Phonak is a new brand on the block when it comes to headphones, but it’s as big as they come in the land of hearing aids. It knows how ears work, so we had high hopes for its debut headphones.
The PFE122s are impressive little feats of engineering. Rather than opting for the bud shape of most Shures and Sennheisers these single-armature designs mimic the sweep of the outer ear. Build is plastic, but quality plastic.
You’ll notice a small oblong in the middle of the right headphone cable. This is an in-line microphone with a call-answering button for use with various phones including HTC’s HD2 and the iPhone.
Before first listen you get to mess about with the headphones’ configuration. As well as silicone fittings for various sizes of ear, they come with Comply foam tips that mould to fit all lugs. These are far and away the best option for creating a tight seal to block out background noise.
As you like it
The package also includes an intriguing little tool set which allows you to customize the Audéo’s sound. There are a pair of miniature screw-in tips provided, allowing you to skew towards a bassier frequency response if you prefer.
Once you’ve selected your configuration it’s time to stick them in your ears. Thanks to the innovative and super-lightweight design of the earphones and the various accessories, the fit is very comfortable.
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And then there’s the sound. These aren’t brash noiseniks for clubbers and bass-heads – they’re refined, classy and expressive, and make vocals sound particularly natural.
It’s all in the detail
The Audéos pick out detail as well as in-ears at any price. Separation between instruments is palpable and the soundstage is wide and precise. They’re some of the best we’ve ever heard for vocal reproduction, and can be listened to for prolonged periods without any fatigue.
However, hip-hop fans may be better off with a pair of Klipsch Image X5s or similar – bass is punchy, but it’s not as artificially pronounced as many listeners like. That said, we can’t mark down Phonak for designing headphones with an honest and accurate frequency response.
The in-line mic is excellent, too, providing pristine decent quality and how-did-I-do-without-it convenience. So, all in all we’d say the Audéos are a class act.