Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac (5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.02), HP Z230 Workstation Win7/64, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming and Spotify Plus 320mbps on both computers, Fore Audio DAISy1, COS Engineering D1, Aqua Hifi La Scala II, Metrum Hex, AURALiC Vega, Questyle QP1R (AIFF), Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio (AIFF), Soundaware Esther M1Pro (AIFF/FLAC)
Headphone amps: Bakoon AMP-12R, Questyle CMA-800R (x2), Eversound Essence, Vinnie Rossi LIO
Headphones: Forza Audio Works recabled Audeze LCD-2/XC & Sennheiser HD800; MrSpeakers Alpha Prime, stock HifiMan HE1000 (3.5mm, 6.3mm, 4-pin XLR), ALO-rewired Beyerdynamic T1 & T5p; Aëdle VK-1; Meze Headphones 99 Classic; Final Sonorous III; Campfire Audio Orion, Lyra and Jupiter
Review component retail: €179, €269 and €459 for F3100, F4100 and F7200 respectively


Miniaturization. In hifi, ongoing cause for wonder is the exploding portable realm. Be it smarter phones with ever cleverer apps; shrinking players with 256GB or more music memory on one or two thumbnail-sized micro SD cards; in-ear monitors with ten drivers per ear like the Kaiser 10 by Noble Audio... anyone with an alive inner kid not yet inured to the unbelievable tech marvels of miniaturization must think it all quite HP magical. Obviously IEM are too small to house much more than a 16mm* dynamic driver, never mind 10 per side. Instead of such a type so common with loudspeakers, many IEM exploit so-called balanced armatures; or BA for short. As the graphic shows, a balanced armature operates in very tightly defined quarters. All SPL generate inside a tiny canister. A bore in its nozzle emits sound. A rectangular diaphragm very close to the canister's upper wall attaches to a U-shaped armature via a rod. Magnets around the armature's free end enfold it in a magnetic field. Input electrical signal moves that arm, hence also the attached diaphragm. It's an effective solution tiny enough to allow multi-way IEM with xovers just like speakers. And like with loudspeaker drivers where a handful of suppliers dominate, a number of vendors supply the majority of IEM makers with their raw BA units. It's the rarer headphone firm who mint their own. Which segues neatly into Japanese brand Final who do.

* That's the size Final use in their Piano Forte range (sample at right). At 8.5mm, the driver in Ken Ball's Campfire Lyra dynamic model is half the diameter to illustrate the range of typical dimensions for such drivers.

The voodoo you do. Those Cole Porter lyrics snuggle up nicely to Final's new F range trio. Their current twofold portfolio contains six full-size circumaural models called Sonorous III to X; and a bigger in-ear half that splits out into 7 dynamic and 12 BA models. Each IEM type splits once more into two distinctive ranges called Piano Forte and Adagio for the dynamics; and Heaven and F for the BA (plus two solitary BA units called FI-BA-SS and Lab-1). Under consideration today are the F models called, in descending order, F7200, F4100 and F3100. Typical Final, what distinguishes models in one series is often just the quality of materials and finishes whilst basic geometry, drivers and industrial design are shared. This was the case for the previously reviewed Sonorous X, Sonorous VI and Sonorous III where higher numbers signify higher cost and ambitions (and where, in our case, X marks our first meet with Final to include background intel not revisited since).

Likewise for our three F models. They all share the same 5.5mm diameter straight barrel design with single BA inside; and 106dB sensitivity at 42Ω. Like the upward Sonorous progression, weight increases as the model numbers do. That means 10g for the 3100, 12g for the 4100 and 23g for the 7200. And like Sonorous, finishing/build escalates, here from a black-anodized alloy of aluminium and magnesium for the first two to stainless steel for the range topper. The costlier two get detachable Swiss MMCX connectors but the cabling for the F4100 is high-purity OFC copper in a very thin black sleeve whilst the F7200 gets a silver-coated equivalent that's twisted into a double-thick clear-finished braid to sparkle like a fine jewelry necklace. In fact, that cable "was designed and is still manufactured by Junkosha Corp for use with the Kei super computer. The dielectric is PFA developed by Junkosha for their Junflon brand." Common to all is the notion that closer proximity to the ear drum nets a more vivid direct sound (hence the barrel's minimum diameter and straight line for max insertion); and that different rubber and foam tips strategically alter just how far these will go in. Also, one may manipulate the distance between tip and exit bore for more custom tuning. Finally all three get the same carrying case with wraparound groove for the cable. To end basic introductions, pricing goes from €179 to €269 to €459.