One gets the impression that Final really did consider every aspect to make for the best user experience. Given my prior reviews on their over-the-ear models, I wasn't surprised. But it bears repeating. This company are all about perfectionism, even at price points that don't induce nose bleed. By having on hand all three F models, I could, as I'd done earlier for three Campfire Audio IEM, report on what more money buys as one migrates up inside a product range.


To get a hint on how this might apply relative to Final's total catalogue, I asked my contact Jojo Hiramatsu. For the F series (whose initial distills the company name suggesting special placement), what design brief had their engineers been given? Clearly it wasn't a generic "we need more models, get busy". Their oeuvre is quite sprawling already. To someone shopping purely on brochures, it gets confusing quickly. How to draw out anything pertinent about sonic differences? I obviously didn't expect Final to review or critique their own catalogue. They must love every single model. I was simply hoping for certain basics to develop a coarse map across Final's sprawling urban product depth.


As the Heaven VIII model in the overlay shows, for certain ranges or the top models inside a range, Final pull out all the stops on finish detailing. Here it involves metal injection moulding. "Fine metal powder is mixed with a binder. After moulding this with a die as is done with resin, the form gets sintered in a furnace at exceedingly high temperatures. With this method, freedom of form and precision are high but it is very difficult to finish the surface. Hence the process is not often used for parts whose external appearance is displayed." Higher manufacturing difficulties reflect in higher sell prices. Beauty costs.


On my overview questions, Jojo promised to get back with something shortly. Before we get to her answers, let's quickly inspect the goods. From Japan to rural Ireland, their dispatch took from an afternoon Friday pickup in Yokohama to a Tuesday early PM delivery in Westport, i.e. 4 days including a weekend. The infrastructure of global shippers was hard at work to manifest quite instant gratification. How very Nescafe.


Tucked inside paperback-sized gloss paper sleeves, each F model clearly marked 'sample' arrived in one of the below flip-lid boxes. The headphone sits inside the round black rubber pod. That's about the size of a wine glass base. One side of its flip-out core holds the 'phones. The other is for the mini plug secured behind its own lid. The cable wraps around the core's outside groove. This soft travel pouch is a brilliantly engineered piece of accessory, with various nubs to close up securely. It struck me a bit like a deep-sea jelly fish on a Discovery Channel episode. Because it is so round and spongy, it's cozy in a front pant pocket, with no sharp corners to catch when sitting down. Two small ziploc bags in the other recess of the box hold the rubber/foam tips and plastic ear hooks. The only thing still missing with my early samples were channel markings for the 4100 and 7200 (the 3100 already had them)*; and small brushes to clean the tips with. No matter how Q-tipsy you are, using anything inside your ear canal tends to leave waxy particles. Those one likes to remove with tiny bristles. If you're still not crystal on the size of these IEM, their length doesn't exceed the diameter of a €2 coin. Miniaturization indeed. It gives one respect for the involved machining, never mind what goes into actually making one of the tiny inside drivers to begin with.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

* Whilst I was told the others also had L/R identifiers, I couldn't spy them even with a loupe. However, the Final brand name engraves mirror-imaged. That can be very easily used instead. Make sure that before inserting these into your ears, their script facing you reads proper, i.e. left to right for each ear. That'll have you sorted in a jiffy.


From Jojo Hiramatsu, we learn how Final themselves view the flavour/style progressions inside their F range. "Compared with the F7200 and F4100, the F3100's bass is very powerful and more exciting for Pop and light Rock music. Compared to the F7200, the F4100 is warmer and very good for listening to female vocals with a very well-balanced tuning. The specific nature of the F7200 is to have fresh dynamical highs, a smooth midband and tight low bass. Its stainless steel housing creates a very wide soundstage. That's especially good for enjoying the reverberations of female vocals or classical music. Of course the F7200 reproduces other genres equally well." On what the F models do different/better than other IEM models Final already have, Jojo called it a good question for which they could give us "a very good explanation". To wit, "we observed that most users don't wear their earbuds with a proper fit. As we all know, IEM rely on a tight fit and good seal for best sound quality. That's why we felt that an IEM with adjustable fit should be in our portfolio. When we started the development of the Heaven series, insertion into the ear canal as deep as possible was our target. Hence we used a long thin shape. But at the time, the size of the Heaven models was still a limitation of our development. It was longer and thicker than we really wanted it to be.


"After we developed the Heaven series, we kept thinking about how to achieve our goal of improved fit for users who were dissatisfied with that aspect of the Heaven series. To reduce friction noise from wearer movements, of the cable against clothes, we also had used a flat cable for the Heaven models but still wanted a more effective cable-behind-ear solution to reduce contact noise. Finally, the Heaven models don't detach and we had a lot of requests for detachable cables. For us it's hard to say whether the sound quality of the F range is better because it's a matter of personal preference. However, we can say that the response of the F series is flatter than Heaven, more like a Sonorous II, III and VIII, X." GIven that Final aren't professional reviewers whilst I couldn't design headphones if my life depended on it, this was perfectly sufficient for our purposes. Time to do my job. ( For those unfamiliar with the concept of "wear noise", it's microphonic feedback from a cable rubbing on clothes. When fed from a portable tucked into a shirt or coat pocket, an IEM cable will invariably run across your chest and move with head movements. Minimizing noise from such cable reactions is what Final are on about here.)