Final Audio A4000: A thermoplastic fantastic
Final Audio sound
Very good mids
sounds like a typical Final Audio
Cons: Build is quite average
Fit is average
I applaud the thermoplastic, but the end product is quite average finish-wise
Intro: I have heard one Final offering in my life. I took a flyer on a Sonorous III, wanting to “fill a hole” in my collection, mainly for review purposes. I found a used one on HF and took the plunge. The gentleman from whom I purchased said unit was local and a perfect gent. I wish him well. I was a bit underwhelmed upon first listen, but giving it more time, and with reading of reviews, I came to understand from where final Audio might come. Their Final Type-E’s are the tips of choice for many high-end IEM’s, and I use them on many of mine. As I waited my turn, I perused the Final website, noting the colorful offerings of the new models, likening them to Lego-built in-ears. Whimsical and different. Much like Final Audio.
Some say that the Sonorous X is amongst the very best offerings in a headphone. If the sound is of a bigger Sonorous III, it may well be. Using that as my blueprint, I signed up for the Audio46 tour. There are many wonderful portable audio companies’ in the USofA, and they are one of them. Chosen for the review tour, I graciously accepted and waited. Some reviews panned the A4000, while others lavished over the control of the unit. I took all in and waited. I thank @Audio46 for the chance to listen to one of the new Final offerings in the A-series and will to my best, provide an honest opinion of the unit. Should you need or want graphs, go elsewhere, for to me they are left with too much interpretation and variance of testing contraptions save for a select few. I’m not there yet.
Product code: FI-A4DPLDN
Housing: ABS (thermoplastic)
Driver: 6mm f-Core DU Dynamic driver
Cable: OFC Black cable
Cord length: 1.2ｍ
In The Box:
Rubber carrying case
2-pin OFC cable-rubberized
5 sets Final-E silicon tips, in neat case
Oriolus Finschi ($197)
DDHiFi Janus ($199)
Hidizs MS4 ($199)
BQEYZ Spring2 ($169)
IKKO OH-1 ($139)
HiBy R3 Pro Sabre
iFi Zen CAN/DAC
Buena Vista Social Club
Stevie Ray Vaughan
As I listen to a new offering from Joe Walsh & Amjad Ali Khan, I write this. Even though the unit came to me second, the previous listener set the box up like it was new. Coming in a glossy lidded box, the A4000 has a larger than life picture of the unit on the front, and the specs in various languages on the back beside the container accoutrements. Lifting the lid, you are met with a hockey puck, err rubber case on top, and a plastic hard case for the 5 sets of Final Type-E tips. Of note is that the tips come in five sizes, and color coordinated per each ear. Gray is usually left, and pink/red for the right. You could be brave and switch it up if you wish. That would simply confuse me if I did and I may in fact switch the cable should I need to jump start a car, so I’m good as is.
The case has a recessed back, which opens via three “nubs” holding it in place. That side is thin and accommodates the shape of the IEM and cable attached, while the front has the logo, détente inward. It is an odd case, and I wish it was of a full size, but get the reasoning behind this type. The relieved side coddles the IEM and cable protecting it, while keeping it from touching the surface. I wonder about longevity of the case, but it seems to work. Under the case is a recessed rectangular area where the ear hooks reside. Instead of strain relief on the cable, Final chose to go the route of earhooks. I will admit I did not try them at all. Since this is an over-ear, maybe I should and report back, as I found the thin cable did not stay behind my ear with glasses as well as some.
The cavity of the A4K is not only made of thermoplastic instead of resin, but designed to mimic a larger listening area, much like speaker placement in a living room. Following the acclaimed A8000, the A3K & A4K mimic the shape, but change the shells. And the technology is impressive although rough. More on that below.
The cavity is larger than the f-Core DU to accommodate that mimicry as well as aid in a better resolution. From the website, “establishing new production facility overseas and newly designed not only parts for the driver unit such as diaphragm, voice coil, magnet, magnetic circuits, adhesives, but also the production machinery used in the manufacturing process. As material for the driver front housing, rather than the traditional aluminum, we used brass, a material that is both highly resistant to the effects of magnetism and also boasts a high specific gravity. In order to increase the time response characteristic of the diaphragm, the voice coil employs a 30μ ultrathin CCAW, and a minimum of adhesive is used for assembly to thoroughly lighten the moving parts.”
That ultrathin diaphragm aids in transient response (very big to some reviewers…) and minimizing the adhesive used also helps eliminate potential distortion or slowing the speed of response in the driver. All worthy considerations, and as some have mentioned, Final seems to go their own route as opposed to others from that region of the world. In other words, less cookie cutter, more innovation.
Using thermoplastic (ABS material) over metal or resin not only makes the unit lighter but can also be more affordable. Both the A3K and A4K are sub-$200usd as a result, which falls into a wickedly competitive bracket (see comparisons listed above and reviewed below). Unfortunately, as some others have noted, the build quality falls below the A8K and others at this price. Fit of the shell pieces is good but not great. Even with what I would consider sub-par build for this price (and lower), the feel of the unit is quite good, and one should not really worry about longevity of the shell. It is prone to fingerprints a bit, but not like the glossy resin of many. The “finish” is of a matte type and affords good grip. With two vent holes surrounding the “final audio A4000” print on the inside of the shell, there is ample opportunity for the driver to breathe. Plus, thankfully, the extruded nozzle has a lip worthy of holding the tips on with no problem. Foam or silicon, they held firm. As a result of all of the above, the unit fit nearly flush inside my ear, and could be worm for long periods without worry or problem. Seal was good with all tips, and for a good part of the testing, I stuck with the Type-E’s, since I am familiar with them. Had I also had my favored Sedna or Azla tips, I would have used them as well. But, comparison with Comply’s will have to be the result.
The cable was quite hard to fit properly when connecting the 2-pin to the shell, and took some effort. More than I would have liked, and I was very careful to fit the two together. Even with that, it took more effort than it should. I worry about taking the cable on/off repeatedly such as switching cables as a result. The insert is in fact recessed, so not all aftermarket cables will work. Not to worry as the included 3.5se OFC is quite decent.
Coated in rubberized material, the cable is like an old lamp cable with two strands melded together below the y-splitter, and single above. I often took great pleasure in pulling apart my father’s old lamp cables, with his permission of course… microphonics are minimal and much better than some others of more expensive ilk lately.
If I had to summarize the overall build, it would be average. Fit is very good, and finish is well, different; but not bad.
Summary: Departing from the common V-shaped consumer sound, the A4K provides the listener with enough vibrancy to be engaging but is still V-shaped. Just not a much so as others, who add more “oomph” up top. But in a smoother than normal manner. Bass could reach deeper for me as could its impact. That can be accommodated by EQing the sound. Mids are good but not great. I consider that part of the smooth nature. Male vocals are good and there is good clarity of note with both male and female vocals as well as the overall signature. I would not call it spacious but engaging again adding to that smooth sound to me. Upper mids are pushed forward, which seems to be the flavor de rigor, but not as much as others. With a fast decay, the notes heard are true and aid in that vibrancy of which I speak, but again to me the overall is of a smooth nature; especially when compared to the others here.
Bass according to others reaches deeper but with less impact than the A3K, but not having that on hand I do not know. What I do know is that while the bass is of the faster response variety, I was left wanting more. Compared to something like the Oriolus Finschi or Spring2; the bass falls behind them. But the response is faster than either to me, which can make up for that lack a bit.
To me, the mids are the star, and thankfully the bass leads into them nicely. Guitar work such as Billy Gibbons on High Desert is sublime and the want to turn the volume up on the solo is strong. Male vocals ring true and forward, up there with some of the better in this price. Santana’s Europa comes across as sweet and melodic, rising a bit as the song moves forward. I have always relished his solos, and this comes across as smooth as silk. This could be due to the near-rounded treble response, which to me thankfully plays well. Clean mids but not antiseptic nor too clean makes for a solid sound complimenting that bass line and the persuasive treble note. That note up top provides the detailed sound of the A4K, as witnessed on David Gilmour’s Rattle That Lock. His vocals border on the high region and his guitar reaches high enough on the solo to record the detail of which I speak. An energetic song, which is helped by that treble presentation, without losing the vibrancy of the mids.
Soundstage to me comes across as wider than many in this category, and with enough space to determine precision of placement as well as separation of layers. This is among the better stages had in this category, closing ranks with the Hidizs MS4 Mermaid in terms of size. Layering is not as distinct as some, rendering more of an assemblage than individual layers. And that is OK with me. This again shows Final is going their own way, whether you think that is right or wrong.
Final Audio A4000 ($159) v Oriolus Finschi ($197):
One of my all-time favorites at this price, only recently challenged by the Spring2 to me, the Finschi is immediately heard with a darker signature. Better and more bass as well, which fits my listening pleasure better. Oriolus makes some very, very good IEM’s not the least of which is their flagship, the Trailii at $6000. One could rightly state that Oriolus started the ultra-hyper flagship trend with that model. Many balked at the price, until it was heard and other manufacturers followed.
This came from somewhere and since the Finschi is the only Oriouls I have heard, I can still get a very good impression of what the company wants. Super bass control and that richness of sound highlight excellent detail as well. While others have come and possibly surpassed the sound with “better bass” or “better clarity/airy presentation,” the Finschi still sets the tone for me at this price. Providing better and more bass than the A4K, and a richness in which the A4K can only longingly look at, the Finschi still holds its place to me. If you prefer more clarity and a smoothness to that rich sound, then the A4K might be the better choice, and more affordable. That money saved could purchase a right good dongle, amp or cable to possibly make up the diff. Possibly.
Final Audio A4000 ($159) v DDHiFi Janus ($199):
The Janus was one of the highlights of shutdown to me, and a wonderful stepping out for DDHiFi. Complete with the excellent 4.4bal cable, the pairing is fabulous and gorgeous at which to look. To me its only lacking is isolation, even with foam tips. I love the spacious, airy presentation replete with good bass, even if the vocal presentation sits behind the main scene. Here is where the push forward and up from the A4K “bests” the Janus. If you prefer a thoroughly magnetic sound, complete with a vibrant airy note, then the excellent Janus would be the better choice, even with the isolation problem. I do not listen to it enough. If you value that smooth richness, then the A4K should be considered.
Final Audio A4000 ($159) v Hidizs MS4 ($199):
Much easier to drive, with a more forward and vibrant signature highlight the MS4 over the A4K. When this came out (mine is actually a first production run, sent for review) I thought it would be a hit for its full, rich sound with detailed bass and vocals, which to me come across as nie on sublime. It did not hit the heights I think it should, but of late many have been asking about it. Using stock silicon tips, the seal is not the best, nor the bass, but oh that control of sound is superb. This is a killer IEM at the price, rivaled only of late by some of the newer offerings out there including a couple listed here.
The A4K presents a more V-shaped signature and comes across as smoother as well. The MS4 is vibrant and detailed. With excellent soundstage rivaling the A4K as well, the MS4 is one that needs to be tried. Coming with two cables (one with a mic even), the packaging and detail of build are at the top of this category. Built like a flagship, the MS4 remains one of my top choices and an unsung hero.
Final Audio A4000 ($159) v BQEYZ Spring2 ($169):
The Spring2 is one of those “new” offerings of which I spoke in the MS4 blurb. With a narrower soundstage than the MS4 and A4K, that does not dissuade from a thoroughly engaging sound. Lifted guitar work, and a solid if not too deep reaching bass line is countered by distinct and clean treble note. While that bass is not the deepest, its speed is unparalleled here to me, and with that comes a control of the signature, which puts it at the top of this category. Or near. In my review of the Spring2, I called it the first IEM at this price to make me think twice about my most recommended. That recommendation still holds and the one in which it nearly dethroned is the Finschi. I also throw the MS4 in that range as well.
What we have is a good old build up at turn one in Monaco at an F1 race. Get there first, and you are fine. Get there second and hope no one plows you from behind. The A4K might not be first into that turn like the Spring2, MS4 or Finschi but it will stay close due to that smooth, soothing sound. The Spring2 is superb. The A4K is splendid in a different way.
Final Audio A4000 ($159) v IKKO OH-1 ($139):
The OH-1 is another gem at this price, which gives me a whole lot of satisfaction. Light, easy of fit, gorgeous of look and sound to match all of the above; this is one where you could easily listen and say; that’s it. I’m done. We all know this doesn’t happen, but wouldn’t it be nice to reach that before we spend the amount of what a decent car costs? The OH-1 would be deserving of that savings to you. Bass on par with the best of the lot listed here, but with a bit of bleed; I liken this to giving the signature a bit of soul. That does come at the cost of less than realistic mids, and a slightly lifted treble note. No matter to me for the overall character is of such a manner that you turn Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and play it over and over.
That artificiality is where the smooth sound of the A4K bests the OH-1, and one could rightly justify choosing either for the character presented. Bass that is strong and rich versus a smooth texture. The OH-1 is good for that smashmouth sound, while the A4K would be the brandy after dinner on a snowy night. Neither is wrong.
At the beginning, I stated that Final Audio takes their own route (thankfully), shying away from the typical Far East sound, which is bright and vibrant bordering on sibilant. Some like that and for some genre it is a good mix. One of my $100 recommendations happens to be from that sound category and boasts a company name with three letters. But the A4K takes a different path. With a smooth sound that would make Snoop Dogg walk with a little bit more swagger, the A4K comes across as an alternative to that commonly bright signature. And with a thoroughly satisfying note and amount of detail. Timbre is not typical with what some would call splendid clarity, but that does not matter in the overall picture here. With mids that come across as near-luscious but not drippy the A4K has much to offer.
The build is disappointing compared to the others at this price and fit with silicon’s can lead to a less than perfect seal, allowing some leakage. But I found that to be less than some other reviewers note, so that could very well be down to ear shape. I liken what Final has done with the A-series to what they did with the Sonorous series. They made a killer TOTL and worked backwards providing the listener with a model albeit partially filled the further down you go; yet still satisfying. Many say the A8000 is amongst the best they have heard, along with the Sonorous X. I would love to hear both. But I do have the Sonorous III and it gives me a very pleasant sound for the price. And in that same vein, the A4K provides me with a thoroughly satisfying smooth textured signature. I’m just not sure if that is enough to dethrone some of the offerings compared above. It should be listened to though for your own judgement.
I thank @Audio46 for the tour, and it is because of vendors such as this (and others in which I have participated) that we can get the voices out regarding products. Call it what you will, but I do feel this is a valuable and needed experience for the hobby.