A Knight in Shining Armor!
PROS: durable build with a stainless-steel finish and elegant shell design, pure Beryllium dynamic driver, vivid micro-detailed sound tuning with a focus on speed, transparency, and clarity, holographic soundstage, quality cable and removal assist tool, nice selection of accessories.
CONS: tuning is on a brighter/colder side, not very forgiving with poorly recorded tracks, shells have some heft.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
Pure beryllium driver IEMs were definitely a buzzword of CanJam NYC 2020 show which I recently attended. We often don’t realize that some manufacturers put more emphasis on “beryllium” than “coated” when referring to beryllium-coated drivers. Pure beryllium drivers are rarer, so when Final Audio announced their new flagship A8000 (A8k) IEM with Truly Pure Beryllium Diaphragm, it got attention of many audiophiles.
Since my recent review of Final Audio B-series IEMs, I was curious to spend more time with their new A-series flagship because 10-min audition at the show in a crowded environment was just not enough, and also it has been awhile since I reviewed a single DD monitor. After spending the last few weeks testing, comparing, and pairing A8k, here is what I found. Enjoy the read!
Unboxing and Accessories.
Final A8k (A-series) IEMs arrived in a compact white box, with a very similar packaging as in B-series. The unboxing experience is very “layered” with outer sleeve that has Final logo on the front and a detailed spec on the back. Then, a soft cardboard box with A-series label on top, and another cloth wrapping inside once you lift the cover, followed by more wrapping to unveil the travel case and eartips case. While I enjoyed the unboxing experience of A-series, I personally felt it should have been more premium to differentiate this flagship model from B-series.
Inside you will find a silicone/aluminum carrying case, a pair of small clear transparent earhooks with a lock mechanism, dust filter stickers, 5 pairs of Final E-Type silicone eartips (SS/S/M/L/LL) inside of a small travel box, and a clever mmcx assist removal tool. Eartips have a firm cap which makes a good seal with earcanal and comes with a ribbed color coded (Pink – right, Grey – left) inner stem with a tight grip around the nozzle and a smaller size bore opening.
Silicone/aluminum travel case is similar to the one included with B-series, except with an addition of aluminum protective top cover. It has a clever design with a top part of the case (silicone layer with aluminum shell) being roomy/deep enough to fit IEMs w/cables. And the bottom flexible silicone half of the case covering up IEM/cable when closed to keep it secure inside, preventing the content from sliding around.
A8k comes with a quality silver plated copper (SPC) cable which I find to be non-microphonic, pliable, lightweight, and comfortable to wear while on the go. Though you do get removable earhooks, I personally found it to be more comfortable to wear the cable with these IEMs without it. And of course, since we are talking about the removable cable with universal mmcx connectors, you can use any of your favorite cables with it. I will cover various pair up examples with aftermarket cables after Sound analysis section.
And speaking of removable cable, Final Audio came up with something very simple yet brilliant – MMCX removal assist tool. While the cable is easy to attach, the removal requires a bit of force and the housing of the connectors is slippery. This little “yellow” plastic tool makes it very easy to disconnect mmcx connector, and it works not only with Final IEMs but other brands (tested and verified with Campfire audio, Westone, and iBasso).
SPC cable itself has 4 conductors, 2 on each side, twisted and in a clear flexible jacket, with each side twisted again after the y-split going down to a right angled 3.5mm plug. The plug has a nice clear strain relief, 2/3 of the housing is metal and the rest is clear transparent so you can see the connection of the wires. Y-split has a matching slim metal finish, and chin-slider is a clear small silicone piece. The earpiece connector housing with mmcx also has a matching finish and red/black color-coded rings to indicate Right/Left sides.
While A-series A8k uses a similar housing concept as Final MAKE and B-series models, the actual design of the shell is more elegant with a flat faceplate instead of busier multi-facet surface. The stainless-steel finish is a little shinier than B3 finish, but in general they are similar.
The inner part of the shell is rounded, fitting comfortably inside of my ear concha area, while the outer part has more angled edges, though still “soft” and comfortable, not as sharp as B-series. I noticed one pinhole vent at the bottom of the shell and another vent (with something like a mesh cover?) on the inside of the shell. The shells itself are average size, each one about 41g which is a bit hefty, have shorter nozzle with a lip for eartips grip, and 4-bore nozzle tip with a slightly recessed area to apply a screen filter.
In the heart of A8k design you will find a Pure Beryllium diaphragm made from ultra-thin Beryllium foil. This material is known to be super lightweight and to have properties of high sound propagation velocity. To optimize the operation of this Beryllium dynamic driver, Final came up with a stainless-steel chassis internally divided into 4 chambers, called Tetra-Chamber construction. Those were precisely calculated since the volume and the shape of these chambers and their placement around the driver will have a significant impact on the sound tuning because we are dealing with an ultra-thin beryllium dynamic driver.