Phonak Audéo PFE 012 Perfect Bass review
Hearing aid manufacturer Phonak burst on to the consumer headphone market last year with the Audeo Perfect Fit PFE 111 earphones, which won our Ultimate award. This year's PFE 012 earphones are £40 cheaper, although the basic headphones are identical to their outstanding precursors and are just as comfortable to wear.
Where they differ is in the filters supplied with the earphones. The PFE 111s come with two different types of audio filters, one to emphasise mid-tones and another to bring out bass and high frequencies. The new PFE 012 set comes fitted with a pair of green filters, and they're built for bass.
Earplug-style earphones often lack bass, as there's little room for sound to resonate and their tiny drivers can have a limited frequency spectrum. The PFE 012s' green filters do a lot to rectify this, with a full and rounded sound that's far warmer and richer than the almost painful precision of treble-heavy earphones, including some of the less expensive models from Etymotic, Shure and Ultimate Ears.
However, we were pleased to find that the bass didn't overwhelm the detail in higher notes. Its effect is more subtle than pounding, with realistic bass reproduction that gives the feel of a live performance. We could hear the slap of drum skins on our rock tracks, rather than a simple booming thud, and the lower voices in choral works sounded magnificent.
It took around a week to burn in the earphones - the bass in particular took a few days to develop fully - and not everyone likes a more powerful bass. However, if you like to hear the deeper tones of your music, the PFE 012s sound almost as good as the Sennheiser IE 8earphones, at almost half the price. You can also add noise isolation with a pair of Comply Foam Tips (around £15).