Final Audio are as much risky than conservative in their tuning, with whatever earphones I try from them, Final Audio soul is within some part of sound rendering wich target a musical neutrality inject with unique liveliness found in how timbre, impact and weight of specific frequencies range is rendered.
With E serie we have a rounded up sound with U or W sound curve and smoothed upper treble that wasn’t especially meant for fast attack and sharp imaging, now, this is where F serie show its singularity as a fast single armature earphones with vivid energic L sound that still avoid being too agressive or trebly.
The F4100 is middle model of F serie. Its an high end single balanced armature earphones.
While the F3100 have plastic housing, the F4100 have an aluminium housing as well as detachable design.
Priced at double the price of F3100, let's see in this review if the sound it deliver is on par with rather high asking price for such drivers configuration.
You can find the Final Audio F4100 on sale for 200$ right now on Amazon.com. At this price, I think the value score would have go up to 8/10.
Disclaimer: I wanna thanks my dear friend Kyo as well as Final Audio staffs for letting me review this fascinating earphones. Again, I'm fully independant and the fact i'm a Final Audio Fanboy do not inflict on my severe judgment about sound value.
UNBOXING is really similar to TOTL E serie earphones: minimalist in the boxing and maximalist in accessories. This time we have a uniquely made protective case for F4100, wich can be open from both side for ultimate secure fit that protect cable unwanted permanent folding. Yes, Final Audio designer are very perfectionist about details, but it mean that this cable can loose is perfect shapen if folded improperly. We have too numerous pairs of silicone tips, one pair of memory foamtips and plastic ring to permit the ear tips stay in place when you decide inserting deeply the F4100.
CONSTRUCTION is miniature art, suprely simple still tet with an industral caractere due to copper mmcx connection and personalize mmcx cable with same copper metal connectors. These are again invicible looking housing, but they are so small that I suggest always keeping them cabled, i mean, you can drop them in a spageti plate, eat them, and never knowing you do. Choice of this unique cableis great idea, its very very thin cable that is microphonic free and perhaps kevlar reinforced cause it look very durable too. Housing is made of alloy and have hole in in front without separate nozzle, its directly pierced in housing. This worry me a little about what we do if wax get stick in there, but for the moment i do not have encounter problem with that. All in all, this is wellmade and thinked craftmanship only Final Audio wouldthink tocreate. Its as audacious than humble.
DESIGN is easy to judge by appearance: supreme comfort as if you have nothing in ears, well, if you wear it standard way. If you insert it super deep, you would be able to sleep with those without issue, but the in ear pressure will be present and bothersome for some. Due to completely sealed design without any venting hole or scring, the F4100 migh be look little but offer way above average isolation similar to best metal noise canceling earplug you can find. Sound leakage is extremely minimal if non existent too.
DRIVEABILITY isn't the easiest at 42ohm of impedance but the 106db sensitivity do help to make them possible being well amped with good powerfull DAP like the Ibasso DX90. A portable amp is still suggested for less powerfull DAP and one thing sure it will not sound right out of most phone. While they aren't as hard to drive as the E5000, F4100 will sound too dry and less vivid and punchy without enough amping.
ISOLATION AND INSERTION:
The F4100 are so small that they can be wear either with normal insertion or very deep one. More you will insert it deeper, more it will block noise to the point of becoming musical ear plug. This make the F4100 extremely efficient in term of passive noise cancelation. As well, its pretty good in term of minimal sound leakage, even if their are some due to mmcx connection acting like venting space too.
For the sound, well, if i find the F4100 already bass light and fowards sounding without deep insertion, i must admit deep insertion sound even more bright, fowards and bass light.
First impressions was destabilizing due to my accoutumance to warm E serie soundsignature, the F4100 was in a hurry to show me what hes capable off, like an olympic runner he show me his spectacular speed without warning. Yes, it was intense, near overwhelming especially when I put some crazy jazz percussion to play, accuracy was jaw dropping, attack was the fastest I ever heard and the snappy dynamic was just mesmerizing with right music.
Punchy bass was super tigh in mid bass, have some dryness to it but an agile control that never touch mid range. Vocal have a vivid clarity, very centered and detailed with any notable harshness or artificial rendering typically found with lower quality balanced armature. Sure it wasnt sounding thick, warm and bassy like a dynamic drivers and overall presentation is a very fowards one, but what impress is that Final Audio take advantage of this acoustic approach and master sens of musical perception so it do not sound like a compressed agressive mess. Far from it.
SOUNDSTAGE have good depth and average wideness, yes, it sound a little in your head, but just slightly depending of type of recording you listen. Due to exreme clarity and black background fre of any hissing, the F4100 deliver very accurate imaging with above avergae spacing between instrument. Don’t ask me how its possible to achieve that with an housing as big as the BA, but it is.
IMAGING is excellent and very sharp, this is one of the highlight of F4100, instrument tend to have edgy presence, especially when in higher mid-range.
CLARITY is quite extreme, so we can say it have an analytical approach that concentrate from lower mids to mid highs. The mix of transparent timbre and agressive attack make it for a sharply resolved sound, with dry resolution when it come to timbre.
BASS is dangerously roll off. Sure we can expect this with single Balanced armature, but in the case of F4100 it’s really problematic because the drop begin quite soon around 100hz. Let’s say it: this can cause distortion. Yep, distortion. And nobody want to ruin their listening pleasure with distortion. So, no natural bass extension whatsoever, no rumble, no slam. Here, it’s all about mid and high bass, wich are very agile, fast and tigh, with bright texture and good foward punch. For thigh kick it’s very capable, less so for toms that need natural resonance, and don’t even think about synth bass because even cello sound weak and too thin with the F4100. Anyway, No bass bleed here because well, we need a body for bleeding.
MID RANGE is ultra energic and technically brave, tough not exactly what I would call natural or tonaly balanced. It’s foward, bright, transparent and somewhat peaky, in the sens some mid region have better attack than other making instrument like piano sound too thin and soft in some range while it will have extreme snapyness in other. As my review aren’t based on graph, it’s always hard pin point exact frequencies region, but this is why I consider tonal balance a little mixed up. Still, everything is very clear and imaging is great. I particularly like how violin sound, instrument like saxophone less so as it sound dryish and thin, lacking natural widness. Female vocal sound good, very transparent and smooth without any sibilance, intimate and very centered in it’s presentation the vocal aren’t near you and lush and full sounding. It’s like if F4100 is specifically tuned for instrumental music like jazz, classical, folk and to some extend rock.
TREBLE is another mixed bag with the F4100, because it can offer spectacular accuracy and clarity until it’s sudden upper high drop that begin too soon, around 10khz, so even if highs are super crisp, snappy and sparkly, the natural decay and resonance cannot happen and again can even cause rare distortion. Yes, distortion. Tough this happen more rarely than with sub bass, we never know when it will happen. Harpsichord will sound too dry and lack both body and decay, in the other hand, percussion sound always right, especially hit hat and cymbals, not crash cymbals because while it do not sound splashy it lack fullness. Anyway, I think for percussion lover, the F4100 are still among the best sub-300$ iem in term of speed, accuracy, attack, tighness and clarity, it’s really something to hear to be believe.
The newcomer B2 is entry level single balanced armature of B serie, with a way bigger housing and different driver and tuning, the B2 that I just receive is certainly a mind blowing achievment that take advantage of years of experience of diversify tuning from Final Audio engineer. F serie being a quite old creation, let’s see if it can compare to the B2 that sell for same price.
CONSTRUCTION is hard to judge here....did we judge quantiy or quality? And if both is awesone, do we weight housing because if so, B2 will win....but the fact F4100 is so tiny and light is a plus so what do we do??? F4100 weight 4 times less than B2 and is about 5 times smaller....but how the B2 housing is perfectly shape for fiting the ears make im as comfortable, but yeah, I do feel more its physical presence than the F4100 and if I have very small ears big B2 housing could perhaps be problematic. The thing is, you forget about the look of F4100 while the B2 are so beautifull you wanna cherish them and there more risk little scratch from intense passionate use make you sad. For the cable, I prefer the F4100 ultra thin and flexible cable.
BASS is notably weightier, thicker and slightly more impactfull than F4100, as well, the decay it have warm a little lower mid range wich F4100 avoid even if it have a fast punch. Mid bass is faster with F4100 and little more detailed, but it have less body and natural timbre. Yep, brighter and more detailed it is, but F4100 can’t dig as low, in fact, I don’t know any single BA iem that can dig as low as B2.
MID RANGE now is notably clearer and more fowarded with the F4100, but still have a very balanced near flat approach unlike lets say Brainwavz B200 that feel too peaky in mid range. B2 vocal sound wider while F4100 are ultra centered and benifit a more realist and analytical imaging in mid range that permit more accurate instrument separation. Both aren’t prompt to sibilance, but F4100 is sharper with upper mids. B2 mids are thicker and fuller sounding but lack definition of F4100 and sound slighly organic compared to monitor like mid range we have with the F4100. As well, F4100 is incredibly fast and crips in upper mids wich permit to give agile attack to instrument like violin or deal with various complex percussions like a Pro.
TREBLE is sharper with the F4100 while the B2 have a smoothed upper high drop that make whole sound more polished and permissive than more severe sounding F4100. Treble of B2 remind me E5000 while the one of F4100 remind me a little the E2000. Strangely, the B2 have more sparkle and decay than super crisp and fast F4100, this is surely due to amount of air in the housing because F4100 is very in a hurry to show you what it can do while B2 is more relaxed and smily.
VS FINAL AUDIO E5000 (280$):
Priced at around same price but E5000 being the flagship of E serie while F4100 is middle model of F serie, these two Final iem have only the price being similar because in term of sonority they are complete opposite.
E5000 is warmer, thicker and relaxed in treble while the F4100 is sharp, vivid and bright.
SOUNDSTAGE is notably wider and more out of your head with E5000, but due to better clarity the F4100 have more deepnest. This extra clarity and deepnest do make IMAGING sounding more accurate and revealing with F4100, tough definition lack E5000 body.
BASS is where these 2 differ the most, E5000 have thick juicy bass, its weighty and have extra sub presence where the F4100 cannot extend to sub section without damage. F4100 sound thin, anemic and dry in bass region and do not have any slam like the E5000. But F4100 keep mid range super clean while the E5000 warm in gloriously adding extra thickness to vocal but affecting resolution too.
MID RANGE is more recessed with the E5000, still, i prefer the warm thick timbre that it deliver even if not as accurate it sound more natural and musical. F4100 mids are clearer, have faster attack and better imaging, for classical quartet the E5000 can sound too warm while F4100 is very agile and clean.
TREBLE is more fowards and emphased with the F4100, as well its airier and crisper, but it’s quite agressive in lower-mid treble too wich can make it sound less balanced than the E5000 wich offer flater treble response, percussions are more metallic sounding with the F4100 but this give very energic and snappy highs. E5000 highs are more crunchy and yeah, natural again.
All in all, F4100 offer colder, faster sound with better mids technicalities but faill to offer a lush musical addictive sound like the E5000 offer in its own lazy way.
VS AKOUSTYX R-210 (150$):
The R-210 use a single Knowles balanced armature and have a warmer, more laid back sound than F4100.
SOUNDSTAGE is slightly wider with the R-210, while the F4100 win with more deepness. The IMAGING is sharper and more precise with F4100 even if slightly more intimate in presentation. BASS dig deeper with the R-210, its weightier and more punchy too, tough the dryish mid-bass of F4100 tend to be faster and more controlled. MID RANGE is clearer and more fowards and energic with the F4100, as well its more transparent and detailed than warmer, thicker R-210 that have more peaky upper mids to compensate the slightly recessed vocal. Timbre being more transparent and sharp, its thinner too but have better overall attack wich give impressive accuracy compared to less clinical sounding R-210. TREBLE is sharper and more sparkly with the F4100, it sure have more emphasized lower mid treble and nice snappy attack compared to more natural and balanced treble of R-210 that stay on line with the rest of the frequencies response.
All in all, R-210 is warmer, more bassy and natural sounding while the F4100 win in technicalities, clarity, imaging and attack. CONCLUSION:
It make about 4 years the Final Audio F4100 was created, lot of water have pass under ‘’balanced armature technologies bridge’’ until then and sign of age do show it’s limit. Nowadays, full range BA are more capable in lower end range and while the F4100 sure impress with it’s speed and clarity, it cannot be consider as a real full range BA.
Still, with the right music, the F4100 will sincerly blow your mind with its ultra vivid clarity and super tigh and fast attack that occur from lower mid to mid treble. I rarely been as hooked by some jazz percussions solo, it’s just so agile and snappy and precise that you are literally distract from outside world and need to stop walking or working, just banging you head with guilty smile.
If you only listen to jazz and classical or if you always dream to hear complex percussions with highest precision and speed possible, yeah, the F4100 is for you. Especially now that they can be found for 200$. But if you search for versatile, very musical, lush or well, a normal iem that can deal with bass, I don’t think the F4100 can fullfill the job. Choose the E5000 instead.
Final chose me to review the F7200 (review here) and the F4100 ($280) and provided samples free of charge. I have spent several days listening to the F4100, and I believe I can give an accurate assessment to its strengths and deficiencies. The F-series took 3 years to design, and they were released to the market in the latter half of 2016. The uniqueness of the design is the tiny casing size and the in-house development of the full-range Balanced Armature driver that is shared between the F7200 and its little brother.
The F4100 comes in a simple double box and includes a plastic case, 5 pair of different sized silicone tips, 3 pair of different sized cylindrical foam tips, attachable ear hooks in the event one wants to reduce microphonics by placing the left and right cables over the ears, and black plastic spacers for use with the silicone tips (more on this later). The cable is an OFC copper design that is quite thin, but the outer sheathing has a good feel to it due to a spirally ribbed design. I found the F4100 cable even noisier than the one included with the F7200, so the ear hooks are a nice addition to the package for those sensitive to cable microphonics. Additionally, due to the thinness and flexibility of the cable, it is a bit tangly.
The F4100 casing is made from an aluminum/magnesium alloy which is coated with a special treatment that gives the outer finish a durable, black appearance. Like the F7200, the cable is fitted with MMCX connectors for easy cable replacement. They are right angled, so in order not to have a replacement cable sticking out from one's ears, a short connector barrel length will be needed. I mentioned in my F7200 review that the nub on the left channel strain relief for channel identification was sometimes hard for me to discern, but with the F4100, I didn't have this problem. The strain relief material on the F4100 is less squishy than the F7200, and I attribute this difference for the ease of proper channel placement. Since the outer dimensions on the F4100 appear to be the same as its sibling, Final's assertion that it is the smallest IEM on the market would also apply to the F4100.
I found the F4100 quite comfortable, maybe even more so due to it being less than half the weight of its big brother. After experimenting between the silicone and foam tips, I opted for the largest sized silicone tips. The foam tips seemed too scratchy for my inner ears even though the seal was a bit better. When one chooses the silicone tips, Final advises to use the included spacers that slide on the casing. This recommendation is due to the potential that when fitting the silicone tip in one's ear, it may slide back on the casing thus pushing the nozzle end forward and potentially causing inner ear abrasions; I didn't adhere to this advise since the Final tips fit snuggly around the casing.
The case that is included by Final is identical to the one for the F7200. It is made from silicone and has a soft, almost brushed like feel to it. It opens on both sides, one side for the 3.5mm headphone jack, and the other for the capsules themselves. The cable is wound around the perimeter, and when closed up, the F4100 is nicely protected. I complained about the case in my F7200 review as being fiddly, but I've changed my feelings on this—it does what it is meant to do with some design flair. One final note, the F4100 is made in China whereas the F7200 is made at Final's facilities in Japan.
Just like its big brother, the F4100 was burned in for about 100 hours before I did any serious listening. The difference afterwards was present, but not to the same degree as I found on the F7200. This time, the bass sounded a bit more authoritative than when new, the difference in the trebles was less apparent. Please see my review on the F7200 for my thoughts regarding burn-in when it comes to BA driver designs.
The source units I used for my audition were my A&K AK240SS and iPhone 5s. I didn't use EQ and my source material came from TIDAL HiFi, using many genres.
Very familiar sound was my first thought after criticaly listening to the F4100. I used the adjective genteel in describing the F7200, and the F4100 follows along the same path, no doubt about the family resemblance. The midrange continues to be the star of the show with a delicacy in portraying vocals and instrument fundamentals. The trebles share the same grain I perceived with the F7200, but slightly less so, a bit more muted. This difference led to a change in the reproduction of transients and low level detail, but I found this difference subtle, only evident when the source material was up to snuff. All in all, a neutral sounding top end with less edge in the upper frequencies compared to the F7200.
The biggest difference, in my view, between the two siblings is the bass performance. Where the F7200 is taut with no sense of sub bass resolution, the F4100 has a looser sounding bass. Most of the time this is a good thing, but sometimes the bass goes out of control, not intensely so, just noticeably so. When music didn't have exaggerated low bass, the character of the overall sound added a bit of warmth not heard in the F7200. If the looser bass intruded into the lower midrange, it was subtle, a very good thing since the midrange is what makes this IEM shine.
The soundstage, like its big brother, is very wide, and interestedly so, perhaps a tad deeper. I recall when I worked in high end audio retail that using the higher end REL subwoofers not only gave music that bottom end authority typical of subs, but by pressurizing the room, imaging improved immensely. Perhaps the same, in effect, is happening here: the bass performance of the F4100 allows for a dimensionality the F7200 falls a bit short of. Whatever the cause, tuning, pressurization, or some other reason, it's a nice effect, especially when listening to well recorded material.
I commented in my review of the F7200 that dynamic range was the most obvious deficiency in its design, to be expected due to the compromises innate in a single BA design within a tiny enclosure. The same applies for its little brother. The better bass performance of the F4100 masks this deficiency to a small degree, but head bangers are likely not the market for this IEM. Those who listen primarily to music with an easier flow, however, will likely enjoy this IEM, and love the clarity that comes through in the midrange.
I did compare one other IEM in a similar price range to the F4100, my q-JAYS AE ($350). Similar to the Final design, the q-JAYS employ a small housing although it is a dual BA design. The difference between the two was a switching of strengths: the q-JAYS upper frequencies are astonishingly clean and grain free, but its midrange doesn't perform to the heights of the F4100. Additionally, the q-JAYS bass has greater texture, but misses on the fun sounding bass of its rival. I'm very glad to own both of these competent designs.
I've not heard the F3100, but based on the performance of its more expensive siblings, my belief is that Final has done a wonderful job with its latest series of IEMs. The F4100, specifically, offers up a beautiful midrange with capable trebles, and its bass supplies the low frequency foundation that energizes music listening. Anyone in the market for a highly comfortable, well performing IEM should definitely add the F4100 to their list.