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Phonak Audeo PFE 121 vs. Ultimate Ears 600

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone,

 

I would like to start with some background that you don't have to read, although it really helps clarify why I am interested in this comparison. Skip to the last paragraph for the actual question.

 

Lately, I've become a big fan of Ultimate Ears 600 (renamed Super.fi 5) IEMs which I find to be really great sounding for the price. I bought them based on the measurements at Innerfidelity just out of curiosity and didn't really believe that they would sound great, but, alas, the measurements didn't lie and they do sound truly excellent IMO and have now replaced RE0 as my best price/performance IEM. I now have 2 pairs. lol

 

I owned the single driver PFEs a while ago - about 2 years ago I believe - and I did not like their sound at all back then. I found them thin sounding, lacking body and decay, even when amped by my reasonably good MiniBox E+ portable amp. I don't know why I thought of them that way considering how popular they were and still are to this day and how many people around here love their sound. Perhaps I needed to spend more time with them to understand their sound signature, or maybe I just wasn't able to achieve a good seal. But I was so disappointed with the sound that I sold them within a couple of days, posted some negative impressions on the forum and never considered purchasing another pair to give them another chance.

 

About a 2 months ago I stumbled upon Tyll Hertsen's Innerfidelity site and found his Phonak Audeo PFE 121 review. The review was very positive and was backed up by some solid looking measurements which really got me thinking about these IEMs again and wondering why I didn't like them. They seemed to measure better than many other more expensive headphones. Then, some time later I stumbled upon the Ultimate Ears 600 measurements on the same website that looked surprisingly great to me and even better than those of the Phonaks, so I decided that I really needed to give them a try. I did and like I said above, really love the sound. Maybe it's all psychological as I did buy them simply based on the measurements, but I believe they really do sound excellent for my tastes and I enjoy listening to music through them a lot more than with most other headphones I tried.

 

But anyway, when comparing PFE and UE600 measurements at Innerfidelity, they look quite similar overall and I also read that they both use armature drivers from Sonion, albeit different models. I think UE600 graphs better with superior 30 Hz and 300 Hz square wave response and a quicker impulse response, but the two are otherwise quite similar especially in the distortion graph, where both IEMs show noticeably higher levels of distortion through the midrange vs the lows and highs.

 

I would really love to hear from those who owned both of these IEMs and compared the two directly. Which one do you like better and why? Thanks in advance for any input. It might save me the trouble of having to save cash to buy another PFE to compare with my UE600 myself, although I may have to do that anyway. lol


Edited by Pianist - 3/20/12 at 6:03pm
post #2 of 7
Thread Starter 

Bump. Anyone?

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

^

post #4 of 7

I don't think many would have heard of the two because both are fairly rare and hard to find, less said about trying. Though I do agree that the UE600s are quite good for the price, probably even "one" of the best in the price range. 

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

They are not rare at all. You can get both readily from many online stores. PFE used to be really popular on head-fi before. Here's the huge appreciation thread for them:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/405953/phonak-audeo-pfe-appreciation-thread

 

UE600 aka. Super.fi 5 also had its share of followers:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/348371/new-and-improved-ultimate-ears-super-fi-5-v2-0-huge-sound-in-a-tiny-package

 

You can find quite a few good reviews on them as well.

 

The problem is that they are not the flavor of the month anymore and so many on here sold them already and moved on to the newer and shinier stuff. What a shame. This is what I hate about head-fi. Many people on here assume that headphones are like computer hardware and gets outdated every few months. I often see comments on here along the lines of "The previous model is 2 years old already and the newer one performs much better as expected." The truth is that there are headphones released 20+ years ago that sound just as good or better than many hi-fi headphones of today and many seem to forget this. Planar magnetic technology was popular back in the 70s and 80s and today it has been resurrected in the form of some of the very best headphones available on the market from Audeze and Hifiman, although a 70s Orthodynamic could still sound as good. Beyerdynamic DT880  remained essentially unchanged since 1980 and remains on the top performers in its price range to this day. The problem is that marketing tells us that technology is advancing all the time, that the all new chrome finished housing and cutting edge tightly integrated close tolerance silver voice coils take the sound to a new level, that more drivers - better, etc, and people fall for this crap. The truth is that all the headphone driver technologies today were invented years ago and you can only get so much out of them. If we want true revolution, we need a completely new, revolutionary driver IMO.


Edited by Pianist - 3/25/12 at 9:42am
post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pianist View Post

They are not rare at all. You can get both readily from many online stores. PFE used to be really popular on head-fi before. Here's the huge appreciation thread for them:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/405953/phonak-audeo-pfe-appreciation-thread

 

UE600 aka. Super.fi 5 also had its share of followers:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/348371/new-and-improved-ultimate-ears-super-fi-5-v2-0-huge-sound-in-a-tiny-package

 

You can find quite a few good reviews on them as well.

 

The problem is that they are not the flavor of the month anymore and so many on here sold them already and moved on to the newer and shinier stuff. What a shame. This is what I hate about head-fi. Many people on here assume that headphones are like computer hardware and gets outdated every few months. I often see comments on here along the lines of "The previous model is 2 years old already and the newer one performs much better as expected." The truth is that there are headphones released 20+ years ago that sound just as good or better than many hi-fi headphones of today and many seem to forget this. Planar magnetic technology was popular back in the 70s and 80s and today it has been resurrected in the form of some of the very best headphones available on the market from Audeze and Hifiman, although a 70s Orthodynamic could still sound as good. Beyerdynamic DT880  remained essentially unchanged since 1980 and remains on the top performers in its price range to this day. The problem is that marketing tells us that technology is advancing all the time, that the all new chrome finished housing and cutting edge tightly integrated close tolerance silver voice coils take the sound to a new level, that more drivers - better, etc, and people fall for this crap. The truth is that all the headphone driver technologies today were invented years ago and you can only get so much out of them. If we want true revolution, we need a completely new, revolutionary driver IMO.



What I meant is that they are quite hard to find compared to other IEMs. But I can go to my local shop to try them out this coming Friday, will tell you about my impressions. :)

post #7 of 7
Hi Pianist, found out this thread while searching for pfe-121 reviews. After owning some IEMs, I decided to send my sf5v2 for reshell c/o stage93:
http://www.head-fi.org/t/588864/ue-sf5v2-in-custom-shell#post_8285222
so far my benchmark for midrange. Bass improved a lot after the reshell. Treble did improve but sounds hot(?) at times - but I think it is much better with the Chris Himself cable now.
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