Headphone Review: Phonak PerfectBass Headphones

Phonak is a Swiss company that focuses mainly on hearing products. Their main focus in this group is hearing aids. Phonak, however, did reach out into the headphone world not too long ago. Although their main focus is on hearing aids, Phonak really does a great job with their Silver level headphones with a simple design, amazing audio quality, on-par build, unbelievable comfort, and an unsurpassed bang for the buck. The PFEs are definitely one of the better IEMs on the market today. They carry the PerfectBass name and can really show off why they have this name.  Read on for the full review:

Specifications

  • Driver Type: Single Balanced Armature
  • Frequency Range: 5 Hz – 17 kHz
  • Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 107 dB

In The Box

  • Phonak Audeo PFE 022 (PerfectBass) IEMs
  • 3 Sets of Silicone Tips
  • Documentation
These headphones don’t come with many accessories so the price can be relatively affordable.

Design

Phonak decided to go with a really simplistic design on the PFE 022s. This design is the exact same as their old, higher-end perfect Fit model, the 122s. However, there are small cosmetic changes in color choice. The PerfectBass model is only available in black.

The entire housing of the PFEs is black in color. On the interior end, that faces your face when inserted, a black, glossy plastic is used. Also Printed on this side is the left, or right, marker so you know which earpiece is which. Since the design itself is asymmetrical, it is easy to differentiate the right from the left. On the other side of the earphone is a stem that pertrudes from the main body that is lined up, and leads to, the cable. This plastic bar is a refreshing, matte black color that is simple in its own way. Phonak really doesn’t try to force people to see your IEMs with shiny colors, but still has a unique design in itself.

The design on the PFE 022s are extremely simple.

Although simple, the design Phonak decided to use on the PFEs is unique and aesthetically pleasing. The black, matte coloring on the exterior rolls off the eyes nicely, while still being able to hold in a certain warm vibrence to them.

Design: ★★★★★

Audio

The Phonak PerfectBass advertises one thing in its name: the bass. Although they are named the PerfectBass headphones, Phonak didn’t forget about the other 16500 Hz that the drivers can produce. Overall, the audio quality is well above par with others in the price range. I would also like to note that these drivers in the PFE 022s are the same ones found in the PFE 122s. The only differences between the two models is that the filters are changeable to adjust the sound. The 122s come with three filters, a bass filter that is included with the 022s, a low-high emphasizing filter, along with a mid-range emphasizing filter. If you buy a set of filters for your 022s, it essentially becomes the gold-level 122.


The Phonak PFE 022s come with green bass filters.

The first thing I noticed about the PerfectBass was that they were soft. These headphones required lots of volume to drive them, so they are a little quieter than conventional IEMs. I had to listen to them at 130% of my normal listening level to get the same loudness.

Bass

Bass is the main feature of these headphones, and it is also the most prominent part of the spectrum. Although it is the biggest part of the spectrum, it really isn’t all that overpowering. Many headphones that hype their bass normally like give some overwhelming, overpowering bass that will slap you left and right. This doesn’t do that. The lows are well controlled with great impact and amazing texture while still being able to keep the intricacies of bass instruments intact. It is really an amazing feat. Although, there was one thing I was unhappy with, bass presence. Although it was well over the neutral, the bass really didn’t have that presence I would have wanted. The low-end can really use some more of a body to beef it up. The PerfectBass headphones may not have perfect bass; instead, they walk the line of perfection. Like a limit, they approach, but don’t reach.

Bass: ★★★★½

Mids

The midrange on the PFEs are recessed in nature. This gives the illusion of a semi-deep V-shape curve. Details are all there with extremely great timbre. You can hear exactly where each instrument was being played, but the soundstage wasn’t that big. Separation was brilliantly done. This is all assuming that the mids didn’t recess themselves out though. One too many times I found that the mids would become unfocused, which can ruin the listening experience as a guitar solo that should be front and center would become balanced with everything else. At other times, the mids would be perfect to the touch. I just wish this was every time.

Mids: ★★★★

Highs

The high end is enjoyable overall; however, they are not perfect. All details are present in the sparkling and gleaming treble. The treble doesn’t ever become fatiguing and is definitely enjoyable overall in their extremely delicate nature. The high end is well balanced with the mid-range. However, they still are slightly louder than them, giving the feeling of the V-shaped signature. The highs walk the line of smearing, but never actually smear. The only problem I did find with them was that they would, at times, become slightly sibilant. The high end is not perfect, but still really close to it.

Highs: ★★★★½

Isolation

I have to say that I was quite surprised with the way these isolated. They do it in a peculiar way that is a mystery within itself. With loud sounds around you, you can hear them clearly. When running my lawnmower, I can clearly hear every single stroke of my engine. Now, this normally means that the headphones don’t isolate well… If I were to say this, I would be lying. Although they clearly spell out externals when they are loud enough, the headphones still allow you to hear every detail, every aspect, and every instrumental that is audible in your music that you listen to. Isolation is weird, but works extremely well.

Microphonics

Microphonics are nonexistent with the PFE. Gone, nothing to hear with the cable thump. This is due to the fact that the IEMs are design to be worn over the ear. That’s all there really is to say about the microphonics. There is some cable thump, this is unavoidable.

Phonak shows that they can make headphones that are musical, despite having a hearing aid background. These IEMs are well tuned and will be able to suite many people nicely. They tout their bass, not because it’s a large in quantity, but because it’s high in quality.

Audio: ★★★★½

Build

Phonak continues to show how they can dominate in terms of quality with their build. Although the quality isn’t that of the design or audio, the build quality on these are still good; despite not coming with an included case, which is something many IEMs at this price range come with.

The headphone jack is extremely strong, durable, and flexible. The rubber used doesn’t seem to be anything cheap, which really makes me trust the cable. However, the straightness is not entirely the best decision for build. To wrap everything up, the gold plating can help the headphones last longer by avoid corrosion which is a great thing to have since the headphones will be exposed to the world.

The headphone jack is straight and gold plated.

The cabling on these is a mixed bag. The cables used are nice and thick from the headphone jack all the way up to the Y-split. Being thick and strong, this part of the cable won’t damage as easily. However, above the Y-split, the cable is much thinner and in turn feels weak. However, the cable itself may feel weak, but looks, I mean feels, can be deceiving. The cable is actually Kevlar reenforced so I do trust that it will last. This cable doesn’t tangle easily though, so that is definitely a plus as well.


The cables are strong on one half, but weaker on the other.

As we work our way up to the housings, we find that the plastic used is nothing to joke at. It is tough in its own nature, but not exactly invincible. I am confident that the housings will do their job and protect the BAs inside from any damage. There are strain reliefs on the ends of the housings that blend perfectly into the design of the PerfectBass.

Although it has great build, headphones rarely will ever survive without being taken care of. Part of this requires you to use a case. Since Phonak didn’t provide one, I suggest going out and getting your own. 5 dollars will bring you a long way if you plan on keeping your 100 dollar IEMs in spiffy shape.

Build: ★★★★½

Comfort

Phonak makes hearing aids. Hearing aids are supposed to be worn throughout the day. If hearing aids aren’t comfortable to wear, they won’t be used. Phonak knows comfort and works to ensure that, like their hear aids, their PerfectFit headphones are also perfectly fitting. They do not fail at this. The PFEs are among the most comfortable IEMs I’ve ever worn in my life. Even with their large housings, I can easily lay down with them without having to worry that they will irritate my ears if I fall asleep. They are this comfortable. To ensure a perfect fit, Phonak also includes 3 sets of tips for you to choose from. These IEMs are comfortable and deserve nothing less than a 5 in this category.


Phonak includes 3 sets of tips with their PFEs.

Comfort: ★★★★★

Value

Phonak, as you can tell from the first, in-the-box picture, really didn’t include any accessories whatsoever. However, they make up for this with their supreme design and comfort. The PFEs also have two models, one with a remote and mic and one without. This can become extremely handy for any smartphone user. However, if you opt out of the mic, you can save yourself 20 dollars.


Phonak does give users the option of using a remote and mic.

Now, let’s not forget about the audio quality as well. This, this is what you pay for. To keep costs down from a 180 dollar IEM, Phonak allows users to enjoy the sound of PFE at an affordable price that just skims the 100 dollar mark. They can also be found for around 100 dollars on Amazon. I would also like to note that if you purchase during their freebie giveaway promotion, you do get the same filters that come with the PFE 122. This essentially upgrades your 022s to 122s. With the PerfectBass, you don’t pay for accessories, you pay for what you went after when buying headphones: audio quality.

Value: ★★★★★

Final Thoughts

Phonak really did a number on themselves creating one of the best bang for the buck IEMs in terms of audio quality. I can definitely see myself recommending these to just about anybody, granted they buy a case to keep the new-headphone smell intact. It doesn’t even need to be an expensive case, a 5 dollar one from Amazon does. Allowing you to get grand audio quality at an affordable price, Phonak really hit this out of the park with a well rounded, comfortable machine earning it the first 5 star review for any IEM on iFans!

I’d like to thank David Greenwood for the review sample.

Overall Score

† All prices are in US currency.
This review was written by the iFans.com Review Team. Cumulative scores are rounded to the nearest half or full star.
This accessory, product, or app was received as a sample. Thanks David Greenwood for the product sample.
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