1964-SLV Universal IEM Custom Sleeves for Phonak Audéo PFE 232

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Introduction

In summer 2012, I was visiting my family in California, USA for a month of sunny holidays.
Whilst I was out there, I thought to myself to get some custom sleeves done. I had previously, from the UK emailed 1964 Ears to see if they would do the PFE 232’s – The reason being, is because the PFE’s have a slightly larger nozzle than your standard earphones like the Shure Se535’s ones. Thus I couldn’t find a reputable custom earphone company within Europe that would do them. All of them that I called, emailed, either hadn’t heard of the PFE 232’s nor would do them. For example, I got in contact with ACS in the UK, and they said they were unavailable to do it; I’m sure there are other companies out there, that could have done it, but I wasn’t aware of them at the time.

1964-SLV Custom Sleeves - Good U.S. ear impressions & 1964 sleeves

The Process

I went ahead and got some impressions done in France, with an audiologist, I found after doing some searching on Google. The impressions you’ll be able to see, weren’t done properly, twice. As you might be able to see and then compare with the blue impressions I later got in the USA, the pink (French) impressions had lumps in them, and thus didn’t have a smooth surface. 1964 Ears confirmed that they weren’t good impressions, and weren’t impressions they could use, in order to make the custom sleeves. I wasted quite a lot time and 20€ doing those impressions in France. Long story short, they were wasted, and just thrown away.

When I got to the USA, I thought to myself, I will do the impressions in California, as there were recommended audiologists by 1964 Ears (and other companies) that were local to where I was staying. The audiologist I went to was located in Ventura, Los Angeles: Hearing Care Associates – This was mainly because the other audiologists in my area were looking to get around $100 for impressions only. Which in all honesty, for 10 minutes, and a bit of material, is simply a rip-off. Hearing Care Associates on the other hand were only asking for $45. I went ahead and got my impressions done there, and they were not only perfect impressions, but you could tell when directly comparing them to the French impressions that I had done before, that these new blue looking America ones were made out of a better, more long-lasting material.

My 1964 Ears Experience

Once I had gotten the impressions, I called 1964 Ears, and got confirmed that the impressions were good. However that was after I had sent them an email, and not heard back in several days, seeing as time was an issue for me, I needed a quick reply.

The order process was relatively simple and straight forward, but I felt that the customer service was seriously lacking (such as confirming that my earphones, and impressions had reached them) I did give 1964 Ears several days to email me, but heard nothing back. Seeing as I had to send my PFE 232’s ($600) to them, I would have liked if there was some sort of confirmation that my earphones had reached them. More so, with the slow email replies, and the lack of real explanation, I somewhat regretted sending them my earphones, as I was fearing I would not get them back in time, before I left to England.
The process took around 2 weeks to complete. From the time I had completed the order form and sent them my earphones, to the date I received my earphones back, with the custom sleeves. It also cost me $130 to do the process. It cost me around $15 sending it to them, and I paid $115 to 1964 Ears for the custom sleeves ($100 is for the sleeves and $15 is for postage back). So overall, ignoring my wasted French impressions, it cost me $175 to get custom sleeves, which isn’t cheap at all.

After receiving the custom sleeves back, I spent an extensive amount of time listening to them, and for long periods of time, simply because I felt something wasn’t quite right from the offset (I wanted to give them enough time to accommodate to my ears, and more so get used to them). After returning back from the USA and having tested them for over 2 months, I realised that there were several problems with my sleeves:
-The right seal felt a little loose
-The left seal felt a bit too tight, especially for long periods of listening my ear would hurt a little
-The PFE 232’s would easily slip out of the custom sleeves (upon insertion) – almost like the hole they had made within the sleeves opened up a little and thus made it so that the PFE’s wouldn’t stay in properly.

Overall, it meant that I was tending not to listen to my PFE’s as I wasn’t fully comfortable with them – sure I could just remove the sleeves, but then why had I invested so much time and effort into all of this?

It got to a point that it was ridiculous, where I had my earphones sitting in my drawers and not being heard, so I went ahead and emailed 1964 Ears and outlined the problems.
1964 Ears, came back with the option of making new sleeves, but seeing as I had requested to get back my ear impressions (as I was leaving the US, and had paid $45 for them), they wanted me to send it in to them from the UK – which would have been a pain. Thus, knowing this, 1964 Ears, instead of trying to resolve the issue, gave me a full $115 refund, as it was supposedly cheaper for them to do so.

I appreciate a company taking the hit, but I appreciate a company more when they try and resolve a problem, rather than give up on it. I can’t complain though, I got my taste of custom earphones, and it wasn’t a pleasant journey, nor a cheap one, but would like to thank 1964 Ears for their services.

A little note on what you receive from 1964 Ears:
-Your custom ear tips
-A pouch – which in all honesty is a little too stiff and small
-Your earphones – If you had to send them in
-Your impressions – After having specified on your order form that you wanted them back

Sound Quality Differences

1964-SLV Custom Sleeves - Good U.S. ear impressions & 1964 sleeves

Now the most important thing, apart from fit issues and customer experience, is the actual sound quality improvements. Of course, judge as you will with my sound quality comments, however I can assure you that my fit was fine for listening to the sound quality differences. By that I mean, it wasn’t like having a set of small ear canals, and inserting earphones with a large tip. I had a good fit, but it wasn’t a comfortable one for long periods of listening, and more so, whilst the PFE’s would sit perfectly in the sleeves, is what I’m commenting on. In other words, if you are fully satisfied with your fit, and have none of the problems I listed before, this is hopefully what you should be taking on-board with the sound quality differences.

The first thing I noticed when it came to the sound quality, was the insanely better isolation I had. The isolation beat my Comply Foam tips by a mile, and made me realise how well my earphones got, whilst not having to crank them up in volume, as before I had a decent, but not perfect isolation from the outside world. In all honesty, I don’t think any universal earphone has perfect isolation, they are all extremely good, especially earphones such as the Aurisonics ASG-1’s which are IEM’s that were made like custom earphones, thus able to block out a lot of external noise, by its sheer earphone size, but none come close to earphones that are designed for your ears and your ears only, be it full custom earphones or just custom ear tips.

With the 1964-SLV I also noticed an increase in the soundstage and depth. This I think was mainly due to the fact that the PFE 232’s were positioned further away from my ears more than anything. However, regardless of what it was, I found that the earphones had increased in soundtage and depth, which meant that my music sounded much better.

With the increase in soundstage, I also realised the mids were a little more accurate. It was a very very slight change over the standard silicone tips provided, however I felt that it has gotten a little better, especially after A/Bing the earphones with the sleeves on and off.

Here was my biggest surprise with the custom sleeves: The bass, yes the bass, especially the sub-bass was absolutely phenomenal. The bass, I presume, due to having a little more space to travel, between the driver and your ears, had increased in depth and thus the sub-bass region had become absolutely sensational. I can’t describe how good they now sound, especially with tracks that had a nice sub or even mid-bass rumble.

Overall, the sound quality hadn’t been affected in a negative way, quite the positive, it was all positive, and is fully worth it, if you are 100% satisfied with your universal fitting earphones (and don’t see yourself changing earphones any time soon)

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, a lot of people might think getting custom sleeves is very expensive, but getting them simply for better isolation is worth it alone, let alone the sound quality improvements I noted above. I should state that it is only worth getting custom earphone tips, full custom earphones or re-shelling services, only when you are fully satisfied with the earphones you have or with the sound quality they produce. By that I mean, a lot of audio enthusiasts, like myself tend to change earphone every year, as there are new models out there. The PFE 232’s I feel, and still feel, are the best universal earphones I have heard to date, and doubt many earphones will be able to knock it off its crown. Thus, in my opinion, investing a little bit more money on them, to get that “finishing touch” is well worth the investment.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures & my little overview!
TotallydubbedHD

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