FINAL A4000 Review: Resolving Revelation

Pros
-Very fast and controlled attack
-Great imaging
-Good transparency
-well balanced bright tonality
-textured timbre
-Versatile yet mature sounding
-agressive but not spiky
-holographic soundstage
-price value

Cons
-bass extension and resolution
-timbre while realist isn’t the most natural
-not the widest soundstage
-lack of air and sparkle in treble
-thin lower mid
-2pin connectors are extremely thigh for anything but Final cable
-cheap cable, so so construction

TONALITY: 8.2/10
TECHNICALITIES: 8.8/10
CONSTRUCTION: 7.8/10
SOUND BENEFIT: 8.5/10

I have always admired Final Audio for their sound expertise, as well as their marked interest in the field of psycho-acoustics. They takes the parameters of the sound rendering extremely seriously, sometimes too much will say certain because apart from the Final E3000, E5000 and B1, they have rarely made tuning focused on an entertaining musicality that can charm an audience less inclined to critical listening. In fact, Final may perhaps lack humor, romance, love? But here, it may be a cultural shock, the Japanese are not known for exuberance. Even their attempt at more basshead headphones (E3000) remain quite mature in their presentation.

Today I’m going to review their latest addition, the Final A4000. The A series has for mantra the transparency of the sound reproduction. It follows their psycho-acoustic research for the A8000, their ultra high-end IEM using a 100% pure beryllium diaphragm transducer. I’ve owned and treasured the A8000s for about 2 years, it could represent the end of my quest for aural perfection if my audiophile curiosity weren’t so insatiable (or bulimic). The A8000s have a naturally analytical tone that never falls into artifice, and they have the fastest, most controlled attack-speed I’ve ever heard, restoring the glory of the sometimes-disparaged dynamic transducer for other types of balanced, planar, or electrostatic drivers that don’t seem to be able to achieve the flexibility of a soft, round, big, conical diaphragm.

I want to point this out right away: the A4000s do not follow the same tonality as the A8000s, and their technicality is significantly lower. But, that doesn’t mean they aren’t superior to many earphones in or above their price bracket!

PLEASE NOTE: I am not an avid practitioner of “burn in”, or heating the diaphragm of the transducers. Final suggests 150 hours of stretching…but I don’t think I’ve reached this level. Still, for one of the rare times, the tonal balance and resolution in general was greatly improved after, say, twenty hours of listening. How do I know this? Lots of flaws that I had noticed – like a grainy tone, a badly controlled attack, a lack of cleanliness in the background – have disappeared. Also, the A4000 are capricious on the type of tip, it also seems sensitive to the type of cable but this remains to be proven.



Now the SOUND

(source: TRI TK2-Xduoo XD05plus-Xduoo X20-Xduoo Link BAL2)

The TONALITY
 is vivid, detailed, clear and precise, not neutral because it has a small rise in the bass and high mids, rather a well-balanced W curve. One could say analytical too, but not cold or artificial. It is less well balanced than the A8000, but extremely cohesive and even hyper-realistic. Despite amplified bass, there is almost no bleed. In fact, the A4000 surprises ad infinitum, due to a stunning versatility that surely comes from this little bass boost.
Their musicality remains quite serious and mature, but never boring: they are iem’s that wake up with their alert rendering, always focus.

The TECHNICALITIES
 are excellent, almost incredible in fact in this price range. Yet it is not a pure beryllium transducer! I never understood how a small dynamic transducer of barely 6mm could have this flexibility and fullness of rendering with the E series, now with the A4000s we are at a whole new level of resolution and attack speed. It feel as fast as the F4100 which used a balanced driver, but with full spectrum coverage. The attack is super precise, the resolution extracts the smallest details, the bass have a controlled and fleshy strike, the tone is both transparent and textured, the highs have a sharp grip. The richness of nuance in the more subtle aspects of the sound like dynamic articulation is superb too.

The BASS is fast with good seating but not very linear or deep extension. It is the round strike that dominates here and the presence. The bass lines are well rendered and articulated, and stay in the background as they should. No matter the complexity, speed or number of instruments, the bass lines remain audible, well cut enough and with a realistic tone. The texture grip is very good for both acoustic and electric bass. We are even surprised to appreciate electronic music of the IDM type with the A4000s, due to this authoritative keystroke which does not affect the excellent overall resolution. Even if the extension lacks linearity, its physicality is catchy and versatile, benefiting rock, jazz and classical alike. These are not invasive bass, the boost being quite subtle at times. In fact, I have never heard this type of rendering of low frequencies that can play in a way that is as playful as it is serious and even scholarly. I would say that the separation is good but lacks a bit of space and air, certainly this allows a cohesion in density of sound layer but it is sometimes a little difficult to perfectly extract certain instruments such as kick drum when a bass line is put forward in the mix. A little dry, but round, fleshy and with more weight amplification than well define presence, the unique approach to low frequencies is anything but boring.

The MIDS are of the hyper realistic type with a high resolution, an emphasis in the texture and a slightly dry body. They benefit more from female than male vocals. I would also say that they are quite similar to the Final E2000 midrange but more refined and transparent. In fact, sometimes the mediums take us by surprise, as for example with the rendering of the piano which is almost perfect because it has weight, density, roundness in the notes and also texture, only the resonance seems a little cut due to a not so airy overall presentation. Serious mediums but not cold, how is that possible? You should ask the doctors in psycho-acoustics at Final! Still, I would have preferred an extra ounce of warmth, like with the E4000s for example. The presentation remains quite intimate and centered, a saxophone will lack opening in width but will be precise and fast in its articulation. The female vocals have this stretched and more encompassing presence. Still, to my ears, it lacks romance and emotion in this sound register.

The TREBLE, oh, here’s the highlight of the show and that’s good because it’s the widest frequency spectrum covering about 16 kilohertz (4-20khz), depending on whether we include the presence-texture of the mediums (4-6khz ) and if you have absolute hearing that can go up to 20khz (which I don’t think I can reach, rather 16-17khz for me according to hearing tests). The high frequencies are my favorite thing about the A4000s, it’s energic and incisive without being garish or unbalanced. It’s rich in micro detail and can extract all the richness of intricate texture like the bowing and even its texture on a violin, again, without seeming detached or artificially pushed. Analytical yes, but cohesively. There is brilliance in metal instruments, though the resonance is missing a little after impact. One of the treble’s most notable talents is their attack speed and control, it’s just WOW. Devilish percussions, complex and varied in the timbre-texture sound rendered in all clarity without ever getting artificial. Being a great fan of energetic and syncopated jazz, when the drummer becomes crazy with his percussions and unpredictable, nothing escapes the A4000, he mixes brushes, drumsticks, cymbals and strikes on everything he ”sees”, each detail will be rendered with precision and a little put forward, therefore with an energetic hook in its definition.

SPATIALITY is holographic, circular, at the same time wide, high and deep but not in an extreme way, it remains a little intimate as if we were in a bubble with loudspeakers on all sides.

SOUND IMAGING
 is great. Thanks to this transparency of timbre, we can dig and travel in the layers of sound as well as clearly discern the static location of the instruments.


CONSTRUCTION

Hmm, here I am a bit more puzzled. Because aesthetically, I find the A4000 quite ugly. The matte finish and the use of lightweight plastic lack finesse. It is assembled in three pieces in a hasty way it seems. In this price range, we expect better. Yeah, it’s exactly the same shape as the A8000, but without the play of reflections and asserted angle cuts. But my biggest frustration is with the 2pin connector, really too tight, which makes connecting-disconnecting of other cables really difficult and even dangerous for the cables. It makes me swear alot. Some will find the comfort problematic due to these sharp angle, but I do not have this problem.

Also, the cable is more basic than basic and indeed, changing it as soon as possible is advisable….if you manage to connect another one without going crazy!!

COMPARISONS

VS MOONDROP KATO (1DD-170$)
A vaguely warmer tone, though not so for a Moondrop. The KATO have a lower resolution, a less biting and fast attack but a little fuller mediums. Bass is softer and warmer, less textured and controlled. The mids are fuller, organic, natural and emphatic. The highs are darker and more colorful, extracting only specific parts of the music and shadowing the rest. Technically, it’s noticeably inferior to the A4000s, less peppy and articulate. On the other hand, the spatiality is broader, less intimate although also less deep. The impact of the percussion is more slippery, lacking precision and separation. Cohesion is more consistent than the A4000s, which in this case is a minus. Here, it is the subjective judgment of the musicality that will decide everyone’s preference, because the KATOs are not bad technically and the tone is safer than the A4000s. For vocal music I would go with the KATO, for instrumental and anything that benefits from high resolution and fast attack I would opt for the A4000 which I ultimately find more versatile in performance.

VS HZSOUND HEART MIRROR (1DD-50$)
Sometimes I think my discovery of the HZsound Mirrors is a damnation, in the sense that it complicates my quest for high sonic benefit in other intras below the $500 mark. And even the A4000, master of fast and incisive technicality, is no exception and pales in overall performance against this unbeatable king of sound value. The A4000s are bassier and have a balanced V signature, the energy is concentrated in the impact of the low mids with a less linear and deep extension than the HZMs. The mids are flatter, less energetic and clear, more emphasis on texture and high harmonics. The highs are sandier, much less brilliant and without that natural HZM resonance. The whole is more brutal, less organic, the tone a little thicker but less transparent. The attack is very fast and will not be stunned by many instruments, but the impact unless there is a definite fall and a grip. Spatiality is notably less open, deep, ethereal… silence is rare, there is vice in the air. Sound imaging has less space between instruments, precise definition. To my ears, the A4000s are less refined, polished, transparent, energetic-neutral and extended in both ends than the HZMs which sell for $110 less. It should be noted that the A4000s remain the second champion of technicalities below the $200 mark after the HZMs. Hence the aforementioned damnation.

VS FINAL A8000 (1DD-2000$)
Oh buy, how cruel I am with these A4000s! Well what strikes first is the sound stage of the A8000s, much more open, wide, high and deep. Then the balance is more dynamic, neutral and full, with less dip in the mids, more natural and round overall. Bass dig deeper, move more air, sound more transparent and articulate, better separated. The mids are more prominent, natural and dense in timbre, well delineated and separated in the sound spectrum, the piano has weight and resonance, unlike the A4000 which is drier and thinner. Transparency being a talent that both share, the A8000s have a translucency less cluttered with extraneous noise coming from the emphasis of the high textures. The amplitude games are more complex and varied with the A8000, especially in the midrange and ultra-high. Compared to these highs, the A4000s are much less scintillating, cutting short the resonance extension of an acoustic guitar for example. But don’t forget the price, this time the sound benefit is higher with the A4000s for a technical performance 80% comparable to the A8000s. The attack speed is certainly less elastic but almost similar in the extraction of rapid and palpable sound information. Here, it is the tone of the A8000 that I prefer above all, the emphasis being more varied in its peak frequencies. Let’s say the A8000 is a meticulously carved diamond and the A4000 a rougher diamond, but with similar physical properties.

CONCLUSION

The Final A4000 are perhaps no A8000 but are still excellent as their own. Their level of technicity surpassing near everything in their price range, they sure represent a great sound value. Tonality wise, it will be subjective as always, but the energic balance is very well done. For me it’s a keeper.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s