Phonak Audeo PFE 232 Page 2

PFE 232 filter carrier and easy-to-use filter removal/replacement tool.

The triumvirate of tuning filters allows the PFE 232 to take on three different sound signatures. Tuning filters are, by nature, subtractive--they shape the sound by raising acoustic impedance and attenuating some frequencies over others. The bass level typically remains constant, but the filter affects the midrange and treble. In the case of the PFE 232, the gray filter seems to be closest to a simple grille, taking very little away from the way the PFE 232 sounds unfiltered.

The bass-heavy green filters are the thickest, attenuating the midrange and a bit of the treble to bring the low end forward. Like the original PFE, the 232 is not very efficient to begin with, but the green filters still manage to decrease sensitivity noticeably. They provide a warmer, bassier sound at the expense of a portion of the transparency and resolution of the PFE 232. Compared to the gray filters, the green ones are muddier, with a veiled midrange, a more v-shaped response, and less "air" at the top. As with the previous Phonak models and AKG's $1300 K3003, the bass-heavy configuration of the 232 sacrifices too much of what makes the earphone special. Those looking for such sizable bass boost can find something that performs nearly as well for much, much less--a Westone 3, for example.

Happily, the black and gray filters of the 232 provide a more agreeable audio experience. While the black filters still de-emphasize the midrange and upper midrange for a more v-shaped response compared to the gray ones, they are far more tolerable than the enhanced bass configuration. Most of the veil present with the green filters is lifted and the acoustic resistance seems to be closer to the more unimpeded gray filters. The gray filters are still the most transparent and--to my ears--the most balanced-sounding of the three. They do have the most treble energy, but only by a small margin. This review is based on the gray filters except where otherwise noted.

Whichever tuning is chosen, the bass remains controlled and very impactful for a BA-based monitor. Even with the gray filters the 232 surpasses the bass quantity of the old Perfect Bass model. Indeed, the PFE 232 is most reminiscent of the dynamic-driver VSonic GR07 at the low end, which has a bit more deep bass in comparison but doesn't sound quite as full and fleshed-out overall. The PFE 232 sounds very dynamic and strikes an excellent balance between fullness and control with its bass. It is quick and clean as a good BA-based monitor should be without sounding overly thin--overall easily some of the better BA bass I've heard.

Because the low end of the PFE 232 is emphasized in comparison to the midrange, the earphone doesn't sound quite as level as the original, single-driver Phonaks. The quality of the midrange is fine, however--note weight is good and the PFE 232 sounds very crisp and clean. It is also detailed and transparent--most so with the gray filters in place--though perhaps not as warm and smooth as some may prefer.

With the gray filters, the top end is similar to that of the original Phonaks. The PFE 232 has a lot of treble energy, boasting plenty of sparkle and good extension. It can sound a touch hot and can occasionally accentuate the sibilance on a track--not a great option for the treble-sensitive, but not problematic most of the time.

The presentation of the PFE 232 has good width and depth and great separation. The sound is versatile--not overly intimate, but with a good center image.

With the PFE 232 Phonak has managed to turn up the bass compared to the original PFE without losing resolution and clarity, which is where the cheaper Perfect Bass model failed. The v-shaped sound of the earphones differs greatly from the flagship Shure, Westone, and Etymotic monitors. Some listeners may be bothered by the sound signature and the edgy, revealing treble presentation, but the PFE 232 provides some of the best bass I've heard from a universal IEM and the clarity and resolution continuously impress. There is no doubt that Phonak's new dual-driver flagship is a top-tier performer, but then so was the original single-driver PFE. The real problem is cost--at $599, the PFE 232 is at least three times dearer than its predecessor, and those looking for a balanced sound signature are better off with the $169 model anyway.

That said, from the interchangeable cables to the lightweight, ergonomic housing design, the PFE 232 is one of the finest overall packages out there and can still be worth the purchase for those with the funds. If putting up the 600 bones would require selling a kidney, just skip a few lunches and go for the PFE 112/122 instead.

Audeo home page and PFE232 product page.
Head-Fi threads on the Audeo PFE232 here, here, and here.

Phonak Sounds AG
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CH-8712 Stäfa
+41 58 928 48 48

13mh13's picture

"-at $599, the PFE 232 is at least three times dearer than its predecessor, and those looking for a balanced sound signature are better off with the $169 model anyway."

So ... at that $$, might as well wait for the Senn IE800, putatively being released in few  mos. 

Okay, can I go back to defecating, now?

(picture removed. Too big. Keep it under 600 wide. Tyll)

.....aahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Tyll, add that to your rose garden. Who says shit HAS to stink?

|joker|, please don't forget  to add kitty-litter to your shopping list.

John Grandberg's picture

Because I have no idea what is being said. 

13mh13's picture

Here you go ...

 MEOW ... translate : "What a crappy day THIS was ELEVEN years ago!" 

ultrabike's picture

Dunno about the IE800... The linky you provided says it's £599 ~ $960... And not sure how it will sound either as lately $$$ IEMs don't always give you quality sound for the money.

Haven't heard the PFE 232, but one problem I had with my PFE112 (aka PFE 121 in black and minus the controls) was that it could come across bright with certain songs, which may still be a problem with the 232. It may be the peak from 7kHz - 10kHz shown in the compensated FR curves:

On the plus side, from the FR plots, the bass is also more pronounced and deep on the 232 than in the 112 which is a good thing ... I think... I always felt the 112 where somewhat bass lean (though undistorted).

From the article I get it is a good cute tip (i.e. not necessarily cat dung), but may be not on par to the quality for your money ratio that you get from a PFE1xx... I guess.

ljokerl's picture

The PFE 232 retains most of the treble intensity of the 112/121. Personally I've always preferred Etymotic's BAs when it comes to treble. The bass quantity of the PFE 232 is increased significantly over the 1** PFEs.

wilzc's picture

So you've also had a taste of the VSonic GR07???!!

These are my all time fav recommendations to others!!!

What do you think of them?!?!?

ljokerl's picture

but I did review the GR07 in my long head-fi thread: multi-iem-review. I'll see if we can get them measured in the near future.

wilzc's picture

Was replying to Tyll

Your review of the GR07 was great.

But I think Tyll's aural preferences/tastes are more  aligned with mine.

One has to take to account the slight 'reviewers bias' don't we?  spite of how neutral one tries to be :P



Alondite's picture

The GR07 (preferably the original Mk. I model) is the headphone I want to see measured more than any other in the world. I have an idea of what I think it would look like on paper, but I really want to know if it measures as good as I think it sounds.

I do agree that it sounds wonderful, and is not only my go-to IEM, but generally my go-to headphone period. 

13mh13's picture

WTF ever happened to the much-touted Cardas IEM project, anyway?

ultrabike's picture

You need to be more "Irrational but Efficacious" dude...

That said, the latest scoop on Cardas stuff might be found here:

And ah... errr... "your are welcome to your uninformed opinion" cheeky (

13mh13's picture

CONFUSED  ... In none of your provided links are there immediate answers to my query. Why post such unresearched links ... uh ... "dude" ... "cheeky"?

ultrabike's picture

LOL!!! I'm being sarcastic. I'm not a Cardas fan...

As far as your query, I can narrow it down a bit... This is the last official post about them AFAIK:

Lawk's picture

I would like more video reviews :( Last one must have been the Noontec....