Final is a well-regarded Japanese manufacturer of high-performance headphones and earphones; the company started out in 1974 as Final Audio Design under the leadership of the legendary audio designer Kanemori Takai. Sadly, Takai-san passed away in June of 2014, but his passionate and emphatically ‘music first’ legacy lives on in the firm’s new President and chief of product design, Mitsuru Hosoo. Under Hosoo-san’s leadership the company became simply ‘Final’ in 2015, while at the same time announcing its two most ambitious headphones to date: the flagship SONOROUS X (£3,699) and its sibling, the SONOROUS VIII (£2,299).
As anyone who has heard these top Final models can attest, they offer a rich, sumptuous, beautifully detailed, and supremely engaging sound that causes audio journalists to wax poetic on the subject of ‘musicality’. The SONOROUS X and VIII are headphones that music lovers could happily enjoy for hours on end, provided they could handle the cost of entry. But recognising that many music lovers are understandably price sensitive, we have chosen to focus our attention on one of the most affordable models in Finals’ SONOROUS-series line up: namely, the SONOROUS III (£299).
Given the dramatic price disparity between the SONOROUS X and the SONOROUS III, you might think that very little of the flagship model’s design know-how and sonic character would have trickled down to the SONOROUS III, but in this assumption you would be mistaken. In point of fact, there are a lot of structural and underlying design detail similarities between the SONOROUS X and its accessibly-priced little brother.
If you placed the SONOROUS X and SONOROUS III on a table side by side, you would immediately see that the two share the same general frame, headband, and ear cup designs, although the SONOROUS X is executed using far more exotic materials. For example, the X features precision made and highly polished stainless steel and aluminium ear cups (and other frame and driver baffle components), whereas the III uses less costly and more commonplace moulded, textured ABS ear cups (this is the same sort of material often used to form modern camera bodies). Stated another way, the SONOROUS X looks as if it was crafted for royal users, while the SONOROUS III—pleasing though it is—has what we Americans would call ‘the common touch’ (a term we intend as praise, by the way). Even so, the general shape and overall industrial design of the two models is strikingly similar
On the inside, still more similarities become apparent. The SONOROUS X uses a 50mm dynamic driver with a finely crafted titanium diaphragm that is integrated with a rigid front plate assembly machined from billet aluminium. The significance of this design says Final, is that it at once suppresses unwanted resonance while at the same time enhancing clarity. Realistically, you wouldn’t expect the SONOROUS III to use the exact same driver as the SONOROUS X and it doesn’t; however, Final points out that the III does use, “the same diaphragm employed with SONOROUS X”, although with a front plate moulded from a “hard resin that is comprised of hard polycarbonate strengthened with 30% glass added to it.”