Class-leading soundstage space and separation, Agile transient response, Fast and defined bass, Strong definition, Comfortable design, Very easy to drive
Brightness is something to consider (especially A4000), Below average isolation, Cable may be prone to splitting
Final Audio’s latest earphones offer unique qualities you won’t find recreated by competitors but also tonalities that differ from the majority. So long as this is to your preference, there is much to like about their detail retrieval and ability to play with space and clarity like few around this price point and well beyond.
Final Audio are a rather profound audio company in that their focus lies not only on audio but also how it is perceived by listeners. In turn, their designs can be highly experimental, and all carry a purpose that works towards the company’s end goals. Each product generation signifies the pursuit of a certain quality and these learnings are then passed down to future, often more affordable models. In turn, the company exists in a state of flux and you can never tell where they’ll take things next. Enter the A3000 and A4000, that bear striking resemblance to the stunning A8000 and B-series that came before. These models undertake an intriguing shift, with a design based upon the differences in listening conditions between audio experts and regular consumers during daily use. Final have invested in offshore manufacturing for a new custom 6mm dynamic driver to slash the price whilst retaining the same quality we’ve come to love from the company.
The A3000 and A4000 come in at $140 and $160 respectively. You can read more about them and treat yourself to a set on hifiheapdhones.
I would like to thank Final Audio and hifiheadphones very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the A3000 and A4000 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
- Page 1: Intro, Unboxing, Design
- Page 2: A3000 Sound Breakdown
- Page 3: A4000 Sound Breakdown
- Page 4: Sources, Comparisons & Verdict
Behind the Design –
f-Core DU Driver
Final designed custom 6mm dynamic drivers from the ground up for the new A-series earphones. Tuning was conducted according to the parameters found most impactful on sound quality established from designing the flagship A8000. This includes material selection, with a brass enclosure that increases rigidity and mass for reduced resonances in addition to offering better electromagnetic shielding. To tune the time-response, Final have implemented an ultra-thin 30-micron CCAW diaphragm on both units and have even reduced the amount of adhesive used to further enhance transient response. They have also introduced a new diaphragm production technique that permits tighter tolerances between each unit. The A3000 was designed to deliver a natural sound with a more robust low-end while the A4000 targets an immersive soundstage with sharp imaging.
Final Audio always provide a great unboxing experience and a well curated accessory set, a mantra that is also embodied with the new A-series earphones. Both come within a clean white box with the case and ear tips inside within a protective foam inlet. The earphones are protected within the included carrying case, it is identical to those included with the E-series earphones, with a matte silicone construction. I love how thoughtful the case design it, the earphones coil neatly inside which prevents kinking of the cable and the flexible lid secures the earphones, so they don’t jostle and scratch each other during transit. As before, Final include 5 pairs of their renowned E-tips with flexible sound tube that aid a strong seal in addition to ear hooks as the cable has no pre-moulded ear guides nor memory wire. The tips have a nice plastic case which keeps them organised. As the earphones now use a 2-pin cable, the MMCX assist tool is not included.
Both earphones have identical designs, varying only in colour scheme – black for the A3000 and a dark navy for the A4000. The shell design is very reminiscent of the B-series and A8000 with a trapezoidal shape that is visually distinct yet also designed to be congruent with the natural folds of the outer ear. However, here, Final have employed an ABS over metal construction leading to a substantially lighter housing. Alongside the price drop, tolerances are noticeably worse than the A8000 though not in a way that would substantially impact longevity nor with sharp edges that would affect comfort. A soft-touch finish with aggressive texture gives a pleasing, tactile in-hand feel.
The cables on both earphones are identical to that included on the E4000 though with 0.78mm 2-pin connectors. As the connectors are both recessed and keyed, aftermarket support will be limited. It isn’t the most robust design, but the OFC cable is of good quality overall. It has essentially zero memory and microphonic noise transmission alongside boasting a very smooth and supple feel. This means the cable stays put well once routed over the ear despite the lack of ear guides and it is highly comfortable during daily wear. The right-angle plug is case-friendly and well-relieved though the cable below the y-split may be prone to splitting due to its design.
Fit & Isolation –
The A3000 and A4000 both provides a very comfortable fit. In fact, I found it slightly more so than the A8000 due to the lighter weight which puts less pressure on the features of the outer ear. Don’t let the angular design fool you, the inner face is rounded and elegantly shaped. In turn, I was able to wear these earphones for hours on end without hotspot formation. They also have a very open feel and minimal wearing pressure due to the obvious venting of the housing. Similarly, there is no driver flex and the fit depth is medium to shallow depending on your choice of ear tip size. Given that both earphones have a brighter top-end, I found a deeper fit to yield the most natural and balanced sound. That said, the design is accommodating of different fit depths should you want to size up tips and go for a brighter presentation. Isolation does suffer due to the vented design, being below average. They are just sufficient for daily use and commute but are not a strong choice for travel and frequent use in loud environments.
A3000 Sound Breakdown
Testing Methodology: Measured using Arta via IEC 711 coupler to Startech external sound card. 7-9KHz peaks may be artefacts/emphasised due to my measurement setup, less so with deep fit. Measurements besides channel balance are volume matched at 1KHz. Fit depth normalised to my best abilities to reduce coupler resonance. Still, due to these factors, my measurements may not accurately reflect the earphone or measurements taken by others. I gave the A3000 and A4000 100hrs burn-in to ensure maximum performance prior to subjective breakdown.
Coming from the E-series, the A-series definitely pursue a style of sound more reminiscent of the A8000 with a brighter, tonally cleaner expression now made more “accessible” with a mild bump in the bass. The A3000 represents this well as what I would characterise as a slightly bright, slightly W-shaped earphone offering a mild mid-bass bump balancing out a steady climb through the midrange and plateau in the treble until a small 8kHz peak (note: emphasized on my measurements due to coupler resonance). It’s an atypical tuning with no dip in the top-end to redeems smoothness or density and a slightly sucked out lower-midrange that increases separation and definition. This approach delivers an open, tonally clean and well-separated sound that hasn’t been pushed too forward or bright so as to sacrifice overall balance and listenability.
The A3000 has moderate sub-bass extension and minimal pressure as is typical from micro-driver earphones – though the E-series represents an exception in this regard. The mid-bass has medium emphasis just above and is the source of the A3000’s fullness. Bass then falls off progressively into a recessed lower midrange. The timbre is slightly tubby due to the mid-bass hump and notes are pleasantly full, though not overly warm or rounded. Overall, a fast and punchy sound that upholds good timbral accuracy.
Control operates on a good level but can get a bit sloppy on complex tracks relative to high-end DD options. Still, though emphasis isn’t huge, bass certainly occupies good presence in the sound and, despite this, is quick in both attack and decay, especially for the price. This helps to redeem separation and contributes to strong mid-bass definition. The sub-bass is lacking some slam and dynamics are affected as a result. Altogether, this is a punchy, articulate and well-detailed performer with a relatively clean bass-boosted signature.
Following a dip in the lower-midrange, the A3000 implements a small centre-midrange hump to bring vocals forward followed by an incremental climb through the upper midrange and lower treble. In turn, this isn’t a smooth, full or especially coherent sounding earphone. Instead, it prioritises clarity, extension and separation. Being well-separated from the bass, the tone is dead neutral. Similarly, though resolution is not outstanding, definition and clarity operate on a high level throughout the midrange. There is evident bias towards vocals over instruments and some bias towards female over male vocals. Body is on the thin side, though sufficient to avoid a metallic timbre or hollowness.
The voicing is impressively natural too though quite articulate so vocals on poorly mastered tracks can lie on the cusp of sibilance. However, they aren’t peaky or strained as vocal size remains very respectable and body is ample. This is a deliberately coloured style of sound so don’t expect a perfect timbre. What elevates the A4000 above many brighter earphones around this price and above, is that there isn’t a huge bias towards the upper-mids, so I’d characterise it more as an articulate and delicate over forward and upfront presentation, achieving relative parity with the bass. In turn, you reap the benefits of huge clarity without huge intensity, a good combo.
The A3000 has a smart treble tuning that provides the listener with that “high-end IEM” sound at an accessible price. Some may call it cheating as this earphone is tuned to grant the impression of an extended and detailed sound, even if the fine nuances and upper-treble sparkle are mostly absent. I do think the execution matters most and that it is tastefully done here. Of note, the midrange does generally steals the show on this earphone, though treble does have a little more presence than it when called for by the track. This is so as emphasis hasn’t been placed in the lower-treble, much like the upper-midrange and accordingly, the A3000 achieves its qualities without excessive forwardness or sharpness.
Instead, the lower-treble showcases good linearity and emphasis about on par with the upper-midrange. Instruments are imbued with a pleasing euphonic tone and just slightly thin body in turn. A quick transient response delivers a crisp, detail dense foreground with very strong in-class fine detail retrieval. What defines this earphone more, however, is the middle-treble peak around 8kHz. This instigates its open, airy sound and establishes heaps of headroom. To reiterate, extension and resolution are not enormous but the tuning does help to extract maximum fine and background detail from its sound. It isn’t the cleanest, most contrasted presentation as a result, and layers aren’t especially defined. Though the A3000 is very nicely detailed for the price and does so without excessive glare or sharpness.
I feel that high separation is often misconstrued for a spacious soundstage and this appears to be the case here. The A3000 doesn’t have a huge soundstage if judging with price as no object, but still has good amounts of space and makes very good use of what it has. Width and depth both outperform its asking price, stretching nicely beyond the head. The stage is also well-rounded, and imaging is quite sharp too on behalf of its clear directional cues and agility. It isn’t especially multi-dimensional nor organised and layered. But it is easy to localise most lateral elements unless the track is especially busy. Separation is the A3000’s forte, being a very strong performer. This makes the smaller details easier to perceive and works in tandem with its airy tuning to grant a strong sense of openness.
A4000 Sound Breakdown
Interestingly, the A4000 isn’t so much of an immediate upgrade from the A3000 as it assumes a relatively different approach to a similar kind of sound and may polarise more due to its reduced tri-frequency balance. Perusing Final’s marketing, balance and linearity never appeared to be the goals here. The A4000 instead offers a bright V-shaped sound with strong clarity counterbalanced by a healthy boost to sub-bass energy. It provides stronger contrast and even higher-separation than the A3000 at the cost of balance and coherence. As before, the tone is neutral though now occasionally pushed slightly cool in tone. The A4000 introduces a more forward bass but also brings up the midrange to an even greater extent. Its treble doesn’t feel quite as aggressive in so doing. Clearly, neither of these earphones cater towards those wanting perfect timbre or linearity. What the A4000 does provide is a quick, defined note presentation that works in tandem with revealing tuning to offer technical ability rarely seen at this price point.
The A4000 has slightly more bias towards the sub-bass compared to the A3000 and slightly less bass presence relative to its midrange overall. It is tonally cleaner and more dynamic with slightly improved sub-bass extension delivering a heavier slam than its cheaper sibling if still not a heap of pressure and rumble. The timbre is also a bit more accurate. Notes are bold and slightly enlarged but the mid-bass is cleaner and more separated. Accordingly, the slight tubbiness is gone. This creates a more dynamic and defined sounding presentation that does sound more aggressively textured and also more composed on busy tracks.
In addition to boasting a cleaner tuning, the A4000 also appears to offer a faster bass than the A3000. Again, it isn’t as warm or full in the mid-bass, its greater deep-bass focus working to the benefit of separation. However, it does appear generally more composed and resolving. Attack and decay are very fast, especially in its price class and mid-bass is highly articulate and textured. Bass isn’t huge and occupies a little less presence than on the A3000. However, technically, the agility and definition on display do exceed its price class.
Where the A3000 gunned for a more W-shaped signature with mid-bass, vocals and treble in equal measure, the A4000 places more overt emphasis on its midrange. More specifically, the upper-midrange is now considerably more prominent, being lifted to a greater extent than its bass. By contrast, the lower-midrange dip is exacerbated, creating a thinner, higher contrast and also higher energy sound. The A4000 is more forward and also more obviously bright in its expression. The tone is no longer reliably neutral but can be cool on some tracks. Though similarly not a metallic sound, the A4000’s vocals can sound a bit diminished and strained.
Male vocals especially have a proclivity to sound a bit dry and, at worst, even hollow though this is rarely the case. Female vocals, though similarly coloured, are generally well-represented, being delicate and clear. This is an articulate monitor and, similar to the A300, is borderline sibilant on some tracks though just shy of it. It isn’t excessively sharp or intimate, but the A4000 does swing a bit excessively into brightness for my liking; to the extent that the voicing and timbre are negatively affected. I do enjoy the clarity and it is surely a highly defined and open sounding earphone that said.
Though the graphs do look vastly different, the treble tuning in the context of its midrange tuning, doesn’t sound a whole lot brighter than the A3000. In fact, it even sounds a bit smoother as the midrange sits in front of the lower-treble as opposed to slightly behind. In turn, treble sounds less isolated and more linear. Due to the nature of human hearing, I do perceive a slight upper-harmonic lift despite the linearity on graph. This means treble instrumentation, as before, has a nice tone and timbre but slightly thin body and a crisp presentation that draws focus towards the minutiae.
The A4000 is a touch sharper in terms of transient response than the A3000 and, thereby, provides a slightly more detailed image much like the bass. Given that it is already a brighter sounding earphone, this can make it sound fatiguing at times. As before, the background is on the airy, open and brighter side, though less obviously so here as the middle-treble isn’t as emphasized by comparison. It retains an open and airy image with abundant headroom and introduces no additional extension, sparkle or micro-detail above.
The A4000’s technical bump over the A3000 is clearly evident when it comes to soundstage. It takes the strong in-class performance of that model and expands the stage into what can universally be considered spacious. Of course, there are high-end models that do exceed this, but I can’t think of an IEM remotely close to the A4000 with a similar soundstage. The size is exacerbated by much more defined layering than the A3000 and sharper imaging. In addition, the same excellent separation remains which only heightens the perception of space, air and openness.
Both earphones sporting a single dynamic driver setup with a modest 18-ohm impedance. The A3000 is slightly less sensitive at 98dB while the A4000 has a 100dB sensitivity, meaning both are efficient and easy to drive.
Output Impedance Sensitivity
Neither the A3000 nor A4000 were especially prone to frequency response change with differing output impedance when switching between the Hiby R6 (10-ohm) and Shanling M2X (1-ohm). This means they will sound very similar from all linear sources and are suitable for smartphone listening too.
Like the E-series, the A-series earphones scale very well with higher end sources. Though I would not consider them as source sensitive as those earphones as their bass isn’t as prone to bloat, driver control was clearly improved on my desktop THX789 stack as opposed to the portable Shanling M2X, itself a fine source. Treble was also noticeably sharper and more defined, the soundstage wider on the desktop amp.
Suggested Pair Ups
The A-series earphones are very accommodating in terms of source pairings. Their clean tuning means suboptimal driver control doesn’t overly harm their presentation. Similarly, output impedance has minimal effect on the sound signature. In turn, they are happily driven from a smartphone or portable source while still having the ability to scale with a higher-end or larger desktop source. Both benefit from a warmer source pairing which helps to aid coherence and a natural timbre.
Final A3000 ($140) vs A4000 ($160): The A3000 is actually slightly more balanced, the A4000 being higher contrast and more high-frequency biased. The A4000 is more technical that said, its bass extends a bit deeper and it has more sub-bass weight alongside a more linear mid-bass. It’s low end is noticeably tighter and faster. The midrange is more natural in return on the A3000, not as forward and not as over-articulated, if still very clear and a bit raspy. It has a bit more body and a slightly more natural voicing.
The A4000 takes it one step further, being more vocal-forward but also even thinner with a cooler tone. Though it is more revealing, it can fatigue over time. The A4000 has a more forward lower-treble and sounds crisper and slightly more detailed. The A3000 prefers an airier middle-treble, its foreground is not as aggressive but it retains a lot of air and openness. Despite this, the A4000 has the superior soundstage in terms of both size and sharpness. It also has slightly better separation over the already well-performing A3000.
Final A3000 ($140) vs Moondrop Aria ($79): The Aria is a staple around this price range with a mature tuning and technical bump over the former Starfield. The A3000 offers a slightly flatter bass and a smoother upper-midrange set to a brighter treble. Both offer similar bass extension and tuning, the A3000 is noticeably faster and more controlled, the Aria having slower decay and lower definition. The midrange is a touch more upfront on the Aria balanced out by a slightly smoother treble. It sounds a bit more coherent and similarly is very tonally clean.
The A3000 is more articulate with slightly thinner body and higher definition but also a bit more rasp. Neither are sharp or overwhelming nor suitable for those averse to forwardness here. The A3000 has a sharper treble, middle-treble especially, the Aria having a bit more aggression in the lower-treble. Despite this, the A3000 is noticeably more detailed, especially fine detail retrieval and it has more headroom. However, it is also a fair bit brighter which may polarise. The A3000 has a leg up on soundstage, being more spacious with better separation while the Aria has slightly better layering.
Final A3000 ($140) vs BQEYZ Summer ($129): The Summer brings the technically accomplished tribrid driver setup of the Spring-series to a lower price point. Both earphones offer similar balance overall and a slight W-shaped character. The Summer has more bass emphasis, especially in the mid and sub-bass. It has better extension too with heavier slam and greater dynamics. Meanwhile, the A3000 offers a quicker, more defined mid-bass and more separation. The Summer is slightly more vocal forward counterbalanced by its slightly bigger bass, both offer a natural voicing here.
The Summer has more warmth in the midrange and is a little smoother in articulation, granting is a slightly more coherent presentation. The A3000 is cleaner and more textured with greater clarity and extension. The top-end is brighter on the A3000 and the Summer comes across as a little peakier though generally smoother. The A3000 has more body and greater fine detail retrieval in the foreground at the cost of being quite a bit brighter, while the Summer has slightly better extension and a cleaner background. Despite this, I find the A3000 to offer a larger soundstage and it has noticeably better separation too.
Final A3000 ($140) vs Shozy CP ($165): The CP also targets a clean sound but offers stronger linearity than the more strongly contrasted A3000. Its mid-bass is fuller and punchier while the A3000 offers noticeably deeper extension and greater rumble. With its BA bass, the CP is faster and more defined though the A3000 is not far behind and has greater texture alongside similar separation. The A3000 is slightly brighter in the high-end and midrange. The CP has a more even midrange with a bit more body and a smoother articulation.
It is similarly quite clear and clean in tone, only lightly warm. Subjectively, the CP offers a more accurate timbre though both are natural voiced, the A3000 simply being glossier with stronger focus on clarity and extension. The A3000 has higher definition in return. The treble is brighter on the A3000 as well, but it is also noticeably more detailed in the foreground with greater headroom, the CP rolling off relatively early. The A3000 has a much wider soundstage than the CP.
Final A4000 ($160) vs E4000 ($150): The A4000 provides a brighter tilt, the E4000 a warmer and more coherent voicing. The E4000 has a deeper extending and substantially more emphasized bass, mid-bass especially. Bass holds most presence in its sound and is full and warm. The A4000 is much cleaner without the mid-bass bump, it is more linear and separated. However, both have equal driver control and agility, the E4000 is fuller, with more rumble and texture, the A4000 is cleaner and more detailed. The midrange is clearer and more defined on the A4000 but also much thinner, raspier and much more forward.
The E4000 has a much more natural medium warm tone, a more natural and coherent vocal presentation, if being slightly laid-back. It has a more organic timbre while the A4000 is more separated and revealing. The A4000 also has a brighter top-end, the E4000 being smoother and a little less linear. The A4000 has a lot more headroom and is more resolving. It has a larger soundstage and is much more separated. The E4000 sounds more coherent and layered in return but certainly has less air and space to play with especially with its fuller note structure.
A4000 ($160) vs Fiio FH3 ($150): The FH3 is a strong performing and a well-tuned hybrid at a reasonable price. It is more balanced than the A4000 with greater bass presence. It has a bit more sub-bass extension and slam but also less agility and definition through the mid-bass. Both are similarly tuned with a sub-bass bias, the A4000 is a bit more linear and textured. The midrange is brighter and thinner on the A4000. The FH3 is also neutrally toned and clean but is balanced out by a smoother upper-midrange and lower-treble.
In turn, the FH3 sounds more refined and coherent. Its note structure is more complete where the A4000 is brighter with more clarity and vocal intimacy, trading coherence for greater openness. The FH3 has a more accurate timbre and less vocal bias whilst retaining a neutral tone. The A4000 is a brighter earphone in the treble, it has more bite and crunch though the FH3 has a bit more fine-detail retrieval in the foreground. It also has a cleaner background where the A4000 offers a bit more air and headroom. The A4000 has a much larger soundstage and slightly sharper imaging while the FH3 has better layering.
As Final Audio’s approach to sound design has evolved so too have their once quite experimental models become generally more accessible to the average listener. The A-series then represent a foil to the palatable, warm and coherent E-series, introducing a much cleaner and clearer style of tuning. Technical strides have also been made alongside enhancements to the soundstage; which can easily be considered class leading in both space and separation. Do note that these IEMs do not attempt to recreate the A8000 experience, rather, they offer a similar focus on speed, definition and cleanliness, but scaled down and, in some capacity, achieved through altering the sound tuning rather than the raw technical ability of Final’s flagship.
Though neither will win awards for timbral accuracy, I won’t discredit Final’s intentions here; as the company is clearly making a statement about how said sound tuning can be used to change the perception of other qualities in the presentation. I feel the A-series represents this ethos strongly. The A3000 does so in a manner that doesn’t affect tri-frequency balance, thereby representing the more versatile tonality. Meanwhile, the A4000 offers a technical bump and an especially immersive soundstage, but also introduces an undeniable high-frequency focus that will polarise more. This enables Final Audio’s latest earphones to offer unique qualities that you won’t find recreated by competitors if also tonalities that differ from the majority. So long as this is to your preference, there is much to like about their detail retrieval and ability to play with space and clarity like few around this price point and well beyond.
The Final Audio A3000 and A4000 can be purchased from hifiheadphones for £99 and £119 respectively at the time of review. I am not affiliated with hifiheadphones or Final Audio and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.
Track List –
AKMU – SAILING
Billy Joel – The Stranger
Cream – Wheels of Fire
Crush – Digital Lover
Daryl Hall & John Oates – Voices
Dire Straits – Communique
Dirty Loops – Next To You
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
H.E.R – I Used To Know Her
Joji – Sanctuary
Kanye West – Ye
Radiohead – OK Computer
TALA – ain’t leavin` without you
The Beatles – Abbey Road
The weeknd – After Hours