Details: Distinctive brass-shelled monitor from Final Audio’s BA line
MSRP: est. $379 (manufacturer’s page) (discontinued)
Current Price: $349 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 FI-BA-SB is solidly constructed, with long, rounded metal shells and a flat cable with matching – albeit minimal – strain reliefs. The flat cable is thicker than those found on the other FI-BA earphones but lacks a cinch
Isolation (3.5/5) – Good with the stock single-flanges and even better with aftermarket tips
Microphonics (4/5) – Noise in the flat cable is a little higher than with the thinner cords of the BA-SS and BA-SA but still low even with cable-down wear
Comfort (4/5) – The housings of the BA-SB are on the heavy side but the flat cables don’t hinder over-the-ear wear and the fit is easy-going on the whole
Sound (9/10) – The team at Final Audio Design has never been known to follow convention, and the sound of the FI-BA-SB is highly atypical of an armature-based earphone. Bass is plentiful – for a BA, the BA-SB is punchy and aggressive. It’s not subbass-heavy but has good extension with minimal bloat. Compared to most earphones with similar bass quantity, the BA-SB sounds very quick and clean, though some of the better dynamics, such as the VSonic GR07 and Sony MDR-7550, offer a more natural note presentation and more realistic bass. Compared to the typical TWFK-based earphone – the VSonic GR01, for example – the BA-SB has greater bass quantity at the expense of some of the delicacy, control, and fine detailing that TWFK-based sets are known for. The same goes for comparing it to the Etymotic ER4S or HiFiMan RE272.
The midrange of the FI-BA-SB is smooth and a touch warm compared to flatter sets such as the ER4S and GR01. Like the bass, the mids are forward and aggressive. Overall, the BA-SB sounds colored and boasts a very vivid, lively sound. It makes the Monster MD Trumpet, a respectable performer in every way, sound veiled with its more laid-back mids and softer, slower note presentation. The FI-BA-SB, on the other hand, while neither neutral in tone nor particularly refined, is very resolving, raw, and ‘honest’ in its sound.
The treble of the BA-SB is laid-back compared to the midrange. It remains clear and resolving and the drop in emphasis compared to the mids reminds me of the Fischer Audio SBA-03. It is not as bright or airy as the pricier BA-SS model or dual-driver sets such as the VSonic GR01 and Audio-Technica CK10. At the same time, despite the lower overall treble energy, the BA-SB is not as smooth as the GR01 or HiFiMan RE272, even appearing a touch grainy at times.
The soundstage of the FI-BA-SB is below average in width – narrower than those of the GR01, CK10, and RE272. The general forwardness causes the earphones to lean towards intimacy but the presentation has decent depth to it. Dynamics are impressive for a BA-based earphone and imaging is good enough, providing a well-rounded sonic presentation. Sets that sound more airy and spacious – the VSonic GR01 and GR07, for example – won’t appeal nearly as well those who prefer aggressive, forward sound. Conversely, those who prefer an out-of-the-head presentation may find the sound of the FADs overly small and congested.
It is also worth noting that the BA-SB is an incredibly sensitive earphone, achieving louder volumes than almost anything else out there and hissing noticeably with many amps and sources.
Value (8/10) – In typical FAD fashion, the striking brass shells of the FI-BA-SB house a conventional single BA setup that sounds anything but. It is punchy, aggressive, and dynamic, delivering a vivid sonic image in place of the neutral tone and flat response often expected of armature-based monitors. The design of the earphones is decidedly hit or miss, however, with good isolation and a very solid feel to the housings counterbalancing the lack of proper strain relief, above-average weight, and sparse fit kit. One thing is certain – in terms of bang/buck, the BA-SB makes mincemeat of the higher-end SS model.
Pros: Uniquely colored, lively sound from a single BA
Cons: Minimal strain relief, weighty housings