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Final F4100

  1. jwbrent
    A miniature sized IEM that has a full-range sound.
    Written by jwbrent
    Published Apr 23, 2017
    Pros - aesthetic design, comfort, bass performance.
    Cons - tangly cable, dynamics.
    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.
      rantng likes this.