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In-Ear item created by SoundMAGIC EU, Sep 12, 2016
Pros - Excellent highs and mids, beautiful cable, practical carrying case
Cons - Weak bass, channel markings aren't very clear
1) This product was provided to me by Final as a review sample at no cost. There is no incentive for a positive rating and this review expresses my honest opinion of the product. I also feel compelled to mention that I purchased the F7200’s younger sibling, the F4100, with my own money at CanJam NYC 2017.
2) Audio is a very subjective hobby, and my opinions might not accurately reflect your preferences and experiences. So please keep this in mind when reading my review.
Also, as this is my first review, I welcome any feedback and questions.
Final (formerly Final Audio Design) is a Japanese audio company that was founded in 2009, but their history designing speakers and vinyl accessories dates back to 1974. Currently, they produce IEMs and headphones. The F7200 is the premium model of the F7200 ($479), F4100 ($279) and F3100 ($189) range. All three models contain the same single balanced armature driver with slightly different tunings. The F3100 lacks a removable cable and the F4100 lacks the premium cable and stainless steel construction of the F7200.
Final claims that these three earphones are the smallest in the world, and I see no reason to doubt that. In a market of countless IEMs with an ever-increasing number of drivers, the F7200 stands out for its minimalist approach. It keeps things simple, which in my view isn’t a bad thing.
Included in the simple cardboard box is the case, containing the F7200, the cable and the silicon tips, a paper roll containing the foam tips, the safe fit rings and earwax filters for the driver units, as well as paper documentation and the warranty card.
For this review, I used my iPhone 6 as a source and music ranging from 320kbps Spotify to lossless. I own higher end desktop sources, but believe that IEMs should be able to be driven well from a smartphone. The F7200 might sound slightly better with more expensive equipment, but they are relatively easy to drive at 42Ω, so I wouldn’t expect much of a difference. Final doesn’t provide a frequency response range or much else with regards to specs.
A Google search will bring up several authorized dealers that are selling the F7200 online. That is probably the easiest way to buy it if you’re interested.
Design – 10/10
The design and workmanship of the F7200 is superb. The headphone jack, splitter and earphones themselves are all made out of stainless steel. This is in contrast to the F4100 and F3100, which both use a magnesium-aluminum alloy. Stainless steel gives the unit a sophisticated and luxurious look and feel. The only downside of the stainless steel is that it can act as a fingerprint magnet, but due to the small size of the earphones it’s hard to notice unless you’re actively looking for it.
The cable deserves a paragraph of its own, as it is an excellent cable and a huge upgrade over the basic one included with the F4100. The F7200’s 1.2-meter removable cable has of a total of four strands of oxygen free copper (OFC) with silver coating. Each channel consists of two braided strands in a PVC tube, and the two tubes are beautifully braided prior to the splitter. The 3.5mm headphone jack is mostly stainless steel, with a small amount of plastic. It is very cleanly designed and has excellent strain relief. The other two ends of the cable terminate in industrial looking right-angle MMCX connectors. This is good as it allows the cable to be replaced or upgraded if necessary, but I have not found any other companies that make cables with these right-angle connectors and using standard straight MMCX cables will look silly and prove impractical. The only after-market company I have found that can make cables with them is Null Audio in Singapore, but I can’t speak to their quality. That being said, this cable is beautiful and extremely well made. I don’t see it failing anytime soon. And due to its high quality, I imagine it would please nearly all audiophiles, especially since it would cost a majority of the price of the F7200 to buy a serious upgrade. The only downside with regards to the cable is that the left and right channel markers are somewhat hard to see and the nub that marks the left channel took some getting used to until I was able to pick it out by feel. But this is a minor issue.
The case is silicon and can best be described as practical. It consists of a dome with a main compartment that holds the F7200 and then has the cable wrapped around the sides. The 3.5mm connector is then placed under the tray in a bottom compartment. This bottom compartment can also be used to store tips, but you would need to be careful as they might fall out when it is opened to remove the 3.5mm connector. The case is very compact and easily pocketable. I am also confident that it will more than adequately protect the F7200 for mobile use.
There are only two design issues that I can think of. The first is that the driver units can rotate on the MMCX connectors and spin around, although this doesn’t bother me. They will not come off of the connectors without some force, so there is no need to worry about them accidentally falling off. The second is that Final puts in fine print on its website and in the included documentation that the right angle MMCX connectors were not designed for frequent connecting and disconnecting. I have tried removing them and reattaching them several times and have had no issues, but it’s probably best not to do this unless the cable dies or you want to upgrade it. They do reserve the right not to cover the unit under the warranty if it is found that it failed due to terminal failure from frequently disconnecting the MMCX connectors. When purchased form an authorized dealer, the F7200 is backed by a two-year warranty.
To summarize this long section, the F7200 is made in Japan, and the workmanship is excellent. The connections between components are flawless. The change between the stainless-steel driver units to the gold MMCX connectors and then to the cable are perfect and aesthetically pleasing. This continues throughout to the 3.5mm jack. The case is compact and practical.
Comfort, Fit and Isolation – 9/10
I have grouped these three together because I believe that for IEMs they are all intimately related. If you don’t get a good fit, the earphones are likely to be uncomfortable and not isolate well.
The F7200 comes with five pairs of Final’s excellent E Type silicon tips and three pairs of foam tips that cover the entire driver unit. These are very different than typical Comply foam tips. Final’s silicon tips are the best I have yet used, and I have used a lot over the years. According to a pamphlet I received from Final at CanJam NYC 2017, the E Type earpieces, “employ two types of silicon differing in rigidity for the sound conduit and for the earbud that comes into contact with the user’s ear.” I used the medium silicon earpieces for this review. With these ear tips, it is easy to get a good seal and the F7200 stays put in my ear. Often with other IEMs, I will need to adjust the fit every ten or so minutes to keep a good seal. This isn’t necessary with the F7200.
The F7200 includes a pair of safe fit rings that prevent the driver units from pushing through the silicon earpieces and damaging the ear. I haven’t found it necessary to use these since the silicon tips grip the driver units so tightly, but if you are concerned about this they are there for you to use.
Unfortunately, the cable is very microphonic and noisy when worn down under the ears. I still prefer wearing them this way when at home since I can barely tell they’re there, but when on the go I wear them over the ear with the included ear hooks. This works well and essentially eliminates the noise from the cable.
The F7200 does a good job isolating outside noise. I have had no issues using it outside and on the go, although for flying I would still opt for a set of headphones with active noise canceling.
Overall, the F7200 are very comfortable. The silicon tips allow a fast and easy seal and prevent the unit from falling out when walking. I didn’t try running with these or anything too extreme, though.
Soundstage – 8.5/10
The F7200 has a very good soundstage with impressive imaging, especially considering its tiny size. Instruments have very good separation. This makes them easier to identify and pick out in more complex and layered tracks. While the soundstage is good, it is unrealistic to expect it to match those of Audeze’s open iSINE and other more conventional open-back headphones.
Highs (Treble) – 8.5/10
The highs are very good. I would describe the treble as airy, spacious and clear, with no sibilance. Piano notes and string instruments have good presence, and sound natural. Well-recorded acoustic tracks really shine. A harsh critic might point out that the highest frequencies are slightly exaggerated, but I like them as they are and think that they help prevent the sound from being boring and bland.
Mids – 9.5/10
I’ve read that Final products are known for their excellent midrange, and the F7200 certainly lives up to this reputation. The mids are accurate, smooth and clear. The midrange is very detailed and it is easy to distinguish the different sounds. I don’t find it to be overwhelming at all. They sound very natural, so much so that on well-recorded tracks I often feel like the artist is in the room with me. I have found that on some tracks female vocals can be a just a bit bright, but I fault the recording and mastering quality for this and not the F7200 as it occurs on a minority of tracks. Lower-frequency guitar and piano notes are clear, and positioned so that they appear to come from behind the vocals. I have found that this presentation makes it easy to relax and get lost in the music. When listening for several hours at a time, I haven’t experienced any fatigue and don’t tire of the sound.
Lows (Bass) – 6/10
If the F7200 falls short in one area, this is it. The bass is lacking, although I wouldn’t go so far as to call it anemic. There isn’t much sub-bass, due to the use of a single balanced armature driver, and the bass isn’t boomy at all. When listening to genres such as EDM, rap, dance or bass-heavy electronic music, it leaves me wanting more and unsatisfied. But on more bass-light genres, such as country, classical, some pop, some rock and vocal recordings, it can keep up and doesn’t diminish the enjoyment I get from the sound. If anything, on these tracks it really allows the mids and highs to shine through. I don’t think that the weak bass ruins the sound, but for me it has limited the genres which I can use the F7200 to listen to. It’s a bit disappointing that this weak spot in the sound exists, but this might be preferable to some and is an inevitable tradeoff of the single balanced armature design. I would also consider myself a basshead, so depending on your preferences these criticisms may not be as applicable.
Value – 6.5/10
With the F7200, I was expecting a large step up in sound compared to the my F4100, and I’m disappointed to say that I didn’t find it. They both sound very similar. That doesn’t mean that the F7200 is bad, as the extra $200 gets you better build quality and a vastly better cable. The F7200 is a much more stylish and luxurious product compared to the barebones F4100. Since the F7200 sounds very similar to its less-expensive sibling, I would have to label the F4100 as a much better value. But if you like the sound signature this IEM provides, and your budget allows it, the F7200 is a better product and will likely last longer due to the better build quality and cable.
Final F4100 ($279) – I have found it hard to distinguish the difference between these two. If I had to put it into words, I would say the F4100 is a tiny bit warmer and has highs that are just a tad brighter than the F7200. But as they use the same driver, the sound signature is extremely similar. If I had to quantify it, I’d say there’s less than a 5% difference. Unfortunately, the F4100 has worse (although still acceptable) build quality and a much worse (but still microphonic) cable that is thinner and isn’t braided.
RHA T20i ($249) – I use the bronze treble filters on my T20s. The biggest difference between these two is the level of bass. The T20 has boomy, while still accurate bass, which the F7200 lacks. This makes it much better for bass-heavy genres such as EDM, dance and rap. However, the bass on the T20 slightly muddies the other frequencies, so the vocals are much clearer on the F7200. The highs are also a little overwhelming on the T20 when compared to the F7200. The F7200 is more comfortable for long listening sessions, while the T20 is better for on-the-go listening and features an iOS remote with volume control. I’d describe the T20 as an excellent value, since it’s so flexible, but it’s a very different product than the F7200.
Bose QuietComfort 20 ($249) – These are active-noise canceling earbuds, and don’t go fully in the ear. This makes them as comfortable as the F7200. The QC20s have a slight hiss from the noise cancellation when no music is playing. They sound nice in active mode, due to built-in digital signal processing, but I think that the F7200 has clearer vocals and a better soundstage. The QC20s have highs that sound a little veiled, but better, although slightly muddy, bass.
Conclusion – 8.29/10
Due to its weak bass, the F7200 is not suitable for bassheads or as an all-rounder IEM. But if you’d like to add an IEM to your collection that makes acoustic, live and classical recordings sound wonderful, the F7200 should definitely be on your list of models to audition. If the price is too high for you, save $200 and grab the F4100, resting assured that you are sacrificing little in terms of sound quality. In the arms race to see who can shove the most drivers into a cookie-cutter IEM enclosure, it’s refreshing to see a company take a step back and release an IEM that embraces a simpler design.
Averaging out the scores for all seven categories results in a score of 8.285/10. This is slightly higher than four stars, which is the rating that will be shown on this review. However, you can change the weighting of the various categories to better reflect your own preferences.
Pros - exquisite aesthetic design, phase coherent, neutral sound signature.
Cons - case, channel identification, macro dynamics.
I am a big fan of the Final FI-BA-SS, so when I was chosen by Final to audition the F7200, I was excited to test out one of its newest designs, a design process that took 3 years before coming to market. Final provided me a sample free of charge, and this review is my attempt to honestly convey my observations.
The F7200 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, clear plastic spacers for use with the silicone tips (more on this later), and tiny dust filters that attach to the front of the F7200 in order to protect it from earwax. The cable is a silver plated copper design which uses a total of 4 main conductors that are tightly twisted together. There is cable noise, so for those who are going to use the F7200 outside or on public transport, the ear hooks and over the ear use is recommended.
The F7200 casing is made from stainless steel, and in my view, it looks very elegant. Coupled with the silver cable, the F7200 is perhaps the prettiest IEM I've ever used—I love the minimalist design. It is advertised by Final as the smallest IEM currently available for purchase. By using a single Balanced Armature driver for each channel, the casing is long and slim. Unique for a product of its size, Final was able to design the F7200 with detachable cables that use MMCX fittings, however, due to the right angle connection, using other cables may be a problem since they will stick out straight from one's ears.
Because of its tiny design, I found the F7200 quite comfortable. After experimenting between the silicone and foam tips, I opted for the largest sized silicone tips (these tips, incidentally, are the newer E series that Final gave out at CanJam Los Angeles). The foam tips seemed too scratchy for my inner ears even though the seal was a bit better. Others may not find this to be a problem. 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 of the F7200 dangerously close to the eardrum; I didn't adhere to this advise since the Final tips fit so tightly around the casing, there was no worry on my part I would have any troubles ... plus, I thought the plastic spacers, although clear, took away from the overall elegant design of this IEM.
The cable is lightweight and highly flexible, but not to the point where cable tangle was ever an issue for me. It has a sparkly look to it which I like a lot. The one issue with the cable is the channel identifier: there is a tiny nub on the left channel cable strain relief that could have been made a bit larger for easier identification, especially in the dark. The only other thing I didn't like about the whole F7200 package was the included plastic case. Although I appreciate innovation when designing a mundane item like an IEM case, the manner in which this one works is a bit fiddly. It does, however, have a very nice feel to it, a softness that appeals to my sensibilities, especially since we're talking about the protector for a $480 IEM.
As is my usual practice when I get a new IEM, I left the F7200 playing for 4 days straight before I did any serious listening. Out of the box, I found the high frequencies splashy sounding, but after the burn-in period, this character disappeared. I understand that BA designs are purported to not need burn-in time—unlike Dynamic Driver designs—but I have found that higher performance cables do change in sound quality with some play time, so I attribute my observation to the fact that Final chose a quality SPC design for its cable.
The source I used for my audition was primarily my A&K AK240SS, but I also tried out my iPhone 5s just to notice whether the F7200 suffered too much with a lesser quality source (not too bad). I experimented a little with EQ, but I ended up doing most of my listening without since I felt the overall sound was cleaner to my ears. I used lossless TIDAL HiFi songs as my source material.
First off, the F7200 has a genteel sound, it doesn't have any dissonant oddities in its frequency response that draws attention. It is very clean in the midrange, and vocals come across without any stridency whatsoever. There is no sibilance in the upper midrange/lower trebles, however, the refined character I observed in the midrange is not duplicated in the highs—there appears to be just a tad amount of grain, especially with highly dynamic music. Mostly, this is not a problem for me since the transition from the mids to the highs is seamless. In my view, the F7200 is not a bright sounding IEM, certainly not warm sounding, pretty neutral, in fact. I compared it to my reference AKR02 (A&K's version of the Final FI-BA-SS), and a noted difference besides the bass response was the level of micro detail retrieval; strings were reproduced vibrantly by the AKR02 with tons of decay and openness.
The bass performance of the F7200 is lightweight sounding, I don't perceive much sub bass at all. I would say the bass begins somewhere above 60Hz and remains flat through to the lower midrange. For fans of classical, ambient, jazz, and popular music, my view is the F7200 hits its stride. Not to say rock or EDM won't sound good, but the lack of bottom end support leaves this type of music somewhat wanting. The AKR02, in comparison, has satisfying bass for all genres. By the way, I reached out to Final about the BA design of the F7200, and it is very different to the one in the FI-BA-SS. Additionally, the the F7200 is tuned differently, so no mini FI-BA-SS here.
The soundstage performance of the F7200 has great lateral separation, extending out beyond one's ears. The depth, however, is fairly shallow. There is a flatness that lovers of 3D spatial cues will find unsatisfactory. I should add that one's DAP and source material will have a great effect here; using a cell phone and playing lossy files wouldn't likely provide these spatial cues either, so those who might be troubled by the absence of such cues would likely be using higher performance gear as well as lossless files.
For me, the biggest weakness in the F7200's sound are its dynamics, especially macro dynamics. Frankly, this is to be expected, I believe, because of the tiny BA driver and housing. I love EDM and I found myself wanting to turn up the volume to achieve a greater sense of liveliness and involvement, but the F7200 just flattened out when I did so. My AK240SS has plenty of power to drive them, so its not a lack of wattage. For example, my Sennheiser IE 800 driven by my AK240SS excels in this area. As I noted earlier about its genteel presentation, this is just the sonic nature of the F7200, a design compromise that allows for what it does magnificently, a beautiful sounding midrange in a tiny package.
I've been an audiophile for 40 years. I grew up listening to my father's records as a main source of entertainment, so I was exposed to a wide variety of genres, all of which I love. Music is my great passion in life, and listening to music is my primary form of pleasure. When music is reproduced in a manner where I become lost in the listening experience, where I connect to the emotional message the artist is trying to convey, I'm in audio nirvana. The F7200 doesn't take me all the way to my goal, but it certainly has me knocking on its door. Highly recommended.
Pros - Unreal Soundstage, Very Comfortable, Excellent Case, Sounds Great Quiet, Very Relaxed, Crisp Details
Cons - Not Warm, Overshooting Impulse Response, Not great for Drums
This is my review of the F7200 from Final, which I picked up from them at CanJam 2017. The Sonorous VI are just about my favorite headphone ever, and I love listening to familiar music with them. When I heard that Final had some of their famous balanced armatures in a new package with a bunch of adjustability, I was instantly intrigued. I find that there is always a bit of time that it will take to adjust to a new set of headphones, but with these headphones, I was pleasantly surprised to find that familiar and comforting sound from the F7200 that I have learned to cherish in the Sonorous VI. In the Sonorous VI, a dynamic driver handles the mids and lows, while a balanced armature handles from 5-6khz up. There is a bit of smear because of this transition, but the cans are really perfect for me.
The first thing that struck me was the super nice presentation of the headphones. I would definitely consider these headphones as a gift to someone special... it is definitely an amazing box that feels great in the hand. The carrying case is great, but not really intuitive. That's okay, since the whole package looks phenomenal, and the case is definitely better than a zip up case, for example, while it is also impervious to the dings and scratches of the FAD piano forte headphone case.
The headphones come with a bunch of tips and options for mounting in the ear canal. I tried a bunch of different combinations, and settled on the foam comply tips for my personal tastes. The isolation was great, and the bass cleaned up a bit. I really enjoyed the listening and tip-choosing process, and as I spend more time with them, I'm sure I'll refine my taste tip-wise. I did find that mounting farther into the ear gave the headphones a better sense of control, and added a bit of mid-range intimacy.
I love prog rock and metal. These are honestly not great headphones for that kind of music. Hard and Fast music doesn't play to the F7200's strengths, but that's perfectly fine by me. I decided to turn back the clock to some personal recordings of mine playing piano. I recorded a few of Liszt's Etudes on Paganini's themes, and I know those recordings inside and out. The depth and quality of the sound was truly awe-inspiring. I loved it. I listened maybe 5 or 10 times to the sixth etude, with its 10 variations. I was blown away by the presence of the 3rd variation detail and smooth bass lines, while still maintaining dynamics for the 10th variation without blowing out. I listened to White Moth Black Butterfly's Rising Sun in 24 bit MQS, and it was just perfect. The sensation of the music was as if it came right out of the center of my back and forward through the center of the chest. Sound stage was ethereal, just like electrostatics.
In contrast, the guitar on Dream Theater's Nightmare to Remember feels shallow and hollow, but at the same time way too developed from 3-4 khz. I tried lowering the volume, and it really cleaned up. It occurred to me that they might need breaking in, so I gave it 24 hours. That made a huge difference. The piano recordings warmed up greatly, and strings became much more intimate. Unfortunately the guitars and snares in heavier music, like TesseracT's Polaris album, never achieved a full body. At lower volumes, these have to be the most relaxing headphones I have ever listened with... think about the music you enjoy listening to quietly, and I recommend that sort of music for these headphones. Bigger and faster music just doesn't sound convincing with these headphones. Try Karl Verkade's "dreams made of rain" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6l8Tq06xuOk) and just bask in the sound. Compared to my HD800S cans, the F7200 is like gazing at a painting before and after cleaning the smudges off my glasses, or the difference between a 3D movie and 2D movie. The textures move backwards and forwards and side to side with the pads and guitar, but never get lost or over complicated.
Unfortunately, I couldn't enjoy percussive music at all with the F7200, even music that was "dry" or simple. Animals As Leaders' "Brain Dance" has an incredible progression that develops with the soundscape and calls back to simpler themes as the music complicates itself backwards like a snake in a basket. With my Focal/D'Agostino floorstanding speaker rig, the development was always welcoming, and drew me in. With the F7200, I felt that with every musical layer added, I lost a bit of clarity, and I wished it had stayed put for just a bit longer. My HD800S, in comparison, get more and more engaging as the song progresses. There are some exceptions to this rule, but generally I found the F7200 to lack midbass presence, or when it was there (ear tip selection, postioning etc), it was never compelling or resolute the way a Focal Utopia is.
F7200 vs Sonorous VI
F7200 is for a relaxed, "vinyl" feel, while the Sonorous VI are like party cans. More bass in the F7200, but it is boxier and less airy sounding. Sound stage and extension is very similar. F7200 much better at micro detail and coherency. I would buy the Sonorous VI if I could only buy one, but that is because I am a sucker for atmospheric metal music. A perfect example is Tesseracts saxaphone solo at the end of the scala album, where the F7200 offers an amazing mix of waterfall like rhythms underpinning an intimate sax solo, but the Sonorous VI takes you for a wild ride at a blistering pace down the side of a mountain, with a wailing sax solo oscillating between serenity and mania. For piano music I find that the balanced armature in the F7200 brings an unbelievable realism that the Sonouros VI cannot, simply because the F7200 is so much more coherent and collected between the mids and highs, where the Sonorous VI suffers from a crossover.
F7200 vs HD800S
The F7200 brings much more detail to the table. At high volumes, the HD800S can deliver so much more dynamic range and impact, but never with the finesse that the F7200 can at lower volumes. The HD800S has a narrower soundstage than the F7200. I consider the F7200 soundstage more equivalent to the original HD800. The bass in the HD800S is far rounder and quicker, while the F7200 tends more to a sort of faint thunder sort of bass. For me, I choose the F7200 over the HD800S, since it does every thing I would use the HD800S for, but better. The amount of realism and detail afforded by a good recording is astounding. There is nothing undiscerning about either headphone, but the F7200 has "longer arms" for lack of a better phrase.Of course the HD800S can manage progressive metal better, but I wouldn't use it for Prog Metal anyways.
F7200 vs Utopia
The F7200 is on par with the Utopias for anything above 2kHz, but the Utopias have the versatility of midbass structure that the F7200 simply can't deliver. I'd pick the Utopia over the F7200 for most applications, but the F7200 can offer the experience of classical music with the same depth and detail, but on the go as well, with great sound isolation to boot. However, the Utopias really can do almost anything musically, and I'd overall choose the Utopia cans as long as I didn't need sound isolation. The big idea is that the F7200 really can compete with the Utopias though with simpler classical content.
You may notice that I took a picture of the F7200 with my mojo... that was taken the day I got the headphones in JFK airport. I'd like to just go on the record saying that these made the Mojo sound HORRIBLE. In fact, I can't really enjoy the mojo anymore... the F7200 revealed distortion in the bass and smear in the highs that I just can't overlook anymore with normal cans.
With my ak120, it was a different story. Less bass, but an overall more inviting sound, oddly enough. The AK240 was a bit too bright for my tastes with the F7200, and I really just enjoyed my Zhang Audio 56K DAC for an honest, simple, portrayal of the music. The Zhang audio always felt boring and stark with my HD800S and Piano Forte VIII, but it gave a wonderfully black backdrop for the F7200 to jump out of.
TLR F7200 has an unreal soundstage, immersive and moody handling, and ethereal nuance, on pair with the absolute best. Truly a horrendous set of headphones for rap,edm,rock. Addictive and seductive portrayal of simpler recordings (high quality is a must). Not forgiving, not "fun", but definitely delicate and precise, up there with the absolute best. Driven well, you will be lost like never before in your favorite "chill" music.
Pros - Looks Build quality Detachable cable Size Comfort Case
Cons - Cost Low efficiency Bass light
Final F7200 Earphone review
I will start this review of the Final F7200 earphones by saying that I am not going to include photos or technical specifications, as these have been very well covered by the original poster. I feel that unnecessary repetition has a tendency to clutter posts and detract from the intended message.
My introduction to IEMs was many years ago when I directly imported a pair of Etymotic Research ER-4s from the US, as this was long before there was a UK distributer. Opening the long awaited box was a bit of an anti-climax; all that money (I was young and poor) for two tiny plastic cylinders joined to a flimsy looking cable. Used to large over ear headphones, I couldn’t believe these would produce an acceptable sound. All doubts were dispelled when they were plugged in to my portable source of the day, a Sony Walkman Professional cassette deck. They sounded wonderful; full, detailed and involving. I was smitten, and have stayed in love with IEMs ever since. I stayed with Etymotic through several pairs of ER-4S and ER-4P. Some purchased, and some under warranty due to the cable, which did indeed prove to be flimsy in the early days. So why all this chat about Etymotics in a Final earphone review? Simply because when looking at single armature designs, everything refers back to the ER-4 in my experience.
Opening the box of the F7200 was a very different experience. They look good! Beautifully finished stainless cylinders with good cable connectors, a very attractive cable and a lovely tactile rubber case. You can see where your money has gone. Immediately comfortable with the supplied silicon tips, they felt secure in my ears due to the easy cable routing. Final make claims about how small these IEMs are, but they aren’t very different from the Etymotics, or indeed Klipsch, in that respect.
My Sony Walkman Pro being in retirement, I started off using a Sony ZX-2 via a Chord Hugo for the first listen. Full of anticipation, the first track played; a 192/24 FLAC of the Chicago Transit Authority album. And, I was underwhelmed. Now, things have moved on since my early days of IEMs, and these days I usually listen to Shure SE846 or Sennheiser IE800, which sets the bar pretty high, but that wasn’t the problem. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the F7200. They sound as good as any single armature design that I have tried. Plenty of detail, sprightly presentation, a little bass shy compared to the bigger boys, but acceptable.
I decided that these ‘phones probably were not expected to be used with such an expensive front end, so I changed to the Sony ZX-2 on its own, and an iPhone 7 via the lightning adapter (mini DAC) cable. The sound quality held up well, but the F7200 takes quite a lot of driving. The naked DACs were having to run at pretty much full volume. To put this in perspective, they were slightly less efficient than Sennheiser IE800s, and a LOT less efficient than the Shure SE846. This surprised me as my other single armature designs are more efficient from these sources.
Apart from the efficiency issue, I felt there was little to choose between the sound of F7200 and Etymotic ER-4P. The Finals were perhaps a little warmer in presentation, rounding off the rough edges of nastier digital recordings slightly more than the Etymotics. But, if I was back in the day of living with just one pair of IEMs, I would have been happy with either.
This is, I think the dilemma. The F7200 is priced significantly above the Etymotics, half way to the IE800s in fact. There is no question in my mind that the IE800s blow both these single armature designs out of the water (apart from sound isolation), but that is perhaps to miss the point. Sometimes there is a place for the very discrete single armature device, and not everyone is willing to spend IE800 money to listen to tunes on the train. So you have to decide whether; build quality, cable quality, good looks and a very nice case justifies the extra expense of the Final F7200 over other single armature designs, because sonically there isn’t much in it.
Pros - Build Quality, Extremely Small, Nice design, Cable.
Cons - Soundstage, Hollow Midrange, Artificial timbre, Compressed Dynamics, Very Poor Value.
Final Audio Design - F7200
Thankyou to Tony from hifiheadphones.co.uk for letting me be part of the review tour.
(Before i start the review i would like to mention that i use a Chord Mojo with 0.075 ohm output as a reference Dac/Amp to ensure there is no bottleneck prior to my reviews)
Packaging & Build Quality
The Final F7200 have a simple but good looking package design, i would have liked to see something a bit more fancy though at this price point as the pinnacle p1 at less than half the price has a fantastic presentation box. Included in the box are finals newly developed carrying case, a silicon style capsule that allows you to wrap the cable around also before closing the lid, not crush proof but seems like it will protect the earphones pretty well. 8 pairs of silicon tips and 3 pairs of foam tips are also included with a set of safe fit rings to ensure the housing does not slide through the tip deeper in to the ear canal. Build is very impressive with no manufacturing blemishes, stainless steel chrome housing and silver cable are instantly appealing to the eye and is the bar none the nicest i have ever seen, i had a few people mention to me how good they look.
I found it very easy to get a good fit and found them extremely comfortable and light weight.
Because of the design the housings barely touch the insides of the ear
Specifications & Features
- Original high purity OFC silver coated cable MMCX
- Housing design minimises distance between eardrum and driver
- Full-range custom tuned balanced armature drivers
- Stainless steel machined highly stable housing
Very poor in impact, weight and quantity. Found myself always wanting more from the bass, i understand how important the fit is for bass in iems so I tried many many tips to try and bring the bass out more and even got tight suction like fit so that was not the problem. I'd like to talk about the quality of bass but I can barely hear it's presence. Very disappointing let's move on to the midrange.
Well I'm afraid to let you know it only gets worse from here. Its slightly forward compared to bass and treble but also hollow and boring sounding lacking any kind of emotion.
To my ears the treble is dull and lacking upper extension, I was hoping the treble would come a bit more alive at higher volumes but it just becomes more harsh and fatiguing.
Comparison with RHA MA750
MA750 completely wipe the floor with the F7200, extension from top to bottom is miles ahead, soundstage is much better and clarity and resolution are also quite a few notches above F7200.
One area i thought the final would have won is in speed but somehow it actually sounds slow for an armature driver, pretty surprising.
In short a very disappointing conclusion, i cant recommend these at all at the current price (£389.99) as i find them to be very poor value for money, I previously owned the Heaven II at (£70.00) imo are far superior in speed, dynamics, resolution and extension. These just dont have that magic i have heard in other final iems.
Harsh |---o--|------| Smooth
Forward |-----o|------| Recessed
Boomy |------|-o----| Controlled
Compressed |-o----|------| Natural
Dull |----o-|------| Vivid
Veiled |-----o|------| Clear
Small |--o---|------| Large
Slow |---o--|------| Fast
Poor |------|--o---| Excellent
Pros - Neutral sound signature ; tiny ; beautiful cable
Cons - Bass impact is weak ; no built in mic ; mids and highs may come across as a little dull to some
The F7200 is a single balanced armature in ear moniter from the Japanese company Final. Final have been in business since 1974 and in my opinion make some retro looking IEM and full size headphones. Their range is across the whole spectrum of the market; their budget model starts at under 40 pounds. The flagship model- a closed back full sized no less , sets you back 3 and a half grand........ These people are serious about their headphones.
I was sent a sample of their latest attempt by hifiheadphones , the shop in the UK where you can get these. With thanks to @Tony-Hifi who has been supplying me with writing material for over a year now. For a professional look at the F7200 , please go to http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/final-f7200-in-ear-isolating-earphones-with-replaceable-cable.html
The vital statistics for the F7200 -
Housing: Stainless SteelDriver
This isn't my preferred style but I cannot deny the minimalism that this lends to the overall look of the monitors
Type: Balanced armature
I have several balanced armature IEMs. I shall be pitting the Klipsch X11is and Sony MH1s as Single driver rivals against these. I shall also pit them against a couple of multi driver IEMs I have. All of which fall well below the 389 price tag of the Finals . But will the Finals climb well above the competition?
The good news is these IEMs are sensitive to go loud on any smartphone. They isolate really well due to their diminutive size so don't need much volume compensation for the outside world.
The main testing gear I have used these on are the Medion Smartphone 5 ( I presume like most phones this how a low impedance) and the Chord Mojo (under 1 ohm impedance) so both are a good match for these phones.
Cable Length: 1.2m
The cable length is plenty generous enough to be a compromise between sat down and on the go, some of it may need to be stuffed into the pocket unless you are 7 feet tall.
22g of this weight must be the cable!
The F7200s have made a bold statement to launch this model. They are described as "the world's most compact isolating earphones"
They are tiny. Of that there is no doubt. The size of the driver makes for an easy fit into the ear. The severe right angle shape of the driver housing does not make a natural fit into the ear however. The snap fit between the mmcx cable and the driver is a swivel fit. The swivel fit allows for versatlility and enables a down the ear or over the ear fit . So all preferences should be managed adequately and ensure the best sound these can produce can be attained with ease.
Here's a side by side look at my Klipsch X11i IEMs against the F7200 to give you an impression of size.
Note the more ergonomic styling of the Klipsch. The Klipsch does tend to go into it's preffered part of ear canal easier than the Finals. Also note that the Klipsch can only be worn down from the ear and therefore have much more susceptibility to microphonics.
With the tips off - the X11i does appear to be quite a bit smaller. It's trivial I know, but I thought the Klipsch earphones were the smallest I'd come across and I still believe that after comparing these 2.
The cables of the F7200 are interchangeable. Another great benefit as with some research these could be made into Bluetooth earphones or be used for hands free comms with an Android or Iphone. It's a shame that different cables aren't supplied as standard.
The cable supplied has been braided beautifully and has a gorgeous silver lustre. It does the F7200 great credit and as you can see from my own collection it certainly stands out from the crowd.
Which brings us to what this is all about . Does it cut the mustard in the sound department? Can a single balanced armature driver in a tiny IEM give a big sound? Well, I have Sony MH1s , Klipsch X11is and Sennheiser IE800s all of which are single driver IEMs and all of which to varying degrees of sophistication give a decent sound. The IE800 particularly with it's patented Extra Wide Band driver can compete with any IEMs I've heard to date.
I listened for the first day of my review to the F7200s in isolation to adjust my ears to their particular sound signature. I enjoyed what I heard. The overall impression was a reasonably detailed slightly wider soundstage than normal with less bass than usual for an IEM. The fit and sound meant that I could easily imagine wearing these for many hours without finding the sound particularly tiring. The sound was unspectacular but it wasn't unpleasant.
It was then time to bring some perspective to my findings. I have used 3 single driver IEMs (Sony MH1/Klipsch X11i/Apple Earpods) and a multi driver IEM (/Sony XBA4ip) to compare the Finals to.
The MH1s have long been rated as amazing value for money , currently retailing in the Uk for £44.10. I have acquired an amazingly high quality example of them with a bespoke cable from a fellow headfier, @guido. They have also been given a set of custom ear plugs. The plugs came from Snugs and are the closest thing to a decent fit with a decent sound that they made for me.
Even with all the bells and whistles the Sony MH1 comes across as a cheap IEM that is exceptional value for money rather than something which competes against more serious opposition. The Final F7200 was a more musical experience. The MH1s certainly trounced the Finals for bass impact but could not compete in sound stage and were too rolled off to compete in sound stage or mid and high resolution. The MH1 impedance is 15Ω and sensitivity is 125dB, so they do go louder in a smartphone.
The Klipsch X11i goes up a notch in the price stakes. These are currently retailing at £179.99.https://www.amazon.co.uk/Klipsch-X11i-Headphones-3-button-Microphone/dp/B00EA90QGA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475101751&sr=8-1&keywords=klipsch+x11
But bear in mind you can buy 2 pairs of these and a crate of beer for the price of the Finals, so the Finals had better trounce them! The F7200s did not trounce the Klipsch. The X11is had much deeper and more punchier bass and were equally as clear in the mids whilst just being edged out by a smidgeon in the highs and soundstage. Overall , the sound was generally more fun on the Klipsch. The impedance is 50Ω and sensitivity 110dB which is 4Ω more and 4dB less than the F7200. The Klipsch however go loud a lot sooner than the Finals.
Ok , here is when I might start to lose a bit of credibility...... I had the sheer cheek to try the Apple Earpods I had knocking around against the Final F7200. Fit is all important with the Earpods., They have no tips and are designed to be placed loosely into the ear and have a couple of vents which resonate into the ear and act as a chamber. They were bundled free with the Iphone 5 so there's a lot around. I swapped these for my 2nd pair of Sony MH1s but they retail for under £10 in the UK nowadays. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/B00BQL4Z4O/ref=asc_df_B00BQL4Z4O36687705?ie=UTF8&condition=new&tag=pricerunner-ce-3p-21&creative=22278&creativeASIN=B00BQL4Z4O&linkCode=df2&ascsubtag=uk,27816,prsp_uk_whathifi,94,;f012092879b8aa98a56799b50c7061dd
I compared these , side by side , plugged into my Chord Mojo and I was astonished at the result. So much so that time and again over the course of an hour I continually swapped between the Finals and these cheap and nasty looking plastic things to make sure I wasn't dreaming. I PREFERRED the Earpods! And not by a small margin.... The bass had much more impact on the Earpods , obviously it was artificially boosted and a little boomy but not offputtingly so. The mids and the highs and the soundstage , compared to the Finals , I can only describe it as I heard it ; it was like taking a curtain away from the sound it was that dramatic a difference! I am sure fit must be everything with as eccentric a design as the Earpods. But by god they worked for me! I'm still pinching myself now , I just cannot believe that I can say that the Earpods outperformed a serious pair of bejewelled Japanese Single BA IEMs. But say it I must.... The Earpods have an impedance of 45Ω and an impedance of 109dB , 3Ω more and 3dB more than the F7200s, they are slightly louder than the Finals.
The Sony XBA4ips. 4 is the number of drivers in each shell. A superwoofer woofer full range and tweeter is in there. The fit used to be abysmal for these they were just too big for my ears but I found some Obravo spacers hold them in place just great now and they have undergone a rennaisance having been all but discarded for 2 years. The retail price for these is dependent on whether you can find a pair for sale, I found a set for sale after a brief browse with the asking price of £349. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sony-XBA4iP-Premium-Quality-Headphones-Black/dp/B007MJGESE
Side by side , constant interchsnging with these and the Finals gave me the ineviable conclusion. I preferred the XBA4s. They had more punch than the Finals and less boom than the MH1s Earpods and X11is as well as more detail and a less hollow mid/high signature than the Earpods. They had the clearest and widest soundstage of all to boot. Impedance - 8Ω Sensitivity 100dB. These are loud enough to work well in a phone but definetely benfit from amping.
It was fun to do this and although the results weren't at all what I expected I still believe there will be some who will find the Final F7200 to their liking. My ususal listening runs from Classical to Country , from Pop to Havy Metal from Synth to Folk so I would say the linearity of the Finals and the level of bass may appeal to Classical enthusiasts. The Finals are on their way to a new set of ears and I look forward with interest to seeing the results from them. Until then , if you have apair , let's hear from you!