Perhaps the strongest indicator of the PFE 232’s worth comes when take them off and substitute lesser earphones. In most cases, you can’t help but feel an almost involuntary sense of disappointment or emotional letdown, because you realize—even if only in a subliminal way—that the sheer density of information you were enjoying only seconds ago has faded once you set the Phonaks aside. In short, taking off the PFE 232s in the middle of a listening session proves the truth of Joni Mitchell’s classic line: “…you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
Consider these earphones if: you want one of the great universal-fit earphones—and possibly the best ever. Consider the PFE 232, too, if you value lightweight earphones that offer easygoing comfort, and a design whose distinctive acoustic filters address the fact that different listeners may interpret sonic accuracy in different ways. Finally, note that the PFE 232 can be configured for convenience (as an iPhone-compatible headset), or for a purist listening experience (with no mic/remote).
Look further if: you are price sensitive; any way you slice it, the fact is that the PFE 232 is presently the world’s most expensive universal-fit earphone. Also look further if, down deep, you regard the idea of interchangeable acoustic filters as a gimmick (which they’re not) or as a feature that demands more manual dexterity than you bargained for (which is partly the case, at least for some users).
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced competition)
• Tonal Balance: 9.5
• Frequency Extremes: 9.5 (bass)/ 10 (treble)
• Clarity: 10
• Dynamics: 9
• Comfort/Fit: 10
• Sensitivity: 8
• Value: 8.5 (only because $599 is a whole lot to pay for any universal-fit earphone)
Phonak’s PFE 232 is one of the finest universal fit earphones we’ve tried, and one of the very few to seriously rival the performance of today’s best custom-fit in-ear monitors. While the $599 price of entry is sobering, these ‘phones offer Swiss-influenced precision and a sound that is both revealing and thrilling.
Phonak Audéo PFE 232 In-Ear Headphone/Headset
Accessories: Three pairs of silicone ear tips (S, M, L), three pairs of Comply foam ear tips (S, M, L), one pair of silicone over-the-ear cable guides, filter changing tool and storage box containing one pair of black filters and one pair of green filters, bearing in mind that the PFE 232 come fitted as standard with a pair of gray filters), cleaning tool, carrying pouch, one detachable signal cable with iPhone-compatible three-button mic/remote module, one purist-oriented straight-line signal cable.
Drivers: dual balanced armature-type drivers
Frequency response: 5Hz – 17kHz
Weight: 16 grams
• 109 dB SP/1 mW, gray filters installed
• 107 dB Sp/1 mW, black or green filters installed
Impedance: 47 ohms
Warranty: 2 years, part and labor