Final Audio Design FI-BA-SA Heaven C Review

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Added Aug 2012

Details: Latest addition to FAD’s BA line; replaces the outgoing BA-A1
MSRP: est. $299 (manufacturer’s page) (discontinued)
Current Price: $249 from musicaacoustics.com (discontinued)
Specs: Driver: BA | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 112 dB | Freq: N/A | Cable: 4.6′ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 4.5mm | Preferred tips: MEElec M6 bi-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (3.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes) and oversize zippered carrying case
Build Quality (4/5) – The Final Audio FI-BA-SA is very similar in construction to the BA-SB model with more lightweight chromed shells and thinner cabling more akin to that of the $1100 FI-BA-SS. The cable is very soft and smooth but thinner than average and more tangle-prone compared to the flat cable of the BA-SB. Strain relief is still minimal but a cable cinch is present
Isolation (3.5/5) – Good with the stock single-flanges and even better with aftermarket tips
Microphonics (4.5/5) – Though thin, the cable is nearly silent even in the cord-down configuration
Comfort (4.5/5) – The housings of the BA-SA are much lighter than those of the BA-SB. The cabling is more flexible and comes complete with a cinch to make over-the-ear wear easier. On the whole, their featherlike weight pushes these FADs into don-and-forget territory

Sound (9/10) – The sound of FI-BA-SA is quite similar to that of its brass FI-BA-SB sibling and virtually identical to the now-defunct FI-BA-A1. Overall, its signature is a touch less colored than that of the BA-SB but mostly falls in the same vein. Compared to the SB model, the BA-SA has slightly more linear bass – there is still more mid-bass than a VSonic GR01 or Ety ER4 might have but the difference is just great enough to give the SA a slight advantage in definition over the SB. The SA also remains flatter through the lower mids for a slightly more neutral tone and less fullness, though it retains the forward presentation and overall clarity of the BA-SB.

The top end of the SA is again not overly prominent, taking a small step back compared to the bass and midrange. It is clear and resolving but gives up a touch of the brightness and energy of the SB model. The result is a marginally smoother and more restrained sound that loses some the crispness and excitement of the SB. It does, however, make gains in smoothness, keeping up with the VSonic GR01 even on poorly mastered recordings.

The soundstage of the BA-SA remains unchanged – it is below average in width and tends towards forwardness and intimacy. Depth is decent enough and dynamics are good but the SA will still sound congested compared to a HiFiMan RE272 or Sony MDR-7550. The SA also retains extremely high sensitivity – clearly there is no question that these were designed to be used with portable players.

Value (8/10) – The Final Audio Design FI-BA-SA is a slightly more conservative version of the FI-BA-SB, both in sound and appearance. Physical differences include lighter housings and thinner cables, giving the SA a slightly less solid feel but better long-term comfort and lower microphonics. The sound, too, is potentially less polarizing than that of the SB model, but also less lively and interesting. Technically, the SA may be the more accurate earphone but simply I couldn’t help reaching for the warmer, punchier, and more exotic FI-BA-SB most of the time.

Pros: Extremely lightweight construction, low microphonics, competent sound
Cons: Minimal strain relief, stringy cables, weighty housings


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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