Final Audio Design A8000 Review: Exquisite balance
Final Audio Design (Final or FAD in short) is no stranger when it comes to our portable audio hobby. Under the mother brand S’NEXT from Japan, Final has been making a number of remarkable products, ranging from small accessories such as eartips to full-sized headphones. Within the in-ear range, their Heaven Series and FI-BA-SS series have been one of their classic line-ups that many have and still find it cherishing. In recent days, Final has launched a variety of new line-ups – MAKE series where you could mod the sound signature yourself, E series which are strong performers and priced to be affordable.
However, the earlier two line-ups, MAKE and E series, each had the purpose of being experimental and budget-friendly. So not stopping here, Final soon after announced another two line-ups that would enrich their family which are B and A series. The B series is the ultimate (or the official) version of the MAKE series IEMs and are categorized into three models – B1, B2, and B3. These IEMs are built to be premium and to sound stellar, but what about a flagship?
This is where the A series kicked in with a one and only model, A8000. It is meaningful for Final to be creating their first in-ear flagship, but what is remarkable beyond that is that A8000 is one of the very first IEMs to be using a pure beryllium diaphragm, along with Dunu Luna. Enough with the small talk. Now, let us now get into the review, analyze the sound and the performance, and compare and contrast with other flagship IEMs that are in the same league.
A8000 comes in a smooth, clean white box with rose gold printings, well representing the oriental beauty of space. Once uncovered, it appears a white cloth, printed with Final logo patterns that wraps the inner packaging, plus a sponge padding for extra protection. Other than the earpieces, it includes a premium stock cable, a carrying case, a full set (5 pairs) of Final E-type eartips with a hard case, a pair of silicone ear hooks, a velcro cable tie, a cable detaching tool, and 8 pairs of spare filters for the nozzles. The carrying case is interestingly made, having it to be made of aluminum-silicone hybrid, allowing the user to easily tuck in the IEM into the case without completely detaching the lid.
Moreover, their E-types eartips are far well known for their quality, plus the ear hooks for being smooth and comfortable. Final released a new accessory as they announce A8000, which is the yellow tool in the picture. This is a cable detacher made for MMCX, where you could safely and quickly detach the earpieces from the cable, simply by pinching it at the joint. Trying to detach MMCX cables gives us a struggle every now and then when the connector has a slippery texture, limited in gripping point, or the connector gripped in particularly strong. This tool is highly useful as it greatly reduces any struggles or damage that might be caused when detached by hands. Having more variety of eartips could have been even better, yet the amount of other useful tools already makes the list of accessories more than enough.
Earpieces – Beryllium
In case you were wondering why such the model name, A8000 is built upon their know-how and technologies used for creating D8000 which is their flagship full-sized headphone. Since that, many parts of the inner components and structures have been inspired by their D8000 headphones. Now to talk about the star of the show – the diaphragm. Along with Dunu Luna, Final A8000 is one of the two first IEMs to use diaphragms that are fully made of beryllium, which Final named this as a “Truly Beryllium diaphragm”. As also mentioned in the review for Luna, beryllium is known to have an extremely high stiffness level which eventually leads to a much faster sonic response speed, thus outdoing more than twice than materials such as titanium, aluminum, or magnesium.
Earpieces – The techs
Final’s “Truly Beryllium” driver is formed to have a dome shape and the driver as a whole is sized at 10.8mm, which is quite a large one for an in-ear. Between the driver and the driver housing, it sits an elastic dome holder. This dome holder grips the diaphragm in place, preventing any unnecessary resonance while producing sound. The dome holder holds the driver in place, but what about any possible variables caused to the housing while manufacturing? Because of that, Final used what is called Tetra Chamber Topology, basically making an internal structure dedicated to A8000’s shape with all 4 chambers optimized to bring out maximum potentials.
Along with that, Final also applied a measuring technology called the PTM Method (Perceptual Transparency Measurement) where it makes analysis and evaluation through mathematical calculations. Led by experts from spatial audio and music recording, incorporating this method ensures the precision for the diaphragm as well as its spatial presentation.
Earpieces – Aesthetics
So those were the technical details for A8000, and now for the outer elements. The housings are fully made of CNC’d stainless steel with mirror polished, giving them a shiny and elegant look. The chassis follows up with the DNA from Final’s B series, yet larger and advanced in shaping. Despite the polygonal shape, it is designed to have a very ergonomic fit with the rear side being rounded, so the housing does not poke any part of the ears. Yet the size of the earpiece is marginally on the larger side, so stay noticed if your outer ears are particularly small.
The nozzle length is slightly on the shorter side from neutral, but not to the point where I would be bothered about. Besides, the stem of the E-type eartips is rather long and at the end of the day, I have got just the right depth when inserted. The nozzle is divided into 4 bores which were somewhat unusual (since it uses a single driver!), yet I believe this is to set clearer sound transmission and due to the 4 chambers. The nozzles are then covered with a mesh filter to prevent dust from falling down the nozzles.
If Final spend that much attention on their earpieces and its accessories, they would of course not leave out with its stock cable. Final collaborated with a famous Japanese cable manufacturer, Junkosha, creating a stock cable made of 4-core high-purity OFC silver coated wires, which these wires are usually used for supercomputers due to its fast transmission speed. The wires are then shielded and insulated with Junflon Fluoropolymer (PFA) by Junkosha, preventing any possible cable oxidation.
The lower side of the cable is double-braided, making it appear as a 2-core cable but more importantly, making the cable more pliable. The cable is terminated with a 3.5mm TRS jack and MMCX connectors, directly produced by Final. It feels soft to the touch without any sparingly feeling to it, so microphonics. The housing for the plug and the MMCX connectors are also mirror-polished, bringing a consistent look with the earpieces. Since the connector housing is slightly shorter in size as well as the slippery material, I would suggest using the included cable detaching tool to prevent any damage.
Sound impressions – Lows
First, looking at the big picture, A8000 draws a vibrant W-shaped sound signature with a bright mood. Lows show great dynamics backed up with its elastic and groovy bass flows. I had no doubt about its bass performance thanks to its pure-beryllium diaphragm, yet A8000 still amazes me. Lows dive deep all the way towards the ultra-low and with quality. The textures are what I especially love from A8000 as the insides are smooth, meaty, and moist while the outsides are crispy and bitey – like a piece of nicely cooked pan-seared salmon. Thanks to that, the bass details are highly revealing but done with grains that are refined and well-polished, then wrapped with crisps around the rims. A8000 makes it distinct and obvious of where the bass and its reverbs end, ultimately leading to better clarity and accuracy.
With speed, lows dive deep while holding in its weightiness. The strike and decay happen in a very clean manner, yet never leaving out on bringing that dark, pressurized power. The strikes are fast along with the reverbs tightly controlled. In fact, reverbs are kept tight but A8000 still allows the bass to ooze out the minimal portion of reverbs, in order to breathe in liveliness and a smooth bass flow, but only within the boundary of keeping the bass tight as its cable braiding. The bass feels well-established, rich, and to be kept with dignity. The ultra-low and low details are clear and blatant but presented with sincere and caution.
Sound impressions – Mids
As we move on the mids, this is where the details could easily be buried by the assertive lows and highs. However, upon a steady buildup from the upper lows, mids come upfront and show a major presence on the music. It is impressing that despite A8000 presenting a strong W-shaped signature, all three bands (lows/mids/highs) would not go all abstruse but kept dreadfully harmonic and overwhelming. Upper lows and lower mids would conjoint inevitably and A8000 takes a beautiful approach on how to keep these two bands connected and distinct at the same time. Without the upper lows smearing into the mids, A8000 transforms only the power from the lows, leading the mids to gain higher depth, concentration, as well as a larger body.
Mids are high in transparency and clarity with advanced texture exposure than it did on the lows. Still keeping the grains smooth but it gets more explicit, giving mids the ability to further open up the vocal details as well as slightly breathing in an airy and husky tone, mainly for the male vocals. Since mids are quite dense and straight-forward to its nature, this airy and husky tone acts as a counteractive and adds fluffiness and fluidity to the vocals. Not too dense where the sound would feel stiff, not too fluffy where the sound would get mushy, but just the right hardness. The thickness of the vocals is just around being neutral, being neither thick nor thin.
Both male and female vocals are nice, yet female vocals tend to make a bit more out of A8000’s delicate, refreshing tone. A cool breeze continues throughout the mid-range with much air openness. Sibilance, however, does not particularly happen other than delivering crispy bites on the upper mids. I am aware that I have referred to the term “crispy” numerous times, though that is simply one of the strongest merits this IEM has – these crispy, refreshing bites and strikes leave such strong impact and addictiveness. Since that, it would be hard to consider A8000 to have a completely fatigue-free sound signature, but it would just feel refreshing for those who are used to the breezy, clarity-focused IEMs on the upper tier.
Sound impressions – Highs, etc.
Highs also come up close and penetrate fast with much crispiness and freshness. Getting superficial or out of control is not the case at all, thus the overall sound will not get too hot or overwhelming for a number of reasons; first, the lows and mids are toned down to be warmer, gentler, and soothing – still packed with crispiness, of course. Second, highs do not get loosen or leave much reverbs. Third, highs would make a quick (and detailed) jab and fall back to its background. Basically, highs on the A8000 knows where to stop its emphasis – elevating closer to the verge of fatiguing, which at the end of the day, A8000 would not cross that line where the sound will get uncomfortable. This “risky” approach of trebles are kept stable to a surprising degree.
What I find lovable from its treble is that while its strikes are instant and decay at a split second, it still catches up all the texture details as well as those small and thin reverbs that quietly splashes away towards the void. And yes, I still have to bring up that “crispiness” topic once again – because highs are the ultimate part where A8000’s crispiness blooms. This crispy sensation is incomparable to lows and mids, that is how much they get thrilling on the highs! From here, these crispy strikes would snap right next to your ears with much reality and concentration, immensely boosting both musicality and aural pleasure.
It would be a good choice to start off this comparison with one of my very favorite 1DD IEM – the Dream XLS. These two IEMs, the XLS and A8000, takes a similar path in tuning once we look at the large picture, yet their characteristics differ quite a lot as we take a closer look. Dream XLS tends to spatially open up the mids, better highlight the vocal layers and its left/right expansion, whereas A8000 takes the advantage in terms of density, straightness, and penetration where the vocals are released with more liveliness and passion. Since that, the vocal textures show more crunch and firmness to the bite. A8000 overall is a bit more analyticity-based or clarity-based while Dream XLS tilts a bit more to the mellow side.
Now for the bass. A8000’s bass is tighter, snappier that it makes the strikes firmer and more in-depth. It also possesses a bit more deepness in color, nicely bringing out the darkness that oozes out from the ultra-lows. Meanwhile, Dream XLS’s bass shows more body and fullness, making the bass spread slightly wider throughout the headroom – but at the end of the day, these differences are quite marginal. Having these two compared, Dream XLS leaves me impressed once again as its bass basically achieves the same level of quality and performance against A8000’s pure beryllium drivers.
For the upper ends, A8000 gets more up-close with a cooler, shinier, and purer tone. Since that, instruments would sound more passionate, shiny, and refreshing. On the other hand, Dream XLS manages to dismantle the fine treble details into small pieces along with breathing in more air and calmness. Staging-wise, A8000 puts more weight on highlighting the heights (or the ups and downs) This also leads to a difference where A8000 keeps the music more reference-like by preserving the music’s original, linear imaging when Dream XLS applies a gentle polish to the imaging details to give more mellowness. As already said, the differences are not night and days, leaving these two masterpieces in the very same league.
As the first two IEMs to be using pure beryllium drivers, these two were destined to be matched up. While the sound signature of A8000 shows subtle similarity to the way how Dream XLS does, though A8000 pursues further with its transparency/clarity-focused sound signature, making the difference between A8000 and Luna even bigger. Lows from both IEMs dive just as deep and similar in quantity, size, and reverbs but there is a subtle difference on the way how they end their bass – Luna lets the reverbs ring slightly more with the edge of the bass to feel more rounded, giving a stronger splash once it blows a strike. In the case of A8000, the reverbs are less bouncier and calmer, with the edge of the bass being more acute which leaves it on a cleaner, crispier note.
Moving on to the upper frequencies. Luna is slightly fuller in body, warm, and soothing while A8000 is relatively slimmer (neutral-thin), bright, and highly revealing with superior resolution. Mids on A8000 goes full force on clarity and transparency, carrying the vocals with an airy, cool breeze throughout the mids and highs. Mids step in close to the ears with vivid straightness, forming a highly intimate vocal presentation. Since all that, A8000 achieves outstanding detail retrieval and clearness, though it is possible for treble sensitives to find this a bit hot. Meanwhile, in the case of Luna, mids sound softer and bring in more warmth which keeps the vocals bold and clear yet leaving no possibilities for causing any fatigue or sibilance.
The same situation goes on with the highs. A8000 would carry a brighter tense with extra crisps added to the texture. Relative to that, Luna is mildly lesser in treble quantity with darker brightness, making the treble more comfort-based. In short – if a warm, easy-going sound signature with stronger bass slams is your jam, Luna would work out better for you. Though if you are keen to enjoy clarity-focused signatures that carry a transparent, crispy sound, A8000 would be a better choice.
Who said dynamic drivers are inferior to BA and EST drivers due to their structural shortcomings? A8000 blows a solid punch in the face with its Beryllium-powered reaction speed, as its sound and the performance backs up the point that not only dynamic drivers could achieve extreme performance for the lower end but also for the upper ends and on many other fields. Interestingly enough, A8000 reminds me of Final FI-BA-SS but in a more mature way and with a dynamic driver instead.
As we look at the craftsmanship of A8000, Final makes it clear and loud on how much devotion and effort they pour into their products, both the sound and appearance oozing with elegance. I appreciate how they pay attention to all the small details in order to reach perfection – the precision-built earpieces, high-quality stock cable, self-invented eartips as well as the cable detacher, and their in-house assembly process for quality control. Building a pure-beryllium driver was already an achievement as it is. Yet even if we put all gimmicks aside and view the IEM solely as it is, A8000 truly shows Final’s high level of expertise and perfection. If you would like to experience the lively crips, deep bass, and the cool breezy upper ends, I would be confident enough to say 8000 times that this could be your very solution.
Thanks to Final Audio for providing A8000 in exchange for an honest impression/feedback.
I am not affiliated with Final Audio and none of my words were modded or asked to be changed.