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What to Replace Phonak Audeo PFE With? ($150 budget)

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Hey, I could really use some help...  After having the original one driver/middle-of-the-pack PFEs since they first came out, the right channel finally went (most likely a cable issue; the cables on the originals are pretty bad). I was wondering if there was an IEM for around $150 (what the PFEs used to cost) that offers the same level of detail, musicality, and transparency as the PFEs, with a similar sound signature? I always used the grey filters so the sound signature was pretty flat (as shown by the grey line on the graph below)

 

700

 

 

Please help me, these were my absolute favorite sounding IEMs of all time and I don't have the money to spend on new PFEs because the price has been raised. I'm really sad to see them go frown.gif

 

 

EDIT: And if there aren't any obvious options, I guess I could start the search over from scratch by letting you guys know my music taste... I listen to a lot of punk/alternative music (Circa Survive, Balance and Composure, Polar Bear Club, etc.), as well as some indie and classical stuff (Mumford and Sons, Yann Tiersen, Chopin). I also listen to the occasional EDM track so bass can't be completely anemic, but i'm no bass head (the PFEs had a perfect amount for me). I like a quick, balanced sound with good extension in the bass and treble and a nice natural-sounding midrange that's not overly warm nor cold/analytical. I think what I liked so much about the PFEs was that they were very quick and detailed, without being fatiguing and without placing any particular emphasis on certain frequencies. Everything just sounded right to me and everything seemed to sit perfectly in the mix.


Edited by i_don't_know - 8/1/12 at 1:07am
post #2 of 15
I would go for the Etymotic HF5 myself.

I am sure others will chime in.

Jim
post #3 of 15

I second Ety HF recommendation. I had HF2 and PFE at the same time and found both very well balanced, detailed and quick, but HF2 was more balanced to my ears with a smoother treble and better balance in the bass and mids as well. I think the Etys are even more detailed, especially in the mids, have somewhat tighter bass, better imaging, control and precision. Overall, I found Etys better in almost every way, except in dynamics, soundstage width and punch - PFE has a bit more impact in the lows, wider dynamic range and wider soundstage, but sacrifices the pin point imaging, definition and control of the HF series. I now own ER4 instead of HF2 and it's better in many ways compared to HF2, but I still feel that HF series are better for unamped use out of weak sources and have a more pleasant, complete sound than ER4P, being closer in balance to the ER4S.


Edited by Pianist - 8/1/12 at 10:34am
post #4 of 15

Etymotic is the only thing I can think of in this price range (otherwise I'd say ACS T15).  The Etymotic HF series is pretty analytical though and a less warm than the PFE.  It is also a little brighter without as much bass quantity.  Both do dig pretty deep though.  If you want to try a colder, but new sound, do give Etymotic a chance, otherwise, I think the safe route would be to go PFE again.  Have you tried contacting CS? They may replace the product or give you a discount to replace it if it's out of warranty.  Always a good idea, especially knowing you liked the PFE.  

post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyman392 View Post

Etymotic is the only thing I can think of in this price range (otherwise I'd say ACS T15).  The Etymotic HF series is pretty analytical though and a less warm than the PFE.  It is also a little brighter without as much bass quantity.  Both do dig pretty deep though.  If you want to try a colder, but new sound, do give Etymotic a chance, otherwise, I think the safe route would be to go PFE again.  Have you tried contacting CS? They may replace the product or give you a discount to replace it if it's out of warranty.  Always a good idea, especially knowing you liked the PFE.  

 

While I agree that PFE has more bass than HF, the HF series make up for the slightly weaker low end with high quality IMO. With a sufficiently deep insertion and tight seal, HF series are more neutral, and more true to the source and music IMO. PFE is actually the one that's brighter overall, because it has more mid to upper treble emphasis than HF series and also has a resonance peak somewhere around 8-10 Khz that causes some nasty sibilance and glare at times that the Etys don't have. I also feel that PFE is a bit too smooth compared to neutral - it doesn't really lack detail, but it does soften the edges of sounds making music sound a bit sweeter and more romantic than it should and making low level details/texture more difficult to pick out vs HF series. Etys are more accurate as they are more focused and energetic, while remaining sufficiently smooth. Actually, I find PFE colder sounding overall, due to less apparent texture and presence in the mids, especially the upper mids. I always think of warmth as being mainly related to midrange presence and quality, not bass, and definitely not sub bass presence.

post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the recommendations everyone, the HF5 is looking really tempting, but i just have a couple questions. Does the bass extend as low and with as much texture as the PFE? And even though the HF5 doesn't have as much impact, will it still respond accordingly with a decent amount of thump when listening to EDM (something like this)?

 

I also noticed the HF5 only extends up to 16khz...how noticeable would the loss of 1khz in the treble be?

 

Also, I was just wondering...would the Brainwavz B2/Fischer DBA-02 also be a good choice? Reading about them they seem to be the perfect balance between musicality and detail that I usually look for (being both a musician and an audiophile (though a broke one rolleyes.gif), i love me some detail but can't stand it when it takes the forefront and ruins the enjoyment of the song as a whole). I've heard some things about sibilance with them though (then again, Pianist brought up an interesting point about sibilance with the PFE; I've honestly never heard any sibilance with them. Maybe it's because I'm not really using a "rig" but just my computer soundcard and/or Sony Walkman?).

 

 

Thanks everyone, it's always nice to wake up to a bunch of great recommendations; this is one of the reasons I love this community so much. I'm feeling a lot more hopeful now; hearing that right driver go out last night was a nightmare.

 

EDIT: Also, as an extra point of reference, I'm using my S-Jays as a backup, and I find them sibilant, fatiguing, and sort of plastic-y sounding with the midrange recessed a bit more than I'd like. So anyone that's heard the S-Jays would hopefully be able to factor that in


Edited by i_don't_know - 8/1/12 at 12:36pm
post #7 of 15

I think PFE may reach just a tad deeper than HF5, or at least with more authority, but I feel that overall, HF series provide a tighter, more detailed low end than PFE, even though PFE is already quite tight down there and no slouch at all. I feel that Etys have the perfect amount of bass, save for the lowest octave and the rest of the spectrum is present in just the right amount as well IMO.. For me, the bass is enough for any music genre as I find that everything sounds very realistic through the Etys. Whether or not the highs extend far enough will depend on how good your hearing extends up there. I can't hear above 16 kHz, so for me the extension of the Etys is perfect. For someone who can hear 18+ kHz, it may not be enough, but only if your hearing is very well trained and if your music material has enough information in such extreme upper frequencies. I find that most music doesn't contain much useful info above 12 kHz or so anyway - it's just a tiny bit of extra sparkle that you might lose that's hardly noticeable. I wouldn't worry about it. The treble quality of the Etys on the other hand, is simply superb and one of the best trebles I ever heard in headphones - ultra clean, clear and detailed. I find the highs on the Etys much nicer than those on PFE. There may be a bit of sibilance at times though, but only with low bitrate/poorly recorded tracks where sibilance is already present. Still, it's not anywhere near as bad as on the PFE, which produces harshness in the treble even in music where there isn't supposed to be any.

post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by i_don't_know View Post

Thanks for the recommendations everyone, the HF5 is looking really tempting, but i just have a couple questions. Does the bass extend as low and with as much texture as the PFE? And even though the HF5 doesn't have as much impact, will it still respond accordingly with a decent amount of thump when listening to EDM (something like this)?

 

I also noticed the HF5 only extends up to 16khz...how noticeable would the loss of 1khz in the treble be?

 

Also, I was just wondering...would the Brainwavz B2/Fischer DBA-02 also be a good choice? Reading about them they seem to be the perfect balance between musicality and detail that I usually look for (being both a musician and an audiophile (though a broke one rolleyes.gif), i love me some detail but can't stand it when it takes the forefront and ruins the enjoyment of the song as a whole). I've heard some things about sibilance with them though (then again, Pianist brought up an interesting point about sibilance with the PFE; I've honestly never heard any sibilance with them. Maybe it's because I'm not really using a "rig" but just my computer soundcard and/or Sony Walkman?).

 

 

Thanks everyone, it's always nice to wake up to a bunch of great recommendations; this is one of the reasons I love this community so much. I'm feeling a lot more hopeful now; hearing that right driver go out last night was a nightmare.

 

EDIT: Also, as an extra point of reference, I'm using my S-Jays as a backup, and I find them sibilant, fatiguing, and sort of plastic-y sounding with the midrange recessed a bit more than I'd like. So anyone that's heard the S-Jays would hopefully be able to factor that in

 

The HF5 does dig pretty deep into the spectrum, I don't think you'll be missing any depth.  If you put a gun to my head though, I like pianist, would have to say that the PFE sounds like it has that extra 1% of depth.  Saying that the HF5 doesn't have impact would be a lie.  It does have impact, but loses out on presence a bit for me over the PFE.  This bit is very small though, but noticeable if you compare head to head.  I think the HF5's quantity levels are nearly sufficient in most songs, but find its presence lacking in a few handful (they come up and you want a little more, just that little bit).

 

Regarding the treble.  Most people can't hear past 16k anyways.  I know mine stops around that area.  I wouldn't worry about the 1k of range that you may not be able to hear.  To test, go into a program like Audacity and play a 16kHz tone at a low volume level (don't want to blow your ears out just in case you can hear it).  Increase the volume slowly until you hit around 40% on a portable source.  If you still can't hear it, I doubt you'll miss the extra 1k :p  Specs say very little about a headphone, and a lot of the time this spec is skewed a bit by manufacturers.  

 

YES, the B2 or DBA would be a great choice as well.  Surprised that one didn't come to me.  It's treble has a few more peaks than the HF series though, and can sound brighter on the highs.  It, in my eyes, has greater depth for both impact, presence, and texture on the low end (kind of like the PFE).  Again, it's not that the HF doesn't have it, it's just that many other IEMs have more than it.  These do have the tendency to become sibilant, even moreso in comparison to the HF series though.  Like you, I've never heard the sibilance with the PFE (I have with the Etymotic though).  I have heard smearing caused by a slight metallic sound (like the B2), but it wasn't enough for me to classify them as sibilant.  

 

Thanks for the information about the S-Jays.  I don't own them, so can't comment :p  Hopefully someone else could.  


Edited by tinyman392 - 8/1/12 at 2:24pm
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

Hmmm alright, looks like I've got a lot of thinking to do on this one. As far as being able to hear above 16khz, I can hear up to about 18khz or so, but my laptop soundcard seems to cut out suddenly around 17khz (ironically just as high as the PFEs can extend tongue.gif); also, upper-end harmonics, even though they add more to instrument timbre than actual musical detail, can often hit that high easily, so I guess it's kinda hard to predict whether or not I'll notice a difference.

 

As far as the DBA/B2, how are the cables durability-wise? I think what eventually killed my PFEs was the fact that even with the ear guides some nasty stuff still managed to get in and stiffen up/kill part the cable (then again, it did last a couple years). And how durable is the HF5? Not trying to be too nitpicky but it does look kinda toyish, haha.

 

 

 

Hypothetically speaking though, if I were to suffer with the s-jays for a couple months and save up to make my budget around $200, would there be a better choice? DBA mkII? Something else (other than getting a new PFE, in case it runs into the same problems)?

 

Also I forgot to mention, another headphone (though full-sized) that has the sound signature I'm into is the JVC HA-RX700. I feel like the PFE is almost a sort of scaled-down, less spacious and bassy yet more detailed/slightly more sparkly version of the same sound...to my ears anyway :p


Edited by i_don't_know - 8/1/12 at 3:05pm
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by i_don't_know View Post

Hmmm alright, looks like I've got a lot of thinking to do on this one. As far as being able to hear above 16khz, I can hear up to about 18khz or so, but my laptop soundcard seems to cut out suddenly around 17khz (ironically just as high as the PFEs can extend tongue.gif); also, upper-end harmonics, even though they add more to instrument timbre than actual musical detail, can often hit that high easily, so I guess it's kinda hard to predict whether or not I'll notice a difference.

 

As far as the DBA/B2, how are the cables durability-wise? I think what eventually killed my PFEs was the fact that even with the ear guides some nasty stuff still managed to get in and stiffen up/kill part the cable (then again, it did last a couple years). And how durable is the HF5? Not trying to be too nitpicky but it does look kinda toyish, haha.

 

 

 

Hypothetically speaking though, if I were to suffer with the s-jays for a couple months and save up to make my budget around $200, would there be a better choice? DBA mkII? Something else (other than getting a new PFE, in case it runs into the same problems)?

 

Also I forgot to mention, another headphone (though full-sized) that has the sound signature I'm into is the JVC HA-RX700. I feel like the PFE is almost a sort of scaled-down, less spacious and bassy yet more detailed/slightly more sparkly version of the same sound...to my ears anyway :p

 

I never used the earguides with the PFE...  The HF5 have slightly thicker cables, otherwise, really have the same build.  The jack is angled though (good thing).  The B2 cable seems to unravel for me.  IDK if Brainwavz has alieviated this problem yet.  Headphone jack was changed to an angled one although I still have the straight.  The HF5 would be the most durable of the bunch though (only slightly over the PFE), the PFE second the B2 third.  I haven't handled the DBA-02 MKIIs (or DBA-02s)  though, so I can't say much there.  

post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 

Good news - I realized I hadn't tried changing the filters yet, so I went for it and the problem's solved! Still though, thanks for the help; the cables on my PFEs have been stiff for a while now so I'll keep all of your recommendations in mind in case they ever do completely die on me.

 

Funny enough, the new filters also brought back a ton of sparkle and detail I forgot was even there to begin with...I guess the old ones must've been really clogged up. Great image, right? biggrin.gif

post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by i_don't_know View Post

Good news - I realized I hadn't tried changing the filters yet, so I went for it and the problem's solved! Still though, thanks for the help; the cables on my PFEs have been stiff for a while now so I'll keep all of your recommendations in mind in case they ever do completely die on me.

 

Funny enough, the new filters also brought back a ton of sparkle and detail I forgot was even there to begin with...I guess the old ones must've been really clogged up. Great image, right? biggrin.gif

 

That will happen.  Glad that fixed it though :)

post #13 of 15
No Way... Dirty Filters?

That is great news.

Simple and cheap.

Now you can just save that money for later and further study up on your next set of IEMs.

Cheers, Jim
post #14 of 15
Etymotic ER4s. After my PFE's disintegrated (original batch ), I went back to the Etys. The ER4s are more precise and detailed but less musical. I do miss the PFE sound, but the Etys are just a bit more honest. And I like that. They are more than $150 though. I also have the Ety HF3s which are a lot like the PFEs and about the same price. Neither is as detailed as the ER4 though. Soooo, Ety HF-3 I recommend. No amp necessary with them either.
Edited by robm321 - 8/2/12 at 12:10am
post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by AstroTurf View Post

No Way... Dirty Filters?
That is great news.
Simple and cheap.
Now you can just save that money for later and further study up on your next set of IEMs.
Cheers, Jim

 

Yup, this is actually the first thing Phonak tells you to check if you go to them for support.  It's the most common problem.  Same thing applies to Etymotic actually.  

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