast to build up a body. The real magic is to strike a balanced between quantity and quality, but that is easier said than done when there are the balance of other frequency range to consider, not to mention preference of the listener – What the original PFE offers is the freedom for the user to tune between two different sounds by changing the filter. This time however, Phonak is catering a more entry level, more bass-desire part of the market where user care less about accuracy and detail but more toward a musical and fun experience. That’s what the Perfect Bass series is for.

The overall sound signature is very warm, smooth, musical and even a little dark. Almost a classic bass oriented sound if not for a decent mid. Treble extends fairly well, but very smooth. Sparkles and crispiness still present, though taking a big step back behinds the mid and bass.  Mid has full body but not overly done, giving sweetness to the vocal while still maintain a decent sense of layers.  Bass has good quantity and quality – it reaches very low, big enough for bass head, yet still well textured and fairly impactful, though just a tad slow for balanced armature (but perfectly fine when compared to most dynamic based IEM). Soundstage is a little below average, no doubt a trade off for the added warmness.

So how does the Perfect Bass compared to the original PFE, especially to the black filter (which is more musical, bassier of the two original filters)? Not surprisingly, the big difference is on the bass region. The Perfect Bass has a much more textured and bigger bass to support the vocal. But there are downsides as well – compared to the open sounding grey filter and the musical while still fairly balanced sounding black filter, the new green filter sounds more compressed, losing a bit of resolution and dynamic range at the same time. Another more minor downside is the Perfect Bass requires just little more volume compared to the original PFE as the new green filter adds a little more acoustic impedance to the IEM and lower the sensitivity a bit (though it is not listed on spec). Still, if you were to consider the Perfect Bass series as an independent product of its own at its targeted price range, the overall performance is very admirable.

 

PFE022-10.jpg


Verdict
While the new Phonak Audéo PFE Perfect Bass doesn’t have many accessories to speak of and comes only with a pair of pre-installed filters, it does have a lower price tag and a 2 years warranty to back it up. If money is not a concern, I’ll recommend the original PFE with a separate purchase of the green filters, just to complete the ‘trio’ of PFE’s sound. But if $100 is the limitation of your budget, PFE Perfect Bass is definitely one of the best options around for a smooth and bassy IEM. Recommended with a [4.85 / 5] Sonic Diamond. Please refer to the list for a complete list of rating.


Edited by ClieOS - 12/8/10 at 8:16pm
post #2 of 44

Thanks for this review, i received yesterday my PFE 122, will give a proper listen to them tomorrow smily_headphones1.gif

post #3 of 44

Can you sleep in them? Also, can you please post an in ear picture of these? 

 

Thanks for the review. Im SO tempted to buy these!

post #4 of 44

I have two PFE's (the girlfried actually has one of those) and agree with the review. Very nice. I've checked all three filters against various music. One observation: some of the more 'out there' John Coltrane solos can make you wince on any IEM...the green filters make them easier on the ears and for that I am greatful.

 

One more thing, I walk a lot and to get have zero microphonics, you really need the over-the-ear guides, or wear them over the ears without the guides. They are not included with the PFE 022's. You can pick up a pair at their website and they are well worth it. I don't have a problem with getting a good fit, but it's rock solid with the aid of the ear guides.

post #5 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jozurr View Post

Can you sleep in them? Also, can you please post an in ear picture of these? 

 

Thanks for the review. Im SO tempted to buy these!

Yes, you can. Here is a picture:

 

PFE022flat.jpg
 

post #6 of 44

Just a little note regarding your conclusion area but the Perfect Bass + the black and grey filters are cheaper than just perfect fit +green filters at least for US residents according to www.audeoworld.com

 

I'm a bit disappointed there is no case included however and I think that should be included at any earphone cost. I've been tempted to try these out as well as the other filters at a pretty minimal cost.

 

edit: I read the last section wrong so you can disregard although it does seem like that is still the smarter buy unless you want all the additional accessories.


Edited by rawrster - 10/24/10 at 7:46pm
post #7 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rawrster View Post

Just a little note regarding your conclusion area but the Perfect Bass + the black and grey filters are cheaper than just perfect fit +green filters at least for US residents according to www.audeoworld.com

 

I'm a bit disappointed there is no case included however and I think that should be included at any earphone cost. I've been tempted to try these out as well as the other filters at a pretty minimal cost.


True. The Perfect Bass + grey/black filter is cheaper and probably works better for those who have a tight budget. But as I said, if money is not a big concern, the fairly useful case, the even more useful ear guide and a pair of Comply T130 that come with the original PFE are still well worth the extra money.

post #8 of 44

so the originals with the green filter in place are the same as the perfect bass? no difference in sound at all?

 

i kinda wanna try a BA IEM.

post #9 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonb View Post

so the originals with the green filter in place are the same as the perfect bass? no difference in sound at all?

 

i kinda wanna try a BA IEM.


Yes, very much so.

post #10 of 44

Thanks alot for the in ear picture. Do you know of any resellers in singapore/malaysia for these?

post #11 of 44
Thread Starter 

I remember Null-Audio in SIngapore used to sell PFE, but they haven't stocked it for a while now. You best bet is to contact the Phonak distributor @ Singapore as they also used to handle PFE sale: http://www.phonak.com.sg/

post #12 of 44
So how is the bass on these things? I am stuck between Audio Technica and the Fischers. If these however, give the booming bass I'm looking for then I wouldn't mind.picking up a pair.
post #13 of 44

I got a Phonak Audéo PFE Perfect Bass  for my birthday (October 16) & was extremely pleased. The sound was so clear & pure. It was unbelieveable. My previous headphones were Sennheiser PX100, Koss PortaPro & Audio Technica CK7. This Perfect Bass was way better in almost every way than anyone of them. I was surprised at how small & light the Phonaks are. Also they are extremely comfortable in the ear you don't even know you have them on.

 

And the all black color looks really nice. $89 dollars well spent.


Edited by Starsky5000 - 11/7/10 at 5:15am
post #14 of 44

Totally agree with Starsky5000 here smily_headphones1.gif

I find these even better than my old RE0. The sound is different from the RE0, but I like it even more.

post #15 of 44

I should listen to these again(with the black filters). I had a breif listen and found them lacking a bit of solidity but overall quite good. May not have given them enough of a chance and perhaps with the wrong DAP at the time.

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