Aside from the loops and the extra cable, the Phonak PFE 232 come with a wide selection of tips, a carry case, a cleaning tool and a little plastic briefcase holding the three extra pairs of sound filters – which alter the earphones’ sound signature. More on these multiple personalities later.
The tips selection is very good, including multiple sets of black single-flange silicone tips and three sets of comply foam tips. Whether you prefer the feel and isolation of rubber or foam is a point of preference, but the inclusion of foamies is a welcome addition you very rarely get with earphones that aren’t worryingly expensive. There are no double- or triple-flanged rubber tips, but such things have never been included with Phonak’s earphones. It’s just not how they roll.
Like every visible element of the PFE 232, the carry case is low-key. It’s made from fabric, the only luxury element being the shiny soft interior. The more petite and simple earphone cases are, the more likely you are to use them, though. This one is more compact than the Shure SE535 case, fitting easily into a pocket.
While out and about around town, the PFE 232 provide enough sound isolation with rubber tips to sufficiently block out the sound of trains or the hellish roar of the tube. However, the best isolation is provided by the foam tips, and when using rubbers the Phonak PFE 232 are bested by the Shure SE535 in this respect. The Shure “olive” tips are really rather good.
If noise isolation is a big priority, extra foamies are available for around £18 for three pairs. They have a much shorter shelf life than silicone tips – quite simply they get pretty gross after a month or so of use, no matter how clean your ears may be. Don’t blame us if you use them longer and get an ear infection.
By far the most interesting accessories of the Phonak PFE 232 earphones, though, are the sound filters. These featured in previous Phonak earphone designs, in the very same form in fact, and sit over the aperture of the earphone, moulding the sound before it enters you ear to tweak the bass, treble and mid-range. To look at these tiny little discs, you’d assume they couldn’t have much of an effect on the sound signature, but they do. To an extent that gives the Phonak 232 a split personality – a case of Jeckyl, Hyde and Clive, if you will.