Final Audio Design Heaven IV Review
So Final Audio Design (FAD from now on) is one of them companies that have always intrigued me for number of reasons. Firstly there sound quality (of course most important with everything), which boasts uniqueness from everything I read about them. Then there are the huge prices and they’re oh so gorgeous designs. So I have no reviewed one of their earphones, the Adagio III, but was a rather mainstream sounding bassy IEM (there was unique parts still) and I guessed because it was a dynamic driver. This left me desperate to try a heaven series IEM which is a range of single balanced armature IEM’s compared to their Piano Forte and Adagio line which are all dynamic.
So what’s unique about a line of single BA’s. Well they start with the IEM in review, the Heaven IV at a pretty expensive price really at £180 (same as the Etymotic ER4 which is also a single BA) and then go through the prices all the way to roughly a grand for the FI-BA-SS so I am sure you agree that this is pretty interesting stuff. So yes, I am going in at the shallow end but I still am equally as excited about it as it will be the most expensive single BA IEM that I am yet to hear so sit back and enjoy the review.
The simple packaging.
Here is my Unboxing
The set-up I have used is the normal, as I have started using a new portable rig, which is the Hippo CriCri amplifier connected through a LOD to an iPod Nano 3G with Apple Lossless and MP3 on it.
I also used my old set-ups of my iPhone 4, Cowon J3 (with FLAC) and my iMac with my Objective 2 amplifier.
I used the mediums bubble stock tips for the best sound.
Synergizing with the iPod and cricri
What can I say about the design that is me not just gushing at their beauty? They come in 3 colour options, the rather smart black and white or you can add a bit of colour and get the violet like I have. I am going to start with the colour and just say it is a good choice as it is nice to have a bit of colour on you earphones and the violet is both unique and not over the top. Next you have there round shaved steel bodies that are reflective as the best of mirrors and they really do shine. Okay so maybe you could worry about fingerprints but your forget about that while getting enveloped by the awesomeness of the design. To be honest these are like a piece of fine art from the shape of the housings to the unique and captivating look of the strain relief all the way to the fine italics the final is written in on the side of the housings, great and successful effort.
The build is a mixed bag and all depending on what you like and want. The right angle jack has a small housing that will fit into any iPhone case but the trade off is that it is not as solid as some bigger jacks. It does also have a fairly flexible flat strain relief. The cable is flat but slightly different to the normal flat cable as this sees, on the bottom cable, a double layering to it. Now I do not normally like this, especially on the other FAD IEMs but here it actually strengthens the normally weak flat cable. The y-split is the FAD norm, which is a super low profile, chunks of plastic with a small strain relief each side.
The low profile jack and y-split.
The housings are actually really well done by maintain a stylish look and a strong build. They have a really think silicone strain relief that is rather flexible for what it is and it is connected to the housing well. The rest of the housing is awesome being completely shaved stainless steel (nozzle included). It really puts your mind at rest that nothing will happen.
The R and L are on the bottom of the housings!
Now I would like to mention that with these you get the most glorious case that I have ever set my eyes on. This following rant about its beauty is necessary because well, just get one. It is a cigarette case with final written across the mirror, metal finish. Inside we have a foam lining and a metal clip that will hold the headphones like it would cigarettes. The mirror is so clear that you can see yourself better than a mirror. However this comes with some downsides and the first of two are fingerprints. You will spend a lot of time wiping the case so that it looks good and the littlest of touches will show. The second is that its purpose as a case is to look after the IEMs on the move and I recently took these, my Sony EX1000 and V-Moda M-80s with me on a trip to the national swimming championships in Sheffield, which is 3-hour trip for me. I took them all in their respectable case and for this case it was left in a car pocket and also in my trouser and shirt pockets. It never went poolside or any were harmful and while the Sony case looks better than ever and the V-Moda case has not changed the slightest, the FAD case has decided to scratch and this was upsetting but I have now realized if you love it that much, it can only be decorative. What is does do is serve its purpose; it will protect them and fastens nicely with a good lock mechanism.
The horrible scratches :(
You also get a range of tips with these and they are all the colour of the IEMs (mine are all purple) and actually come in two different varieties. The first is a short, bubble like and small bored tip that comes in a small, medium and large size and I really like them for being unique and sounding best with these earphones. The other type area bit longer, more generic and larger bored and come in three sizes, starting at small and working to large.
The bubble tips are the top three!
These have a Etymotic like thin barrel housing but depending on the tip you chose to use these will not get that horrible and intrusive deep insertion. If you use the ‘bubble’ tips then these although go deeper than average it stays at a comfortable depth, they can get really deep with the other tips though which is more intrusive. Because they are rather thin they are also comfortable for that reason. They do however have a slight bit of weight to them but is never really fatiguing because of that. Because they are designed to be worn cable down, the flat cables can be rather annoying and irritating when they hit you neck and chin though and this can not be controlled with the lack of a cable cinch.
These will be getting no recommendation on comfort but it is far from a deterrent as well.
These have a very good isolation which is best with the ‘bubble’ tips because they manage a fairly deep insertion and there width feel your ear canal which stops a very good bulk of ambient noise getting in. Not quite Etymotic but still have a very high level.
Microphonics (Cable Noise)
Microphonics are in one word, poor. I have been on a good run with the microphonics of IEM lately and this has took me back to reality with what some cable are like and you get a thump when anything touches it and I have got annoyed with it from time to time. Wearing them over the ear can heavily reduce it but you have to switch ears and a channel because of the strain reliefs, which is not ideal in my opinion; but the option, is there.
By what I am about to write I do not want to cause any upsets or arguments as this topic can be seen as a sour subject. These have had roughly 100 hours now of use and burn in combined. As burn in is not scientifically proven this all could be mental and happening in my head but in the case that it does happen I recommend burning them in as in my personal experience I have noted improvements which have a massive impact on my enjoyment factor, so dint make any irrational decisions after listening to them out the box.
Soundstage and instrument separation
I have spoke to a few users about FAD before I had these and they always told me about the huge soundstages that they have for earphones but always said the Heaven IV was the most closed that they had all heard, so I started listening to them with no expectations. Well every time I put these in my ears the first thing that hits me is the huge size for the soundstage in every dimension and how well it present the music with just amazing imagery. Size wise we are talking at the very best of IEMs and level with the likes of the Sennheiser IE8, Sony EX1000 and the Aurisonics ASG-1 which are my benchmarks for soundstage and these have joined that rank. Now I will go back to the imaging and it is truly outstanding and the use of both channels and the realism to it is just, well draw dropping, closing in on my benchmark of the TDK BA200.
Instrument separations is truly BA and the driver is clearly fast as nothing and I mean nothing troubles this and it handles everything with great air and although it is know DBA-02, it will not leave you wanting anything more in this area which is all we can ask for anywhere with and earphone.
Now BA IEMs and Single BA IEMs even more so have had a bit of expectancy with me and that is they lack any sort of sub-bass rumble and have tight punchy mid-bass with low quantity. So when I gave this a listen I had a rather mind blown moment of the rich and deep bass that these have.
The mid-bass is not huge in quantity but no slouch either and if you have a general idea of most single or dual BA IEMs then expect a lot more. Now the quality is also great as it seemingly tightens and just goes away a bit when there is a lack of the need of large masses of bass in a song and then when you need a bit more bass then it jumps back in and loosens it self into a bigger, more bodied impact that is looser and groany. It is so gob smacking because the texture to it is great and although it is not really natural it is great fun and really enjoyable with out being stupidly fake.
Now the extension is also very deep and for the first time on a BA IEM I think I can say, WE HAVE RUMBLE! Now I am not talking anything like the Hippo VB or basshead but something that is glorious for a BA and just lets you know that these are digging deep.
Oh and did I mention that it is also perfectly in line with the other frequencies.
The midrange is like none I have heard before. It is really rather unique and well, MAGIC. They have weird coloration to them that makes them sound like they have some dark space feeling in the blanks. They are perhaps a bit veiled but not in your normal sense because they are present just great with the other frequencies and they are super airy. Vocals are great and dynamic with good energy and timbre is all fast and enjoyable.
These do have a really weird aspect to them that I cannot really vocalize, as it is, something else, lets leave it that they are unique and extremely captivating.
These have a fairly smooth treble that extends rather far. It is okay in presence and not laid-back at all but it does not have the most sparkle or details which is disappointing. They are really pleasant and complete the sound of these earphones with a bit of brightness to them, which just makes them overall neutral. There are no annoying sibilant peaks but these can get a bit ‘shrill from time to time. I think it is positioned all quite well because personally I find it a bit to dark when IEMs have to laid back and casual treble like the Dunu earphones I recently reviewed.
When I first reviewed a FAD IEM this is what I was hoping for as these are really unlike anything I have yet come across. They are perhaps the most enjoyable IEMs I have come across and their coloration just captivates you and you lose track of time when they are in your ears. I must also stress their neutral sound signature is also technically very good and these are really capable of making every genre sound good. As a package goes they are a bit different with the likes of the accessories included but for the price they go at I think they are a great buy if you want to upgrade. I will also say that they are a great place to start of if you go with Jaben as they offer some nice bundles with them so you can pick up the likes of a good entry level amp or USB DAC with them for not much more. I cannot stress how impressed I was.
These can be purchased from Jaben, both on their own:
Or as a great bundle deal:
Edited by Swimsonny - 7/30/12 at 2:11pm