Headphoneus Supremus
Hemp Filter: Weed only makes it sound better
Preamble: I've long known of Final as an audio company of renown from the eastern reaches of the globe. But due to a lack of interest and perhaps even marketing, the lack of availability to their product line has relegated them to "mid-fi hell" for the longest time. Final would not pique my attention until almost 3 years into my foray into HiFi with the release of the A8000. My experience with single DDs at the time led me to wave that off, well that and having used the wrong terms to describe my audio preferences as well. Admittedly it was more the aesthetics of the hemp pattern and lacquer that drew me into the Shichiku Kangen despite my disdain for LE releases. Well, that and @riverground going full hype train. Much thanks for @mvvRAZ for enabling out insanity a lot earlier than expected (and an unexpected Fourte for me).

Design: The SK uses the exact same shell as the A8000, so the same downfall with the sharp edge possibly digging into the back of your concha depending on size is a huge issue. Definitly demo before buying to check this out. I had no issues and the shell sat perfectly in my ears. The lacquer and hemp pattern look a bit lackluster in person compared to staged photographs, but excluded a level of classiness and worksmanship that I appreciate. The hemp pattern is itself a traditional design that's a nice allusion to the tuning modus operandi of the SK.

I also love that Final included a set of replaceable nozzle screens in the box. While the A8000 is more prone to being a fingerprint magnet and micro scratch prone, the lacquer affords a better level of protection though micro scratches can still occur over use, so baby them. The curliness of the piggy tail Oslo is my biggest criticism, I didn't have it long enough to see if it would soften up over time as claimed, but I would swap it for sheer ergonomics. I would also recommend swapping it out for other reasons.

Testing: I went right to Radius Deepmounts out of the box and ignored the Type E as fits with those have been iffy. The SK is considerably harder to drive than the A8000, and was put at 55-60 in high gain off the WM1A. I didn't hang on to it long enough to test off the ADI2 in this case.

Bass: SK and A8000 have a very interesting contrast in the actual bass signature compared to how they graph. The graph for the SK would indicate a clear sub-bass bias, but upon listening has a very clear mid bass bias. Excellent slam and impact with no bleed at all into the mids despite a fairly elevated lower mids. Sub bass extension is excellent as well, it goes deep when needed but not really the star of the show. Overall the bass is very well bodied and has good warmth, putting it into the area between normal and basshead bass. This body carries over into the lower mids as well without bleed (as previously mentioned) and male vocals benefit very well from this. I find this very similar to the (now discontinued) Empire Ears Phantom in this regard. I also have to add that Beryllium DDs are AMAZING! Amazingly fast, but retaining the bass texture of normal dynamic drivers. Considering this was modified to DITA's specs, this had me highly anticipating Final's own take but that's another set of impressions.

Mids: As mentioned in the last paragraph, the warmth and body carries over into the mids as well giving the SK a significantly more musical sound in comparison to the A8000. Female vocals benefit a lot from the body, and when coupled with vocalists that push into the upper midrange, provided an excellent listen. There's still benefits to vocalists that can power up the range, but much more noticeable for some artists. While not extremely airy, the air present is sufficient for notes in the midrange to be partially diffused like the Fourte allowing for said musicality. Overall, both male and female vocals are extremely well balanced despite a darker signatures usually benefiting male vocals the most, I suspect this is in effect due to the tuning chambers in use with this particular design allowing for such an even distribution of benefits to the lower and upper mids.

Treble: This is a interesting beast on the SK. There's a lot of it, but it seems to take the approach of the Fourte: Giving it air for the notes to reverberate. However, the SK doesn't just take a step back in the treble like the Fourte, but a couple steps back. Despite the energy and sparkle present, treble heads will be left wanting more. This benefits those who find the treble of the A8000 to hit their sensitivites though, yet allowing the benefits in harmonics that the overloaded treble provides. The result is a more balanced sound overall compared to the A8000, especially in the lower mids region but whilst maintaining the benefits of the A8000s lower treble.

Conclusion: The goal of DITA was to for a warm musical take on the A8000 and they've succeeded in that. From the warmth and body in the bass and the mids to the laid back but (paradoxically) plentiful treble, the SK is undoubtedly a dark version of the A8000 but without the nerf in treble that gear in this vein tends to do. The soundstage has relatively good width and height with middling depth, all in support of the warmth being presented. The one fault I had with it was the imaging. It seems that in pursuit of a warm musical sound, DITA ended compromising in the imaging department, perhaps a bit too much in my tastes. While nowhere as bad as the Dunu Zen with busy tracks this was something that consistently broke my immersion in the music. As my unit was fairly new during my initial time with it, I had a second go with it and while the vast majority of my impressions remained the same, the imaging did improve as a result of use off the Oslo. Putting the DHC Clone Silver on, yielded further improvement to the imaging to the point where I found it accessible. Despite what DITA says, I find the stock Oslo to be a bottleneck on what the SK is capable and recommend replacing it asap.

Those of you keen on detail will have noticed that I haven't made any allusions to the theme of this review outside of the allusion to the signature in the design section. I found it hard to sprinkle nods and references here and there because I found that the description of the sound already fulfils that purpose. But then having a theme would be pointless wouldn't it? Like the signature hemp on it's faceplate, mellowing out the inherently bright signature to create a darker (albeit with treble) and more mellow signature to present what could be described as a better sound for western listeners and those with treble sensitives. Some describe smoking weed has a similar and the SK's tweaks and tuning have create something similar to a "weed filter".

For a single beryllium DD, the SK also excels technically as well, firmly planting the return of single DD ToTL models to the audiophile market. However for the price that it commands, the imaging is unacceptable to me. Were it priced at the A8000 as an alternate tuning, I could accept the compromise. But alas it is not and priced more for the aesthetic and prestige of owning shells with Japanese artisanal work that only exist in a limited capacity. I do hope that Final does release the SK tuning down the line as an alternate A8000 model in a non limited capacity at same price point. As I can see it doing well with western audiences because of the tuning. Perhaps with the stock Final C106 cable (which I might add is probably the best stock cable I've heard to date), providing an excellent cable without bring up the price and letting those savings go towards a cable should they choose to cable roll.
Very much agree about the changes over the A8000, especially in the mid-bass region. I actually like this change in the lower registers quite a bit feeling my A8000 was missing the mark here somewhat.

I believe DITA’s role in its collaboration on the driver was for a different adhesive to be used between the driver and surround for better performance since adhesives are something they are well practiced on. Regarding the cable, I don’t know what DITA was thinking with the curly cue design of the cable, but I recently sold mine and replaced it with the final C106 balanced, and for me, this enhanced the level of treble purity which resulted in greater transparency, an area I felt had diminished somewhat from the A8000.

Thanks for the review! 👍