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Final Audio A8000 Review – Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

The Pitch –

The A8000 is Final Audio’s flagship in-ear and one of the first earphones to feature a pure Beryllium membrane dynamic driver. It retails for £1999 at the time of writing.

Pros –

Jewellery-level build and finish, Great accessory set, Powerful yet lightning-quick bass, TOTL technical performance, Mature tuning, Immersive soundstage and imaging

Cons –

Comfort is fit-depth dependent, Below average isolation, Upper-midrange focus won’t suit all listeners, Mirror-finish shells are easily scratched

Verdict –

If you can stomach Final’s sound colouration alongside the substantial price tag, the A8000 provides extraordinary range and an effortless portrayal of music with agility that belies belief.   

Introduction –

Final Audio are one of those legendary names in audio with a rich legacy of subversive designs. Their products are often bold and experimental, some more orthodox with huge mainstream appeal, others targeting a very select niche. It’s admirable that, throughout their decades of operation, the company has upheld a core desire to pioneer unique and interesting perspectives on the nature of audiophilia itself. And, throughout, we’ve observed a clear evolution of their approach towards earphone design that I’ll touch on below. And, after years of research, these efforts culminate in the A8000, their current flagship in-ear that made a huge buzz for its completely Be driver diaphragm and meticulous engineering. Final takes it back to basics with a single DD design, yet don’t let that fool you for there’s far more here than meets the eye.

You can read all about the A8000 on Final’s product page here and treat yourself to a unit on hifiheadphones. For Final’s full technical breakdown of the A8000, please see their blog post here.

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank the team at Final Audio and KS Distribution very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the A8000 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

Contents –

Specifications –

  • Housing: Stainless
  • Driver: Dynamic Driver (Truly Pure Be Diaphragm)
  • Connector: MMCX
  • Cable: OFC silver coated cable
  • Sensitivity: 102dB
  • Impedance: 16 ohms
  • Weight: 41g

Behind the Design –

Perceptual Transparent Measurement (PTM)

Final Audio have long been fans of research into how listeners perceive music and how to alter this perception. I find it interesting to note how the company’s understanding evolves with each product and we can see a clear progression through each product line. This began with the E-series where the company was focused primarily on a natural frequency response to the B-series where the focus shifted to spatial impression and dynamic range in addition to ergonomic design. The A8000 represents the next step forwards as the company takes their prior learnings and introduces the concept of time response into the equation. They posit that tuning for frequency response alone cannot create a perfectly natural sound. This led to the adoption of the A8000’s unique driver construction and is something that manufacturers are having a growing awareness of such as NXEars.  

Pure Beryllium Diaphragm Dynamic Driver

Though it is debated whether Final were truly the first to implement this driver design, it certainly does not detract from what they’ve accomplished, not to mention, their meticulous execution. And, it is also important to differentiate this from competitors as Be drivers are not uncommon in the modern day. However, the vast majority use a nano-particle deposit or plating onto a resin film, where the A8000’s driver diaphragm is made entirely from ultra-thin Be foil that is ultra-lightweight and offers a higher sound speed second only  to diamond (as per Finals marketing material). Final laud the improved time response for quicker transients and reduced resonances. The driver was also designed and built completely in-house.

Tetra-Chamber Construction

The A8000 has a stainless-steel cut chassis that serves not only to elevate the look and feel but also grant stricter control over the internal acoustics. Similar to the majority of high-end DD IEMs, special focus was placed on the front and rear chambers surrounding the driver, however, Final went a few steps further. The A8000 actually has 3 separate chassis, post-chamber, ante-chamber and MMCX housing in order to suppress unwanted vibrations similar to that seen on Acoustune’s IEMs and remove unwanted variables such as the actual driver/MMCX wiring affecting turbulence. The quad acoustic chamber design grants the company finer control over both FR and time response. Altogether, an immensely impressive piece of art and design.

Junkosha Cable 

Just like the E5000, the A8000 comes with a removable MMCX cable from JUNFLON the same used in the Kei supercomputer. Junkosha also make fast-transmission cables for Japanese marine, aerospace, healthcare and power generation facilities. The cable’s jacket is designed to shield from EMI interference, be flexible and also mitigate microphonic noise. Cables must pass a 50,000 bend test, 10x the industry average. Cable believer or not, the build quality and level of consideration that went into this unit is very welcome.

Unboxing –

As expected, the A8000 makes a statement with its unboxing. Though not outlandish in dimension, the small white hard box provides a premium and elegant experience. Removing the outer sleeve and top cover of the box reveals the earphones beneath a soft fabric and wax paper – I can only say this is a process akin to unearthing a sacred treasure. Within a moulded inlet is the carrying case similar to that included on the higher-end E-series earphones but metal clad for additional protection.

I love these cases, they’re rounded so you don’t have to kink the cable to fit the earphones. The interior is a non-scratch soft silicone with divider that prevents the housings from scratching each other while the silicone lid keeps the earphones snugly seated within their compartment. It’s a smart design especially for the mirror-finish A8000. The earphones are safely secured within alongside a Junkosha cable as seen on the E5000. You also receive 5 pairs of Final’s E-tips within a smart carrying case. Again, these are some of my favourite on the market; they’re shaped similar to Sony Hybrids for a comfortable fit depth and sport a flexible sound tube that offers some degree of personalisation like Spinfits but without nearly as much sonic colouration. I found them to be a perfect fit for the A8000’s sound tuning. In separate bags are spare nozzle filters and a new addition for Final Audio, the MMCX assist tool.

This is an awesome addition that makes removing the cable much easier and safer. MMCX connectors tend to be quite fussy, especially when pulled off-axis. The tool ensures easy removal each time and Final were kind enough to offer the tool for separate purchase as well. It won’t work for earphones with no gap between the earphone and connector but does work for most earphones like Campfire Audio’s for instance. Final Audio are easily making some of the best accessories on the market that are perfectly fit for their own products and greatly improve the user experience.

Design –

It’s easy to appreciate what Final have achieved here, this is an earphone that looks sharp and artistic but feels soft in the ear. The mirror-finish stainless steel housings have heft and solidity that is rarely experienced in the IEM world and would never be mistaken for anything but a premium, flagship design. Meanwhile, its jewellery quality finish screams “made in Japan” with perfect mating between each piece with visible but not palpable seam. The entire construction is steel for a consistent and premium experience. Of course, with this comes some responsibility on the user’s behalf, as the earphones will pick up smudges and scratches easier than most so it is vital to use the included case and isopropyl alcohol with a microfibre cloth makes quick work of oils and dust.

The cable is identical to that on the E5000 and this is not a bad thing. As before, they utilise MMCX and the implementation is up to Final’s usual quality, in fact, they make their connectors in-house and I did notice even tension between sides and an especially affirmative engagement. The cable itself is of good quality with silver conductors and a 4-wire internally braided geometry. The jacket is transparent and doesn’t appear to harden or yellow over time judging from my E5000 which remains factory-fresh to this day. It is a little springy but very smooth and highly tangle resistant. The construction feels robust and hard wearing with each connector employing stainless steel that plays complement to the housings themselves. The right-angle jack has good strain relief though the other connectors sport none at all. There are no ear guides but I found the cable compliant enough not to present issues here nor was microphonic noise exacerbated with the over-ear fit style.

Fit & Isolation –

The A8000 is not a traditionally ergonomic earphone in shape nor is it especially compact. Despite this, I found them comfortable to wear for prolonged listening sessions with zero hotspot formation. For the housings demonstrate a masterful understand of outer ear anatomy with slanted angles conforming to the shape of the ear. The edges are rounded, especially so on the inner face so no sharpness is felt by the user. Due to their slimness, the A8000 manages to be quite low-profile despite their shallower fit-depth so they can be slept on and enjoy minimal wind noise outdoors. Still, care must be taken when selecting the best eartip size as attempting to force a deeper fit with smaller tips can cause some discomfort when the sharp outer face comes into contact with the ear. The short nozzle seems intentional so as to motivate the user to fit the earphone a particular way.

With regards to isolation, the A8000 definitely attenuates less noise than the average IEM. It has obvious venting both for the driver and to equalise pressure in the ear canal to increase wearing comfort. Indeed, this is felt by the user who will enjoy minimal wearing pressure, but so too does its isolation suffer. With their generally more balanced sound tuning, bass does become drowned out in noisy areas, so they are best enjoyed in quieter environments. They will do in a pinch for public transport and commute but are not best enjoyed here and will definitely not be appropriate for noisier environments such as the metro or air travel, even with custom or foam tips.

Next Page: Sound Breakdown

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