Last time, I wrote the first section of a two-part review of the new B-series (B1, B2, and B3) earphones from Final. This is part two of that review and it focuses on the B1—the only hybrid design in the range.
To recap, please note that Final is a Japanese personal audio specialist with a reputation for offering products exhibiting very high build quality, innovative designs, and fine sound quality. With the B-series models Final’s engineering team worked specifically on three critical aspects of earphone design: perceived spatial presentation, perceived dynamic range, and the ergonomics of the earphones’ earpieces.
Final emphasises that each B model is optimized to exploit the specific sonic characteristics of certain commonly encountered approaches to music recording. For example, says Final, the B2 is “particularly well suited to rich spatial recordings…” and “…well suited to classical music recordings that take adequate advantage of the reflections and reverberations of a concert hall.” In turn, Final says the B3 is “designed with particular emphasis on clarity…” meaning that it “…caters to those who wish to have the delicate sound of each instrument delivered gorgeously even from live recordings, and enjoy tight vocals from animated soundtracks and EDM.” Last, Final says the B1 is, “designed with particular emphasis on proximity of sound and sense of reality…” such that “clarity of vocals and each musical instrument is extremely high, (offering) overwhelming presence and (a) feeling of liveliness as if standing in the centre of a live stage.”
All “B” models share an angular two-piece earpiece design with shells made of injection-moulded stainless steel. Final likens the shell’s shape to a ‘tripod’ that holds the earpieces in a stable position with “no sense of pressure” in the ear. The B1 is treated to a handsome, Rose Gold-plated, mirror-like finish and it employs one dynamic and one balanced armature-type driver with no crossover network. All B models need run-in to sound their best, but I found the B1 needed more break-in than either the B2 or B3 models—perhaps because it takes longer for the dynamic driver to free up to a point where it can keep pace with the balanced armature driver.
In Part 1 we found the B2 emphasized a wide dynamic range and retrieval of spatial information in recordings, while the B3 sounded “almost like a B2 that has had its imaginary ‘Clarity’ knob turned up to ‘11’.” In comparison (and once it has had sufficient run-in) the B1 offers a vivid, emotionally expressive, and up-close-and-personal perspective on the music. This point was brought home to me as I listened to several tracks from Hildur Gudnadóttir’s dark, brooding, and at times downright unnerving soundtrack for the HBO miniseries Chernobyl [Deutsche Grammophon, MQA]—first through the B2 and B3, and then through the B1.
While the former two earphones did a fine job with the Chernobyl soundtrack, the B1 gave a rendition so intimate and so powerful that it triggered in me almost involuntary sensations of anxiety, foreboding, and dread—the acute sense that a catastrophe was unfolding. It is greatly to the B1’s credit that it was able to evoke such real and strong emotional reactions to the music.
Like the B2 and B3, the B1 (eventually) offers a quality of cut-from-whole-cloth sonic integrity and cohesion. I use the qualifier 'eventually' because—until the B1’s were fully run-in—I did hear subtle signs of discontinuity between their dynamic and balanced drivers. Over time these gradually melted away until the drivers at last coalesced to speak with one coherent and emotionally compelling voice.
Each B model offers specific sonic merits and a distinctive listening perspective on the music being played; which you prefer, then, will have much to do with the types of music you enjoy and the listening perspectives you require. It is a good bet, though, that at least one of the B models will speak in musical terms that hold meaning and beauty for you.
Final B1 universal fit earphones
Type: Universal-fit earphones with hybrid dynamic and balanced armature driver array
Driver complement: One balanced armature driver, one dynamic bass driver, with no crossover network
Frequency response: Not specified
Impedance: 13 Ohms
Finish: Mirror-finish, rose gold-plated
Accessories: Saucer-shaped silicon protective carry case, five pairs of silicone ear tips (XS, S, M, L, XL). 1.2m signal cable with MMCX earphone connectors and silver-plated OFC conductors in a smooth clear twisted-par jack, clear slip-on rubber ear hooks
Price: £599 UK, $699 US
Final/S’NEXT Co. Ltd.
3-12-7 Kitakase, Saiwai-ku, Kawasaki-shi,
Kanagawa 212-0057, JAPAN | URL: snext-final.com
KS Technology Ltd.
A4 Dolphin Way, Shoreham-by-Sea, BN43 6NZ United Kingdom
URL: ksdistribution.co.uk | +44 (0) 1903 768919
Final Audio USA | URL: facebook.com/FinalAudioUSA