Build, design and comfort
The A8000 is designed to be worn in an over-ear fashion with the cables worn ‘up’ and looped over the top of the listener’s ears, with the shells resting inside their outer ear. Those stainless steel shells are relatively sizable – no doubt to provide enough room for that ‘Tetra-Chamber’. I was concerned about getting a snug fit as my ears are on the smaller side, but happily, they fit in perfectly. I must note that there is a rather sharp edge on the rear of each shell which may cause some discomfort for some listeners depending on the shape of your ear – of course, your mileage may vary. If you’re spending this kind of dough on a pair of earphones, please, please try them out properly beforehand.
Like all things that I’ve experienced from Final, the cable supplied with the A8000 is absolutely first-rate and feels absolutely ‘artisanal’. The braided material is of the highest quality construction and it manages to keep its form over its 1.2-metre length without kinking or tangling. It’s superb. Microphonics are almost non-existent and its non-matte outer plastic covering avoids those nasty ‘shirt-rubbing’ noises. I must make one stark observation regarding the cable here, and that is the fact that it’s single-ended only. Now, I know that being a tiny 16-ohm impedance/102dB sensitivity IEM it doesn’t require much to make them ‘go’, but most prospective high-end IEM owners are likely to own fancy digital players with either 2.5mm or 4.4mm balanced outputs. I can promise you that the A8000 sounds exquisite with the supplied cable, but those hoping to run a balanced set-up will need to look aftermarket, I’m afraid. A balanced cable would have been nice at this price, but then again – the likely gains are nominal at best. Interestingly, the D8000 is provided with two cables, neither of which are balanced (I’d be interested in hearing what Final’s ‘house policy’ on balanced headphones are, but I digress).
The IEM design combined with the cable made for an entirely comfortable listening experience. Ear discomfort and microphonics were completely non-existent, which makes the A8000 ‘disappear’ – I found that I genuinely forgot I was wearing them, which means that they’re an entirely ‘all-day’ proposition. The supplied ear-tips are of terrific quality and the second-largest size happened to fit perfectly right out of the box – I didn’t need to roll any other tips to find a perfect seal. Passive isolation with the A8000 is reasonable, but don’t expect ANC-levels of outside-world-blocking abilities. This is likely impacted by a small port on the inside of each shell which allows for air that is displaced by those Beryllium drivers to be expelled.
That domed Final storage case is nice for desktop storage but it’s not exactly the most practical piece of IEM-luggage that I’ve encountered. You might want to invest in something a little more practical for on-the-go storage to protect your investment such as a Pelican-style case.
The biggest design feature of the A8000 is without a doubt the chromed silvery finish on their geometric, multi-faceted shells. There’s no missing them – they’re certainly eye-catching. I think this feature will be likely to split opinions, and whether you like this approach will depend on your taste in aesthetics and engineering philosophy. I can certainly appreciate the exquisite craftsmanship that’s gone into them, but it’s perhaps a little too opulent-looking for me. My main concern with their design, however, is a practical one. They ARE going to get scratched. Even if you ‘baby’ the A8000, tiny scratches and imperfections are going to appear on that perfectly polished stainless steel which shows-up absolutely everything – fingerprints included (side note: they are a b*tch to photograph, but that’s my problem!).
Having said that, if you are buying the A8000 it’s no doubt for their sonic ability rather than to for you to keep them on display as an artistic statement piece. While that superb Japanese craftsmanship might get slightly dulled from daily usage, the build on the A8000 is without doubt first-rate and they feel built to last. As long as you’re ok with the inevitable ‘character-building’ marks that ownership will impart on the A8000, they’re unquestionably able to perform as both a daily-driver portable IEM and quite possibly as your primary desktop earphones as well. And why not? If you’re spending this level of dollarydoos on a piece of audio equipment you should be able to enjoy them as much as possible – providing that you enjoy their sound signature and that they are in-fact able to go toe-to-toe with full-size headphones. Let’s see how they manage on either front.
The review continues over the jump on page 3.