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Universal Fit item created by ryanjsoo, Oct 2, 2017
Pros - Natural, well-balanced sound, Excellent detailing, Nice metal housings, Great soundstage
Cons - Thin cable, some treble roll-off, Mediocre isolation
I’ve always had a somewhat bittersweet relationship with Final Audio’s earphones. I love their unique and quirky designs like the Piano Forte in addition to their more conventional models like the FI-BA-SS. Furthermore, their tuning methodology is totally unique. Many companies levy that their earphones sound “unlike anything else”, but for Final Audio that was always genuinely true; they are a company that is unafraid to take daring moves in both tuning and form factor.
However, this challenging ethos was always juxtaposed by very premium price tags and eccentric in-ear housings that came off more as luxuries and proof of concept designs rather than consumer products. As innovative as Final Audio’s products were, they simply didn’t make accessible products. But that all changes with the new E2000 and E3000. Instantly, these models are very reasonably priced at $45 and $65 respectively, they also feature some very unique feats of design and a sound that promises to be balanced with a touch of Final’s magical house sound sprinkled in. This is the second of my two affordable Final Audio reviews and, despite pricing and naming structure, I suspect Final’s more affordable offering may actually find more fans, read on to see why.
I would like to thank Mark from KS Distribution (UK distributor for Final) very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the E2000 and E3000 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
The E2000 has a conservative unboxing with a nice accessory suite. The earphones come packaged with a soft faux leather pouch and 4 pairs of ear tips in addition to the set installed on the in-ears themselves. Final also include two ear guides should you want to wear them inverted over the ear. The tips are actually quite interesting in design, they’re similar to Sony hybrids in shape but are a bit firmer overall. They have a ridged sound tube designed to conform to the bends of the ear canal similar to Spinfits. However, they do so without obstructing the sound tube, improving transparency. While I did find a more comfortable fit with other ear tips, the stock tips provided the most ideal sound signature to my ears.
Both of Final’s new E-series earphones carry a super simple bullet shaped housing similar to earphones like the Flares Pros and Aurisonics Rockets. They are designed to be worn cable-down but lend themselves well to over-ear wear due to their simple shaping.
The housings themselves are anodized aluminium with a matte black finish that resists smudges. Basic model number and orientation letters are laser etched into the housings and their semi-open nature is clearly denoted by their exposed rear vents. The nozzles are plastic and quite short but some ridging prevents tips from slipping off unintentionally. In addition, the housings are also vented at the front which explains their tip sensitivity. Overall, the E2000’s fit and finish, like the E3000, is superb given their asking price, comparing well to class leaders like the Fiio EX1 2nd Gen and Meze 11 Neo.
Comfort is also great on account of their minute dimensions, they are easily one of the smallest in-ears I’ve handled. As such, they disappear in the ear with minimal weight and no hotspot formation during extended listening. Due to their open nature, isolation is below average though they are similar to the vented Fiio’s and Meze’s. Home listeners will enjoy the added spatial awareness but they do tend to lean out on public transport.
My main issue with the Final earphones, when compared to competing models, is their cable. I can forgive the use of a fixed cable but the unit Final opted for it very thin and poorly relieved at all terminations. In return, the cable is super supple and very compliant with no memory or springiness, it also has a nice matte finish and minimal microphonic noise given the earphone’s cable down fit.
Luckily, the gold-plated right-angle jack looks to be pretty sturdy with more extended strain relief though the y-split and housing reinforcements are more dubious. The cable is a far cry from the excellent unit used on the Fiio and the much hardier cable utilized by the Meze’s though I still prefer it to the Shozy Zero’s ergonomic nightmare of a cable.
The E2000 has a very tasteful v-shaped sound with a mid and to a lesser extent, sub-bass emphasis combined with some additional middle treble crispness. Mids aren’t upfront, but integrate well into the sound. And compared to similarly priced offerings, the E2000 is more on the balanced side, especially when compared to the more bass orientated E3000. Most notably, the E2000 has a clearer midrange and more prominent high-end that does a better job balancing out their boosted bass response. As such, the E2000 finds nice genre versatility with some added engagement keeping things interesting.
The E2000 has an excellent low-end response that finds a nice balance between power, fullness and control. Sub-bass extension is almost as good as the E3000 and better than the vast majority of competing models, though they are less emphasized and tighter in their presentation. Rumble is well-defined even if sub-bass still isn’t quite as tight as the Fiio EX1 2nd Gen and they have nice slam when called for. Mid-bass holds the most emphasis in the sound which is quite typical, granting lows with a full tone. However, the E2000 is still one of the most controlled, linear earphones around this price, allowing it to avoid the bloat and muddiness of the E3000 though again, the more sub-bass orientated Fiio is slightly cleaner yet at the cost of linearity. And during extended listening, this more linear tone grants the E2000 with such an addictive lushness without the irking bloat of the Zero and E3000 or the perhaps overly cool tone of the Fiio.
Otherwise, texturing is good and bass separation is much better than most competing models like the Shozy Zero and Meze 11 Neo. And though bass isn’t profoundly detailed, their tasteful tone combined with their separation enables intricacies to be more easily discerned. The E2000 thus excels with many genres, they have plenty of sub-bass slam to service rock and pop while remaining clean and separated enough to service acoustic and jazz. Their added mid-bass fullness is also very tasteful, more so than Final’s higher-end offering, producing an articulate low-end response that impresses both in terms of tone and quality.
Though the E2000 may diverge from the E3000 in its tonality, both are cut from the same cloth with regards to overall character. The E2000 retains the fuller tone of the E3000 but forgoes its thickness and warmth in favour of more clarity and balance. As such, the E2000 is immediately more transparent and versatile, it isn’t as easy going as the E3000 but manages greater transparency through more accurate lower mids and upper midrange prominence. It is still on the slightly darker side, but female vocals are very clear and delicate while maintaining the extension of the E3000 which greatly benefits Asian music and instruments such as piano and guitar. Male vocals remain slightly full-bodied but lack any excessive thickness and female vocals are clear but also slightly thin though no more so than the EX1 2nd Gen. Extension is nice and there are no major dips or spikes within the midrange, retaining that smoother character of the E3000.
The E2000 is also surprisingly technical given its price and though the E3000 has a slight edge in outright resolution. That said, resolution is high on the E2000 and its more linear tuning, spacious stage and clarity all enhance the presence of smaller nuances. Detail retrieval is very good, they don’t quite possess the body and layering of the E3000 but their clearer tuning is more detail forward. This creates a generally more aggressive presentation though the E2000’s possess very impressive refinement considering their price. Furthermore, voicing is spot on, the earphones sound pretty darn natural even when compared to a lot of the best performers around $100 like the Kinera H3. So while they aren’t the most outright lucid, revealing earphone out there, the E2000 handily bests a lot of in-ears around the same price and does well to keep up with some costing quite a bit more.
Treble is detailed and clear with slight prominence over the midrange imbuing the E2000 with some extra clarity. They are immediately more vibrant than E3000 and Meze in-ears though not to the extent of the Fiio EX1 2nd Gen. And like the Fiio, the E2000 has more of a middle-treble emphasis combined with a slightly thinner note presentation which can make instruments like cymbals sound slightly splashy. However, the Final has more accurate instrument timbre overall and, like its midrange, it is not neutral but quite linear when compared to competing models. Extension is also good, they retain the roll-off of the E3000 so aren’t quite as resolving as the EX1 2nd Gen at the very top, but they do achieve a similar level of extension to earphones from Shozy and Meze. And since treble is more vibrant below, the earphones possess a nice amount of air more, in fact, than the E3000, and are generally more revealing within the higher frequencies.
And as far as technicality is concerned, treble, while slightly thin, is still very well detailed and crisp. They lack the treble spike that a lot of chifi earphones around $100 employ and this more refined, mature tuning keeps sibilance in check while benefitting texturing. They are actually more detailed than the E3000 and more aggressive in their presentation with more attack and bite to each note. Strings are well portrayed and the treble response successfully engages without fatiguing the listener. While some grain is apparent, especially noticeable with guitars and strings that lack the smoothness of the E3000 and Meze 11 Neo, never do the earphones come across as strident, harsh or coarse. They are crisp but naturally voiced with great, almost outstanding technical ability.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –
The E2000 has a very spacious soundstage though, due to its more forward sound, it doesn’t quite match the space of the E3000. That said, width is excellent, not out of the head but on the periphery, and depth, though more intimate, projects well, providing a lot of immersion to vocals and instruments. In addition, due to the E2000’s more balanced sound, imaging is noticeably better than the E3000 though still not pinpoint precise. Centre image is slightly diffuse but solid in the grand scheme of things and separation is very good for the price, in between the excellent EX1 2nd Gen and the E3000 which are among the best performers around this price. They also lack the bass congestion of the E3000 and highs are noticeably airier due to their revised tuning. Listening to Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” and the E2000 provided excellent tonal weighting, vocals were enveloping and stereo image wide, instruments were all-encompassing without coming off as distant and directional cues were well placed.
The E2000’s are more transparent than the E3000 and better reflect the qualities of the source device as a result. They remain easy to drive with a 12ohm impedance and 102dB sensitivity making smartphone use a breeze. However, the E2000 actually scales pretty well with a dedicated source, especially bass that tightens up quite a bit with some amplification. However, users with more powerful smartphones like the LG V20/30 and HTC 10 may not feel the need for a dedicated amplifier or DAC/AMP and the earphones still lack the outright resolution to take full advantage of something like the Chord Mojo or Shozy Alien+. The E2000’s don’t require a dedicated source but will scale nicely when attached to one, they actually sound better from a slightly fuller sources which helps smooth out their thinner upper midrange and treble response.
Final E3000 ($55): The two earphones are identical in design but differ in finish and materials. The E2000 has a matte black aluminium enclosure while the E3000 employs a chromed stainless steel housing. This is another instance where price and model number do not denote quality because E2000 rather represents a different style of tuning rather than a downgrade in technical performance. The E3000 is more L-shaped with greater mid-bass emphasis and bloat, the E2000 is tighter and more defined but retains nice low-end kick and fullness. The E3000 has a thicker midrange throughout, lacking the clarity of the E2000 but also that slight raspiness to female vocals. The E3000 has slightly more midrange resolution and space but the E2000 is universally clearer and more detailed. The E3000 is smooth and laid-back within the higher frequencies while the E2000 is crisp and slightly lifted in emphasis. The E3000 has a larger soundstage but lacks the separation of the E2000 due to its thick tuning.
Shozy Hibiki ($45): The Hibiki has a nice build with authentic carbon fibre faceplates and a very solid 2-pin removable cable that contrast to the more delicate E2000. Sonically, the Hibiki places greater emphasis on the higher frequencies while the E2000 is more low-frequency focussed. The Hibiki has more sub-bass weighting with a slightly cleaner response though both are similarly defined and textured. The Hibiki has a brighter, more forward midrange that contrasts to the slightly darker Final though the E2000 has a touch more resolving power and notably greater separation that enables greater definition of nuances. The Hibiki has a forward treble response but details lack the “bite” of the Final due to a dip in the lower treble. In return, the Hibiki extends further and middle treble elements are resolved with greater clarity however, I feel that the Hibiki is slightly too bright and source dependent. Chiefly, its high-end can dominate lower notes while the E2000’s more balanced sound tastefully heightens engagement with lesser sacrifice though this will ultimately come down to individual preference. Finally, the E2000 has a larger stage in all directions combined with greater separation though the Hibiki does image very well considering its asking price.
Kinera H3 ($100): The H3 is plastic but its design is more stable and isolates far better. It also has a removable cable that feels much sturdier than the unit on the E2000. The H3 is more obviously v-shaped than the E3000 with a somewhat scooped lower midrange and brighter overall tonal balance. Bass is similarly tuned and emphasized though the Kinera has a more impactful, extended sub-bass response and is cleaner and markedly more defined throughout. Mids are brighter on the H3 primarily due to their recessed lower midrange and thinner character up top. The H3 also has greater clarity and slightly more resolution while the E2000 has more separation and space which acts almost to the same effect while maintaining a more natural presentation. Treble is noticeably more detailed and extended on the H3 though its spiked lower treble will not suit every listener. The E2000 isn’t quite as nuanced but is still admirably detailed and its more linear tuning picks up certain details that the more uneven Kinera can muddy. The E2000 has a larger soundstage in addition to greater separation while the H3 images slightly better.
I can’t commend the E2000 more for their price/performance ratio, as far as sound is concerned, the E2000 makes for a very easy recommendation. They are V-shaped but very tastefully so, clear and natural in their presentation and their soundstage is separated and spacious to top it off. While they aren’t explicitly neutral, the E2000 is very engaging without overstepping any boundaries with their bass or treble emphasis. Unfortunately, I can’t freely recommend them as a daily beater on account of their thin cable and meagre strain relief, both of which fail to inspire confidence in their longevity. This is compounded upon by their mediocre isolation due to their semi-open nature. However, if you’re looking for a natural, clear yet vibrant in-ear for listening in quieter environments, the E2000 is sonically competitive with a lot of the better $100 in-ears out there. This is one of those rare instances where an earphone truly outperforms its price class rather than simply placing well within it.
Verdict – 9/10, The E2000 manages to best competing models in terms of balance, detail and refinement while simultaneously sitting near the bottom in pricing. If you’re not too hard on your earphones and don’t mind the lack of isolation, the E2000’s are a comfortable and resolving earphone that sonically outperform their asking price.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed my review, please see my blog for more just like it: