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Headphone manufacturers are hip to the fact that most people prefer headphones with pumped-up bass, so they rarely make truly accurate-sounding headphones. But what if you could buy a pair that gives you accuracy and extra bass when you want it? The Phonak Audeo PFE 132 is such a headphone.
How does it do that? The PFE 132 features proprietary Acoustic Filters that change the sound. The PFE 132's strong suit is clarity and an exceptionally open, not stuck-inside-your-head sound; it's well ahead of the similarly priced in-ear headphone competition in those two areas. In that sense, it's a true audiophile headphone.
Phonak is one of the world's largest hearing aid manufacturers, so the company knows more about sound than your average startup or celebrity-endorsed manufacturer that's just now dipping toes into the lucrative headphone market.
The $239.99 Audeo PFE 132 earphones are exceptionally comfortable, and the sound quality is right up there with the very best universal-fit, in-ear models.
The PFE 132 doesn't look like anything special -- it's just an understated, small black and gray plastic in-ear headphone. As for the "Perfect Fit" aspect of the design, the PFE 132 comes with three sizes of silicone tips and one medium size Comply foam tip. I've seen similar tips with many other in-ear headphones, so there's nothing unique or special about the fit, and the company hasn't made a breakthrough in that area.
The thin and very flexible earphone cables are designed to loop back behind your ears, and Audeo supplies curved silicone "ear guides" that slip onto the cables to help secure the earpieces in place. The ear guides helped, but there were times when the earpieces lost the seal required to produce the best possible sound quality and I'd have to re-establish the seal.
On a more positive note, the earpieces are very light and comfortable to wear for hours on end, although the tiny "L" and "R" markings on the inside lobe of the earpieces aren't legible in low-light situations.
When you open the PFE 132 box, you'll see that the headphone doesn't come with any ear tips installed -- you'll need to pick out a set from the selection of tips. Try them all and see which creates the best seal. That's standard stuff, but here's where it gets interesting: Audeo headphones use proprietary acoustic filters that change the sound of the headphones (the filters are tiny discs that fit in the nozzle of each earpiece).
The standard gray filter doesn't "push" any frequency range, but the PFE 132 also comes with a set of black filters that boost the bass and highs. The filters are packed in a small travel case, which comes with a special tool used to install and remove the filters in the earphones. Few headphones allow the owners to tune the sound to taste, so I'm pleased to see Audeo include this feature.
The PFE 132 has a 48-inch-long, tangle-resistant cable with a microphone and volume control compatible with iPods, iPads, iPhones, and most smartphones with a four-pole 3.5mm jack.