Final Audio B1 Review
Exciting pairing: The headphone specialist Final combines a balanced armature tweeter with a dynamic bass driver in the classy B1 in-ear – and thus two different sound converter principles. This team promises an overwhelming clarity, presence, and liveliness of the playback. We put the Final Audio B1 in our ears to test it out.
Final? The Japanese audio brand has made an excellent name for itself as a manufacturer of high-end products since 1974. Thanks to its excellent expertise, it has also developed and manufactured products for other brands as an OEM and ODM partner. In 2009, the company began specializing in high-quality and top-quality headphones for products under its name and other manufacturers. Final pairs this know-how with the latest findings and gradually brings the current state of development into its B series. With this in-ear series, the Japanese explore the various possibilities of “balanced armature” technology and different sound adjustments. The numbering of the models Final Audio B1, B2, and B3 presented does not indicate any gradation in quality or price. It simply stands for the sequence in which it was created. The B1 is the first in this portfolio – and then also the top model in the series. So let’s take a closer look at this fascinating transducer and its amazing technology.
It couldn’t be more elegant: The Final Audio B1 is presented in a case made of the finest stainless steel, coated with a rose gold finish. This highly polished coating is flawlessly executed. The fit of the two halves of the case is excellent. The body appears to be made of a gold casting. Wow! The B1 exudes a high quality in which the visual and haptic impression coincide. The F1 is not exactly lightweight at eight grams, but these headphones will surprise us when wearing comfort. In addition, there is an extremely striking design: the body is, on the one hand, angular and rich in edges. On the other hand, Final has created a design with a high recognition value with this fractal shape.
On the other hand, the body is adapted to human hearing so that it clings smoothly to the auricle. A small hole on the inside shows us that the Final Audio B1 is equipped with a pressure equalization valve. This is how the considerable pressure that the sound transducer team builds up is moderated.
Balanced Armature – the slightly different sound conversion
Final uses a balanced armature driver for the higher frequency range. Balanced Armature, BA for short, means “balanced armature.” This armature is freely movable in the magnetic field of a permanent magnet – precisely in the center of the field, where no resultant force acts on the armature. Thus, it hovers in a more or less freely balanced manner. A coil also surrounds the armature. The music signal flows through them in the form of an electric current. This current now magnetizes the armature. As a result, it is magnetically attracted or repelled. It then passes this movement onto the membrane. This is done via the rod-shaped drive that firmly connects the armature and membrane. The membrane, which is also moving, generates sound waves thanks to its larger oscillating surface – in other words: music. This ingenious principle has several advantages: The driver can be built very small, highly efficient, and with low impedance. These are ideal properties for energy-efficient use in in-ear headphones.
Teamwork with a dynamic woofer
However, sophisticated technology requires a lot of know-how and a complex manufacturing process. This is reflected in the price. The BA drivers can be used in various ways: Either as a single converter or in a more sonically advantageous combination, whereby each driver can be optimized for a specific frequency range. Combining a BA driver with a conventional dynamic loudspeaker is also common because as much as the BA principle scores with openness and richness of detail, impulse fidelity, and dynamics, it sometimes has its limits in the bass. Such a hybrid system also works in the Final Audio B1: A dynamic 6.4-millimeter bass driver supports the balanced armature tweeter. Final succeeded in this dual configuration without the sound-influencing crossover. Instead, the tuning is implemented in the housing via the volume and the resonance chamber. As a result, the Final Audio B1 offers an advantageously low impedance of 13 ohms and a relatively low sensitivity of 94 decibels/milliwatt. Here, however, the headphones will surprise us a second time in the practical test.
Important players: the earpieces
In addition to the transducers, the earmolds also play an important role in in-ears. They are decisive for the wearing comfort and decisive for the sound. Only when the fitting pieces sit perfectly in the ear can the necessary seal, which is crucial for the acoustic functioning, be achieved: Only then are all frequencies of the music correctly transmitted to the eardrum. That is why Final supplies five different sized pairs of ear pads – and they are of excellent quality. Other manufacturers also appreciate this quality. They also supply their in-ears with easily insertable but non-slip attachments from Final. In addition, the ear tips are color-coded at the base: red stands for right, gray for left. So you can quickly see which in-ear belongs in which ear, even in darker surroundings.
For connection to a player, the Final Audio B1 offers a 1.2-meter long cable made of silver-coated pure copper. The fine wires for the two channels are coated with clear plastic and then twisted in a spiral. This looks very attractive, prevents knots during use, and ensures that the cable does not transmit any noise caused by body contact and vibrations when carried. This cable does not constantly dangle in front of your chest and stomach. It doesn’t hang down on the headphones but is guided up over and then behind the ear. This is reminiscent of the in-ear systems that musicians use on stage. This defined cable routing ensures that the system fits perfectly. With the B1, this is supported by a transparent, tube-like ear hook into which the cable is inserted. Its soft plastic makes it more comfortable to wear and also reduces environmental noise. Thanks to the MMCX connector, the cable can be removed from the headphones in no time at all.
The Final Audio B1 in practice
In the case of an in-ear, the practical test naturally starts with pulling it on and inserting it into the ear. Only a perfect fit and a clean seal guarantee a high level of comfort, good insulation against environmental noise, and maximum sound quality. So: First of all, determine the correct size of the earmolds. With five pairs included, there is the right size for each ear. The insertion is unfamiliar for people using an IEM with a molded earpiece for the first time and leads the cable over the ear. But it’s child’s play with that. Seldom have we seen in-ears so easily and smoothly insertable. In addition, the B1 is very comfortable to wear despite its angular shape. Even it’s not so lightweight is not noticeable. Barely dressed, the B1 has already been faded out – especially since it stays perfectly in position. In addition to the non-slip adapters, the over-the-ear guidance that stabilizes the seat is well worth it. Great!
Good efficiency despite low sensitivity
We also choose exquisite teammates for such fine headphones. The Pioneer XDP-300R HiRes player serves as the source. The Cayin C9 is used as a mobile headphone amplifier. We can leave the volume potentiometer in the lower range and set the gain switch to low mode. Surprisingly, despite its low sensitivity of 94 decibels/milliwatt, the B1 does not require a powerful drive. Also, directly on the HiRes player and on the LG 30 smartphone-connected, the Final Audio B1 delivers a decent performance in terms of efficiency. Musically we start with “Summer Vibe.” This is a relaxed jazz number with a nice Latin groove that fits the season. The Japanese quintet Beagle Kick delivers with trumpet, guitar, electric piano, bass, and percussion / cajón.
Relaxed summer vibes with a powerful, contoured bass
The first thing we notice is how relaxed the B1 number sounds. This is not a sure-fire success: The superb recording has its harsh moments, especially the trumpet entry with a top note including glissando can sound quite exhausting. But the B1 presents the position as intended: as an impressive calling card for the trumpeter. The beginning of the song starts with bass and drums. Here we pay attention to the bass first because it stands out with its pleasant volume and load capacity. Takashi Sugawa plays acoustic double bass. This acoustic four-string often cannot develop its bass capability through in-ear headphones because it sounds too feeble or thick. The B1, on the other hand, sounds full and defined. A cross-check with “James Taylor’s” Today,
Live playback with dynamic grandeur
Back to “Summer Vibe”: The percussionist Takashi Itani is responsible for the groove in addition to the bassist. On his cajón, this simple box drum, he performs quite an artful percussion. He dynamically grades his patterns very finely – and these differentiations in intensity and volume are a real treat with the B1, which is inherently agile and impulse-faithful: the cajón has real punch, the hits sound precisely accentuated, too a good assertiveness and presence in the quiet passages. This presence fascinates us for a long time: Even after getting on the guitar, trumpet, and keyboards, every instrument has and retains a great presence. This feeling of acoustic corporeality,
How does the B1 behave in personnel-intensive music-making situations? We move from the studio recording room to the Funkhaus in Berlin, where Paavo Järvi conducts the German Chamber Philharmonic Bremen through the final movement of the third symphony. With the Final Audio B1, this outstanding recording of the “Allegro molto” is a real pleasure of discovery. Again we experience this immediacy and presence in addition to a homogeneous, natural representation: We are closer to the musicians. We can locate the individual instruments and follow their musical dialogues. We don’t hear a distant, amorphous body of sound from the back of the hall. This is due to the spatial orientation and depth of the B1: It is not trimmed to the acoustic Cinerama format. For those who like it more spacious or brisk: In addition to the B1, the B series from Final has two different acoustically coordinated models: the B1 in a gunmetal finish, which costs a lot, and the B3 in a silver frost finish, priced at just under 500 Eure. With these sister models, Beethoven sounds significantly different.
Character diversity: the B-series in comparison
The B2 converts sound with a single full-range balanced armature driver. As a result, it has a significantly higher efficiency of 109 decibels and provides more dynamics and pressure. At the same time, it offers a more spacious image but is not quite as elaborate in the heights as the B1. The B1, on the other hand, is noticeably quieter – but also much more direct and distinguished in sound. With the B1, Beethoven’s “Allegro molto” sounds rounder, more integer, especially the tutti reductions after the ambitious beginning give the orchestra a little less brisk but clearer. This is also the direction of the B3, which converts sound with two balanced armature drivers. With an efficiency of 102 decibels, it lies between the B1 and the B3.
Nevertheless, it delivers a full-level bass and is brighter in the high-frequency range. But with the B1, the high-frequency range becomes more harmonious and the bass more profound. And the B1 is also our favorite when it comes to naturalness and relaxation.
The Final Audio B1 is the top model in the series – and the in-ear headphones maintain this position with their acoustic class. The transducer combination of a balanced armature tweeter with a dynamic bass driver delivers an extremely coherent, harmonious, natural reproduction. It particularly impresses with the great presence and liveliness of the image. The B1 also scores with excellent agility and dynamism. In addition, there is a voluminous, defined, articulated bass. These acoustic advantages are found in headphones that shine with their high level of wearing comfort and excellent material, manufacturing quality, and their extraordinary, elegant design with a rose gold finish. With the Final B1, you have gold in your ear, both visually and acoustically.