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Review + Appreciation thread: Final Audio Design Pandora Hope VI (interesting dynamic + BA full...

post #1 of 330
Thread Starter 
Review: Final Audio Design Pandora VI

Firstly I would like to thank Robin at HiFiHeadphones for lending this sample to me, I got to use them for a week. Robin has been a great supporter of my reviews, and as such it was great that he wanted me to be one of the first to review (also hifiheadphones is local to me)
I always try to write honest reviews, I cannot say these received over 50hrs of burn-in because of the limited time I had with them.

Gear Used:
iPod Classic 160gb (rockboxed) > Silver LOD > iFi Audio iCan > Pandora VI
Fiio X3 > Pandora VI



Specs:
MSRP: £699


Packaging, Build quality and Accessories:
Well what do you expect from FAD, the box is Hexagonal and hand made from cardboard, all black with Pandora VI on the front. Two top parts of the box open to reveal the headphones, the entire inner part of the box is covered in black fur like material. The headphones are kept in place by a middle part of the box, and well protected by the furriness. On the bottom of the box you will find the specifications, the box is unusual and very impressive.





Build quality is up to FAD standards as expected, the design is unique and well built. All the plastic parts use high quality plastics, which are similar in texture and look to that of Nikon cameras. They use a lot of metal in the design too, which does add quite a bit of weight to the headphones, but makes them feel solid. The headband is metal and covered and cushioned with pleather. The cable is detachable and uses a mono 3.5mm jack into the the housing on each side, the cable has a locking mechanism which you just twist to lock the cable in place. The cable has metal jacks and y-split, a rubbery texture which is flexible and soft, also of sufficient thickness, it is terminated with a 3.5mm jack and not a 6.3mm.





Accessories: not really any included I'm afraid, just the headphones + cable. I'm still unsure if these are portable or at home cans. They are big and heavy, but are also closed back and come with a short cable. In any case the do look big on your head and I would advise you to get a case for them if you are planning to use them for portable use.



Comfort and isolation:
Comfort is where I have problems, the pads are soft, the headband is well padded but the headphones are very heavy, and also the pads are so soft so they compress, leaving your ears touching the baffle. The baffle has big hard plastic ridges, to keep the pads raised and a constant distance from your ears, this causes discomfort after only 20minutes of listening, because your ears are against hard plastic ridges. Using a little kitchen paper I raised the back of the pads and this helped with the ears touching the baffle but they are still heavy and become heavy on the top of your head.



Isolation is ok, nothing great but better than open headphones. They muffle outside sound, but don't block out a lot of external noise.



Sound:
Split into the usual categories:

Lows: Full and rumbling lows, big sub-bass presence with realistic kick. Not fast in speed or recovery, but very natural timbre, if not in a north of neutral quantity. The dynamic driver can produce some impressive sub-bass whilst still having good punch and detail. Separation in the lows is very good, when listening to jazz the double bass sounds very real with excellent articulation and reverberation. Obviously depending on the recording, the lows can be very well behaved, they don't dominate the sound but are always present.

Mids: Final audio design usually have a mid forward sound signature, but not these, they actually sound a little behind the abundant lows. But saying that they still have good detail and are very clean. I don't know where the BA driver kicks in, but the lows are big and rumbling whilst the mids are clean and detailed. Listening to Deolinda - Passou Por Mim e Sorriu, Ana Bacalhau's vocals are beautifully presented, with power and finesse, never shouty or harsh, very real and detailed, whilst being borderline warm. So in presentation these are similar to some other FAD models with amazing vocals, but in quantity these are slightly behind.

Highs: well compared to some other FAD models, these are not as relaxed in the highs. But these are far from bright, these have more presence in the highs but are still smooth and they certainly don't throw detail at you, if the detail is there these will present it in a non offensive way. The highs are on the smoother side, but have enough presences to keep the energy there and not become too dark. The highs also don't have the best extension but spacial cues are very accurate, and decay is another strong point in the highs.



Soundstage is wider than normal but not huge. It gives a sense of space and air, with good 3D sound being wide and having good depth also. Imaging is very good and it is easy to pick out different spatial cues.
Instrument separation is very good too, the lows don't warm the sound up too much.

Over all these are well built but a little too heavy, the sound is great for just kicking back and listening to. They have the FAD natural/warm sound signature, with details and fun/engaging sound. The sound has a thick, rich tone to it, whilst still retaining good detail across the board.
These excel with well recorded jazz and also classical, but fair well with other genres.. If it weren't for the comfort, they would be great cans with a lush sound. As for the price, well they are excellent but again would not be a good all rounder, more suited to compliment an already good collection.



Amps:
Well they are easy to drive and don't need an amp, but do improve with one. The sound becomes fuller and tighter.
Using my Bravo Ocean amp they became very full and thick, very fun to listen to but I did prefer them with a more neutral solid state amp.



http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/final-audio-design-pandora-hope-vi-hybrid-driver-hifi-headphones-prodid-11253.html

Headphone stand from Oscar's Audio (not me, another Oscar) http://www.oscarsaudio.co.uk

Tracks Used:
Skrillex – First Of The Year (Equinox) (320kbps MP3)
Paramore – Franklin (320kbps MP3)
Diana Krall – The Girl In The Other Room (FLAC)
Deolinda – Passou Por Mim E Sorriu (live) (ALAC)
Suicide Silence – Unanswered (FLAC)
Massive Attack – Angel (ALAC)
Eat Static – Dzhopa Dream (ALAC)
The XX – Crystalised (FLAC)
Funeral For A Friend – Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings (ALAC)
Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man (FLAC)
The Scene Aesthetic – Humans (259kbps MP3)
A Hero A Fake – Swallowed By The Sea (254kbps MP3)
Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, Spring Allegro (ALAC)
Johnny Craig – Children Of Divorce (161kbps MP3)
Deadmau5 + Kaskade – I Remember (Caspa Remix) (320kbps MP3)
Black Uhuru – Utterance (ALAC)
We Are The In Crowd – Never Be What You Want (226kbps MP3)
Silverstein – Discovering The Waterfront (320kbps MP3)
Concept Of Thought – Our Thought (FLAC)
Nirvana – Something In The Way (Unplugged) (ALAC)
Edited by ostewart - 12/26/13 at 1:53am
post #2 of 330

I have enjoyed them over a week now 3/4 hours a day, I am so enthralled by the sound quality of the PHVI although the comfort is clearly an issue they are such a step up my previous headphones that I totally forget about it. There is something about how they're tuned that just connects with me and make me "forget about them" in a way, it's just me and the music and the world fades away. Those are the first headphones that elicit such level of emotion for me. Final Audio has captured my attention there in a big way (I disregarded their IEM based on specs but this needs revisiting for sure).

 

Note that I am still a beginner in headfiers term, I don't have point of references to compare them to, this makes your review quite interesting to me, thanks!

 

Side note : one thing I can warn about is how fragile the hexagonal box "hinges" are, one of those broke after three times opening closing the box, and I am very meticulous with my gear as in obsessive about taking care of it. Beware. 

post #3 of 330
Thread Starter 
Yep same happened to the box I had.

Yes final audio design always tune their headphones and IEM's to have emotion. As stated in previous FAD reviews I've done, they are not necessarily the most technically proficient headphones, but the lush sound full of emotion and also natural timbre is so inviting.

They really do sound great with the right source and genre of music. I did find the lows to big a little too thick and slow, maybe a tad less quantity and tighter sound would have been better, but as is, the sound is a pleasure to listen to.

Comfort can be fixed by raising the pads stated in the review, but its not a permanent solution.
Edited by ostewart - 12/26/13 at 2:21pm
post #4 of 330

Thanks for the review! Those comfort issues do worry me... Would you consider your ears to be quite average in size and how far they stick out?

post #5 of 330

As far as I am concerned, I don't have huge ears but above average and they do fit (just) but that's not the main issue for comfort which ear you ear touching the driver and I don't think having smaller ears will fix it (adding padding can help as ostewart suggested).

 

I can't understand how they could overlook such a design flaw, while being so thourough on making a perfect product otherwise. Maybe they will fix that with a mkII, or Hope IV (with apparently a very different design)...VIII, X (as there seems to be other on the way - from NL website : https://www.finalaudio.nl/en/products.html)

post #6 of 330
Thread Starter 
I have very average if not small ears. Luckily comfort can be fixed with simple mods usually.
post #7 of 330

I just received it, now testing it with iBasso DX50. Would like to find out so far anyone proceed to custom made better(?) cable for it? The normal mono 3.5mm plug cannot fully fit into the connector on headphone side, due to the locking part. Wonder any place can get this special plug with locking. 

post #8 of 330
Thread Starter 
You could make one fairly easily I should think.

I understand your problem with the locking system, you'd have to use these:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/3-5mm-Mono-Audio-HQ-Solder-Terminal-With-Strain-for-Audio-Cables-4-5mm-006670-/380658910187?pt=UK_Computing_Sound_Vision_Audio_Cables_Adapters&hash=item58a10a03ebitem58a10a03eb

But even without the housing on the jack they may not fit. In which case, you may have to get a dremel and grind down the plastic on the hpousiong, which I dont see anyone doing considering the cost of the headphones.

I was looking for these in mono, then it would work:
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/390644440691
post #9 of 330
Quote:
Originally Posted by ostewart View Post

You could make one fairly easily I should think.

I understand your problem with the locking system, you'd have to use these:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/3-5mm-Mono-Audio-HQ-Solder-Terminal-With-Strain-for-Audio-Cables-4-5mm-006670-/380658910187?pt=UK_Computing_Sound_Vision_Audio_Cables_Adapters&hash=item58a10a03ebitem58a10a03eb

But even without the housing on the jack they may not fit. In which case, you may have to get a dremel and grind down the plastic on the hpousiong, which I dont see anyone doing considering the cost of the headphones.

I was looking for these in mono, then it would work:
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/390644440691

Thanks for the advice. Ya, too expensive to grind it, may be do it after warranty. In fact the repair headphone plug might work after roughly measure it,stereo plug should work just don't connect the 'ring' connector. In fact I order neutrik rean stereo plug, seems like it is too big for it.

post #10 of 330

I found slim type trs 3.5mm plug that might work, please refer to the following link at ebay

http://www.ebay.com/itm/291029730763

http://www.ebay.com/itm/171188753014

 

it is similar in shape to the stock connector but without the locking mechanism. Hopefully the extended ring without locking mechanism can perfectly fit into the headphone connector.

post #11 of 330
Thread Starter 
Yeah stereo will work, just remember to only connect tip and ground.

The ones without any housing will work best as they are the slimmest. Also heatshrink (adhesive lined) will make it strong.
post #12 of 330
Got mine today...
What could have been a 5min decision turned into an hour of wondering because of the aforementioned fit issue.

Interestingly they seemed to have spent quite a bit of time on designing the pad:
http://final-audio-design-directshop.com/final/7.1/FI-PA6BD/
I have no idea about design/engineering but maybe it has to do with the weight of the cans and clamping force when using thicker pad
(But really, I have no idea)

Anyway, I have nothing technical to add, but for those considering these for portable use,
You really need to go try them first, not just for the fit, but you might want to look at a mirror when you put them on:
They are going to look HUGE when you put them on because of the design.
post #13 of 330
Thread Starter 
How do you find the fit and comfort?

Yes they look huge when on, not really the most portable friendly.
post #14 of 330
So far I've decided comfort is not really an issue.
The fit will take a bit more time to figure out, still sliding them up down to figure out how to get the most secure fit.

If the iv sounds anything like vi, then that might be the real winner (as far as portable closed cans go)
post #15 of 330

I am also eager to see what the IV will be like in terms of weight, and if it will keep the same hybrid design, then the X also makes me curious... will they one day build an open back is an interesting question :) In the meantime the VI are just bliss to my ears even if these days I am hypnotized by the SE846 IEM...

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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › Review + Appreciation thread: Final Audio Design Pandora Hope VI (interesting dynamic + BA full size headphones)