final A8000 - Reviews
Pros: Naturalness , transparency , realism , speed , effortless , soundstage , build ...
Cons: None except price that is only attainable for the rich people and not the people like us.
Effortless Natural transparency : the Final Audio Design A8000

I would like to thank final audio design for sending me a review sample for the flagship single dynamic driver called the A8000 . What makes this iem so special you might say?. Could it be the true berrylium foil driver or the stainless steel housing with tetra champer that affect different part of the sound. Or the sound tuning philosophy for totl natural transparency.

In my review I'll do my best to describe this breakthrough in audio Nirvana and why it might matter to the true lover of music such as I and you.

I was sent a8k for short as well as the b1 which I post in a separate review soon for review and to give my honest opinion and if I didn't like them I didn't need to write the review . But to me this iem definitely deserve a big A+ review as it had changed my prescription on transparency..

Lest start with fit , for my ears it fits like a glove and the isolation is like the semi custom for me . I'm using the xs size of the fad e type tips.

Build quality is high end with it's repairable housing that you can take apart and replace if it gets damaged which is a good thing for some people. The housing does get dirty easily because of the mirror polish .


Let's get to the main reason why we need the A8K.

Bass:

She is deep and fluid like air , clear and transparent and pure . She can hit you by force like a tornado, deadly and visceral impact and clean and fast. She can also be gentle in an instant like touching you gentle with the warmth of a motherly love.


Mids.
The holographic sound and imagining is top , warmth is coveyed and real with all tones never smearing with other . Vocal sound like the should no recession or boosting , it's just in perfect harmony right in the middle of your head and can shoot out to the furthest of space and time. It can shoot up to the sky and dig deep to a never-ending abyss .

Treble.

She is fast and gentle at the same time just like air , clear and transparent while be natural and real and never hurt you one bit. She extends far and wide and deep and high . She touches you soft with light textures that can tickle your follicle.

Soundstage.

Like a concert in an massive open field where you are in the center with the band and everyone is surrounding you and dancing and yelling. But they can't really hurt you ears because it's so natural and open so no sound can bounce off.

Conclusion.

Do you need it , fo you want it . I would say yes and yes to both of the question because ithis tool will take your music appreciation to the top and you can never be sad . It'll cause estasy , eargasm , emotions , feels the joy and dancing to whatever you enjoy. Every genre is play in pristine clarity and naturalness. You can never be bored with this iem because whatever you have heard 1000s of times over will be heard brand new ad if you have heard them for the first time in you life . The awe and ooooos of life will come and you'll be content. And letting it go will be devastating for me.

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F
FlowLikeWater
great review, thnx
Pros: - sonic qualities in general: speed, attack, fast decay, resolution
- treble performance and open-sounding signature
- wide and deep surrounding soundstage
- premium build with beautiful design
Cons: - forward treble can be too hot for some
- fit can be uncomfortable for a few ears
Infoseeker
Infoseeker
Wow, I will set your profile to follow.
Pros: Technical performance, transients, coherence
Cons: cable choice, accessories
The Grand (Audio) Finale – A review of the Final Audio A8000

Photos
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First up, some photos of the IEMs themselves to tantalise your mental tastebuds prior to the veritable cornucopia of delights that is to follow:

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Packaging and accessories:

The box and sleeve in which the A8000 arrived is sleek, elegant and attractive, much like the IEMs themselves.

Inside there’s a pretty stripped-down set of accessories; a metal and rubber carrying case (more on this later), some ear tips securely stored in a smoky translucent plastic carrying case, some ear-hooks, spare filters for the nozzles (very nice to see) and a very welcome plastic tool for cable swapping. I’ve seen these on sale individually, but it’s rare to see a company include these with the IEMs.

Since MMCX cables can sometimes be notoriously tough to remove, this was a well thought out addition to the accessory package.

Regrettably, the list ends there, albeit at least on a high note :)

As a £2000 flagship product, I think you might be forgiven for expecting rather more in terms of the packaging and accessories.
Whilst elegant and attractively designed, compared with the slide-out drawer and sub-sections, and Pandora metal carrying case of even a mid-range Empire Ears IEM (for example), I feel the packaging is somewhat behind the times here.

Simply, it would have been good maybe 3 years ago, but several of the manufacturers of such high-end audio gear have significantly upped their game over the last few years.

This market is growing ever more sophisticated and its consumers ever more cognizant of the standards they expect at these dizzying heights.
I think any company wanting to compete at this level can no longer afford to ignore such aspects and assume that the IEMs themselves will be enough to sell units.

Whilst that may be true to some extent, I just think the market is more competitive now and anything a company can do to stand out and give themselves an edge will be of benefit.
I mean all this only in a spirit of constructive feedback of course :)

With regards to the carrying case, my immediate impression was one of admiration and respect. It looks like a slim clamshell; classy, subtle, lightweight, yet sturdy enough to resist the best you can throw at it.

However, when I flipped it over, I found that the underside was made of a soft rubbery silicone. It has a useful sliver of that material acting as a divider across the centre of the case (see photos), which provides something around which to wrap the cable.

Still, I can’t help wondering whether this is something of a design blunder?
I’m merely speculating here and playing devil’s advocate, but what if you drop the case and it lands on a bumpy surface (or item on the floor), rubber side down?

Again, it’s a £2000 pair of IEMs, so the owner is going to want to know that they are securely ensconced in an impenetrable cocoon of protection.

On the one hand I do really like the design. It’s delightful to have something so slimline, lightweight and pocket/bag friendly.

On the other hand though, the 3 drawbacks that I see are:

1) The aforementioned rubber underside. If Final Audio could even add a disc (of the same metal used in the top) to the underside, fixed onto the rubber if necessary, you could maintain the profile, increase the weight only a little, but add an exponentially greater degree of protection for its precious cargo.

2) The slimline design is great, but I suspect it’s not going to work if the owner wants to swap to a relatively more chunky 8-wire cable for example.

3) The rubber side is sometimes a bit of a fiddle to close even when the case is empty inside. With a coiled cable pressing up against the sides where the rim of the rubber lid would go, I found it to be even more of a challenge.

Finally, I'll discuss the cable itself:
It’s.. nice.

There, I said it.

But, again, perhaps not ‘£2000 worth of IEM’ nice.

It features an attractive rendition of the Final Audio logo etched onto the base of the earphone jack. However, just a plain unadorned thin cylinder of metal on the Y-split, and the same again on the MMCX plugs (albeit with handy L and R etchings and a colour coded red ring).

I suppose it’s ok; I think many other high-end IEM makers only include a stock cable with their IEMs, but again, in an increasingly competitive market place, I see this as being something that is starting to change and feel it will become more of a common thing over the next year or two (Empire Ears again are a good example of this).

Finally, and for me personally, this is somewhat of an unforgivable omission, the cable comes with a 3.5mm termination. And that’s it. No other cable choice.
Now, I am not especially au fait with the Japanese audiophile market; perhaps smartphone use is common amongst audiophiles there?

However, many of the TOTL smartphones no longer come with a headphone jack anyway and more importantly, I can’t help feeling that the majority of audiophiles buying a TOTL IEM at this price are going to be plugging it into a DAP/DAC/Amp of comparable quality.

Most of those now feature balanced 2.5mm or 4.4mm outputs.
For those that have 3.5mm ones as well, it’s often the case that they have less driving power and possibly slightly lower sound quality than the balanced one, just because of how the product is engineered.

Finally, you can have adaptors to make a 2.5mm jack fit both 3.5mm or 4.4mm sockets.

So again, in terms of hopefully constructive feedback to Final Audio, I’d recommend either providing a choice of both balanced and single-ended cables in the box, or at least go with a 2.5mm cable and include adapters to convert to 3.5mm and ideally 4.4mm too.

Again, remove any unnecessary obstacles that could make anyone hesitate instead of taking the plunge and buying, especially when the issue can be solved for a tiny fraction of the cost of the overall package.


The Fit:

With its classy angular metal shell, the fit on these is going to be pretty user dependent.

I’ve said before that I’m a fan of great design, but of course good design needs to cover not only a beautiful appearance but also a practical and well-engineered design that’s fit for purpose.
Unfortunately, here we have something of a case of aesthetics over ergonomics.

It’s far from the first IEM to make this design choice, and I’m sure won’t be the last.

However, it does lead me to wonder why, when you’ve got an IEM at this price point (never mind all the R&D and engineering that went into designing it), would you then use a shell design that’s pretty much guaranteed to alienate anything from 10% to 30% of potential customers?

If it were a tiny shell that was sure not to have any skin contact with even the smallest of ears, then perhaps it would be no issue, but these shells are decently sized and that claim simply cannot be made.

I saw another reviewer struggled with the angular metal shell digging into his ear sometimes. Now for me, these were fine, but if my ears were literally another half/quarter centimetre more prominent in various places, it definitely would start pressing in.

If this helps some people, by way of comparison I did find that Campfire Audio’s Andromeda dug uncomfortably into my ears (other people didn’t of course).

Also, it’s worth adding that these all-metal shells have an additional comfort-based caveat:
They may look stylistically hot, but I’d advise you to warm them up in the covetous palms of your hands prior to wearing them. The feeling of chilly metal against my oh-so-sensitive ‘golden’ ears was almost too much for my delicate sensibilities to bear :)

Humour aside though, these factors are something that I really feel IEM manufacturers ought to be considering more when making such design choices, even more so when you’re trying to sell a flagship product, positioned near the upper end of the market, where there is a sizeable base of consumers with a combination of demanding standards and an ever-increasing range of choices to satisfy them, who are critically examining the offerings available.

Well, in fairness, I feel I should close this section by saying that despite all my previous caveats, I noticed myself in the mirror whilst wearing these, and upon angling the mirror so I could see my own ears, I have to say that the A8000 do look extremely classy and elegant in daily wear. Ladyfolk around the world subject their feet to discomfort because of the perceived aesthetic benefits of high heels, so perhaps I should also not judge the shape of the A8000 by the sole (pun intended) criterion of comfort :)


The Sound:

So, as ever, I’m going to start my review with critical listening to a variety of tracks, in order to draw forth impressions of how these IEM’s sound with different genres of music.

Listening was done on a Sony WM1Z, on the single ended output (as I had no choice due to the supplied cable, grr).

James Taylor – September Grass (16/44 FLAC)

Immediately noticeable are the clarity and the big wide-open clean stage.

This song starts with a delicate but firm fingerpicking, then 10 seconds in, the bass comes in.

Things I’m listening out for are the tactility and physicality with regards to how an IEM presents the plucked strings.

I’m a big fan of dynamic drivers, and the way in which some well-implemented ones can present that tactility and physicality in a way that other kinds of drivers simply can’t.

After that, it’s about how the IEM handles that bass as it comes in.
It’s not especially rumbly or powerful in the mastering, but it does add a delightful warmth and body to the track.

With the A8000, I found the sounds of the fingerpicking to be very faithful in timbre, but not as pronounced in terms of tactility and physicality as I would have expected, having owned and heard quite a few DD and hybrid IEMs myself.

It’s not poor by any means; I feel the tuning decisions in this IEM have been to go for restraint, elegance and understated excellence, rather than raw power and dynamism.
Ah, but from 3mins in, the song starts to feature an extra guitar playing harmonics in the background.

At this point, and with the pronounced fingerpicking that takes place just prior to that, I really noticed the delightful timbre and accuracy of the A8000.

It doesn’t rely on heavy mid-bass warmth or note thickness to achieve these. It comes about through speed and accuracy, combined with a well-judged degree of note weight and a lovely tinge of delicate organic warmth and musicality that softens what might otherwise have been a somewhat analytical and reference tuning.

Right now, the IEM that the A8000 most reminds me of is my $500 iBasso IT04.
That may sound like a negative thing but bear with me!
I’m definitely going somewhere with this :)

I have a lot of love for that IEM.

It is a hybrid IEM, which also features a fairly subtle tuning of its dynamic driver, a relatively reference sound with great separation and a holographic soundstage, good technical performance, and that lovely delicate blush of organic warmth and musicality that just make it so enjoyable for extended listening.
I feel the A8000 takes all those qualities, and then raises the bar in terms of technical performance.

Now that I think about it, it also reminds me somewhat of the more similarly priced Unique Melody Mason V3 that I reviewed previously.

Quite similar airy and open soundstage, separation, detail retrieval, and overall tone and tuning. However, it’s been a fair while since I wrote that, and I can only go on memories (admittedly very fond ones!).


The Rocky Horror Picture Show OST (16/44 FLAC)

Just managed to somehow listen to the entire album whilst ‘popping out onto the balcony for a moment to enjoy the sunshine’, whilst barely managing to refrain from singing loudly along, within earshot of neighbours who might question my sanity or predilections generally were they to overhear :)

I just got lost in the music; the A8000 was absolutely on point for this album.

I could hear every background detail and every instrument with such fantastic clarity and pinpoint accurate timbre, and the singing and music just came alive with the beautiful musicality that the A8000 offers.

I so wanted to burst into song, but I told myself “Don’t get hot and flustered; use a bit of mustard!”, and managed to manfully keep it all in :)


Anberlin – The Art of War (16-44 FLAC)

Another go-to test track for me.

A driving, complex rock song, with a modern tuning where the bass is reasonably powerful in the mix.
Straight up, the clarity, separation and soundstage all sound terrific.
The music is engaging and dynamic, very well done with the A8000.

However, when the cymbals and some similar sound effects are coming in though, it’s just a touch too sharp for my hearing, which is somewhat treble sensitive.


Shawn Mullins – The Gulf of Mexico (16/44 FLAC)

Another go-to test track for me here.
Another track on which the A8000 really impressed me.
This is top-of-the-line earphonery, make no mistake.

Putting these on for a quick relaxed session is somewhat like popping to the tennis court for a leisurely knock-around, only to see Roger Federer is your practice partner for the day :)

Things on this track that I’m critically listening out for are how it presents the timbre with the hand struck drums (bongos?), and the degree of shimmer presented with the acoustic guitar strumming. Also, vocal timbre and general feel.

I feel the vocals are good, but perhaps could do with a touch more thickness and body. Shawn Mullins’ voice is relatively somewhat higher pitched in this song compared to some male vocalists, so there’s not a huge amount of body to be captured anyway mind you.

One frustrating thing here is that I don’t have any spare cables with MMCX connectors with which to try swapping. I suspect this IEM would respond very well to a variety of cables and the owner could customise the sound signature to their liking in this way.

Nevertheless, again timbre is excellent, but the mids seem relatively linear so there’s no great warmth or body in this kind of tuning (and for many people, that’s exactly how they like it!).

Regarding the bongos and acoustic guitar strumming, the A8000 massively delivers on both fronts. With the bongos, the timbre – again – is extremely accurate, whilst there’s just enough note weight and power from the dynamic driver to really deliver that thump and percussive hollow resonance from the bongos.

The shimmer is very well executed in the tuning. Nothing excessive or overly lush; just enough to make the strummed acoustic guitar chime and ring beautifully, whilst the dynamic driver again ensures that the tactility of each strum is perfectly captured.

And, oh, the separation, the soundstage, imaging, layering.. the clarity and detail.
Everything is open, spacious, but utterly cohesive. Addictively detailed AND musical, without being fatiguing or overbearing.


Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing (DSD64)

Yes, it’s my critical listening hit parade today :)

So, in the opening 10 seconds, I’m noticing straight away that the rhythm electric guitar has such crispness and defined edges, the effect of an IEM that handles transients with aplomb.
The bass guitar is musically engaging; not overemphasised or dominating, but just enough to help it fulfil its vital role of driving the song along and getting one’s head bobbing and feet tapping. This is something that some IEMs fall down on for me, so I’m delighted to hear the A8000 pass this test.

Vocals on this one are a different story. Perhaps there’s a peak in this part of the midrange, but Mark Knopfler’s voice sounds gorgeously gravelly, authoritative and realistic.

Wow, as he sings “a band is blowing Dixie, double-four time”, there’s some percussion in the background (hi-hats?) and I was captivated. It’s just a small effect in the background, but it’s just presented so insanely wellby the A8000.
It’s just letting the natural musicality of the piece shine, without any obtrusiveness.

A brief two-second flurry on the drum kit from 4m24s astonished me with how clearly defined and accurate it sounded too.

Overall, I feel the A8000 has very well-executed sound signature. I don’t really feel like any particular area is more prominent than another. Very balanced, but the polar opposite of bland. It extends epically in both directions too and I’m delighted to report no treble sharpness or fatigue for me on this track :)


Alison Lau – Handel’s Lascia la spina (24-96 HDTracks FLAC)

This is another of my common test tracks, so I decided to take a listen.
Strings (from something like a stringed quartet) along with a harpsichord, and Hong Kong Soprano Alison Lau providing an excellent vocal performance.

Well, the positives are that the spatial imaging is great, soundstage is good, details are crisp and clear.

However, for me – compared with other IEMs I own – the song just sounds a bit anaemic and unengaging here on the A8000. I miss the warmth and richness in the lows and mids that really bring out the best in this song.

The song is recorded and mastered in such a way that it’s not especially full-bodied or rich, but still..


Buena Vista Social Club – Chan Chan (24-96 HDTracks FLAC)

Hmm. Similar to the previous track.. Again, impressive on the technical side, but lacking the engaging musicality I enjoy with other IEMs for this song.
It presents all the details impeccably (and there’s a lot in this song!).

When there’s two singers performing simultaneously, the A8000 effortlessly separates the vocals and allows me to focus on either.

The trumpet solo – a test of sharpness for me – just about scrapes a pass on this test.
Slightly too sharp for me in places, but not at all unbearably, and most people would have no issue with this at all I suspect.


Dave – Streatham (16-44 FLAC)

That was a nice easy song title to write :)

A bit of UK Grime music here, with deep and extended low end, and a complex array of music and sampling.
Sounding engaging and top class with the A8000.
The low end is richly presented, the whole track pops gloriously.

I’m aware that on IEMs with a more powerful low end (Itsfit Fusion, UM MEST, EE X-series line-up etc) this low end would probably be even more driving and engaging – which bass lovers like me would probably enjoy even more. But when a track is mastered like this, the A8000 has enough to certainly make it an enjoyable and head-nodding experience.


Cigarettes After Sex – K. (16-44 FLAC)

This is a pretty intimately mastered song, with muted instruments and an androgynous-sounding male vocal. So it’s something a bit different from the norm.

A8000 presents it very well indeed. It opens out the soundstage a little bit, and separates things nicely, without destroying the feeling of intimacy.
The vocals sound precisely front and centre, and the timbre on them is really excellent.

He could almost be singing right in front of you. It’s really impressively presented.
Again, with a bassline that’s already mastered with depth and some power, the A8000 can take that and make it sound really engaging and hugely enjoyable.

The strumming of the acoustic guitar on this track is recorded in a very tactile way, the sound of plectrum strumming against steel strings is vivid and the A8000 really presents this superbly.


Counting Crows – Round Here (24-192 HDTracks WAV)

As is becoming common with the A8000, I’m immediately struck by the wide-open soundstage, imaging, layering and separation.

It really is an excellent technical performer.

This song is really emotional and beautiful though too, and the A8000 really brings that emotional engagement through its terrific clarity and detail, fast transients and layering.

Again, there’s a nice tinge of musicality. I’d probably wish for more, but this is a sound that’s still going to please a great deal of people.

Also again though, I find that when the electric guitar with a wah-wah pedal comes in at around 2m45s the whole presentation becomes slightly sharp and starts to lose the feeling of engagement, until everything gets quieter again at around 3m5s.


Counting Crows – Angels of the Silences (16-44 FLAC)

A hard rocking track, with – unfortunately - a fairly neutrally tuned bass and drums (in the way the track is mastered).

This track reveals one of the few issues I have with the A8000; the song starts with squealing guitars and a fairly high pitched guitar lead line, combined with crashing cymbals aplenty.

I want to turn up the volume in an attempt to hear more low-end heft and weight, but doing so doesn’t actually help and only makes the guitar and cymbals trigger my sensitivity to such things.

Now, this is partly a result of the way in which the song is mastered, but also with the way in which the A8000 is tuned. Trying the same track with a different IEM (the UM MEST), the low end has more power and impact and the mids/highs are slightly less sharp, allowing the whole song to sound much more balanced and engaging. More comparisons between these two excellent IEMs later.


Garrett Kato – Love is an Advert (16-44 FLAC)

For those who don’t know, he’s a predominantly acoustic singer-songwriter.

Here he has a backing band with him, nice drums that variously thump and clatter with marvellous tactility (on the right IEMs), bass guitar, lead acoustic guitar and rhythm acoustic guitar, a bit of electric guitar, something like organ/mellotron/keyboards and a bit of banjo or ukulele. Yes, I don’t know instruments as well as I wished :)

The song at its best (when presented well) has a wide-open, spacious kind of feeling, a driving rhythm and a delightfully engaging melody, especially in the last minute or so.
Here with the A8000, the sound has that beautiful, open quality due to the impressive soundstage and separation of the A8000.

I feel the drums lack the thump and power that they should have, so there’s something of a lack of realism there. The ‘clattering’ part of the drumming is done well though.

There’s a similar pattern with the guitars; I feel the rhythm guitar is good, but would be even better with a touch more power and warmth to accurately convey the driving rhythm that it normally imparts to the song. Conversely, the flat-picked lead acoustic guitar is presented with tactility and sparkle, a good level of presence, aided by the impressive detail retrieval letting me hear very accurately the sound of his fingers moving from one fretting position to another on the guitar neck.



Comparisons:

Stealth Sonics U9:

They both present high levels of detail retrieval, but the U9 comes across as more neutral-reference in tone, whereas the A8000 comes across as more natural and musical in doing so, although both of these IEMs still offer a pretty linear and balanced tonality overall.

The A8000 has a bit more low end presence and rumble. They both present the clattering drum sound from “Love is an Advert” with realistic timbre.

The U9 seems less forward in instrumental presentation than the A8000, but conversely the vocals on the U9 seem more forward in the mix, like someone is singing into my ear, rather than – with the A8000 – like I’m standing in front of them listening.

They’re both excellent with vocals, so here it’s really just a matter of how you prefer the vocals to be presented.

Although they both have a holographic and spacious soundstage, I feel there’s greater clarity and openness in the sound signature of the A8000, and it should be noted that these are qualities that I have previously praised highly in the U9!

Tactility and timbre and musicality are all areas where I feel the A8000 pulls ahead of the U9. Listening again to “K.” by Cigarettes After Sex, that strummed guitar line just pops so much more vividly and realistically on the A8000 and the whole song is just more engaging as a whole.

I should qualify this statement by adding that the U9 was designed principally as a neutral reference studio monitor, and as such, performs that function extremely well. Of course, it’s also worth adding that the U9 is around half the price of the A8000.

Reviewing the A8000 has been something of a rollercoaster ride for me.

When I first heard it, I had a whole day of musical bliss, listening to it non-stop with such a feeling of joy and delight, going through entire albums and playlists with abandon.

Then after another day or two, my usual bass-head longings kicked in, and I went through a whole “it’s great, but if only it had more bass!” phase. Frankly, this is quite normal for me :)

Listening to the relatively more neutral-reference IT04 and U9 IEMs have let me appreciate that the low end on the A8000 is actually fairly engaging and present.

No, it’s not visceral or hard-hitting as my EE Nemesis, or even the Itsfit Fusion or Unique Melody MEST. But it’s certainly not anaemic either. Speaking of which…


Unique Melody MEST:

Going back to that “K.” song, I’m hearing more detail right from 5 seconds in with the MEST, where I noticed the electric guitar noodlings which underscore the main melody; these sound relatively recessed on the A8000 and kind of ‘pass under the radar’ (I didn’t even notice they were there until I listened with the MEST). The acoustic guitar strumming is even more tactile and vivid, extremely impressive.

The drums have significantly more impact with the MEST; I notice the high percussion (hi-hats, cymbals etc) stand out a bit more on the MEST too, with increased clarity.

The superb handling of transients on the A8000 comes into play here, where the drums and bass sound a little cleaner and tighter than they do on the MEST. Not that the MEST is in any way deficient in this area, just that this is a key strength of the flagship A8000 which – again – is substantially more expensive.

Vocals are superb with the MEST, a bit more detailed than the A8000 and with great timbre, sounding spatially in between the positioning of the U9 and the A8000; a pretty excellent balance.

Overall, I feel that both the MEST and the A8000 have their strengths and weaknesses, as one would expect. I feel that they both do certain things better than the other.

The MEST has even more outstanding detail retrieval than the A8000, a more impactful low end and it matches it in most regards. However, the A8000 is king of the transients and compared with the “all dials turned up to 11” presentation of the MEST, comes across as a bit more balanced, smooth and coherent overall.

Conclusion:

The A8000 are, in my opinion, a TOTL IEM and certainly earn their place amongst the big hitters in the field. They have slightly above averagely tuned low end, that manages to infuse welcome warmth and musicality into most songs and can work beautifully with songs that have a low end that’s mastered with a reasonable degree of strength and impact.

On songs with a weakly mastered low end, especially when combined with sharp sounding instruments in the mids and treble (electric guitars, splashy cymbals and such like), they can lose that captivating musicality and came across as somewhat sharp or anaemic to me.

However, firstly I’m a self-proclaimed bass-head so you can interpret my impressions with that in mind :)

Secondly, this is more than compensated by the stunning performance the A8000 brings to pretty much everything else :)

The transients have been mentioned quite a bit and with good reason; this is a real strength of the A8000, along with a terrifically coherent and smooth performance that still doesn’t lack for energy or authority.

The A8000 features a midrange that doesn’t shrink into the background, shamed by the excellent lows and highs. It brings vocal performances firmly front and centre and the excellent timbre across the whole range brings a little bit of magic to everything it touches.

If you’re looking for a bass cannon, you’ll probably wish to continue searching :)

If you’re looking for a very warm or rich IEM, this may not be for you

If you’re looking for a pure neutral-reference IEM, this also may not be for you.

For most other use cases, and if the price is within your budget, then the A8000 is a beautiful looking and beautiful sounding IEM that will certainly be worth consideration.
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Layman1
Layman1
@YCHANGE "One of the best reviews I've read in a while. Loved the song titles with descriptions"
Thank you so much, I really appreciate the feedback. Perhaps you haven't read many reviews recently? Haha
Well, there are some great reviewers on Head-Fi and I've just tried to learn from them whilst also staying true to my own personal style (which is advice I'd give to anyone trying to start/improve review writing).
I haven't heard the Lyra II (or Lyra I for that matter, haha) so I can't comment, but I'm glad the A8000 has your attention and can certainly recommend checking it out :)
ehjie
ehjie
@Layman1 , here u go bud - my bad, it's a 2012 EP. lol...
Final Audio
Final Audio
@Layman1 Impressive review and we humbly thank you for your feedback regarding the accessories and cables. We will see what we can do for the other high-end products coming in the future. :)
Pros: Surprisingly comfortable
Easy to get a good seal in the ear canal
Addictive sound signature
Very low distortion
Flat impedance curve
Nice case
Nice cable
Standard MMCX connectors
Cons: Might sound a shade too bright for some
Razor-sharp edges
What to do when stuck at home trying to avoid coronavirus? I know, I'll write another review... :)

I'll skip the photos and the unboxing video, because you folks already know what the A8000 looks like and I have zero photography/videography skills anyway. Let's get to the important stuff.

I should first point out that I can metaphorically rip any headphone to shreds given enough time and blank paper. The A8000, like every other headphone, has its faults. That being said, the A8000 doesn't have many faults, and the issues I have with it are relatively minor. Let's get those points out of the way first.

1) The A8000 is an undeniably bright-sounding IEM. Its characteristic brightness comes from a series of treble peaks corresponding to driver and ear canal resonances. Is it so bright that it's intolerable? I don't think so, but the answer to this is going to depend on the insertion depth you can achieve (more on this later), your overall sensitivity to treble, the frequency content of the recorded/mixed/mastered source material and (to a lesser extent, given the flat impedance curve of the A8000), the DAC and amp.

With the A8000, my preferences mainly shift with the genre and spectral content of the recording. Certain female vocals (and Jon Anderson) can sometimes sound a little peaky. "Open Your Eyes" - the quite-listenable title track from the otherwise awful 1997 Yes album of the same name - is too bright for my liking with the A8000. Whereas the entire Tears for Fears catalogue (especially that 96/24 Steven Wilson remastered Songs from the Big Chair) sounds amazing on these headphones. There's something about the A8000 that makes it quite a special and unique-sounding headphone.

Here's a comparison of the average FR (from L & R channels) measured with two different types of GRAS coupler (RA0401 measurements courtesy of @jude):
GRAS_Couplers.png


When I first measured the A8000 (in my review of the FiR Audio M5:
https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/fir-audio-m5.23861/review/23350/), I saw the primary ear canal resonance peaks at around 7.5 kHz and 11 kHz. But when I did a frequency sweep, I heard them higher than this - closer to 8.5 kHz and 11.5 kHz. Sure enough, with a slightly deeper insertion in the coupler, these newer measurements (above) closely match what I hear. Note that the standard RA0045 coupler matches what I hear - the RA0401 coupler is designed to massively damp the ear canal resonance - and it works as advertised. Yay(?) So, the RA0401 is a great device for designers wanting to specifically isolate/identify ear canal and driver resonances, but it's not very useful when you want to actually know how an IEM would sound in your ears. I don't trust the RA0401 to faithfully represent what I hear. IMHO, you shouldn't either. (Thankfully, it looks like headfi will be moving away from using the RA0401 for future measurements: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/brüel-kjærs-evolution-of-hearing-simulation-part-2-coming-soon.928514/post-15533359.)

The RA0045-measured spectrum shows that the A8000 still follows the Harman target closely in the low frequencies, but it doesn't hug that target quite as well in the treble and has a few small peaks that are audible with a frequency sweep. I had some communication with Final Audio about this and they told me these resonance peaks were an intentional design choice, because although they could remove them, they felt the headphone sounded boring without them. I believe that's absolutely true. Any downward adjustments to those treble peaks would need to be very subtle so as not to risk destroying the fairly addictive sound-signature that the current A8000 design has. This is definitely a case of being careful what you wish for.

2) As mentioned above, the A8000's shell has some razor-sharp edges - as in, sharp enough to use it as a cutting tool - this edge, and this corner, in particular:

razor_sharp.png


Perhaps the sharp edges won't come into contact with your ears? They don't seem to bother me, but I read one comment from somebody on the forum who had cut their ear with the A8000. A slightly rounded/chamfered edge could still have looked nice and would perhaps have removed that potential problem?

Having got those two issues (slightly bright-leaning sound signature and sharp edges) out of the way, everything else I have to say about the A8000 is positive.

Channel Matching

Channel balance is good:
channel_balance.png


Fit

When I put the A8000 into my ears, the top part of the IEM body just naturally rotates out a bit under its own weight, leaving the face-plate at a bit of an angle (roughly 45-degrees to the vertical) and this naturally pushes the IEM farther into my ear canal, which pushes up the frequency of those resonance peaks. (In my experience, most IEMs sound better with deeper insertion for exactly that reason.) I'm not entirely sure how the A8000 is supposed to fit, but when I asked Final Audio, they just said "whatever works". Well, for me it works :) I would never have anticipated this, give the weird, non-ergonomic, boxy/sharp-edged-looking shape of these, but the A8000 is possibly the best, most comfortable-fitting IEM I've ever used. It's quick and easy to insert and it isn't ever fighting to get out of my ears. I can't tell you how much of a rare find that is for me :)

I should also mention something about isolation. The A8000 is vented, so it won't isolate as well as an Etymotic. However, surprisingly, I found its isolation to be actually quite good -FWIW, slightly better even than the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds with their active noise cancellation on.

Impulse Response

The A8000's impulse response is not quite as fast as that of the KSE1500 (but nothing else is in my experience). Its speed is more at the level of the dynamic driver in the Beyerdynamic Xelento, however, it has better damping, which I suspect has something to do with the Beryllium used in the A8000's driver:
impulse.png


Square wave response is reasonable. I've seen a lot worse:
A8000_300Hz_Square_Wave.png


Distortion

I'm not entirely convinced that harmonic distortion levels are all that important, but for those that care about this sort of thing, they're extremely low on the A8000:
THD_94dB.png
THD_90dB.png
THD_80dB.png


The only other headphones I've measured with a distortion this low are the Beyerdynamic Xelentos, and honestly, it's pretty hard to pick a winner between them in that regard (see graph below - note this particular measurement was at 80 dB @ 500 Hz). I suspect the THD is so low in both these IEMs that it's hit the floor of my measuring equipment (likely limited by the THD from the coupler microphones):
xelento_thd.png


There's another point about the THD worth mentioning. Despite the heavy ear-canal-resonance damping in the GRAS RA0401 coupler (which should produce artificially-low levels of THD), the THD percentage levels (normalized w.r.t. the fundamental) I measured at 90 dB on a GRAS RA0045 coupler were notably lower than those measured by @jude at the same SPLs:

thd_comps.png


The reason for this may be that Jude's distortion levels seem to have been taken directly from a sweep measurement. (Note the better agreement above with my standard sweep THD measurement. This was done at 94 dB @ 500 Hz, but it's close enough to show the effect. The stepped-sine measurement was 90 dB @ 500 Hz.) For harmonic distortion measurement it's more accurate to use a stepped-sine approach. This uses fewer steps (hence the reduced frequency resolution), but is able to more accurately pick out the harmonic components at each frequency bin. The settings used above are my standard approach for stepped sine: 131072 FFT length, rectangular window, 4 sliding averages with a 50% overlap and 6 points per octave. Anyway, the bottom line is, the A8000 has incredibly low distortion.

Impedance as a Function of Frequency

The A8000 has a beautifully-flat impedance curve:
impedance.png


What this means in practice is that the frequency-response curve shown earlier can be achieved with virtually any source, even your phone. And even with a HiBy R6 :wink:

Comparisons

Here are some thoughts on how the A8000 stacks up against what I consider to be its most worthy competitors (my current favorite selection of IEMs):

I still think the KSE1500/1200 is/are the most resolving IEMs you can currently buy, but they require an electrostatic amp, and sound better with a good external DAC (the cheaper KSE1200 can only be used with an external DAC). Most of the KSE's treble energy occurs at higher frequencies than that in the A8000 - and switching back and forth, the KSE1500 is the clear winner to me. However, the headache of setting up the DAC, KSE amp, interconnects, etc., means I've been using the A8000 way, way more than the KSE1500 in recent weeks. If you think Apple's dongles are silly (and they are), wait until you see all the wires and boxes needed to get the best out of the KSE1500...
kse1500.png
The Xelentos are one of my all-time favorite IEMs, but they do have a heavy mid-bass. The Xelento has fewer resonance peaks in the lower treble, but doesn't extend quite as well beyond 10 kHz. This one is too close to call for me. They're very different, but I love the sound of both. (One word of warning about the Xelentos - there are tons of fake Xelentos for sale out there. The fakes are certainly cheaper, but don't sound as good!)
xelento.png
I would regard the FiR Audio M5's sound signature as an upgrade to that of the Xelento - since it has somewhat similar mids, but better extended highs and not such a heavy bass. The M5 is a fantastic-sounding headphone, and overall, I slightly prefer its sound to that of the A8000, but the M5 has an awful lot of issues that potential buyers should be aware of: https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/fir-audio-m5.23861/review/23350/. The M5 also costs roughly 50% more than the A8000.
m5.png
The SE846 is getting a little old now, and some headfiers view that as reason enough to dump them in the trash. I disagree. I think the SE846 (with the appropriate filter mod) is still very competitive with even the best IEMs available today. Those that find the A8000 too bright might enjoy the SE846, because it has no strong resonance peaks and, even with the trishd filter mod and wide-bore silicone eartips, its treble rolls off sooner than that of the A8000. In terms of overall sound quality, I'd have to give this to the A8000, however, the SE846 is a rare headphone that can sound really good while still offering world class (almost Etymotic-like) levels of isolation. Note that the figure below isn't typical of an SE846 out of the box (i.e., with a stock blue filter). The trishd mod pushes energy from the mid-range into the ~10 kHz region and helps to slightly extend what would otherwise be an earlier roll-off in the high frequencies:
se846.png
I've not yet found anything that isolates as well as an Etymotic. With Comply or Shure olive foam tips, the ER4XR provide better sound isolation than anything else I've heard - including anything with active noise cancellation. In terms of overall listening enjoyment, I depart somewhat from the Ety faithful on the ER4 thread here on headfi. Yes, most Etymotic headphones sound great, but there are headphones that sound more resolving (KSE1500) or simply more enjoyable (Xelentos/M5/A8000). If I needed maximum isolation, I'd always go with an Etymotic. In terms of sound, there's still something a bit special about the A8000 to my ears. Surprisingly (given the vents) you can still get some reasonable level of isolation from the A8000.
er4x4.png

Final Audio Thoughts

The bottom line is the A8000 is a very nice-sounding headphone. To respond to some negative comments I've seen elsewhere... If you're worried about the weird shape and whether they'd fit you or not, I think you're likely to be pleasantly surprised; at least, they fit me amazingly well. If you're worried about the solder being visible on the semi-transparent 3.5mm plug, don't be. It's just a design aesthetic (like being able to see the PCB on a Hugo 2) and actually shows a very neat soldering job. If you're worried about it lacking in bass - don't be; it isn't. The low frequencies follow the Harman target closer than any other headphone I've seen and it has a fantastic sub-bass without also dumping tons of energy in the mid-bass. The low-end of the A8000 is pretty much flawless to my ears. I think the reason that some have commented on a "lack of bass" is simply because it tends to lean a little bright with those treble peaks, and that shifts the overall emphasis away from the bass. That potential brightness is probably the only real caveat with the A8000, but your experience in this regard is going to depend on other factors such as source material and whether you can get a deep-enough insertion to push the ear-canal resonance peaks out of the regions that might bother you. For me, they sound bright, but rarely ever come across as too bright. They are certainly one of the best IEMs I've heard in recent years - easily up there in my top 5 :)
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csglinux
csglinux
There are three parts to the impulse response: the rise (how quickly the overall system responds to the kick), the fall (how quickly the amplitude drops back to zero) and the settle (because usually the fall is messy and bouncy). The settle time is affected by the damping in the system, which is where the theoretical advantage of Beryllium comes in (because it's stiff and has good damping properties: https://materion.com/-/media/files/...acoustic-properties-of-beryllium_materion.pdf). What you should expect, in an ideal world, is a dirac delta function - a single sharp spike with no wobbles behind it. It's always tough to know what sort of errors would be acceptable, or completely inaudible (that would vary from individual to individual anyway). But it seems humans are fairly sensitive to timing differences, so it's nice to see any technical signal measurement that gets closer to reality.
Hoegaardener70
Hoegaardener70
I had to laugh when I read somebody cut his ear. I have the a8000 next to me right now... and I really wonder how this is even possible In theory. I find them very well rounded, no issue there whatsoever. Thanks for the review.
bedlam inside
bedlam inside
Thanks for the review. Going to take a look at these.
Pros: Top clarity and depth in an extremely natural and effortless way; lows, mids and highs in an absolutely perfect balance; unrivalled transparency; maximal speed; extremely broad dynamic range; huge soundstage; beautiful holographic image; top class universal performer; beautiful and extremely well made in every sense of the way; great fit.
Cons: Nothing, except maybe that not everyone can afford it.
Review: Final in-ear monitors A8000
Almost perfect!

Final is a young company; its history in IEM and headphone design spans a little over ten years, however, the Company’s progress during this, rather short, period has been truly amazing. It is not an exaggeration to say that where others did steps ahead, Final did jumps.

This past November, I reviewed Final E2000C and E3000C, and I was quite impressed from the sound quality of both sets, given their humble price of $53.00 and $63.00, respectively. To this day, I cannot understand how Final succeeded to give listeners so much (musical) enjoyment for such little money.

In December, I had a chance to audition E4000 and E5000, and I have to admit that, although their MSRP is much higher, $149.00 and $279.00, respectively, their performance is raised to a substantially higher level, which again is very impressive.

Very recently, Final presented its new design, A8000, with an MSRP of $1999.00! Now, I am sure that what immediately crosses one’s mind is:
  • What Final changed from previous designs, and
  • what is this IEM’s performance,
to deserve paying $1999.00? Fast answers:
  • Final changed everything, and
  • the performance of A8000 blows up your mind.
If you find all this an exaggeration, please allow me to take things step by step and explain you what this IEM is all about.

A8000.jpg

Design of A8000

All IEM and headphone designers in their flagship models try to do one thing: To make you feel that you are in the concert hall with the orchestra in front of you. Now, this is easy to say, but damn hard to implement. First of all, let’s try to think what we perceive when we are in the concert hall. Even if we close our eyes, we can hear each instrument with extreme clarity, and at the same time we have a pretty good idea of where each instrument is situated. The analogue in photography is a photo where each object is sharp, and the photo has sufficient depth that allows you to recognize where each object is. A good term for this combination of extreme clarity and precise spatial impression in both sound and photography is transparency. Transparency fails to exist if the sound of an instrument appears to be unclear (like a blurred image), or you have a hard time to realize where an instrument lies (like a flat image); or of course if both things happen at the same time.

Another important factor in the design of an IEM is dynamic range, which is essentially the difference between the loudest and the quietest signal you can hear. Now, depending on the type of music you are listening to, there is an interplay between clarity, spaciousness and dynamic range. With classical and jazz music spatial impression and dynamic range are more important than clarity; with pop and rock music clarity is more important than spaciousness and dynamic range. So, all these factors, clarity and spaciousness, which together is what we call transparency, as well as dynamic range should be taken into account when designing a top class IEM.

What the engineers at Final wanted to do was to create an IEM capable of performing at its best with every type of music, i.e., a top class universal IEM. It was then not difficult to realize that if the new IEM failed to be characterized by top transparency and the right dynamic range, then it would be just another IEM that, although nice sounding, would sooner or later be forgotten. Now, it turned out that in order to solve the problem of transparency, they had to answer two questions:
  1. What is the right way to measure transparency, i.e., what are the factors to which one should pay particular attention while measuring transparency?
  2. How would one implement the findings of the previous question, i.e., what are the changes that should be made in an IEM for achieving top transparency?
It is well known that the engineers that design IEM, headphones and loudspeakers pay particular attention to two physical quantities: Frequency response and time response. The former measures by how much the sound pressure level (SPL) delivered by an IEM changes at different frequencies. The ideal is to have a “flat” frequency response curve, i.e., one with no picks whatsoever at any frequency (to give an example, a pick at a low frequency would result in a “booming bass”, and a pick at a high frequency would give a “harsh tremble”). Time response is measured through cumulative spectral decay (CSD), which shows how fast each frequency decays following an impulse. The ideal is that all frequencies decay instantaneously or almost instantaneously, as that way unwanted resonances are avoided. The two figures below represent a typical frequency response curve and the CSD curve of Final E3000.

Frequency response.jpg

CSD E3000.jpg

Final engineers realized that where they should, mostly, concentrate was the time response issue, and therefore they started studying CSD curves all over again. The theory says that if CSD is minimized, then more transparent sound would be achieved. Now, in doing that they discover something truly unexpected: Minimizing CSD resulted in a sound more transparent, but at the same time less natural than normal. And this was a real problem.

It was then clear to Final engineers that they had to find another method, which measured how much transparent and natural was a sound, and this led them to develop, in collaboration with a multi award-winning expert in spatial audio and music recording, the Perceptual Transparency Measurement (PTM). As there is a patent pending, Final did not provide much information about PTM, besides the mention that “the method involves conveying countless analysis and evaluation through mathematical calculation approaches” together with the figure given below. (Final promised that detailed information about PTM and the multi award-winning expert will be provided after this patent is awarded.)

PTM.jpg

The results of the PTM analysis were used by Final engineers in order to create from scratch an (entirely) new driver. First, they had to decide whether the driver would be dynamic or balanced armature (BA). For a few years now, BA drivers are “in fashion” and they are used by many IEM makers. However, a single BA driver cannot reproduce the low end in a natural way, at least not as naturally as a dynamic driver can, and a designer has to resort to various techniques in order to improve the driver’s low end performance. A few years ago, Final designed a flagship model with a single BA driver, the FI-BA-SS, which by means of the specially designed balancing air movement (BAM) mechanism produces bass tones in a natural way (see the comparison below between A8000 and FI-BA-SS). So, Final engineers decided that this time the (new) A8000 model would use a dynamic driver.

Based on the PTM analysis, the engineers chose pure Beryllium (not Beryllium coating) for the diaphragm of the driver. Beryllium is known to be very hard, its Young’s modulus of stiffness being 276 N/m2, and quite light, its density being 1.82 g/cm3. As a result, its speed of sound propagation, 12,900 m/s, is outstanding compared to both Aluminium and Magnesium and it is second only to that of diamond (the speed of sound propagation is calculated as the square root of stiffness over density). The stiffness of a diaphragm, even if this is as thin as possible in order to be light, ensures low distortion, i.e., it is not deformed throughout the whole frequency range, while its lightness reduces the effect of inertia and allows the diaphragm to change direction as fast as possible. So, pure Beryllium, due to its stiffness, lightness and particularly speed of sound properties, is the perfect material for a diaphragm. The only weakness of Beryllium is that it is very brittle, so for the diaphragm to have the perfect thickness, Beryllium had to be forged by a recent high-end yet extremely time-consuming process.

Beryllium driver.jpg

The next problem that Final engineers had to solve was the mounting of the new driver on the A8000 housing. This is usually done by elastic adhesive, which, unfortunately, works as a cushion, allowing the driver to vibrate, thus creating unwanted resonances that affect sound quality. The solution to that was a new technology called “Anti-Resonance Direct Mounting”: Ultra strong adhesive was applied to the side of the driver through a small gap. The tricky part? The size of the gap! If this was too small, then the adhesive could not be applied properly in order to form a perfect seal; and if it was too big, then the shear strength of the adhesive would become too weak to suppress the driver vibration. Therefore, the size of the gap had to be controlled with the utmost accuracy by a high precision CNC milling.

Now that a premium driver had been designed and the problem of mounting it on A8000’s housing had been successfully solved, Final engineers realized that in order to take full advantage of it, they had to carefully study the “topology” of the housing, as the latter plays a critical role in the final outcome. They finally came up with a design called “Tetra Chamber Construction”, which divides the A8000 housing in four separate chambers meticulously designed for optimal sound quality.

Tetra Chamber Construction.png


Tetra Chamber Construction_1.png

Chamber 1 is apparently crucial in the overall sound quality, as it is through this opening that the sound enters the listener’s ear drum. Many shapes had to be designed and several prototypes had to be actually made and tested, before the right shape was chosen. Chambers 2 and 3 contribute to the driver’s low frequencies, and thus they are quite important for a dynamic driver. Chamber 2 is built at the back of the driver to smooth the pressure and thus maintain a stable driver response. Chamber 3, on the other hand, is equipped with a vent which “communicates” information from the listener’s environment to the driver. Chamber 4 was used for the MMCX connector, and as the soldering point of MMCX was affecting sound quality, a separator between Chambers 3 and 4 was adopted, equipped with a tiny, carefully calculated, vent ensuring the coherency of the driver.

All the interior design of A8000 shows the meticulous care that was undertaken at every stage of development. The same was the case with the exterior design, which has taken into account the Tetra Chamber Construction shape, while following the elegant design for which Final IEM’s are known for. This was a rather difficult task and the final design, both successful and appealing, at least for my taste, was based on mere imagination rather than using a CAD design.

In the previous paragraphs, I tried to give a detailed description of the A8000 overall design in order to show to the reader the attention that Final engineers devoted to each and every step of the IEM’s creating process. Of course everything is judged by the final result, i.e., by the A8000’s sound signature, and it is this factor that determines whether all this designing effort was actually justified.

Sound quality

I would start by simply saying that there many things that A8000 does almost perfectly, and there is nothing that it does wrong, which that alone is a very big accomplishment.

To be more specific, the bass, mid and tremble are all in the right quantity, and they are almost in perfect balance. Nonetheless, the strong point of A8000, which makes it stand out among IEMs of the same price range, is that the whole of the audio spectrum, from deep lows to extreme highs, is delivered at a completely natural and effortless way. There is not even the slightest overlap between the various frequencies. The listener is under the impression that the bass, mid and tremble, initially, come separately, and then, by some magical power, they are all connected together and delivered in almost perfect balance, with no overlap whatsoever and without each one of the them loosing its own particular character. So much transparent is the sound of A8000.

Undoubtedly, transparency is the strong point of A8000. But this is not all; another impressive characteristic of it is its extended dynamic range. It is well known that different types of music require from an IEM to put forward different characteristics: In Classical and Jazz music, the spatial orientation of each instrument as well as the differences in dynamic range among the various instruments are more important than clarity, as this retains the balance of the orchestra; clarity, on the other hand, is critical in Pop and Rock music, for bringing all instruments and vocals to the front. Now, A8000’s transparency, which is translated to spatial impression and clarity, combined with its extended dynamic range make this exquisite IEM a top class performer for all kinds of music.

Furthermore, A8000 has a huge soundstage for an IEM set (earphones live in the limited space of the ear canal, while headphones can use all the space around the ear, thus, usually, the latter have a better soundstage than the former). Also, A8000 has a very nice holographic image, which, together with its soundstage, contributes to the IEM’s unique transparency.

If you read my A8000 description of the previous section, you might think that Final engineers went too far with the design of it; and of course you have every right to wonder whether you really need a special driver and a so scholastic design of the housing in order to have a sound signature that stands out. After having spent many hours with A8000 on many different types of music, I am absolutely convinced that one would not enjoy the exquisite performance of this marvellous IEM if A8000 had not been designed with meticulous care in every little detail.

Listening to “O Vazio” of Jim Brock & Doug Hawthorne, by the Jim Brock Ensemble, from the album Tropic Affair, RR-31, a really complex piece varying from “test” tones at various frequencies to some very powerful parts with a lot of alternations, I realized that never before I experienced such a thriving performance of this unusual piece. Even more important is that, although I thought I knew this piece well, I heard details which apparently I was missing before, with a timbre that was very realistic. Quite different is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dance #3” from Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances, by Eiji Que / Minnesota Orchestra, RR-96 HDCD. On this very authoritative piece, A8000’s performance was transparent and precise, yet powerful and full bodied. In Diana Krall’s beautiful “Fly Me To The Moon”, from the album The Very Best of Diana Krall, Verve, I simply felt that I was in Diana Krall’s concert. And in “Sultans of Swing” from the Very Best of Dire Straits, Vertigo, it was like all the members of the group were playing in front of me with Mark Knopfler’s guitar standing out.

Now, I have to admit that the exquisite performance of A8000 has an implication, which is not always pleasant, certainly not to all: It is unforgiving. If you have a bad or mediocre recording, A8000 will show all the recording’s limitations and weaknesses; this was, for example, the case with “Sultans of Swing” above. Some people would say that this is a disadvantage, which I think is an unfair judgement. When someone spends $1999.00 for an IEM set, he expects that the set performs as close to perfect as possible, and A8000 does precisely that; so, if there is one to blame for the unpleasant state of things that must be the recording and/or the audio source and not the A8000.

Selected comparisons

Obviously, there are (very) few IEMs that can be compared to A8000.

I first chose Sennheiser IE 800, which is a top class IEM and it costs about half the price of A8000. Sennheiser, starting from scratch, spent several years to develop it, and IE 800 is an IEM which, like A8000, incorporates many innovations: It is equipped with a specially designed 7 mm driver that can go from really low to extremely high frequencies; it incorporates a damped two chamber absorber used to minimize unwanted resonances; and it has a ceramic housing whose rigidness improves sound. Now, although IE 800’s performance is exceptionally nice, it is by no means at the level of A8000. IE 800 has sufficient bass and it is overall very well balanced, but, if you put IE 800 side by side to A8000, somehow you feel that the IE 800 mids and highs are somewhat “veiled” by its lows. Obviously, this is due to the transparent and airy presentation of A8000, which is missing from the otherwise excellent performance of IE 800. Also, A8000 has clearly a better soundstage and image than that of IE 800. All in all, IE 800 is a great IEM performer among those in the top tier category, but A8000 just stands out in that group.

Then, I compared A8000 to Final FI-BA-SS. The later has a single balanced armature (BA) driver. BA drivers are known for producing sound that is detailed and analytical, but it is also lacking bass. To overcome this deficiency, Final engineers equipped FI-BA-SS with the “Balancing Air Movement” (BAM) mechanism, which is specially designed such that the air movement is optimized inside the IEM’s housing, thus allowing FI-BA-SS to enhance bass tones in a natural way. Does this happen in reality, i.e., is the BAM mechanism successful? First of all, FI-BA-SS is truly detailed and has a lot of finesse; it reminds me of the wonderful Ortofon e-Q8, which has a single magnetic pole BA driver with a silver coil, thus producing unrivalled high frequencies. On top of it, FI-BA-SS reproduces the low end in a way that might even impress you, until the moment you put it next to A8000. Then, you realize that nothing can beat the nature of things or Physics if you want to. The low end of FI-BA-SS seems a bit artificial compared to the natural and effortless low end of A8000. Also, A8000 has a better soundstage and image than that of FI-BA-SS. So, although FI-BA-SS might be, overall, one of the best IEMs with a BA driver, it cannot reach the level of performance of A8000.

Accessories and fit

The exterior box of A8000 is nicely minimal and inside it the user will find, besides the IEM:
  • 5 silicon type eartips (SS,S,M,L,LL), each having a soft part for a comfortable fit in the user’s ear drum and a more rigid and groovy part for the sound conduit. This combination ensures a high level of sound insulation, which I enjoyed the past three months that I am living with A8000.
  • A set of upgraded earhooks, which offer more comfort and have a locking mechanism, so one enjoys reduced microphonics from the A8000 cable without being afraid that he will loose the earhooks.
  • An MMCX assist in order to easily detach the MMCX connector from the A8000 housing.
  • Swappable dust filters for avoiding earwax deposition.
  • A hybrid case, made of CNC aluminum, with black anti-fingering finishing, and silicone, for storing A8000. Furthermore, the case has a separator inside for more secure storage.
A8000 case.jpg

A8000 is rather heavy, weighting 41gr, however, assuming that you found the right size of eartips (which is not difficult given that there are 5 different sizes provided), they do fit in your eardrum like a charm. In fact, during the three months that I am living with them, I was so overwhelmed by their sound that I never thought I had them on my ears.

Furthermore, Final eartips are very nicely designed, providing a high level of sound isolation, so ambient noise with A8000 was never a problem.

Special attention was given to the A8000’s MMCX connector, which was developed in house, and to the IEM’s cable, which is high purity OFC silver coated, thus improving the A8000’s soundstage. Final engineers collaborated with the well-renowned Junkosha corporation, and this resulted in using a cable usually employed in “Kei” supercomputer due to its fast signal transmission speed. Furthermore, the cable was protected by JUNFLON Fluoropolymer (PFA), which was also developed by Junkosha and it represents the ultimate in cable insulation.

OFC silver coated cable.jpg

Finally, I should point out that the housing is made of two pieces, the front and the rear, which are hold in place by a single screw with epoxy at its head. This has the advantage of an easy repair, if that need arises, for a lifetime enjoyment. However, the user must be warned that whatever attempt to remove the screws will break the epoxy, and this will void the warranty.

A8000 price

If you reached that far in my review, you might be tempted to try out A8000, but maybe one thing that holds you back is this IEM’s price. There is no doubt that $1999.00 is a lot of money, and I am not going to argue against that. However, think for a moment what you get for that premium price you pay:
  • An IEM that took 5 years of research and development to reach the market, and this shows what this IEM is all about.
  • A construction of absolutely top quality in and out. Rare and expensive materials were used (like the pure Beryllium driver) and extremely meticulous and costly construction processes were applied (like the “Tetra Chamber Construction” housing).
  • A sound signature you have to hear in order to believe, which makes this IEM to stand out among IEMs of the same price category.
  • A design that will last forever.
  • An IEM made in Japan. There is no doubt that A8000 would be cheaper if it was made in China, however, Final decided to make it in Japan in order to control every little manufacture detail. Furthermore, “Made in Japan” has always an added value.
Is all this enough to justify an MSRP of $1999.00? I think it is, but of course this is also a matter of a personal opinion. Some people might even go a step further and ask if A8000 is “value for money”. To me this is a nonsense question for an exquisite IEM such as A8000. You would never ask whether a Porsche Carrera is “value for money”, would you?

In conclusion

Final A8000 does pretty much everything almost perfect, while I cannot think of something that it does wrong, and that alone is a big accomplishment. The whole of the audio spectrum is reproduced with top clarity and depth in an extremely natural and effortless way; you feel that you hear lows, mids and highs in an absolutely perfect balance without loosing the slightest information whatsoever, this is how high is the transparency of A8000. On top of it, A8000’s speed is maximal, whenever needed; its dynamic range is extremely broad, which makes it a top class universal performer; its soundstage is huge and its holographic image beautiful. In the past, I have been impressed by certain IEM models, like the Sennheiser IE 800 or the Ortofon e-Q8, but I never felt so much excitement as with A8000. One has to strive extremely hard in order to find an IEM which, overall, performs better than A8000.

If you feel that you can spend $1999.00 on an IEM set, then go ahead and buy A8000 and give yourself the chance to enjoy pure audio pleasure. Life is short, and one should enjoy the most out of it. But even if you cannot afford A8000, you have to audition it; it might change your perspective of listening to music.

Is A8000 absolutely perfect? No, as there is no IEM that can be characterized as such, and there will never be one. However, the A8000 stands out among top class IEMs, and although it is not perfect, it is damn close to being one!

Specifications and price

Product code: FI-A8DSSD
Housing: Stainless steel
Driver: Dynamic driver (Truly pure Beryllium diaphragm)
Sensitivity: 102dB
Impedance: 16Ω
Connector: MMCX
Cable: OFC silver coated cable
Cord length: 1.2m
Weight: 41gr
Price: $1999.00

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josesol07
josesol07
phenomenal review!!! thank you for making me dream!!!
gerelmx1986
gerelmx1986
Sony IER-Z1R is also made in Japan
Pros: Extremely clear, transparent and accurate sound, fastest transient response I ever heard from a dynamic IEM, multi-layered spatiality, perfect tonality, nuanced timbre, excellent bass response, snappy attack, detailed and controlled treble, hyper-realist musicality, enjoyable male and female vocal, versatile tuning, deep soundstage, sturdy construction
Cons: Housing prompt to scratch and fingers prints, the packaging isn’t unique enough, housing is very big and will perhaps not fit every ear, an extra or a unique Final cable would have been welcome because full SPC cable isn’t the best pairing for the A8000, need good power and clean amping to shine
FINAL AUDIO A8000 REVIEW

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SOUND: 10/10
CONSTRUCTION&DESIGN: 9/10
PACKAGING&ACCESSORIES: 8.5/10
VERSATILITY: 9.5/10
VALUE: Cannot Apply
FINAL AUDIO story begins more than 40 years ago (1974), when Kanemori Takai established the FINAL company by creating high-fidelity audio products for turntable ranging from high-end cartridges to amps and speakers. The first product ever created was a revolutionary turntable cartridge designed by Yoshihisa Mori that deliver highly precise and clear sound and was highly regarded by audiophiles at the time. After numerous years in sound system hifi engineering, Mr. Takai joins with Mr.Yamagushi (a Sony developer for Pro acoustic equipment) and create S’NEXT OEM audio company as a subsidiary of Molex LLC that is a big OEM of audio components.
From 2007 to 2013, FINAL mostly create headphones and earphones for other companies, gaining experience with different audio technology and research. In 2011, they even do earphones assembly trial sessions that became very popular among curious audiophiles in Japan. This kind of event is still offered today by Final Audio, which proves they have a rich passion for sharing knowledge about tuning and audio engineering in general.

All begin in 2013 when they launch their first official headphones under FINAL name. After this, research intensifies for audio engineering, creating new types of earphones housing that will inflict on acoustic rendering. Since then, they mostly concentrate on earphones technology, even if they create high-end Dynamic and Planar headphones.

FINAL have a lot of experience in audio technology, which is enriched by both past, present and future knowledge. Their passion for the different acoustic phenomenon is at the core of their audio quest and evolve from niche high end offering like the Sonorous and LabII to ultra-budget IEM like the E series. Whatever the price range of their products, FINAL always dedicated themself to offer a mature balanced sound that both audiophile and audio enthusiasts can enjoy.

FINAL is one of the audio company I respect the most because they are transparent about every aspect of their audio product, they explain with great humility and generosity what sound experience you can expect from any of their earphones or headphones, describing in great details what was the tuning goal and what acoustic rendering they aim.

After reviewing the whole E and B series, as well as F4100 and F3100, I’m even more passionate about FINAL creation. While they have a ‘’house sound’’ I would call as balanced and mature tuning, they never repeat themself and always offer different sound perspectives, should it be about imaging, dynamic nuance, timbre, clarity and lately, transparency.


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The FINAL A8000 leitmotiv is Transparency of sound layers perception, which is something that cannot be measure and could only be achieved by a lot of testing of different drivers and acoustic chambers. One of the most important factors to achieve this acoustic phenomenon is the transient response of the drivers used, but we have plenty of types like a balanced armature, dynamic, planar, electro-magnetic and so on. After testing multiple audio drivers to find the one that can be fast enough to push simultaneously different sound wave that will be layered fast enough without losing the air within timbre that permits fluid transparency, they conclude only a 100% pure beryllium diaphragm with highly powerful neodymium magnet can achieve this impulse audio response prowess. And after years of research, the A8000 was birth.

At 2000$, the FINAL A8000 is a luxury audiophile earphones that only wealthy people can afford. This isn’t about value, this is about the absolute sound perfection quest. Is this the end game earphones of audiophile utopist? Let’s see in this review if the A8000 delivers a versatile high-end sound or is more aimed for specific music which makes it more a niche audiophile caprice than end game IEM.

You can buy the FINAL AUDIO A8000 from official seller like AUDIO46


SPECS

Product code: FI-A8DSSD
Housing: Stainless
Driver: Dynamic driver(Truly Pure Beryllium Diaphragm)
Connector: MMCX
Cable: OFC silver coated cable
Sensitivity: 102dB
Impedance: 16Ω
Weight:41g
Cord length: 1.2m

INTERN

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The star of the show here is the pure beryllium diaphragm used for the dynamic driver. Unlike other coated beryllium diaphragm drivers that have to deposit thin coat of beryllium onto a resin film that will still keep its inner transient response and inflict on overall impulse speed, the A8000 use 100% pure beryllium foal crafted together. This is a very complex nanotechnology achievement, and the result is an extremely flexible and durable diaphragm that can achieve a surreal sound propagation velocity of 12,900m/s. Sound is air vibration that goes at different waving speed, it’s very complex to reproduce multiple sounds at the same time because of different frequencies speed like the bass is slow waveform while highs are ultra-fast, the diaphragm is like your speaker’s woofer, but it does not only need to be sensitive to every current push but be able to contract-retract extremely fast too to keep silence between sounds. FINAL quest of transparency in sound means they must find the fastest driver possible, which means it must be ultra-thin but ultra-solid too. Every micro-seconds are important, as this permit to produce transparent layering of sound.


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To help cohesive sound reproduction in spatiality, the A8000 uses a ”tetra-chamber construction” for acoustic projection. The size and shape of 4 sound chambers inflict on sound quality, especially in keeping the bass thigh and well separated from other frequencies, as well, imaging improvement in spatial separation. As seen in the image, chamber number 1 is separate from chamber number 2 which is behind the drivers, this is to avoid any unwanted resonance that can inflict on ultra sensible beryllium diaphragm, this permit the cleanest acoustic resonance possible. The chambers tame sound leakage too.

PACKAGING&ACCESSORIES

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The box presentation is very similar to the B series, it’s minimalist and elegant but very humble too, which will perhaps be underwhelming for those expecting luxurious presentation for a flagship IEM of this price. Accessories do improve a little from B series, the biggest difference is in little details, like the ear tips box and beautiful aluminum and silicone case.


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A very welcome accessory is the genius MMCX ASSIST, perhaps it looks like nothing more than just a little piece of plastic, but it achieves it’s purpose gloriously, as the MMCX connection is quite a thigh whit whole B series, A8000 is no exception and this tool permit to disconnect it without any effort, you use it as mini-scissor and ”cut” the space between 2 connectors. I use this MMCX ASSIST with a lot of my IEM now, and my swearing statistic has dropped from 90%. You have as well ear hooks, 5 pairs of ear tips and dust filter sticker, that can be used to tame treble too. The 4 cores SPC cable is the same as B1, B3 and E5000. I must admit I would have loved a balanced cable included with this pricy IEM, and perhaps a more unique box too, so it stands apart from B series.


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CONSTRUCTION & DESIGN

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Exquisite craftsmanship follows the same path begun with the B series they launch some months ago. The chassis has a luxurious steampunk look to my eyes, it is glossy thick stainless steel with refined angle and curves. The mirror finish is a real joy to look at, and all this angle does create interesting light contrast too. Yep, this is a looker and will surely intrigue people on the street, it really acts as much like decorative jewelry than high-end IEM. In terms of durability, housing looks invincible, but I would have liked it to be less prompt to small scratch because it ruins the glorious mirror clarity. So, even if I take care, I do not have range the IEM carefully in it’s carrying case and now regret it cause it’s not just sensible to fingers prints, but to micro scratching too. I encounter the same thing with Hifiman RE2000 and FINAL B1, so I’m not surprised, but the B2 and B3 aren’t easily scratchable and I prefer this peace of mind than having a beautiful DIVA full of scars.


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Similar to B series, the A8000 is bigger in length and thickness but near as comfortable. While the B series housing use 2 part put together, A8000 use 3 parts. As well, you don’t have any screw in the back which keeps the surface fully glossy and free of any asperity. Another interesting detail is the fact nozzle does not have the same metal mesh-like the B series, it has 4 holes and a very thinner barely visible mesh. Designed to be worn with cable over-ear, the fit is both comfortable and secure. The A8000 is thought to have more weight in the nozzle section, so it pushes naturally into your ears and does not tend to fall. This make the fit very secure and universal, but I still think small ears can encounter a problem with the length of its body that has cutting angle that can perhaps touch time to time the ears helix or anti-helix.


DRIVEABILITY


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The A8000 isn’t particularly hard to drive due to rather low impedance of 16ohm, but it isn’t very sensitive either at 102db. While they are easier to drive at full potential than the Final E5000 that have a very low 95db of sensitivity, I conclude that the A8000 like powerful ultra-clean audio source or amplifier to show you what it got in term of speed and definition. For example, my favorite DAP is the Ibasso DX90 that can deliver up to 2.8vrm in power output or my Xduoo X20 that can deliver 300mW @ 32ohm. For an amp, my favorite pairing is with JDS LABS ATOM that pushes 1000mW @ 32ohm and Xduoo TA10 that push 2000mW @ 32ohm. Once properly amped, the soundstage expand, the tonality is fuller and more balanced, the timbre gain is nuance and body and attack is more speedy.

As a top-of-the-line luxury audiophile earphones, It deserves a source that is free of any distortion, black in the background, and precise in audio decoding. As well, it deserves to be powered effortlessly so the beryllium diaphragm drivers respond to its full speed potential without any instability in electric conductivity.


ISOLATION


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These intensely block outside noise, the thick stainless steel body, as well as tetra chambers, act like extra walls between outside noise and your ears making the A8000 among the best for sound isolation. Sound leakage is none existent too, well, apart if somebody sticks its ears on yours.


EAR TIPS PAIRING


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Here I will share with you 4 different ear tips pairing impressions. First of all, the stock Final ear tips is among the best one both in term of comfort and balanced sound rendering. Let’s start with my personal favorite.

The KZ Starline are super cheap ear tips that have a unique conic shape and slightly bigger nozzle holes than average. Strangely, it tends to expand soundstage of any IEM I try it with, sometimes I use Large size for adding length to IEM with big nozzle, but this time I use Medium size so I can push the nozzle deeper in my ears. The fit is perfect and extremely comfortable and more of all it goes deeper than Final ear tips. The sound improvement is very noticeable, especially in soundstage wideness and deepness, but the bass too sounds fuller, giving more sub-bass presence and rounder mid-bass punch, without affecting mids. Treble is slightly more balanced and less forward.

Stock ear tips offer a very flat sound, the bass is very thigh and extends gently, with excellent articulation but you need active listening to hear the nuance as it stays in the background. As well, the soundstage is above average but still a little too intimate for my taste, especially in terms of wideness-tallness. It must be noted that ear tips are very dependant on your own unique ears anatomy, which explains you might have a different result than me.

Memory Foams tips give the worst result, taming bass rumble and impact and making the mids even more intimate and dry. Treble lose it’s sparkle too. The soundstage is the smallest one and the overall sound is very forwards and energic.

Wide bore tips that with short nozzle length is interesting because though it stole some air to the soundstage, the mid-range is pushed slightly forward, making the A8000 more mid centric and very pleasant for vocal. Bass is similar to stock Final ear tips, treble is tighter in attack-decay.

Small hole with long nozzle ear tips (stock one of DITA Fealty) are excellent too, and very similar to KZ but with even taller soundstage. The bass is excellent, sub-bass has good presence and control, slightly less weighty than KZ but more controlled and natural. Mids are similar to stock tips but with more space between instruments, making it less compressed. More I listen to this ear tips pairing, more I might think it’s the best one.

All in all, apart from memory foams tips, the A8000 will never give an underwhelming result with any ear tips, but it must be noted bass response is the frequency range that is the most affected by right ear tips fit for your ears. I still suggest deep insertion to get the best result.


CABLE PAIRING


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Now I will test 3 different type of cable, which is 4cores Silver-plated cable (stock cable), high-quality 8cores Litz copper (40$ Audiosense flagship cable) and an 8cores mixed SPC-full copper cable (15$ NiceHCK).

The stock cable offer clearest, sharpest and most neutral sound, it’s as clean as it can get, but tend to keep timbre on the thin side. Bass is really lean too, and treble is vivid. Upper mids are a little hot too.

The Audiosense Crystal Copper 8strand 19 cores 6N OCC Cable offers the best pairing to my ears, the sound is fuller in timbre, bass slightly more weighty and bodied, the vocal gain hint of warmth and highs gain in nuance as if mid treble was boosted and balance better with upper highs. As well, the slight sibilance than can occur in upper mids is better rounded and the whole tonality feels slightly softened. If you own the A8000, you can surely afford this 40$ cable. This perhaps tames treble a bit but balance whole sound too.

The SPC-Copper mixed cable is an excellent pairing too, very similar to Audiosense cable but with slightly more details and clearer sound. Soundstage is bigger than stock cable and mids more fowarded. I think this is the best of both worlds as it delivers fuller-bodied bass and keeps snappy treble that is extremely addictive with the A8000. As well, it’s the cheapest cable, selling around 15$.

SOUND

NOTE: It makes about 2 months I use daily the A8000, so it has at least 300H of burn-in. I thoroughly test it with high multitude of audio sources and amps which include Ibasso DX90, Xduoo X3, Xduoo X20, Xduoo XD-05plus, Tempotec Sonata HD PRO, Fiio BTR5, EARSTUDIO ES100, Xduoo TA-10, JDS LABS ATOM to name a few. What I conclude is that it deserve the clearest AMPING possible, this amping need to bo above 250mW @ 32ohm to permit fuller transient response possible. The DAC should be a reference one. For this review, I choose to stick with Dual ES9018 DAC from Ibasso DX90 line out to JDS LABS ATOM. This is my favorite pairing with the Xduoo TA-10 used as a USB DAC-AMP. For portability, the DX90 do a great job as well as FIIO BTR5 balanced. All the music I listen too is at least in 44.1khz/16bit FLAC but I have alot of 48khz/24bit and 96khz/24bit FLAC album too. I listen to a very wide range of music, from old and modern jazz, to chamber classical (mostly baroque composers), post and math rock, indie singers, Soul and R&B and Hip-hop to electronica, experimental, folk and worldmusic.

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Welcome into musical reality, enter this cathedral, enter this studio, enter this small room, enter this live concert, the FINAL A8000 can warp you anywhere you want, just be sure to know the quality of your musical destination. With the A8000, the wow effect is within music first of all, how it was recorded and how it is played back. You will hear everything with pristine clarity, not in a surgical way where all very sound is coldly extracted and feel like they play for themself, but in a harmonious heterogeneity that will awake a fresh active listener curiosity. The sound of A8000 reminds me of those of full Planar Headphones like the Hifiman Sundara, but with closed-back dynamic bass and a more edgy definition in the attack that is mostly found with hybrid or multi-balanced armature IEM. With planar, sound projection is fast, but it can be dry in timbre, which the A8000 isn’t, as well, the bass does not extend naturally even if it can have some kind of muffled impact, again, the A8000 is more organic in its cohesion, without lacking in texture which is hyper nuanced yet natural and smooth too.

Everybody raves about the incredible transient speed of the A8000, and indeed it’s for good reason, but if it was wrongly balanced all the energy could have been stoled either by bass or treble, here, the whole sound spectrum is injected with lively dynamic, never struggling to offer a high level of definition of every instrument, whatever the numbers it have. A symphony will be treated with as much respect and minuteness than a solo of violin, a duo of piano and sax, or a slow burner bassy Soul track. The A8000 is the most agile IEM I ever heard, it achieved the pinnacle of sound articulation effortlessly, with incredibly transparent layering that feel infinite in its addition possibility. As much analytical than musical, transparent than lush, the A8000 embrace polarity of sound waves with mind-blowing fluidity.


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TONALITY can be simply described as hyper-realist and perfectly balanced and neutral, but let say it’s smoothly brightish too, well polish by acoustic control, free of any tonal imperfection. To me, the term bright feels pejorative for refined tonality of the A8000, because of the high level of naturalness.

TIMBRE is rich and transparent, it’s very complex in numerous nuances that fulfill its texture, but you need active listening to discover every subtle color that fulfill every sound. Sometimes, I get hooked by one instrument and literally crave its musical soul, the cello is a good example of how rich, full-bodied and multi-layered in textures it can be. Vocal too, Violin…timbre is as much highly resolved than highly transparent and never sound artificial or warmed by other frequencies range.

SOUNDSTAGE will differ not only by audio source and amp pairing but the mastering of music you listen too. Greater is clarity, greater is the depth, if it’s play in a big hall, the soundstage will expend in tallness and wideness. It’s out of your head, surrounding you from every side even the back of your head, but mostly from left to right full axis which has extreme deepness. So, yeah, deeper than wider, but it’s already very wide and airy.


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IMAGING of this quality coming out of a single dynamic driver IEM wasn’t possible to imagine until I heard the A8000. Even a great 8 balanced armature earphone like the Audiosense T800 cannot offer this level of accuracy and clarity in instrument separation. Neither the DITA Fealty which have a wider soundstage but less sharp definition. With the A8000 you have both spatial placement and transparent layering, no instrument overshadow the other or stole its individuality. I can easily pinpoint any sounds anywhere in the sound spectrum, some will be more distant in the back or at right or left angle, but never drown being opaque sound or congested one against another due to lack of instrument space. It’s as if sound and silence are as fast and important. Razor-sharp precise, cohesive and hyper-realist(again).


BASS is exceptionally flexible, with natural extension that digs to it’s the lower end and highly precise separation between sub, mid and high bass. This isn’t a boring lifeless dry bass that neutral tuning tends to offer, not at all, if your music has recorded rumble it will have this rumble, if the kick is aggressive, the mid-bass will punch with weight. Sub-bass lines are full-bodied with the transparency free of any slow sound wave congestion. The articulation of acoustic bass is fluid, agile and full of natural air resonance, lower is the note, longer is the decay as it should be. No unbalanced sub boost that will affect tonal balance, it’s all-natural here and you will be delighted by your favorite rock album, like the last TOOL ‘’7empest’’ where you follow the grungy bass line and complex drum pattern with great easy, feeling the energy and impact of every note. The mid-bass is ultra-fast and punchy, and do not touch the mids at all, this time, it reminds me of excellently balanced armature mid-bass, the decay is tightly controlled. This is a ‘’multi-forme’’ type of bass response that is surely the most versatile I heard, with boomy electronic or rap, the slam is their, heavy and accurate, it does not ruin the vocal at all. Whatever music style you listen, the bass will never add unwanted warmth or dryness to the sound, and I think this kind of bass can be a masterclass for basshead so they became more aware of the difference between quality and quantity as well as less afraid of well done uncolored bass response. As shown in sub bassy track like ‘’Canadian Hillbilly’’ from GEORGIA ANNE MULDROW the lower bass note do product good amount of rumble, as much felt than heard, and unlike with over bassy IEM, it keeps vocal clear and never become sloppy in lower control, and in another track from the same album like ‘’Overload’’, the sub line is faster, extremely clear and precise, not interfering with thigh well-rounded kick, this track show well the crazy fast transient response as nothing sound unbalanced or shouty, which make this track very over-saturated in grain or congested with inferior IEM.


MID RANGE is always the center of the show with the A8000, and it’s important to say that every instrument keeps their clean space in rich sound imagery. If their any brightness coming from smooth tonality, it’s for better definition, which is beautifully edgy, in the sens ‘’line contour’’ of the sound is clear. This isn’t warm mids that are abstract in macro-resolution or micro-resolution, and it find it’s placed between naturalness and reference sound. It avoid sounding too sharp or analytical due to its transparent ungrainy timbre and cohesive, near fusional in harmony. Piano sound fully accurate, whole note register having a snappy attack, nuanced contract in tonal projection from finger hit on the keyboard to sound expansion that follows with incredible synchronicity. In a track like ‘’Speak no evil’’ from HELGE LIEN TRIO, the hard-hitting piano note in beginning is full of authority and weight, the piano playing perfectly extracts from rest of instrument, nearer of the listener, and as it should, lower note is coming more from center-left and higher notes from center-right. The presentation has a grandeur to it, bigger than life musicality that no concert hall can deliver, and I do not miss one notes because of fast attack and thigh decay, articulation is just mesmerizing, and if I want to concentrate on drummer or bassist, I will be as much wowed by clear accuracy and presence as with the piano. VOCAL have similar treatment, like a mix of lushness in timbre and brightness in tonality, with centered but full presence, clear and detailed without pushing the texture to the point of being distracting with lips movement or breathing, both male and female sound great, never thin or artificial, female vocal can be slightly more forward due to slight extra upper mids push, but I encounter extremely rare sibilance only with the stock cable or with the wrong audio source pairing. The voice of TIMBER TIMBRE is perfect in tonality with just the right amount of body so it keeps the rest of the audio spectrum free of any lows intrusion.


TREBLE is a miracle. A8000 treble is as much delicate than fierce when it need too, and always with extreme control and snappy attack. Rarely I heard the highs so full yet not lacking in both brilliance and sparkle. It’s crisp but have timbre meat too, cymbals crush became more detailed than ever, without the vulgar splash or harshness, again: tightly controlled. Hit-hat is crazy fast, if it has to length 1 microsecond, it will, nothing more. Xylophone became utterly fascinating, as we can follow the whole dynamic of its playing, the hit, the sound and the resonance which will not drown other hit notes. You can mix a lot of different instruments in high range and the clarity will still be as clean, harpsichord, organ, and violin all playing in high range at the same time is no problem and will be mixed in spatiality and layering as needed. Acoustic guitar sound particularly great, with great sparkle in the higher note and perfect delimitation in lower treble, never unbalanced between details, attack, and timbre. We know the treble is fully covered without an important dip in tuning when both acoustic and electric guitar sound as rich and snappy, and this is the case with A8000, whatever the degree of distortion offered by the electric guitar, it will render it meticulously and cohesively. Violin is surely my guilty please with A8000, listening to J.S Bach ‘’Partita for violin solo no1 in B minor’’ by Hilary Hann show the perfect tonal balance of the highs, as well as extremely agile attack, we feel tonal crescendo at every end of melody motif, the lightning-fast bow hit, and higher sound projection when powerful bow slide with more energy. I’m not treble sensitive, but I’m sensible to tonal unbalance in a high range that can make ‘’scream’’ the sound or even ‘’ring’’ it in ultra highs, this does not happen with the A8000, and while treble is energic, it’s not harsh because it’s never grainy, violently edgy, over boosted or artificially analytical. Still, if your preference is laid back delicate highs, the A8000 will perhaps be too vivid and revealing for you. While it’s a very revealing sound, I don’t encounter a lot of bad music rendering, even if mastering wasn’t perfect, but this could affect supreme clarity, which will be fulfilled by recording imperfection.


SONG EXAMPLE


In this sumptuous ARIA from BIBER ‘’Mystery Sonata’’, the full nuance in dynamic range, as well as superbly clear transparent sound layerings, is perfectly shown, in both it’s fast and slow transient response. Slow is the cello, and full-bodied, with realist timbre that project controlled resonance in the clean silence, it’s placement has its own space in spatiality, and the instrument resonance and sound projection go from left to right with great fluidity. We can hear the bow gradually hit and rub the cello string, and produce the sound with perfect tonal contrast, without any details unbalance. When the organ comes in, it’s from the right and sound develop into the center, it’s more distant in the background but keeps great definition both in timbre and impact. Blissful violin fiercely attacks it’s melody line in the middle of two other instruments and is well centered, with greater proximity, the rendering is extremely accurate and agile, showing every edge of attack and tonal change with an excessively flexible transient response. The mix of tempo speed between instrument do not affect transparency, neither the volume change in violin attack create harshness or timbre change. This is truer than life musicality.


In the ultra-heavy sub bassy ‘’Moonlight’’ track from IAMDDB, we have a great example of how heavy and rumbly can go the A8000 driver when it’s needed too. That mix with super thigh kick, snare and percussions, with super clear vocal that has great space between other sound layers, and then the BIG sub line, a thick, grungy, juicy, wall of sub rendered with authoritative weight, real headbanger coming from a 2.5K refinedly tuned IEM. The kick is very snappy-thumpy, wich surprise me, and this beefy bass line….I wasn’t expecting the A8000 to sound that good with trap rap. Spacious HD thigh ass sound right here ma bro.


All arounder you say? The A8000 really can deal with any type of music, but I will not pass through everything here, it’s already done in my 2 months of use. IDM sound punchy, detailed, extremely, please. Soul or R&B has a superbly clear voice. And now, this jazz-rock band is no exception, and A8000 excel to render this track even more alive. The separation between electric bass and guitar is just so fabulously layering, you can hear both playing together with ultimate articulation, the bass has a nice texture to it and a grungy body. The electric guitar is fast and tight, so rich in tone change and when it uses wah pedal the sound is elastic, thigh and euphonious. Kick is weighty, hit-hat have a fast pace, splash cymbals are extremely realist with long extension that is never harsh. In fact, while the presentation is vivid, dynamic and ultra-clear, it’s never overly bright, more reference sounding with extra musicality. Yes, the A8000 do know how to Rock.

COMPARISONS


VS DITA FEALTY (1400$)


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Now, in terms of construction and comfort, the A8000 is clearly superior. SOUNDSTAGE is quite wider and more holographic and airy with the DITA, this will give more space between instrument but the number of instruments will struggle more for proper IMAGING due to slower transient response. Still, A8000 sound like an on-ear open-back headphone while the DITA is more similar to an open back in headroom size. BASS is where I find the A8000 more realist, it extends better and has more body as well as less dry timbre, the DITA bass is a rather thin and tonal balance between low and mids is less cohesive than A8000, which make instruments like cello lack a bit of body. MIDS are slightly more recessed with the DITA, they are drier, brighter and thinner with smoother definition, while the A8000 is more edgy and natural in tonality. Piano sound fuller with the A8000 and vocal closer and clearer, but more intimate, though mids aren’t the smoothest one with A800, the DITA upper mids are more aggressive and affect the tonal balance of vocal, making them sound wider, but thinner and harsher too. TREBLE is brighter with more emphasis in upper highs with the DITA, which tend to push forwards percussions and affect overall naturalness of tonality and stole some definition to mid treble where the A8000 have plenty of it, so the highs are more bodied and in line with rest of audio spectrum. I feel the highs are crisper and more sparkly with the A8000, which gives a fabulous performance for both acoustic and electric guitar, while the DITA is more on the metallic side.
All in All, these two are fabulous listen, slightly similar in overall bright tonality but with more balanced and natural sound for A8000 and more holographic airy sound for the Fealty.


VS FINAL AUDIO B1 (700$)


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The B1 is a Hybrid IEM with one Dynamic and one balanced driver, it’s the flagship of B series and 3 times less expensive than A8000. Construction is on par with a mirror finish too but of golden color, the A8000 is notably bigger so he’s little less comfortable. Now, both have similar SOUNDSTAGE apart for extra deepness of A8000, IMAGING is clearer in positioning as well as instrument separation space with A8000. BASS is notably more boosted and warmer with B1, it has more emphasis in sub-ass and lack speed and mid-bass separation of A8000 which have flatter more textured timbre too as well, it feels it extend down to 20khz with more realist tonal balance. MIDS are lusher, thicker and warmer with the B1, lacking high resolution and edgy attack of A8000, this tend to mix vocal with rest of instrument, offering a presence that stole instrument layering while the A8000 keep the individuality of every instrument and offer a well centered and intimate vocal presentation. TREBLE is more relaxed with the B1, it lacks snappy attack and crispness of A8000 but makes the B1 less aggressive and more natural, for micro-details lovers the B1 is way more inferior in term of both definition and resolution and can make the musicality lack in highs energy.


All in all, the A8000 is from another league in term of clarity, technicalities and accurate articulation of music, but do not sound as natural and smooth as the bassier-warmer B1.

CONCLUSION

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The FINAL AUDIO A8000 delivers nothing less than epiphany of audio fidelity, some will consider them reference sounding, other neutral or even natural, and this is because the sound is so rich and complex in nuance, that you cannot easily categorize it’s unique musicality as versatile and surprising in tonality and timbre.

Sure, the highlight here it’s the incredibly refined technicalities, the lightning-fast transient response, the high level of clarity and precise multi-layered and transparent imaging. But the A8000 is more than just technically talented, and you will only discover it’s full potential by testing as much different music style as possible. Sometime the bass will wow you, other times it will be the vocal, other time instrument presence and timbre, other times the vivid details, you really travel within the own A8000 universe and saying it’s addictive is an understatement.

The A8000 have the balance of E4000, the speed of F41000, the edgy attack of B3, and it’s own unique bass response. This is perhaps the only End Game flagship IEM you will ever need because it injects extra life to any type of music without being overly analytical or unforgiving.

Sure, 2000$ is a lot of money, but if you are wealthy enough and search for an audiophile reference sound that lacks nothing from lows to highs and offers crisp and transparent imaging, the A8000 will pass the test of time due to its near-neutral sound that can deal with any music style.

The FINAL AUDIO A8000 are the best earphones I ever try, and they still find a way to impress me with their hyper-realist lively musicality even after 2 months of intense use. You cannot get enough of this audiophile luxury.
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Pros: durable build with a stainless-steel finish and elegant shell design, pure Beryllium dynamic driver, vivid micro-detailed sound tuning with a focus on speed, transparency, and clarity, holographic soundstage, quality cable and removal assist tool, nice selection of accessories.
Cons: tuning is on a brighter/colder side, not very forgiving with poorly recorded tracks, shells have some heft.


A Knight in Shining Armor!

The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my review blog, and now I would like to share it with my readers on Head-fi.

Manufacturer website: Final Audio. Available for sale from Audio46.


Intro.

Pure beryllium driver IEMs were definitely a buzzword of CanJam NYC 2020 show which I recently attended. We often don’t realize that some manufacturers put more emphasis on “beryllium” than “coated” when referring to beryllium-coated drivers. Pure beryllium drivers are rarer, so when Final Audio announced their new flagship A8000 (A8k) IEM with Truly Pure Beryllium Diaphragm, it got attention of many audiophiles.

Since my recent review of Final Audio B-series IEMs, I was curious to spend more time with their new A-series flagship because 10-min audition at the show in a crowded environment was just not enough, and also it has been awhile since I reviewed a single DD monitor. After spending the last few weeks testing, comparing, and pairing A8k, here is what I found. Enjoy the read!

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Unboxing and Accessories.

Final A8k (A-series) IEMs arrived in a compact white box, with a very similar packaging as in B-series. The unboxing experience is very “layered” with outer sleeve that has Final logo on the front and a detailed spec on the back. Then, a soft cardboard box with A-series label on top, and another cloth wrapping inside once you lift the cover, followed by more wrapping to unveil the travel case and eartips case. While I enjoyed the unboxing experience of A-series, I personally felt it should have been more premium to differentiate this flagship model from B-series.

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Inside you will find a silicone/aluminum carrying case, a pair of small clear transparent earhooks with a lock mechanism, dust filter stickers, 5 pairs of Final E-Type silicone eartips (SS/S/M/L/LL) inside of a small travel box, and a clever mmcx assist removal tool. Eartips have a firm cap which makes a good seal with earcanal and comes with a ribbed color coded (Pink – right, Grey – left) inner stem with a tight grip around the nozzle and a smaller size bore opening.

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Silicone/aluminum travel case is similar to the one included with B-series, except with an addition of aluminum protective top cover. It has a clever design with a top part of the case (silicone layer with aluminum shell) being roomy/deep enough to fit IEMs w/cables. And the bottom flexible silicone half of the case covering up IEM/cable when closed to keep it secure inside, preventing the content from sliding around.

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Cable.

A8k comes with a quality silver plated copper (SPC) cable which I find to be non-microphonic, pliable, lightweight, and comfortable to wear while on the go. Though you do get removable earhooks, I personally found it to be more comfortable to wear the cable with these IEMs without it. And of course, since we are talking about the removable cable with universal mmcx connectors, you can use any of your favorite cables with it. I will cover various pair up examples with aftermarket cables after Sound analysis section.

And speaking of removable cable, Final Audio came up with something very simple yet brilliant – MMCX removal assist tool. While the cable is easy to attach, the removal requires a bit of force and the housing of the connectors is slippery. This little “yellow” plastic tool makes it very easy to disconnect mmcx connector, and it works not only with Final IEMs but other brands (tested and verified with Campfire audio, Westone, and iBasso).

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SPC cable itself has 4 conductors, 2 on each side, twisted and in a clear flexible jacket, with each side twisted again after the y-split going down to a right angled 3.5mm plug. The plug has a nice clear strain relief, 2/3 of the housing is metal and the rest is clear transparent so you can see the connection of the wires. Y-split has a matching slim metal finish, and chin-slider is a clear small silicone piece. The earpiece connector housing with mmcx also has a matching finish and red/black color-coded rings to indicate Right/Left sides.

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Design.

While A-series A8k uses a similar housing concept as Final MAKE and B-series models, the actual design of the shell is more elegant with a flat faceplate instead of busier multi-facet surface. The stainless-steel finish is a little shinier than B3 finish, but in general they are similar.

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The inner part of the shell is rounded, fitting comfortably inside of my ear concha area, while the outer part has more angled edges, though still “soft” and comfortable, not as sharp as B-series. I noticed one pinhole vent at the bottom of the shell and another vent (with something like a mesh cover?) on the inside of the shell. The shells itself are average size, each one about 41g which is a bit hefty, have shorter nozzle with a lip for eartips grip, and 4-bore nozzle tip with a slightly recessed area to apply a screen filter.

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In the heart of A8k design you will find a Pure Beryllium diaphragm made from ultra-thin Beryllium foil. This material is known to be super lightweight and to have properties of high sound propagation velocity. To optimize the operation of this Beryllium dynamic driver, Final came up with a stainless-steel chassis internally divided into 4 chambers, called Tetra-Chamber construction. Those were precisely calculated since the volume and the shape of these chambers and their placement around the driver will have a significant impact on the sound tuning because we are dealing with an ultra-thin beryllium dynamic driver.

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The fit.

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Sound Analysis.

I analyzed A8k sound performance paired up with LPGT and N6ii w/E01 (Class AB) while playing a variety of test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.

As strongly recommended by manufacturer, I let A8k play for 200 hrs before starting my critical sound analysis. I did occasional sound checking throughout that time and noticed some changes with more rumble in bass and a little less harshness in treble, though it’s subjective. Also, I applied the included nozzle filter stickers, two filters on top of each other per side. And while I personally not too keen to share my FR captures since I have a hobby setup, I was actually able to capture (and to hear) a slight reduction in lower treble peaks after applying those filters.

The sound signature of A8k in different pair ups I tried is tilted toward being slightly mid-forward with extra emphasis on clarity of vocals and instruments, improved retrieval of details, and more vivid presentation of the sound with higher definition and resolution. The tonality is brighter, colder, crisper, very transparent, hardly any coloring. The retrieval of details and the level of clarity is quite high. Also, the sound has a super-fast speed with the transient response of note on/off being among the fastest and the cleanest I heard, in many ways reminding me of planar magnetic driver performance. Plus, when tried at higher than my usual listening volume level, I didn't hear any distortion at all.

The bass has a deep sub-bass extension, audible rumble which is closer to neutral in quantity, and fast articulate mid-bass punch, with an overall bass being nicely layered and a little north of neutral in quantity. Lower mids are neutral, clean, lean, without too much body, while upper mids are revealing on micro-detailed level, nicely layered, more analytical yet still very realistic, though in a colder way. Treble is crisp and airy, with a more revealing definition. In some pair ups treble can get a big splashy, but it never crossed a harsh sibilance threshold, though there is some accentuation on "s", especially in poorly recorded tracks. To my ears, treble sounded more natural in tracks with non-synthesized instruments, while a little exaggerated in some EDM tracks.

Soundstage is huge, holographic, nearly on 3D level across majority of DAP sources I tried. But even with being nearly holographic, it sounded realistic, not artificial, and with some tracks it even felt like I was listening to open back full-size headphones. Imaging has excellent placement of instruments and vocals with an accurate positioning of every element in 3D space which I found to be quite impressive.

Due to a nature of its tuning, A8k is not very forgiving, picks up every imperfection of poorly recorded tracks, without smoothing anything out. While listening to different music genres, I found A8k to pair up better with more natural instruments while synthesized instruments sounded a bit exaggerated in treble. That's where a pair up with a neutral or a warmer source will be more beneficial.

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Comparison.

This comparison was done using A8k with a stock 3.5mm cable, and N6ii (E01, Class AB) and LPGT sources, volume matched in every comparison.

A8k vs Hifiman RE2000 Gold - soundstage width is the first big difference you will notice comparing holographic expansion of A8k vs a narrower soundstage of RE2k. Both have the bass which goes deep, but the quantity is more elevated in RE2k while A8k relative to RE2k has a closer to neutral quantity. The speed of the bass is also very different, especially when you focus on mid-bass where A8k is fast, articulate, layered, while RE2k bass is slower, more analog, sounding like a dynamic driver. Mids is where I hear difference as well with A8k lower mids being more neutral and upper mids brighter, more layered, and less colored, while RE2k has a thicker fuller body mids that sound more organic and less revealing. Treble is very similar between these two, bright and crisp, and a little splashy.

A8k vs Sennheiser IE800S - very similar experience as in comparison to RE2k. A8k soundstage is noticeably wider and more holographic, while IE800S soundstage sounds narrower in comparison. Both have the bass which goes deep, but IE800S bass is thicker, slower, less articulate, and more laidback, while A8k bass is fast, layered, articulate, and has less impact. A8k lower mids are more neutral while IE800S lower mids are thicker, and overall IE800S mid are more colored, more organic, and not as layered, while A8k has a lot more revealing, more neutral, brighter mids. Treble is very similar, crisp and airy, though A8k treble sounds a little less splashy in comparison.

A8k vs Beyerdynamic Xelento – the holographic soundstage expansion of Xelento is closer to A8k, but I still hear Final to be just a little bit wider. Bass in both goes deep, but as expected Xelento bass is more elevated and also sounds slower in comparison to faster and more articulate A8k bass. Lower mids are a lot leaner in A8k while Xelento is thicker and with more body, and upper mids are also warmer and less analytical in Xelento in comparison to more revealing layered mids of A8k. A8k treble has more air and better extension while Xelento treble is smoother and more natural in comparison. Overall, Xelento sounds smoother while A8k is more micro-detailed. On a side note, it has been awhile since I used Xelento, and its very shallow insertion was a good reminder of why.

A8k vs oBravo ERIB-1C - again, soundstage difference is quite noticeable with A8k being wider and more holographic in comparison to ERIB soundstage being narrower. A8k bass is faster, going deeper, having more sub-bass rumble and more articulate mid-bass punch, while ERIB bass is slower and a lot more neutral, more anemic in comparison. Mids is where you can hear more difference as well. Both have neutral lower mids, but upper mids are more transparent, more layered, and more natural in A8k while ERIB mids/vocals have a little more coloring, slower, with fuller body and more laidback flow. Treble is very similar, being brighter in both, though ERIB sounds a little splashier in comparison.

A8k vs DUNU Luna - Personally, I don't trust my ears doing comparison by memory, and at CanJam NYC show I wasn't able to do direct A/B comparison between these two IEMs. But based on my separate notes, they both impressed me with their speed (very fast transient response of note on/off) and a very low distortion at higher listening volume level. When it comes to soundstage, A8k has a more holographic expansion with a wider L/R spread. Luna had a very wide soundstage as well, but I recall it having more width then depth, creating a more oval-shaped staging. Also, relative to my separate notes, the tonality was different, with A8k being brighter and more transparent, while Luna being a little smoother and more natural, though both had retrieval of details on a similar micro-detailed level. If I get a chance to spend some time with Luna in a future, I will update this comparison with more details.

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Pair up.

A8k has an average 16ohm impedance and a little lower 102dB sensitivity, but I still found it to be very efficient and easy to drive from any portable source I tried it with. Since I was using A8k with its stock cable, I only used single ended output in every source pair up.

Lotoo PAW Gold Touch LPGT - holographic soundstage, deep extended sub-bass rumble, fast mid-bass punch, a little north of neutral bass quantity, neutral, natural, layered mids, crisp airy bright treble. Upper frequencies are more revealing and brighter with a colder tonality. Great pair up to analyze micro-details of any recording. No hissing.

Lotoo PAW 6000 - holographic soundstage, deep extended sub-bass rumble, fast mid-bass punch, a little north of neutral bass quantity, fuller body lower mids with more organic upper mids/vocals tonality, crisp airy bright treble. Upper frequencies are more revealing and brighter with a slightly colder tonality. A little more natural tonality in comparison to LPGT. No hissing.

Hifiman R2R2000 - holographic soundstage, deep sub-bass rumble with fast mid-bass punch, bass has noticeably more impact in comparison to Lotoo DAPs. Mids are neutral, natural, layered, treble is crisp and airy yet sounds more natural, less splashy. Good pair up, except there is waterfall hissing, even in low gain.

iBasso DX160 - holographic soundstage, good sub-bass extension and fast mid-bass punch, overall bass is more neutral in this pair up, mids/vocals are also closer to neutral/natural in tonality, nicely layered and with great retrieval of details, treble is not harsh but it is bright, crisp, airy, more vivid. No hissing, but definitely more upper frequencies energy in this pair up.

Hiby R6 Pro - holographic soundstage, deep sub-bass rumble with fast mid-bass punch, and overall bass is a little more elevated in quantity, mids are more neutral, natural, layered, very detailed, treble is crisp and airy, brighter, more vivid. I hear a faint hint of waterfall hissing.

Hiby R5 - holographic soundstage, deep sub-bass rumble with fast mid-bass punch, overall bass is more elevated, mids have a little more natural body, still layered and very detailed, treble is crisp and airy, bright and revealing, and more natural in comparison to R6Pro pair up. Dead quiet, no hissing.

Cayin N6ii w/E01 - holographic soundstage, deep sub-bass rumble with fast mid-bass punch, bass has more impact and more analog weight, mids/vocals are more natural, a little warmer, with fuller body, but still layered and very detailed, treble is crisp and airy, and still more natural, not splashy. No hissing. Another one of my favorite pair ups. All this in Class AB mode, but when switching to Class A mode, the bass sounds a little slower and mids were thicker. I preferred AB.

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FiiO M11 Pro - holographic soundstage, deep sub-bass rumble with fast mid-bass punch, bass is north of neutral, a little more elevated in quantity, mids/vocals have more natural body, sound more organic, still layered and detailed, treble is crisp and airy, bright and revealing, and not too splashy. No hissing.

Sony WM1Z - holographic soundstage, deep sub-bass rumble with fast mid-bass punch, bass has more impact and more articulation, mids are neutral-natural, layered, very detailed, definitely more organic, treble is crisp and airy, nicely extended, bright, but not harsh or splashy. Actually, among better pair ups when it comes to treble. No hissing. Tested with latest stock firmware.

A&K SP1000 SS - holographic soundstage, deep sub-bass rumble with fast mid-bass punch, bass has a little more impact in this pair up, mids/vocals are neutral, natural, layered, more revealing, treble is crisp and airy, brighter and splashier, even with some traces of sibilance. No hissing. Not the best pair up due to a little too much energy in treble.

Dethonray DTR1 - holographic soundstage, deep sub-bass rumble with fast mid-bass punch, bass has more impact, very layered and fast, mids are more neutral, revealing, micro-detailed, a little colder, treble is crisp and airy, bright but not harsh, though a little splashy. In low gain I don't hear any hissing.

Shanling M0 - holographic soundstage, deep sub-bass rumble with fast mid-bass punch, bass is north of neutral but doesn't have as much impact, mids are more neutral, revealing, brighter, treble is crisp and airy, bright, and a little harsher with a bit of a sibilance. No hissing.

Samsung Galaxy S9 - soundstage is wide and has a nice depth, but not as holographic as with dedicated DAPs. Bass goes deep with a nice sub-bass rumble and fast mid-bass punch, mids/vocals are neutral-natural, layered, revealing, treble is crisp and airy, bright, energetic, a little splashy, but not too harsh. No hissing.

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Cable pairing.

I’m aware that some people don’t believe in cables and have very strong opinions about it. It's not my intention to trigger anybody, and instead I would like to share what I hear during my testing. What makes sense to me, a metal wire is a material with physical properties of resistivity, conductivity, purity, and unique geometry, all of which put together act as a filter between your source and headphones. Variations of these physical properties can affect the conductivity of analog signal, resulting in a sound change, from a subtle to a more noticeable level. If the talk about cables upsets you, please skip this section.
  • Stock SPC to ALO Super Litz - adds a little more sub-bass rumble, and accentuates lower treble a little more, especially around "s". Also, I perceive soundstage having a little more depth then width, taking away the feeling of 3D holographic effect.
  • Stock SPC to Linum SuperBaX - nearly identical to stock SPC cable.
  • Stock SPC to DITA Oslo - adds a little more sub-bass rumble, and pushes lower treble a little more forward, making it more vivid, but surprisingly doesn't make it harsher or splashier. The soundstage width is slightly reduced.
  • Stock SPC to ALO Ref8 - nearly identical to stock SPC cable.
  • Stock SPC to iBasso CB12s - nearly identical to stock SPC cable.

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Conclusion.

One of the questions my readers often ask me is to recommend IEMs to complement what they already have. It’s not always an easy task because there is so much overlap in tuning of today’s flagships, making it hard to recommend something different and more original. A8000 vivid micro-detailed sound tuning with a focus on speed, transparency, and clarity, along with a holographic soundstage, makes them unique. Perhaps it’s not for everybody, especially if you prefer a more natural smoother tonality, but it has a very distinct and quite enjoyable tuning.

Typically, I listen to IEMs with a more natural smoother tonality, especially when it comes to treble. So, when I switch to A8000 after my usual selection of naturally tuned monitors, it takes me a few seconds to adjust my ears to A8k vivid micro-detailed presentation of the sound. But once I do, it becomes so addictive that I'm having a hard time switching back, and some of my other favorite IEMs start to sound congested and bloated in comparison. And that is exactly how I would summarize my experience with A8000, being super addictive!
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Pros: Transparency, and great subbass response. And voices.
Specialization for fast bust heavy metal and orchestra music.
Cons: None. The individual units weight are heavy, but not when worn. Just a problem if you need to untangle them due to your lazy cable tieing.
The fit is nice. The cables go around the ear. Somehow they tilt into your ear canal to give an almost custom style fit. So I suggest using smaller tips for a deeper insertion.

I got the A8000, very transparent sound signature. AKA U, whilst it maintains forward mids; so they never sound too thin either.


Good bass, but tilts more to the subbass. Can rumble like bigger drivers or smaller sealed drivers.

Voices are a step forward.

Little harsh but not ssssimbilant treble though; but it dances closely enough that bad mastered recordings treble will not be forgiving.

Very good soundstage that is not airy; keeps things dark as needed. Really deep cavernous feeling.


Take with grain of salt. But I feel I've convinced myself, with burn-in, the bass became more forgiving ( less distortion on bad tracks) . And it happened pretty quickly after a week......Could have been simply something was wrong in my setup earlier.

Voices also smoothened out with burn in.

These remind me a lot of the sound signature of my brighter closed back Audio Technica headphones, but here as iems. Really good slam on high notes.


Do not seem to need a more powerful source to sound good.

But a source with certain aspects will synnergize well with it. Chord Hugo 2 gives it good voices representation.

The provided tips have a narrow bore to ease out the treble. If you are going to use your own favorite tips expect to have the treble more hot.

Comparison to my Shuoer EJ07:
Bass is not as tactile for the EJ07. EJ07 is more safely tuned with a slight V, making them a better fit for people's popular music selection.

Mids are a step back compared to the A8000 (which is an extra step forward) .

Highs in the EJ07 are much more smoother. Without leaving out the presence of any notes.

Soundstage in EJ07 is different, but I never felt it was small. Just that it is smaller than the A8000. Also the A8000 gives a deep dark cavernous soundstage, no air-feeling soundstage. The EJ07 gives the soundstage via a very small sense of air.


Imaging is great on both. Especially with the A8000 being able to handle heavy metal presentations. The EJ07 can have some notes coming off from an odd directions, using its Multi-driver setup. The A8000 can mimic this somehow which is amazing, though it does it with more energy than the EJ07 (which has a more practical smoother treble presentation) .

Compared to Imr Acoustics' Rah
Using my setup of the black nozzle and blue treble filter that I settled on.


Bass in the Rah goes as deep into the subbass, but its more forward. Can't raise the volume too much for the subbass will come through.

Voices come through cleanly. Actually... If the EJ07 is a step back, and the A8000 is a step forward, then the Rah is the nuetral goldilocks position. Very undistorted and smooth, does not contribute to effecting the soundstage. The Rah never has a track where voices sound wrong.

Treble is less hot in the Rah than the A8000. But it is smooth like the EJ07 and contributes even more air for the soundstage. So like the EJ07, the soundstage is a more open airy stage style. (Unlike the A8000 dark silent cavern soundstage). The piezo ceramic driver gimmick is implented well.

Tl;dr
I would recommend the Final Audio A8000 iems. Especially to heavy metal fans.

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Notice how the outside a little sticks out. This is not bulky, it just tilts into your ear.
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Final Audio
Final Audio
Thank you @Infoseeker for sharing your impression with us. Those comparisons are real jewels!
A
arthor
Any comparisons between Noble Khan that you can give? Thanks!
Pros: Bass is the best from an IEM I can remember. Mids and treble have a stunning clarity. They look beautiful.
Cons: Fit. Too heavy. The angular edges can create some pinching sensations in the ear. They tend to want to slide out of the ear. The accessories are lacking and cheap. They are expensive; very expensive.
The ultimate IEM? The Final Audio A8000

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May I thank you for at least reading these first few words, in a World where everything seems like it's taking too long or is out of date before it's on the shelf. Bear with me, if you will, for a 15 minute dip into the thoughts of a like minded individual just like you. You are caught up in a maze of choices, all of which seem to good to be true, and too tempting to avoid. I'm here for you. Stick with me, let us see where the journey takes us:relaxed: and welcome to my first written article for some time.
First of all, shout outs to the people behind the scenes who made this possible. @ostewart - Oscar, a great great reviewer and an asset to this hobby. A man of integrity, something to be admired in this day and age. Oscar introduced us all to a distributor, John Creigan of K & S Technology, who has supplied the tour model and been kind enough to cover our postage costs. Why have a distributor, a middle man between us and another company? I hear your cry. And I am extremely glad you have asked the question! Take the company in question here, Final Audio, for instance. Final are based in Japan. Without a UK distributor, it's a direct from Japan deal. No auditioning of said item, outside of the usual audio shows. Customs charges. Yes! And handling charges! And delays. Oh the wait! It can be agonising! And what if it gets lost in the post? Or damaged? Or goes wrong? OMG! This is putting me into a cold sweat just writing about this! A distributor solves all of these problems. They send them out to shops. The shops have them available for demo. You put your card into the machine, they hand you over the box. Any problems, you go back to the shop, the shop sorts your problems out. Simple. Stress free. In a life where trouble lurks behind every click on the "Buy Now" button of our souls, redemption can be found through the distributor. Distributors; what's not to love?

About the Final A8000

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The Final Audio A8000 is a flagship IEM. It is the best 1 they do. The statement product, against which Final are willing to compete with the best of the best. Make no mistake, flagships are a tense business. They are serious. And they tend to command an equally sobering price tag. The A8000 are available in the UK, in all good outlets, for a cool £2000.
Let us look at what you get for £2000. The A8000 is a single driver design. It has a detachable cable feature. It is sensitive enough to sound half decent from the headphone port of a smartphone, but ideally would look for something with a slightly better amplifier. How could a tiny little thing like an iem justify such a lofty price tag? Final Audio informs us that they have spent a great deal of money on the materials used in the A8000. The flagship has a special driver in it. The driver is made from beryllium. Beryllium is expensive to make. It needs some of the most stringent quality control standards of any factory. It is extremely toxic when being produced. Don't worry; once it gets to us, it is as safe as any other iem for sale. The manufacturer takes all the risk. We just have to bear that risk in the retail price.
This metal is incredibly strong, and can therefore cope with being stretched. This creates the right conditions for a driver to keep to low distortion levels. Low distortion levels are what we seek in our journey to find the best in the World. Most every iem at this price level will have more than 1 driver doing the work. A driver in an iem is tiny. Most drivers would not be capable of really decent full range reproduction. To overcome this, a manufacturer will put in drivers for bass mid and high frequencies. More drivers, bigger sound. Each driver will have a cut off point, or a come alive point, in the frequency range. Each driver will need a crossover. Crossovers create distortion. There is a trade off. If a full range driver with low distortion could be made then just maybe it could outperform the rest of the pack.
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This is where Final Audio come in. They believe they have created just that; a single driver that will conquer them all. You may be reading this and thinking; so if I get these, I can hang up my hat and say I'm finished; I've got the best IEM and the curtain is closed once and for all and no other will ever compete. No my friend! No! Never! There will always be more innovations, more claims to greatness. Even Final will not rest on their laurels for long. Something else will force us out of complacency and get us back looking at these reviews. I am not aware of anything being made with kryptonite yet! There is much left to do!
A driver is, of course, a very important part of what makes an iem great. However, there are other factors involved. This is where I come in. I will take you on a journey. We shall scour every detail I think is important. Then you can see whether this is truly the object of your desire.

Accessories/build

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The Final Audio A8000 is a relatively simple affair. You get a cable. You get the iems. You get a small box of tips. You get a metal pouch to carry them in. Apart from a few odds and sods, that's it. No frills. No interchangeable filters. No posh booklets. No certificates of frequency response curves etc. I didn't know what I was expecting. But, for £2000 I was underwhelmed. You will say, who cares? If it's got the sound quality I want, I'll do without all the paraphernalia, they can keep it! And you might be right. Let's see. But let's go through this stuff first. Because, it can make a difference.

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We start with the box. Cardboard outer sleeve, cardboard box inside. Typical iem size. No leather swankiness. Let us move on.

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First layer protects the contents with silk paper.

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Then wax paper follows.

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And we open up said paper to reveal this metal pouch. It is a brushed steel affair and looks like it cannot be scratched. It's a weighty thing. It has more than a passing resemblance to a pebble in both size and heft.

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The A8000's are opened from the bottom. 3 soft clasps keep the iem tightly under wraps.

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The pouch is open and we can now see the A8000s. They are tastefully coiled together to get the iems neatly tucked away. There are no bands or wires to keep the cable from doing it's own stubborn thing and it takes some practice to get these in the box. A bit of patience and they're safely away for the night.

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The rest. At the bottom we have a set of different size tips. Top left - a cable detachment device. It looks cheap and cheerful. But it does work really well. A bag of black dots is in the top right. These are replacement dust filters. The filters are presumably easy enough to change, because those dots are tiny. So it must be child's play. I didn't spend much time deliberating over this, my apologies. Lower right we have a set of silicon ear hooks. They look cheap and would detract from that silver braided cable for sure. Why didn't they make the cable with some memory wire attached? Each to their own. There'll be a reason.

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A shot of the twisted braid cable. It looks lovely doesn't it? It's quite heavy. But then, so are the driver shells.

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A close up of the terminations. Not a blob of solder or silicon to be seen. As you'd expect from a flagship. And no hand need ever pull at these to prise them out of the respective drivers, thanks to those tweezer/plier things.

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A side view of that stainless steel finish. Almost like 2 pieces of jewellery.

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The underside offers the only clue to the untrained eye that these are made by Final. The laser etching is nicely done, but mysteriously absent from the front.

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A view of the unbalanced jack plug. Some strengthening here and some plastic alas is forced into our picture. This right angled plug has to be pulled out of the socket by hand and stainless steel gives way to slightly lighter, cheaper material, although it is almost transparent. There are some advantages of plastic over metal, though, of course, not normally in the lustre of the finish. Put these down on a glass table outside on a hot summer's day for very long. I'm sure your ears might regret that decision! Safe to say; keep these tucked away in that pouch if you're not using them.

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As we admire the beauty of these iem's, we must also bear in mind that beauty needs function as well. Can you see the right hand edge of that driver? That had the nasty habit of giving the cartilage of my left ear a good seeing to after 30 minutes of use.

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The flawless lines of these stainless steel drivers are difficult to argue against. But stainless steel is heavy and smooth as silk. With only a small eartip to keep these trapped in the ear canals, they were often trying to sneak out.The shells had a habit of sliding out of my ear canal, more so when I was leaning to one side.

The sound

I admit to not giving the most positive impressions above regards the lack of accessories and problems I had with the fit. All this will pale into insignificance if we can get the sound quality right. Headfier's can put up with some hardship if they are transported when they press play. That is a known fact. Let us now get to the nitty gritty.

Bass

I am pleased to tell you that the bass that comes out of the A8000 is the best bass I've heard from an iem. I will do my best to explain why, in as jargon free a manner as I can summon. There is subbass, the type of bass that you can feel more than hear. There is air moving against the ear. The sensation is almost fleeting at times. It stays there just long enough for you to wonder if it was really there at all. So it is fast and tight. The mid and upper bass has that similar viscerality. It just sounds right. I know the bass must have been tweaked to achieve this impression. I remained enchanted and enthralled throughout my time with them.

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Mids/highs

I had a mixed reaction to the rest of the frequency range. The driver did do some great things. There was a delicacy and poise to the sound, in many tracks. Even some of the older numbers showed an ethereal quality to them. Albatross by Fleetwood Mac, with it's minimalist approach and the way in which the guitars ask and answer each other in harmonic bliss. Yes, we definitely have something here.
The longer I listened for, the more I became aware that many of the tracks have too much going on in them for them to properly benefit from the approach of the A8000. The fact is that the driver is very close to the eardrum and nothing is left out on the A8000. I found that fatigue was starting to set in after several loud rock tracks. There is more in my YouTube presentation shown below:




Conclusion

With much to like about the A8000, a bass that underpins the pedigree of these flagship iems, and a mid and high presentation that can bring out the very best in acoustic and orchestral music, there remains some question marks as to whether these can justify the £2000 price tag. I know that some have already bought these. They are absolutely delighted with their purchase. If you can, please try these out for yourselves. If you can get a satisfaction or your money back, even better again. Please keep in touch with the growing numbers that are showing interest in these products, as your opinion as an owner has an equal validity to mine. Thank you for your time, keep listening, keep reading and keep headfi'ing!
Final Audio
Final Audio
@Takeanidea Wow, I did not expect to see a written review from you after the Youtube review. Thank you very much for your effort and time to make your impression into words!
A
arthor
Any comparisons between Noble Khan that you can give? Thanks!
Takeanidea
Takeanidea
Sorry I haven't heard that one
Pros: Outstanding clarity. Comfortable fit. Attention to details such as earpieces and cable removal tool. Good cable. Repairability. Very neat carry case.
Cons: A bit bright in the treble, to the point of sibilance on some tracks. TOO revealing of flaws in the music. Earpieces are a bit heavy. Packaging is a bit basic.

Final approached me to review their latest flagship IEMs and I had no idea what to expect. Possibly the biggest surprise was the single, pure beryllium dynamic driver. I have been a fan of dynamic driver IEMs, such as the DITA, Campfire Atlas and HiFiMan RE2000 though the tuning of the latter two weren't always the most friendly with all types of music.

The A8000 arrived in somewhat of an un-remarkable box -- at this price many people expect something along the lines of what Sony provides with the IER-Z1R (but, granted, Sony has always been the king of overkill packaging, even with their cheaper offerings). A small amount of critique is also worth putting towards their use of plastic in this day and age, though that is as much a reflection of Japan and its high-tech incineration of burnable garbage as anything.

A nice surprise is the remarkably thin case. I consider most zip pouches (think Campfire and Meze) to be sufficiently small, but the clever metal-and-rubber case of the A8000s is no thicker than one of my average-sized hands, and makes those aforementioned zip cases look unsophisticated in comparison.

The attention to detail is what makes the A8000 special. One has to start with the yellow cable removal tool. Why has nobody thought of this before?!? It takes much of the stress out of removing the cables from the IEMs.

The optional ear guides, which appear to be made of silicon, can, with a bit of fiddling, be attached to the cables and provide a comfortable way to maintain a good fit of the IEMs. This balances nicely against their weight which, being polished steel, are on the heavy side.

The cable, while not being particularly remarkable beyond the matching metal parts, is particularly good. At one point I swapped it with the Campfire Audio Reference 8, and found that to be possibly a slight downgrade, rather than an upgrade to the sound so I'll say no more about it. Maybe those more enthusiastic about cable rolling will find a good match.

Sound, of course, is where the A8000 is excellent, initially surprising with a large soundstage (as much as an IEM can have soundstage). Listening through a wide variety of music from my Hugo 2, the degree of clarity surprised me. In getting a handle on the sound signature, I found the A8000s delivered bass to what seemed the exact degree that it was in the music. If there was a lot, then a lot of was delivered. If there wasn't much, then that is what you heard. It was of sufficient quality that during some tracks, I felt that I didn't like the bass presentation, and it wasn't the IEMs, but clearly the result of the mastering itself that I had disagreement with.

The spaciousness of the sound made me feel initially that the mid-range is a bit recessed, as vocals and instruments were not up-front. I think part of this may have been to do with the treble, which, while outstanding in quality, is on the bright side and, if Jude's measurements are anything to go by, slightly higher than the Harman target curve for IEMs. Patricia Barber's Higher album was sibilant, for example. Memories of the HD800 when they were released and our issues with SCHWEEET Jane come to mind. When this wasn't an issue, however, the most difficult of instruments were reproduced with excellent clarity, such as cymbals and violin.

It was this brutal reveal, and complete lack of editorialisation of the sound that are the hallmark of the A8000. High-quality recordings were outstanding. Stuff that I like a lot but clearly has distortion was fairly unlistenable. Compare that to, say, the HiFiMan RE2000, which, with its v-shaped sound, brings plenty of bass to the sound, while the hot treble brings air, colouring everything (as most IEMs do) but, where the music is good, in a pleasant way. The A8000, on the other hand, gives you the music exactly as it is (plus a bit of brightness).

Unlike the RE2000, which has to be used with narrow-bore tips, or the sound goes all wonky, the A8000 has the output of the driver going through four holes, providing sufficient restriction that wide-bore tips have less effect. This made the use of Spiral Dot tips possible, though they didn't seem to provide a significant benefit over the stock, and very good Final Type E tips that are included.

Ultimately, Final's A8000 is sonically too good. If it weren't for the treble being a bit too hot, I might have considered giving them 5 stars.

Silent unboxing:
A
arthor
Any comparisons between Noble Khan that you can give? Thanks!
Currawong
Currawong
@iBo0m I wouldn't use them for commuting. Too bright for that. I find that bright IEMs end up sounding harsh once you get a mix of external noise coming in.
allenwong
allenwong
Better than Sony ierz1r?
Pros: Exciting, airy, huge stage and excellent imaging, great extension, transients and detail
Cons: Quite unforgiving, two driver resonances in sibilance regions, heavy and not very comfortable with stock cable
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A8000 is the new flagship from Final Audio, featuring a single beryllium dynamic driver.

This review was organised by K&S Technology and Final Audio and I'm thankful for this opportunity.

In the box:
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  • IEMs
  • 1.2m 3.5mm cable
  • MMCX Assist tool
  • Metal case
  • 5 Sets of silicone tips
  • Replacement mesh filters
  • Earhooks

Accessories:
It's hard to approach build quality of such a luxury item without expectations, especially considering how much the cheaper market has improved over last year. Thankfully the A8000 delivers in this regard.

The IEM shells, made out of steel feel very well finished, with substantial weight to them, the edges are, even though they look quite sharp are perfectly finished.

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The cable is nicely braided and light, it doesn't keep much memory and isn't prone to microphonics, to me the included "earhooks" are kind of a strange idea but they are the best implementation of this kind of system I've seen so far, but more on that later.
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The case has an extremely premium feel to it, the finish and texture are just a pleasure to handle even though I would have preferred slightly roomier one if I was going to change the cable. The MMCX Assist tool is probably one of the best tools for IEMs I've seen, as someone who owns a lot of cables, it proves very useful and saves from the stress of disconnecting MMCX plugs which are prone to breakage.

The added mesh filters are a really nice touch, the amount of IEMs where those got dirty and had to be cleaned and re-glued with DIY methods I had over the years is hard to count. This proves Final is taking the longevity of the A8000 seriously.

All in all, the quality of the accessories is very nice, however, I wish a second balanced cable and some different tip options would be provided in such an expensive package.

Fit and comfort:
The A8000 is made of steel which makes them very heavy, this combined with their shape proved to be quite fatiguing to wear for prolonged periods of time. After a couple of hours, the IEMs would start hurt the back part of the ear and it would only get worse over time.
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The cable without the ear hooks was quite difficult for me to use, it wouldn't provide enough support to take some of the IEM weight off of the ear which in turn made them fatiguing to wear even faster.

Sound:
A8000 has a U shaped with great speed, extension and amazing staging capabilities.

Bass:
Tight, fast, with a subbass emphasis. The A8000 manages to play the deepest notes of "Bonefied - Window" effortlessly, presenting all the detail in a volume of clean extremely detailed sound. There's absolutely no bleed or lack of control anywhere. The beryllium driver definitely does its job here.

Midrange:
Again, fast and very detailed sound, with great timbre with maybe a touch of metallic sheen to it which to me was most noticeable with acoustic guitars getting. Vocals are more forward than they should be considering the U shaped signature which is surprising but welcome to see. Female vocals can get slightly hollow depending on tips used (I recommend acoustune AET08 and spinfit CP145). No matter how busy the mix, A8000 present everything effortlessly. As I was listening to some badly mastered music it became apparent the A8000 isn't forgiving of badly recorded tracks, especially of sibilance. To make matters worse, the resonance region of the driver seems to overlap with the voice sibilance region which made the effect even worse for those tracks.

Treble:
Yet again, treble is very detailed, fast and extends very well. It has a substantial amount of air and creates an incredible sense of air within the music. All this comes at a cost, A8000 doesn't forgive a bad mix or slightly emphasised cymbals presenting them as quite harsh. Scrubbing through a frequency generator it's easy to find another driver resonance in the 7-8k region.

Imaging and Soundstage:
Staging is probably where the A8000 shines the most, you are presented with this room like experience. More than a few times, during my listening, I had to check whether my speakers were off, that's not an easy feat for an IEM. On top of that, the imaging and layering are excellent.

Conclusion:
Final A8000 are unique, they create a portable listening experience which can compare to a room with speakers. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost, driver resonances rendering most of the average or badly mastered music hard to listen to. Is it worth the asking price of £1999? I think that largely depends on what music you listen to and whether you can justify the price tag of uniqueness.
tunes
tunes
To date, nothing I have heard can match the wide open sound stage of the Empire Ears Zeus Adele and very disappointing that this technology has not been adapted by others. It simply makes the IEM experience as close to open back circumaural headphones as possible for home use.
iBo0m
iBo0m
Taking into account that fit is not the most comfortable, is it possible to get a good outter noise isolation?
A
arthor
Any comparisons between Noble Khan that you can give? Thanks!
Pros: Exciting listening experience, cavernous soundstage, brilliant bass detail and extension, beautiful aesthetics, new aluminum/silicone case design
Cons: May be too aggressive in the upper frequencies for some listeners, visible solder flow on the source end of the cable termination unbefitting for such a luxury product
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The final A8000 ($1,999) is the new flagship IEM from this venerable firm known for its headphones and IEMs. Over five years ago, final began the design of this single dynamic driver (DD) model with the goal to produce an IEM that excels in transparency, and through new technologies that became available during the lengthy design phase, namely the advancement of material science, final engineers developed what they assert is the first pure beryllium foil driver ever used in an IEM. By combining this ultra-thin, ultra-light diaphragm and enclosing it in a stainless steel, multi-compartmented shell, final officially released the A8000 in Japan recently to great acclaim.

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Before I begin my listening experience with the A8000, I'd like to thank Kyo-san from final Japan for sending me a loaner in which to assess its capabilities. I received the A8000 three weeks ago, and for the first ten days straight, I ran it through my burn-in procedure. My source component for this review is the Astell&Kern AK240SS ($2,999). Finally, all music used for my evaluation was lossless with no EQ.

The A8000 is super-fast with transcendent detail retrieval, unlike any single dynamic driver design I've ever heard. I've always been a fan of single DD IEMs having owned most of the top end JVC woodies (still have the HA-FW01) and the Sennheiser IE 800. For those familiar with final's FI-BA-SS IEM, there is a family resemblance in terms of tonality, but the A8000 has much greater transparency, and purity, as we shall see.

IMG_0092.jpg Sinéad O'Connor / So Far / You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart / 16/44.1

Perhaps my favorite female vocalist, Sinéad's range is impressive. Midway through this song, the tempo picks up and her voice explodes with emotion, every nuance of her expressiveness clearly conveyed. This song is quite dense at times, yet everything is separated out into a cavernous presentation.

IMG_0093.jpg Biosphere / Microgravity / Baby Satellite / 16/44.1

I wanted to assess the bass performance of the A8000, especially the low bass, and this electronica album begins with emphasized, sub-bass tones. The A8000 handled these tones with aplomb, the taut nature of its bass performance showcasing a fullness that is quite satisfying.

IMG_0094.jpg Cowboy Junkies / The Trinity Sessions / Misguided Angel / 16/44.1

This album is well known in the audiophile world due to its minimalist miking of the performance inside a church. Margo Timmins' voice conveys an ethereal quality which the A8000 captures fully with delicacy and spatiality. The A8000 easily reveals how the different band members occupy space in each direction, surrounding each member in a cushion of air.

image-2.jpg Jackson Browne / Late For the Sky / Before the Deluge / 24/96

Jackson's voice comes across with a clarity and expressiveness that I had not heard before my time with the A8000. His intake of breath before beginning a new phrase is clearly resolved, and the voices of the chorus members separate out behind him with great layering, adding to the beauty of this song.

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Summing up, the A8000 has world class transparency which continued to transfix me during my lengthy listening sessions. Some may find the top end too aggressive at times (no harsh sibilance to my ears), but with proper burn-in and source material, and a source component up to the challenge, the A8000 throws out a huge soundstage on all three axes, the width and depth among the best I've ever heard from an IEM. The midrange melds in nicely with the heightened trebles, and the bass performance, in my view, was quite satisfying; even sub-bass tones came through with some authority, yet never in a boomy manner. Every album I listened to over the course of my evaluation was reproduced with tiny detail I had not heard before, bringing excitement to my experience.

The engineers at final have produced a world class product, and those that resonate with my sensitivities should find an opportunity to listen to this spectacular transducer. The A8000 truly is an exciting listen!
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jwbrent
jwbrent
The A8000 is substantially better, different league altogether, but the price difference would suggest that. The highs on the A8000 don’t have the grain of the B1, so even though on first listen it is bright sounding, after some playing time the trebles are totally liquid sounding.
A
arthor
Any comparisons between Noble Khan that you can give? Thanks!
jwbrent
jwbrent
Sorry, I’ve never heard the Khan, but I look forward to doing so at the SoCal CanJam!
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