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Phonak Audeo PFE 012 - Phonak Audeo PFE 012
Although they do give the PFE 012s a bassier output that the PFE112, the green filters definitely don't negate any of the advantages of the more expensive model. The same great positioning is still on offer; the sense of space the PFE 012's create is truly amazing for a set of IEMs. This works well with any music, but complex, especially orchestral, pieces really benefit with separate instruments much easier to pick out than with lesser earphones. However, despite this open soundstage, there's no lack of cohesion to the PFE 012s' output; think of it as a well-blended cocktail.
The PFE 012s' clarity is unrivalled at this price point, too - not quite Etymotic levels of precision, but definitely within spitting distance. Phonak's expertise in the hearing aid market no doubt helps here. We think that's part of the reason the PFE 012s are quieter than other earphones at the same output volume, too, helping ensure you don't damage your hearing, even Phonak is robbing itself of potential customers with that move. We hasten to add, though, that while they PFE 012s aren't loud, they are loud enough - think audible not ear-splitting.
The PSE 012s may be bassy for a Phonak earphone, but the fuller bass is subtle rather than overpowering; you'll hear kick drums drive through with a bit more force, brass instruments slightly greater presence and bass guitars' twangs sear through a touch more. With the right music it works well. Hip hop fans, for example, will appreciate the extra kick given to basslines; we certainly preferred listening to Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Eminem's Recovery with the PFE 012s more-present low end.
The same difference (we hesitate to say improvement, it's a matter of personal preference) can be heard with heavier music. Giving Biffy Clyro's Puzzles and Brand New's Daisy a play through, we rather liked how kick drums gained extra extra, well, kick, and bass lines reverberated more strongly.
All that said; although we found a lot to like with this bass-emphasis, and can see a lot of listeners favouring it, our preference is still for the flatter more balanced tone of the grey filters supplied with the PFE 112s. We're no fools and we're certain that the more visceral tone of the PFE 012s' green filters will definitely have its fans, but for us it's all about accuracy. But we're not sure we'd pay £40 more for that, even given the extra accessories that come with the PFE 112s.
The price of the PFE 012 earphones is impressive to say the least. The loss of a few unnecessary (if nice to have) accessories versus the PFE 112 'phones is well worth the £40 saving. And while we prefer the more natural sound of the PFE 112's filters, we can definitely understand the appeal of the extra bass offered by the PFE 012s; in fact, with the right music it's an arguable improvement.