Review: Final Audio FI-BA-A1 and FI-BA-SB balanced armature earphones
Review Link: Final Audio FI-BA-SB Heaven S and FI-BA-A1 Heaven A
More pictures at TMA's front page article: Final Audio FI-BA-A1 and FI-BA-SB balanced armature earphones
Okay, this review will come in baby steps before it is published in full at TouchMyApps. Suffice it to say that Final Audio Design have finally (get it?) smacked a nearly perfect product on the market. The FI-BA-A1 (currently, the only one I've spent time with), sounds amazing from a lowly iPod shuffle 1G.
What the A1 has going for it: big, controlled bass and a smooth midrange. Treble sparkle is there, but not maybe as in great quantities as the Ortofon eQ7. Rather, it has space and speed, but it comes with more finesse.
FAD 1601 SS is a great earphone, but it has serious problems in its upper and lower range. FAD may think it is perfect, but it isn't. Without EQ, the 1601 cannot sound amazing. With it, it is one of the most deliriously good sounding earphones I've ever heard.
The FI-BA-A1, however, is most of the way there without EQ and clumsy fit.
It is lighter, easier to use, very comfortable, has tremendous bass, and can be used outside.
Final Audio, thank you, this one is a keeper.
Final review to follow in a couple of weeks. This is only the preliminary.
Okay, here's an update. I spent about an hour with the SB (brass and expensive) version today with the following music: Nick Cave, Broken Social Scene, Madeleine Peyroux, and Jesse Cook. Eclecticism aside, I think I found the difference between the two housings. Many times, I've denounced plastic housing as it makes upper bass boom and echo, darkening everything, or killing the midrange. For metal, however, there is sometimes a strange treble echo.
Now, having tried: Steel, Brass, and aluminium, I am almost ready to say that aluminium bests brass in the same housing. The A1 is not neutral, but it is overall easier to listen to than the SB brass version. But its cable is so below standard (thin, poorly relieved), that I would opt for the SB version. But, music like Broken Social Scene that has a lot of upper midrange/treble energy can get chaotic. It isn't sibiliant, but it is hot, perhaps too hot for that music. Jesse Cook is mostly fine, with just an accent on the upper end that isn't there with the A1 version.
Bass seems comparable so far. I've not gotten to trance with the SB version, but the A1 is very nice.
Well, in a strange turnaround, the A1 is a little more refined than the SB, but I'll let that speak wonders for its price rather than the overall product. I've been wandering around the city with the SB (as it is much more robust than the A1) version and have come to the following conclusions: the SB's cable, which lacks a neck cinch, isn't bad at all. I think it is probably FAD's best cable to date. That said, it makes a goodly amount of noise when you walk. It bumps around and transfers clicks to the ears when worn straight down. Wearing the cable dripped over the ear isn't uncomfortable, but because there is no cinch, it can start to wag away, and is a bit annoying.
Enter the vegetable tie = a simple clip around the cables just below the shirt collar or just above it. This method makes the SB's cable perfectly at home whilst out and about. And, for Mozart and Beethoven, the SB is my favourite earphone by far.
Thanks for that great review.
How does the SB compare to tf10s? More specifically the bass quality/quantity and the mids (positioning). The bass on the tf10s have just about the right quantity, but it is mostly mid bass the lower bass rolls off a little to early for my taste. One last question and I apologize if I missed it in your review. Does the port leak sound, will it bother people next to me in the library ?
You know, I need to borrow the TF10 as I've not heard them for about 3 months. The bass doesn't roll off in any audible sense (Fi series), but to the ear it may punch higher (and thus not sound as low) as some dynamic driver earphones. Overall, this is one of the most impressive balanced armature earphones I've heard. I will add impressions with my bass benchmark: Markus Schulz Mainstage (from album progression) soon.
The sound doesn't leak out much at all and it doesn't leak 'in' either. Really, the port may be very very little effect. At the same time, I don't listen very loudly (around 70-75dB). I would caution people not to raise the volume louder than 1/3 on an iPod touch for instance, but I know that won't stop them from going farther.
Any earphone, even the most sealed customs, will leak eventually given the right volume. Even the ACS T1 will leak given overloud volumes. be careful of your hearing, friend.
Well I'm definitely interested in these, so I'll keep a look out for those impressions. If they perform well it will be hard for me to choose between the sb, sm2, and sm3 as an upgrade to my tf10s.
On a side note, is there a reliable way to guesstimate db output from iems? Typically my files are set at 89 db album gain and I listen at about 50% volume with tf10s or 60% with turbines on an iphone 4.
hi i just read your review on fad heaven it was really informative but I can't make my mind about these (mind-crossed)but from your prespective is fad heaven brass or aluminum upgrade from ck100 because i have ck100 but do you think spending money on fad heaven is worth sacrificing the wallet.
thanks again for taking your time for the review.......
@hh3808 - That sounds a little 'loud', though I've not replay-gained my albums. When I use a TF10, I tend to sit at around 20-30% - but my albums could be 'loudness war' curved!
@Syed786As for your question regarding the CK100, Syed, I feel that the SB and A1 are both more tpyical sound signatures than the CK100 is. Both are smooth with pretty powerful bottom ends with visceral impact. But the CK100, despite a pretty hot high end:
1. isolates more
2. is much more sturdy
3. is light
4. has the best cable in the industry
Sound is up to you - if you don't use your earphones for exercise, the CK100 are overkill in terms of build quality. But if you do ride excitedly, the CK100 are one of the best in the industry. At this level, there isn't really an 'upgrade' per se - more like very likeable side grades. the SB and A1 are heavenly (if I may pun), but they are still just high end earphones.
At the same time, after using excellently made and great sounding earphones from: Audio Technica, FAD, and Ortofon, I wonder how other companies: Earsonics, Westone, UE, etc., can get away with cheap plastic cases.
If you don't 'need' a new earphone, stay with the CK100 - it is an excellent choice.
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