Audéo PFE 132 Review

First off I have to thank Audéo for sending me the newly released Audéo PFE 132 (or Audéo Perfect Fit Earphone 132) for this review.

Audéo PFE 132



For those who haven't heard of Audéo yet, they are a fairly new brand to the headphone world and they have managed to create quite a ripple among the audiophile community. Of course Audéo a well-established brand in the world of audio, just not in the realm of headphones. This is because Audéo is a branch of the Phonak who some of you may know is a powerhouse in the assistive hearing devices, so the experts at Audéo are definitely veterans in sound. Now introductions aside, let's get the actual review.

Pros

  • iPhone/iPod remote and mic
  • Sound filter system, change your sound as you go
  • Really engaging and balanced frequency response
  • Excellent overall presentation
  • Earhook is insanely comfortable due to the shape
  • lives up the "Perfect Fit" name
  • Really convenient pouch 

Cons

  •  Insanely thin cable after the y-splitter (even thinner than the iBud cable)
  • Sound filter change system can be cumbersome and are rather fragile 
  • Filters can be damaged during cleaning or clogged by earwax if proper care isn't used and will need to be replaced so be careful
  • only 2 types filters of the 3 are supplied
  • Driver lacks a little speed in a few situations
  • Sound appears "compressed"
  • Only comes with 1 pair of Comply foam tips
  • Overall sound is amazing but it feels "lacking" (some tones lack smoothness, doing some more tests)
  • CARE IS KEY WITH THESE HEADPHONES, if you can't take care of them on a regular basis it could cause problems

Package Pics

Front of the box
Headphones compared with a Canadian quarter










The package

 Accessories


Everything in the box (with a quarter for size reference)

Build Quality and Aesthetics  

I LOVE the look and build quality of these earphones, everything screams quality and everything on the headphone itself is incredibly well thought out. From the shape of the headphone to the height of the mic to the materials used, it is just absolutely amazing! Though I don't see these going through extreme survival tests, they survive the abuse of everyday life. What I really wanted to talk about there was the cable though, right when I opened these headphones up, I noticed the thick lower part of the cable which got me really excited. But sadly that was extremely short-lived as once I saw the thin cables that came out of the y-splitter it I pretty much slapped myself in the face.
Look here: 
Notice the huge change in thickness

Even though I was a little disappointed in the thin cable, I could also understand why it was done this way, but this will be explained in the comfort section. I think the most interesting feature on these headphones was the iPhone/iPod remote and mic that made my day. Originally, I thought the mic and remote should have been a little lower on the cable. I take this back as the mic is in the perfect position to be right beside your mouth so all you have to do is press a button and you are ready to go. They even have the directionality of the mic just right; these headphones have the mic only on the side of the remote instead of the back so it points at your mouth.

The mic and remote: 

 Notice the positioning of the mic

Comfort

These headphones set the bar for themselves when they decided to call the line Perfect Fit Earphone. There have been many incidences where companies tend to exaggerate their products with half-truths to make them sell. Well I can tell you now the PFE is no exaggeration or marketing scheme, they were telling the truth. The combination of their perfectly shaped earhooks and unique earphone shape makes the one of the most comfortable headphones and THE most comfortable IEM I have used. Now I said that the cable thickness might have a specific reason and that could be to lighten the load on the ears with the cable. I have always disliked using earhooks because they felt natural and they were a stress on my ears after 2 hours of use, with these I have gone 6 hours without taking them off (it would be longer too if I wasn't going to sleep).


Sound

Here are Audéo’s measurements for each of the filters (I'm unsure for which model but it gives a representation of what each one does):

The Filters

Audéo PFE FR Chart
The PFE 132 come with 2 sets of filters and Audéo say they work best with different genres. I agree with this statement. According to Audéo, the black filters are best for hip-hop, pop or rock, while the grey filters are more for classical and jazz related genres. Pretty much, the filters are a bit more tuned towards the genres they recommend. When I listen to a classical song with the black filter, the mids seem recessed sometimes. But when I listen to mainstream genres with the grey filters, I find that there isn't enough bass or treble and sometimes they may be a  little rolled off as well.

Now the reason I say the different filters are a bit more tuned for different genres is because the different filters bring out different characteristics or instruments in the song. For example, listening to a track with the grey filter brings out percussion, acoustics and vocals, while the black filter brings out treble and bass while pushing back mid tones like vocals.


Grey Filter

According to the Audéo grey filter provides a boost in the mids and to my ears, it does just that. I find this works best when you listen to classic style music as the midrange dominates in that style. Though it is more forgiving to most badly recorded tracks, it is still a tad bass and treble light in my opinion to make it good for all music. But at the same time, I also find it to be the most analytical of the two I'm given.

Black Filter

My favorite filter of the two, when you look the FR chart on the side Black is the middlemost line and according to the Audéo website, black filters boost highs and bass which is perfect for more modern mainstream rock pop and hip-hop. Once again works as advertised, I noticed a boost in the bass and trebles. It was relentless though on poorly recorded tracks, it was really easy to tell when the treble was distorted, compressed or poorly recorded. Probably the most "fun" filter in my opinion when I consider it gives a bit of all three worlds. Sometimes at lower volumes the mids may feel a little veiled by the bass and treble.

The filter case and the changing tool

General Sound

The PFE 132 has a general overall sound that remains the same with the different sound filters used, to my ears the only thing that really changes is the level the tone is heard at. Basically even though different parts of the sound are "exaggerated" or "elevated" by the filter it doesn't change its overall characteristics. The general sound clean and clear, the single word I would use to describe it would be transparent. Now from in my reviews I tend to use the word "neutral" a lot, and as much as it applies to how I've been using it, it is too broad and subjective. Neutral could pretty much be used for anything that is not extremely bassy and without too much treble, therefore it is a little too subjective to be effective. But Of all the headphones I've owned, I would say this is definitely the most balanced, nothing was too up front, and nothing was too behind. Now don't get me wrong, but to my ears, it definitely seems like it's in that range.

When looking at the sound, and details, these headphones are excellent at vocal and treble reproduction. The upfront soundstage really pushes the vocals forward and really drives in the detail and quality of the sound. These headphones are extremely balanced and you rare have any tones overpowering the other frequencies. But I did find that there are select times where the bass was drowned out (black and grey filters) and the treble was drowned out by the mids (grey filter). Now going into the details of the sound:

In general the sound is amazing, I would even say they land a fair number of hits on the $300-$400 range but it is ultimately the little flaws in the sound just bring it down back down. Overall the speed is great, the separation starts to give out, for speed, I generally listen to the intro of Look Around by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Now when I listen to this intro it was really easy to see the headphones struggling to keep up with the treble while keeping up with the bass and mid reproduction but I've only had this speed problem with five songs at most with these headphones.

The treble on these headphones are amazing with both the black and grey filters, but they are more outspoken on the black filters. Now without going to flagship level headphones the only headphones I've heard with smoother treble then these headphones are the Sennheiser HD558's, and anyone who's heard  the HD558's would recognize the treble as one of its most outspoken traits. But the treble was also extremely brutal towards poorly recorded songs, any flaw with the treble and you will notice. I've tested this with a few mainstream songs as well as a few of my friend's masters, and the verdict still stands. The mids were really vibrant on these headphones, more so with the grey filters the black ones. But more importantly I don't find the sound fatiguing at all, the mids play an important part in this, if the mid tone level is too high, it begins to veil other tones, make them too low and they will be veiled and become a struggle to listen to I have none of these problems with the PFE 132 making them very relaxing and very enjoyable to listen to. Now The bass was really amazing, nice punch but it can leave you with a feeling that something is missing. I find the bass lacks dynamics and sounds a tad flat, there's not much resonance and "volume". I can hear the pound just fine but there is a lack of dispersion of the bass.

The PFE 132 soundstage tends to show things as they were recorded. Example, listen to a binaural track and you can hear perfect sound directionality. But with most tracks, there is no directionality and sounds generally flat. Some headphones (generally open ones) give the soundstage an open and simulated 3D feeling, not going to find that on these headphones. It sounds completely closed off and the sound seems like it the sound comes from about 5cm away from your head when the soundstage is at its best.

Final Thoughts

Audéo has put a lot of work into PFE line, and it's very evident with the sound and the quality of the fine build quality of the PRE132. Now I had relatively high expectations for Audéo/Phonak considering their audio background and they definitely met and exceeded them. Retailing at $239.99 CAD/USD I find them a really good buy. To be honest I think it could be justified to at $299.99. But of course let’s hope that doesn't happen for the sake of our wallets. The little flaws of the PFE132 were really small and they were barely noticeable. I wouldn't call this a perfect headphone but it is something that should be something everyone should take a look at when considering any headphone in the $200-300 range because it has that sound signature that would pretty much appeal to everyone because of its balance (this is just my opinion).



Filter Damage Test

In case you haven't taken the time to read the user manual, you can have a huge and sudden drop in volume if your filter is damaged. It may not seem like it but I find the filters REALLY fragile if you don't take proper care of your headphones. Long story short, it is best if you don't put these headphones in your pocket, keeping the filters in mind.

Things to  Take Note of

Driver Balanced Armature
Frequency response 5 Hz – 17 kHz
Sensitivity Gray filter - 109 dB SPL/mW, 1 kHz
Black filter -107 dB SPL/mW, 1 kHz
Nominal impedance 32 Ohm
Weight 14 g, 0.5 oz
Plug 3,5 mm 4 pole jack
Cable length 120 cm, 3.9 ft


 

 

Website: Audéo World

Facebook: Audéo PFE on Facebook







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