REVIEW: FINAL B SERIES IEMS COMPARED
The Final B Series of universal in-ear monitors was announced last month. The new range of single Balanced Armature and hybrid designs ranges from £259 to £599, and we've been testing them out.
B Series - B2, B3, B1
£259, £439, £599 respectively
A trio of new models that make up Final's B Series looked great in the press release and are even better in the metal.
B Series Design
The B1, B2 and B3 sport substantial metal injection moulded (MIM) stainless steel housings enhanced with premium CVD coatings that promise excellent durability.
Potentially confusingly, the models don't run up the range as you would think. The B2 model sports a single Balanced Armature (BA) design and is the entry-level to the series. The B3 is next with a pair of BA drivers, and the flagship B1 is equipped with a hybrid set-up of one BA and a dynamic driver.
Additionally, the latter two come bundled with Final's silver-coated cable. The cable was actually jointly-developed and is currently manufactured by the well-renowned Junkosha corporation for use with the “Kei” supercomputer due to its fast signal transmission speed.
The finish on the earpieces is beautiful. The most eye-catching to us is the B1's mirror polished rose gold housing. Initially a bit bling for us we soon came to love it. The B3 comes in a matte silver frost finish, perfect for those with Mac Books, while the B2 is wrapped in a slightly darker brushed gunmetal coat.
Within that shiny rose gold housing, the B1 sports a 6.4mm dynamic driver partnered with a single BA. Final states that “There is no parsing of the frequency range by a network” so we are taking that this is a non-active crossover design.
The 36g earphones have a 94dB sensitivity and 13 Ohm impedance.
Final's aim for the B1 is the clarity of vocals and musical instruments to give the listener an overwhelming presence and feeling of liveliness as if standing in the centre of a stage performance.
Apple fans of Space Grey rejoice as the B3's silver frost finish is a pretty good match.
With a pair of BA drivers, the 36g IEMs aims to deliver excellent clarity over the whole frequency range. With a quoted 102dB sensitivity and 19 Ohm impedance, Final's B3 earphones are designed with a focus on high range sound and to enable you to hear the subtle nuances of a piano and picked guitar.
The gunmetal-finished B2's 41 Ohm impedance on a single BA design has been tuned to particularly suit rich spatial recordings such as classical music. Here Final wants to take “advantage of the reflections and reverberation of a concert hall as well as live recordings to reproduce the feeling of being there”.
The B2 has managed to save you money by not coming with one of those special Kei cables. Instead, you get an OFC cable which also probably suits the mid-bass tuning of the IEMs better.
Packaging and Accessories
The Final B Series IEMs arrive in an understated, classy white box with gold printing. Already we feel that we have been presented with a high-end product. There's no need to shout about what's inside if the product can prove itself.
As well as the IEMs, you get five pairs of ear tips and a pair of earhooks, which is a neat addition and something we only really see with sports-specific ear pleasers.
Also in the box is a nifty, low-profile silicone carrying case. The compact case will keep the lint and other nasties found in your bag or pocket away from their precious cargo. The case will also keep them from light water spills.
Firstly, the rose gold housings of the B1 have prompted quite a few positive remarks from workmates. Even people on the London Underground have asked what the earphones were and, as you probably already know, *nobody* talks to strangers on The Tube.
We were told to expect a more intimate soundstage; however, there is still plenty of depth in the presentation. What was quickly discovered was the precise placement of vocals and instrumentation.
Orchestral music was a particular delight through these earphones thanks to the excellent separation and handling of dynamics.
The upper register is crystal-clear, accurate and just on the right side of clinical. But, these attributes work well with complex classical arrangements and enables strings and piano to be picked out and gives them energy and lift.
However, it's the mids that appear to do much of the work for the B1. These are defined and really help vocals (literally) sing. Nick Cave's vocals in Red Right Hand wraps around my consciousness and pulls me in to hear his every breath and annunciation. The B1 also works well for ASMR-esque sounds as we discovered when playing Billie Eilish's album. Her close mic-ed vocals and semi-whispered words are picked out exquisitely.
Naturally, we can't talk about Billie Eilish without also mentioning the B1's bass response. The bedroom-recorded modern classic has heaps of low-end magic, and the B1 renders bass energetically without getting too flappy-boomy, to use a technical phrase. There is good presence, but the bass from the dynamic driver is a little on the cold side, so there are moments where upright or fretless bass lacks a bit of their expected warmth. However, this might be more of a personal taste kind of thing.
There is good synergy between the dynamic driver and balanced armatures in the B1, and this hybrid design works well, providing good articulation and a well-spaced soundstage.
The B2 is the less expensive offering here and armed with a single BA per side we were expecting them to have to really work to be able to cover the whole range.
The first thing we noticed was that the B2 required us to nudge up the volume, which is probably due to their higher impedance rating.
The B2 are the kings of the mids here. Vocals, especially female vocals, are well-appointed. We found ourselves picking out choice tracks by Tori Amos, Bjork, Kate Bush, Goldfrapp more often than not.
That said, string quartets and pieces for harpsichord and strings also fared rather well through the B2 earphones. In that respect, Rodrigo y Gabriela's frenetic guitar playing cut through perfectly.
The low-end won't satisfy bass-hunters although there is enough there to add texture, contrast and some warmth. However, the trade-off is fast and responsive bass that never over-shadows the vocal melodies.
Finally, treble adds to the mid-range clarity and gives an intimacy to the performances. Again, we found this a little light in comparison to the mids with some loss of detail, especially on closed high-hats during some Jazz standards.
In all, the intimacy and mid-range focus would have us recommend the B2 to those who favour singer-songwriters, folk and strings.
Third in the review but second in pricing; sporting a pair of BA drivers and bundled with the silver cable, the B3 promises to be the all-rounder of the group.
We weren't expecting much from the BA drivers in terms of bass, but the B3 was a pleasant surprise. The low frequencies retain plenty of texture as well as punch. Rhythm sections from the likes of The Wedding Present, The Wonderstuff and The Levellers all came through with enough bass to get your head bobbing. Furthermore, electronica was also well catered for in this regard with Senser's energy coming through loud and clear on tracks such as Age of Panic and States of Mind.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the register, the trebles were pin-sharp as expected from BA drivers. The rich high-end never got grating but did add heaps of detail and gave the B3 an exciting V-shaped sound profile. We tend to prefer a flatter response, but we certainly enjoyed rock and classic hip-hop through the B3. These choices also seem to work well with Final's aim of creating a more focused and intimate soundstage. That said, the B3 does not lack depth.
Finally, the mid-range holds everything together and ensures that vocals aren't lost in the mix. Additionally, the punchy mids also aid in separation and placement. Whether listening to PiL or The Sex Pistols, we can definitely hear where the band are stood relative to Mr Lydon.
The B Series has something for pretty much everyone. The finish on all the earpieces is genuinely high-end, but it's the B1 rose gold that we fell in love with - that was a surprise for us too!
The B3's exciting sound signature is excellent for Indie and 80s rock as well as classic hip-hop. The double BA giving you plenty of clarity and sparkle.
The B2 we'd put forward for lovers of all things acoustic - well unless you love your pipe organ recordings as you might find these a tad bass-light in that respect.
For us though, the B1 was head of the class. This was the set that we generally reached out for when heading to the daily commute. The exceptionally dazzling finish grew on us, but it was the realistic vocals matched with enough low-end weight and mid-range clarity that won us over.
For more information, head on over to Final Audio Design.
|Housing||Stainless steel mirror-finished (Rose Gold)||Stainless steel (gunmetal finish)||Stainless steel (frost silver)|
|Driver||1D＋1BA (Networkless)||1BA||2BA (Networkless)|
|Cable||OFC silver coated cable||OFC Black cable||OFC silver coated cable|
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
Get the latest.
Sign up to discover the best news and reviews from StereoNET UK in our FREE Newsletter.
Kralk Audio 30 Range of Loudspeakers Debut at The Audio Show, Leamington Spa 2019
Amazon Music HD Lands on BluOS - DALI, Bluesound, NAD
Amazon Music HD Streaming Takes on TIDAL, Qobuz, Spotify and More with Hi-Res Audio Collection
Sean Hargreaves and KEF Blade 2 Sound Tasting at Tileyard Studios
Arcam Enhances HDA AV Line With New AVRs, Power Amplifiers and AV Processor
Mitchell & Johnson - British Hi-Fi Company Blames Brexit for Closure
Review of Naim Uniti Atom with Focal Aria 906 Speakers Bundle Deal
Onkyo Announces the TX-RZ3400 11.2-Channel Flagship A/V Receiver
Sonus faber Olympica Nova Range at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019
Focal and Naim Celebrate 8 Years Together With Special System Deals