This week we reviewed the Final Sonorous VI, a hybrid model equipped with a 50mm dynamic driver for the lows and a balanced armature driver for the mids and highs in each earpiece. This design extends the headphones’ frequency range and optimizes tonal balance. Despite its imposing size, typical of over-ear hi-fi models, these €649 Final headphones have a very low impedance of 8 ohms, meaning they are mainly intended to be powered by the headphone output of a stereo amplifier, a moderately powerful headphone amplifier, a DAP or even a smartphone.
Final Sonorous VI: the brand
Final Audio Design, or Final as it is more commonly known, is a Japanese brand founded in 1974 by Kanemori Takai. At the time, the company was mainly focused on designing a range of phono cartridges. Final’s first model used a coil shaped like a figure eight and a cantilever and stylus cut from a one-carat diamond. This revolutionary design was a huge hit with audiophiles for its ability to produce a clear sound without any of the disturbances that come from an adhesive or an iron core. While continuing to produce its iconic phono cartridges, Final Audio branched out rather quickly and began making amplifiers, preamplifiers and speakers.
In the 80s, Final Audio Design began designing compact speakers, producing iconic models such as the Final Audio Design Conbrio and Conbust, but also the huge Final Audio Design Opus 304 horn speaker. The latter was renewed in the 90s with the Opus 384 speaker. This period also saw the introduction of a new range of electronics with the Final Music 5 preamplifier and the Final Music 6 power amplifier.
The 2000s marked a turning point for Final Audio Design who decided to fully dedicate itself to the development and design of headphones and in-ear monitors. In 2007, the brand joined forces with Molex, the world’s second largest connector manufacturer, to expand its range of headphones and speakers. In 2014, the high-end audio device manufacturer “Final” was integrated into Final Audio Design’s IEM and headphones department. Final then became the shared brand name and the company logo was changed. From this partnership emerged some of the brand’s most outstanding models, such as the Final FI-BA-SST25, Final FI-BA-SST35 and Final F7200 in-ear monitors, the Final Audio D8000 and Final Sonorous III headphones, and of course the Final Sonorous VI headphones of this review.
Final Sonorous VI: packaging & accessories
The Final Sonorous VI headphones come in an elegant box that features an exploded view of the earpiece and drivers on the back. Inside the box, the Final Sonorous VI headphones are positioned vertically and are held in place by a cardboard support. They come with a 1.5m removable double mini-jack to 3.5mm mini-jack cable. A 3.5mm mini-jack to 6.35mm jack adapter is also included so you can easily connect the headphones to any audio source.
Final Sonorous VI: presentation
Design and comfort
The Final Sonorous VI headphones’ design remains true to the traditions of the Japanese brand. The headphones have an imposing silhouette and seem particularly solid. The earpieces have aluminum shells with an extruded center to make room for a pivot. Hidden behind a circle adorned with the brand logo, this allows the earpieces to be articulated to fit the user’s head. They move noiselessly and follow the listener’s movements effortlessly. In addition, these earpieces can be adjusted in height by sliding them along an aluminum rod connected to the headband of the headphones. The adjustment range is wide and very precise, making these headphones an ergonomic model that adapts easily to all body types.
The Final Sonorous VI headphones have a closed-back, over-ear design. The ear pads are wide, entirely cover the user’s ears and provide good acoustic isolation. They benefit from memory foam padding covered with leatherette, a material that is also found on the Final Sonorous VI headphones’ wide headband. Also padded, the headband is designed to optimally distribute the 450 grams of the headphones. The Final Sonorous VI headphones are quite heavy, but remain relatively comfortable once they’re worn. The weight distribution is therefore very well thought out. The support is excellent and you can move around, walk or even run without the headphones coming off. Depending on the shape and size of the listener’s head, the ear pads tend to put a little pressure on the jaw after long listening sessions. Moreover, when the headphones are used at the lowest height setting, the aluminum bars used to adjust the position of the earpieces can protrude quite a bit and snag on the user’s collar or shoulder.
The Final Sonorous VI has a hybrid design, a feature that is usually reserved for in-ear monitors rather than headphones. Each of its large over-ear earpieces holds a 50mm dynamic driver coupled to a balanced armature driver. The dynamic transducer is designed to bring authority and substance to the lows, with great nuance. The balanced armature transducer reproduces the mids and highs. It provides a clear sound and excellent linearity.
To optimize the performance of the drivers without reaching saturation, Final Audio’s engineers placed them inside a chamber resembling an acoustic horn that amplifies the sounds produced. The result is a more powerful and accurate sound reproduction, allowing the Final Audio Sonorous VI headphones to reach a sound pressure level of 112dB without saturation while maintaining balanced frequencies across the entire frequency range. The headphones also have a low impedance of 8 ohms, which makes it easy to pair them with a low-power portable device. It is therefore possible to use them with a smartphone or tablet, although it is always preferable to pair them with a DAP to enjoy all the musicality they have to offer.
The Final Sonorous VI headphones come with a 1.5 meter long removable cable. It features a robust polymer sheath that prevents any tangles or permanent distortion. At the end that connects to the earpieces, the cable is equipped with two 3.5mm mini-jack connectors. These connectors are made of high-quality metal and are gold plated. They feature a locking system to prevent disconnection when there is any tension on the cable. At the other end, the Final Sonorous VI’s cable has a metal 3.5mm mini-jack plug which is also gold plated.
- Type: closed-back headphones
- Coupling: over-ear
- Shell materials: stainless steel + ABS
- Driver type: 2 50mm dynamic drivers + 2 balanced armature drivers
- Balancing Air Movement technology
- Wide adjustable headband, padded and covered with leatherette
- Leatherette covered earpads
- Acoustic pressure (SPL): 112dB at 1kHz
- Impedance: 8 ohms
- 1.5m long removable cable with locking system
- 3.5mm gold plated mini-jack stereo connector
- Weight: 450g
Final Sonorous VI: listening conditions
For our review of the Final Sonorous VI headphones, we first paired them with the Shanling M6 and Shanling Q1 DAPs. These DAPs are capable of delivering 160mW and 80mW into 32 ohms respectively. As a result, they had no trouble powering the Final Sonorous VI. We also paired the headphones to a Class A Nuprime headphone amplifier using the included mini-jack to 6.35mm jack adapter. With large bandwidths, these three systems are perfect for achieving the best performance with the Final Sonorous VI headphones.
Final Sonorous VI: listening impressions
Before beginning our test, we let the Final Sonorous VI headphones run for a few hours to break them in. The 50mm dynamic transducer needs to be broken in order to move properly, otherwise it may produce a cold, unbalanced sound. Our first listening sessions were a little disappointing, with a lack of balance as well as dry, muted lows. After a few hours of being broken in, the Final Sonorous VI’s sound completely transformed. The headphones sounded more natural and dynamic, and the lower end of the spectrum was explored more fully.
Overall, the Final Sonorous VI headphones were nicely balanced. The lows were deep and lively, the mids rich and nuanced, and the highs were bursting with information and details. With the track Dancin’ Til Dawn by Lenny Kravitz, the percussion was crystalline and nicely outlined. The saxophone notes were well textures and brought depth to the soundstage, which was pleasantly wide for a pair of headphones with a closed-back design. Moreover, this closed design proved great acoustic isolation, allowing the Final Sonorous VI headphones to be used outdoors and in public transport.
The lows were deep and lively, the mids rich and nuanced, and the highs were bursting with information and details.
Thanks to their low impedance of 8 ohms, the Final Sonorous VI headphones’ volume level was very satisfactory, even when the volume of the source was low. This is important for preserving the battery of the paired smartphone or DAP. It also allows for better control of the drivers and greater balance with moderately powerful sources.
Final Sonorous VI: compared to…
Grado RS-2e: sold for €665, the Grado headphones are an on-ear model, making them much lighter and more compact than the Final Sonorous VI. It also has an open-back design that provides a wider and more spacious soundstage. However, the sound isn’t as balanced, with a U-shaped sound signature that highlights the lows and highs. The mids are somewhat subdued.
Focal Elegia: these hi-fi headphones are an over-ear model sold for €699. They are equipped with Focal M-type drivers with an aluminum and magnesium dome (Alu/Mg). This design gives the headphones a more linear frequency response and allows them to retrieve even finer details in the highs. The Focal Elegia are also more comfortable thanks to their velvet covered earpads.
Sony MDR-Z7 M2: sold for the same price, the Sony MDR-Z7 M2 headphones are specifically designed to reproduce the subtleties and richness of high definition sound. It used 70mm drivers that are paired with powerful neodymium magnets. This design provides a frequency response ranging from 4Hz to 100kHz. They are even more dynamic, with fuller bass and excellent detail. However, the soundstage is somewhat narrower. It also requires a more powerful power supply to be properly driven.
Final Sonorous VI: conclusion
The Final Sonorous VI headphones are very well made with their wide padded earpieces and aluminum shells. They adapt nicely to all head shapes and sizes thanks to the pivot system on the earpieces, as well as their ultra-precise height adjustment. The hybrid design of the Final Sonorous VI headphones ensures the sound is always balanced and natural. The lows were powerful and deep, the mids textured and the highs clear and packed full of details. Its low impedance means it can be powered by a portable source such as a smartphone, a tablet or a DAP like the Shanling M6 we used for this review. It is also possible to use a traditional hi-fi source like a headphone amplifier, so long as its output power is reasonable. When it is too high and no gain control is available, volume adjustment won’t be very smooth.
What we liked
- The design
- The earpiece adjustment
- The low impedance that makes them easy to power
- The tonal balance
- The deep bass
What we would have liked
- For them to have been lighter
- A balanced cable
- Shorter aluminum rods for the height adjustment