UPDATE (1/17/2021): [-2 stars]
On 12/31/2020, my left receiver failed on my HA. I was able to get a new one under warranty but the new one failed only 12 days later! Given that the receivers are only covered for 90-days, I will have to get the new one myself (~$100 direct or $50 on eBay). I plan on sending the entire HA in for service as there is no reason the first one should have failed much less the new one after only 12 days! Extremely disapointed!
-- Original Review --
Due to a disease, I went from having above average hearing to moderate hearing loss in both ears (mostly conductive loss). Just to add insult to injury, I used to mix sound as part of a family side business so it's been a very frustrating change! Anyway, I should warn you that I'm probably more technologically literate and picky then the average person out there!
I did a lot of my own research and tested a few high-end models out there before I settled on the Phonak Paradise (P90). It appeared to deliver the best audio and have the best all-around feature set just now!
As a hearing aid, I've found it to be VERY good! It covers a decent range (don't expect great bass or frequencies over 8kHz), compact, and is fairly comfortable.
With the fitting software (yes, I bought a Noahlink programmer to adjust it myself!), I can do my own hearing tests between ENT visits and tweak the 20-band EQ as much as I want! It offers a lot of nice tools to help set things up too (A:B testing, environment simulations, RTA [Real time analyzer], etc). It's been a lot of fun getting it fine-tuned to what I want.
Their Autosense 4.0 does a remarkable job of adjusting itself in 90% of the environments I've been in so far. Where it falls short is obvious areas such as places with huge amounts of perpetually changing noise (think large crowds/gatherings with people constantly moving around you) and watching TV (with surround sound, it thinks you're "in" the movie and tries to adjust accordingly even though you may not want it to). You will definitely want to take advantage of their custom programs for those two conditions!
Bluetooth streaming is very nice to have and I really like that it allows 2 devices to be connected at a time! I almost always have my phone nearby so I have it almost always connected and then I usually connect to another device (receiver, computer, tablet, etc).
Their software (for Android) is very functional, at least it is once you get the headphones to connect (it takes a little time and I've found it takes a few retries if actively streaming Bluetooth content). The app lets you select your program, set the volume, and make adjustments to the sound (3-band EQ, noise cancelation, mic directionality, etc).
What I don't like is that their app is too simple for me. For example, if you're streaming Bluetooth, you only get to choose the balance between ambient and streaming - there are no other controls (EQ, directionality, etc).
Another issue I have is that they don't take advantage of any Android-specific features. For example: I would really like to see a home screen widget or notification to control volume and/or programs without having to open their app.
One of the annoyances I have with the P90's Bluetooth is that there is no support for prev/next tracks (only stop/start). I feel like they could have easily added a triple-tap for prev/next tracks.
The volume up/down buttons can be held for 3-sec to change the custom programs - something that is much easier then opening their app! In addition to auto, you can have up to 3 programs which are identified audibly by beeps in your ear. The thing is that, despite pressing the up or down button, you will only ever move in the order Auto -> Program 1 -> Program 2 -> Program 3 (saying you have that many programs setup). I would have preferred to cycle through the programs based on the button pressed. For example, if I was on Program 1, I would prefer Vol+ to take me back to Auto and Vol- to take me to Program 2. Unfortunately, both Vol+/Vol- move me to Program 2 thus forcing me to always cycle through all available the programs.
Next up: the case. Why does the case which comes with it have to be so huge?! It's a giant waste of space that requires me to bring an ancient Micro USB cable/adapter. I feel like they should be using their small case - only updated to use USB-C and/or QI charging - and have an optional battery version as an upgrade. Thankfully, the battery-pack add-on for their standard case does make it better suited for travel but it is still HUGE!
Finally, while I love having A2DP Bluetooth, it does have some issues. Namely, it doesn't appear to support any low-latency codecs!
With standard wiring between your audio source and ears (think wired headphones), you can get a 5-10ms delay. If you're watching TV, you won't notice any delay at this speed! Unfortunately, since Bluetooth is a digital, wireless standard, it will give you a much larger delay depending on the codec used to transmit the audio.
Standard Bluetooth audio (SBC codec) delay is roughly 170-270ms which is very noticeable! Thankfully, there are other low[er] latency codes available for Bluetooth's A2DP profile such as aptX (2009) at 60-80ms and aptX LL [Low Latency] (2012) at 30-40ms.
So what does this all mean? If you have a TV/Receiver that support Bluetooth and you connect your P90 to them, it will be out of sync with the video! Even worse, if you're watching with family who don't use headphones, they probably have the volume up which means you're going to hear the original, non-delayed audio as well as your Bluetooth audio. Therefore, you're hearing the same audio twice so it sounds like you're in a giant echo chamber!
You could work around this: for example, I found that I could delay my receiver 216ms to compensate but, while that reduces the audio delay to an acceptable amount (almost no echo), the lip sync will be very noticeably off for everyone so it's really only useful for music.
Bottom line is that it just blows my mind that I can get a $30 pair of cheap headphones which have support for aptX/aptX LL (low-latency codecs) while my $4k hearing aids do not! It's not like these codec's are new technology either - they've been around for 8+ years now! (Unless this is just their way of trying to sell their overpriced tv connector?)
(BTW, I emailed Phonak Support about this - the support person I talked to didn't know anything about aptX and forwarded my question to the developers.)
For those that like listening to music and have open domes, I've found that streaming the music to the hearing aids in combination with a delayed receiver (full audio system: sub-woofer, etc.) makes for a really good listening experience!