Final Audio Design Adagio V Review
So this will be my third Final Audio Design (FAD) review and I have already fallen in love with them now. My first venture was the younger brother of this, the Adagio III and the second, which is, were the love started and was with the Heaven IV. So this is the current flagship of their Adagio line. This is their cheapest line and features a range of three dynamic driver models. There is not a lot more to talk about other than the fact that the cheaper Adagio III has the FAD signature BAM and this does not which is a shame.
I will also mention that this retails for roughly £170 and can be purchased worldwide from Jaben.
The simple to the point packaging
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 have been using some Sony Hybrid Noise Isolation tips.
Modelling with the Cowon J3
The design of these may be rather unique at first glance but it actually has many similarities to the Ortofon EQ-5, which I also own and love. Obviously they are not identical by any means and these can be easily distinguished apart. These have a really nice looking barrel design, which I find could be seen to resemble a bullet. It is extremely shiny with a mirror finish due to the shaved stainless steel housing which also supposedly removes any unwanted resonance. What is not to great is that because of the ay that the strain relief goes in the back, these really stick out of your ear and look a bit obscene.
The build quality has its good and its bad bit and this has leaved me a bi worried about certain parts of it. The cable is what comes with cheaper Adagio III, which was a bit of a disappointment as I was not too happy with that to start with. The jack though is the same, as both other FAD products I have and I rather like it. It has small housings and recessed jack and this makes it fit easily into any iPhone case with no problems. Even though it is small it still has a strong build and a nice flat strain relief coming if it. The bottom cable is the bit that I really do not like as it has the two channels cables stuck together and I end up worrying that they will start to fall apart over time which would be a real shame. It is also rather thin and does not feel a great lot stronger than candy strawberry laces. The y-split is very small and low profile and the top cables is the bottom split in half quite simply.
The housings are shaved stainless steel and as you can guess are really solid. The housings is crafted flawlessly and it is just a beautiful piece of craft and I do not seeing a single thing going wrong with it. The other immediate problem I can see is that the cable enters the housing free of a strain relief and I would not want to tug it to hard.
Two accessories come with the earphone. First off you get the set of tips, which is quite simple. You get three pairs of tips, which are small, medium and large. Now if you have read my heaven IV you will know that it comes with both 3 pairs of normal silicone and 3 pairs of bubble tips. Well these only come with three pairs of bubble tips (small bore) and while I preferred them on the heaven IVs, they are extremely uncomfortable with these so I wish you also got the more generic larger bore tips with these as well as these are what I have been using with these.
The bubble tips
Now you also get a case with these, which you did not get with the Adagio III. Now while the case I got with the Heaven IV was just amazing to look at it was not the most functional as a case. Now the one you get here is both very nice to look at and awesome functions wise. While it could be seen as a bit to big for your pocket and therefore not the most portable, it packs a punch with what else it does. The material used is like a clamshell case so it is fairly rugged and then when opened it has a pouch on either side. One pouch is for the earphones themselves and it has three pouches so that one (bigger) can be use for the cable while the other two can be used for the individual channels which is pretty unique and cool. Then on the other side you can carry your amplifier or DAP and it perfectly fits all of my portable amps as well as my iPod, iPhone and Cowon J3. This is a great case with lots of functions.
With the Cowon J3 inside one pouch and the two IEM channels in separate pouches
Now when I first saw an image of these I did start to get worried about comfort issues. This was stemmed from the fact that they have a barrel design that actually gets wider as it gets to the nozzle. So when I first got them and went through the selected tips all of then was very painful and it felt like they were way too big for my ears. This is you will need to start tip rolling and my expansive tip selection cam in handy. At first I started to use the tips for the FAD Heaven IV and they were a lot comfier and usable but I wanted more from sound quality so when I switched to the Sony Hybrids I got a leap in sound quality and the comfort that I wanted. With stock tips these very well may have been unusable but after switching some tips they are not to bad. Yes they are a bit heavy but wearing them over the ears helps a bit with that and the shallow insertion stops them feeling intrusive.
As these have a shallow insertion I was not finding these to isolate very well. Not horrendous like a vented IEM such as the Sony EX1000 but still not near good enough to recommend as a isolating IEM. These should do the job for most of the time but in busy environments these will not service. In fact while I am writing this section right now I can hear my sister and her made laughing rather faintly next to me.
Microphonics (Cable Noise):
When worn over the ear you will have absolutely nothing to worry about as far as microphonics are concerned and these take very nicely to being worn over the ear. If you really do want to wear them cable down then that is not a problem as these make the faintest of thuds when hit.
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:
Now with the first two FADs that I tried their huge soundstages made a big impression on me and I was hoping that these would share the soundstage size. Unfortunately these do not, and when comparing to other earphones these do not fair to badly coming in above a few and behind others but when compared to the other FADs or other big guns as far as soundstage is concerned. So in size whom will I liken it to, the Vsonic GR07. Not the biggest by any means but not compressed or too small. Presentation of it however is rather a different story and these are really clean and everything seems pretty natural among the small soundstage which overall gives the soundstage a slight edge over that of the GR07 but still far from being something special overall.
The instrument separation is slightly better than the soundstage and with a little bit of air going on to keep every thing apart and for a dynamic driver it is very fast, sitting behind the EX1000 but sitting along with the GR07.
After the experience I had with the Adagio III I expected a fairly big quantity of bass that extended deep while marinating power. Well I was quite wrong as this is actually rather far from the rest of the series. The mid-bass is very fast as well as being tight and punchy. I would say the texture is a tad thin but not like that of a BA earphone. The quantity is very nice and it can expand it self every now and again with some bellows of warmth but for the most part it is controlled and sits along side the likes of a UE Triple Fi 10 and Ortofon EQ-5 in quantity but with more dynamic properties by which I mean a different more thick timbre.
The sub-bass of the Adagio III was just amazing and it just slammed air into your ears. In fact in the review I likened it an AIRZOOKA, which is a huge air gun because it was that extreme. What we get here is a good extension that we can feel its little rumble but nothing huge like its younger sibling. In fact with just a bit more rumble here we may be onto what the EX1000 has.
In fact talking of the EX1000, if we had the tiniest bit more mid-bass quantity and sub-bass extension and better texture, we may have something very alike the EX1000 in terms of bass which I think is technically as good as bass gets. This is not a bad go at it but does not quite have the texture to keep it alive. (The Sony EX1000 is also quicker and tighter in bass but this does not have a bad effort by any mean.
The mid-range of this did not have any special coloration like I was hoping for with them being a FAD. It turned out they just had a tad of warmth to them but overall were mainly just noticeable airy. They have a slight vocal forward sound to them with the instruments being a bit behind. Overall these do have a nice amount of energy to them, which is one of the main things that separate these and the GR07. When I say that the instruments can be a bit behind I say this because they sometimes feel like they should be heard more and that is the case with them when using other earphones. This does not happen to often but it does happen with drums and sometimes rhythm guitar.
The treble is rather bright and especially prominent in the high mids and lower treble in which it could be seen as a bit over bearing although it is not near as bright as the DBA-02. One thing I did notice is that although it seems fairly smooth and there are not noticeable or obvious peaks is once every now and again you will get a screech.
As far as sparkle is concerned there is fairly plentiful and it adds a nice sense of clarity and detail.
Another successful IEM from FAD in my opinion although it is completely different from the Adagio III which is odd and did not have to many of the unique properties of the Heaven IV. I found it to be rather similar to the GR07 and if it was just a bit cheaper I think that they would become very big rivals but the more expensive price will stop that from happening.
One thing I will say is these can be very enjoyable IEMs and have good technical ability but first you will have to invest in some Sony Hybrids to get there. They will also come in handy when you are combating the horrendous comfort of the stock tips.
Edited by Swimsonny - 1/17/13 at 12:20am