Phonak Audeo PFE 132 review: Phonak Audeo PFE 132

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The earphone is a proprietary balanced armature design (most headphone manufacturers using balanced armature drivers buy them from outside suppliers). This type of driver produces more-accurate sound than standard in-ear headphone drivers, that are, in essence tiny speaker drivers, and they also come with an impressive two-year warranty.

Accessories are pretty minimal, but you do get a small zippered vinyl carry case.

Audeo's PFE 012 ($119) is exactly the same earphone as the twice as expensive PFE 132, but the PFE 012 comes with fewer accessories and is sold with green filters installed that emphasize bass frequencies. These filters are not included with the PFE 132.

Performance

The PFE 132's sound is remarkably clear and clean. The earphone shined with virtuoso guitar instrumentalists Rodrigo y Gabriela, and I could just about feel their fingers flying over the strings.

Switching over from the gray to the black filters pumped up the bass at the unfortunate cost of sound detail, but the clarity is addicting with either filter installed. The much pricier PFE 232 ($599) delivers superior resolution and finer details, and has more bass.

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Listening to jazz pianist Milcho Leviev's "Man From Plovdiv" album, the PFE 132s captured even the most subtle soft-to-loud dynamics of the instrument. I could also hear the piano filling the space at the recording venue, and the PFE 132 even let me hear the quieter parts of the recording with clarity and precision.

The drums on Steven Bernstein's Sly and the Family Stone jazz tribute album "MTO Plays Sly" were vividly presented by the PFE 132s as well. The shimmer of the cymbals was considerably more lifelike than what I heard from the Monster Gratitude and Bowers & Wilkins C5 in-ear headphones.

Sure, those two have a lot more bass oomph than the PFE 132 (with either filter set installed), but the PFE 132's bass definition is far ahead of the competition. You might prefer the PFE 132's neutrality if you listen to all kinds of music, but not if you only crave maximum bass impact and power.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Lastly, the PFE 132 didn't meet my expectations in terms of blocking noise down in the New York City subway and unfortunately, these earphones aren't ideal for blocking loud neighbors or drowning engine hum in an airplane. On a more positive note, it won't "leak" the sound of your music to anyone near you.

Conclusion

Though some may be put off by the no-frills styling and lack of design flair for the money, the PFE 132 is surely designed for those who prize sonic neutrality over everything else. The Audeo PFE 132 is truly an audiophile-oriented design, and well worth the $240 price.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Color black
  • Weight 0.5 oz
  • Sound Output Mode stereo
  • Additional Features answer/end button
  • Type headset
  • Headphones Form Factor in-ear
  • Connector Type mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm 4-pole