The Final B3 is a premium In-Ear Monitor from specialist Japanese manufacturer Final. The B3 has dual drivers housed in stainless steel earpieces.
It’s August and a time when most people are relaxing on the beach and taking a well-earned rest. Not so for tech journalists; August has been a busy month with plenty of products turning up for review. The latest product to pass across my desk is a brand new pair of premium IEMs (In-Ear Monitors) from Final, a Japanese audio brand that was founded way back in 1974 by the late Kanemori Takai.
Final is not a brand that most people outside of Japan will be familiar with, but inside Japan the company has established a reputation for manufacturing and designing groundbreaking turntable cartridge designs, employing a figure of eight air-core coil and a cantilever cut from a one-carat diamond. The result of the Final cartridge design was an extremely clear sound held in high-regard by Japanese audiophiles. And when it comes to turntable cartridges, the Japanese certainly know their stuff with legendary brands like Nagaoka and Koetsu’s legendary Rosewood Series.
Final eventually broadened its product line to include amplifiers, CD players, and even speakers, eventually selling complete audio systems directly to consumers. Then, in 2009, Final acquired its own headphone and earphone factory, and the Final Audio Design brand was established.
Final manufacturers all its own drivers – both dynamic and balanced armature types – and this ensures that the quality and design of drivers always matches the standards that Final is looking for when producing premium earphones.
With its detachable cable connected to the earpiece using the industry-standard MMCX connector, the Final B3's cable can easily be replaced or upgraded.
The B Series from Final is a new departure for the company as these are the first range of earphones it has made that incorporates multiple drivers instead of a single dynamic driver.
Drawing on the experience gained from the popular E-Series of earphones, Final’s engineers are hoping the new multi-driver models will be as successful as their previous earphone models.
For this new series, Final dropped its convention of numbering models in the range and they insist that the price doesn’t necessarily reflect a hierarchy of quality. In other words, buying the most expensive model in the B-Series won’t necessarily take you up the quality ladder, but instead, it delivers an earphone that appeals to a different taste. So, if you like a lighter and more open sound, one of the B-Series might suit you better than the most expensive model in the range. I’m not fully convinced that Final is on to a winner with this strategy as we humans are wedded to the idea of 'more expensive equals better'.
Anyway, I wasn’t chancing the idea when I chose to audition the Final B3, the mid-priced model in the range and one that’s been tuned to appeal to the broadest of musical tastes.
The Final B3 IEMS look very similar to a lot of other earphones coming out of Asia at the moment, particularly from China where some cut-price lookalikes are being made. Some are excellent while others have shoddy build quality and indifferent sonic profiles.
The cable used on the Final B3 is made from oxygen-free copper and plated with silver. The plait of the cable is tighter than shown in this image.
The B3 sports a tightly plaited cable that’s made from silver-plated oxygen-free copper and, unlike a lot of cheaper IEMs, it doesn’t have a loose plait that looks as if it might unravel at the first untangling session. The end is terminated in a shiny chrome, right-angled plug with a standard three-pole 3.5mm jack, designed for use with smartphones, mobile DACs, and digital audio players.
The 1.2m cable is attached to the B3 earpieces using the industry-standard MMCX coaxial plug that enables the earpiece to swivel freely through 360˚, which is a big help when trying to untangle wires. The detachable cable is also ideal for upgrading to a different cable with a remote or, heaven forbid, a replacement cable, should the original get damaged.
The earpieces of the B3 have a sandblasted stainless steel finish rather than Final’s more-usual chrome look. There’s a good selection of silicone ear tips provided in a variety of sizes, plus there’s a pair of silicone ear-hooks that can be used to channel the cables over the top of the listener’s ears for a more secure fit when on the move, and they are also a great way of cutting down on irritating vibrations (microphonics) that can travel up a cable when you're on the move.
The fit of the B3 was perfect for me using the large silicone ear tips supplied. The housings have been designed with up to seven points of contact when resting in the ear, which is probably why they felt so comfortable. It would be easy to swap the tips out for some memory foam ones, such as the excellent Comply brand, but I found the silicone tips made a perfect seal and kept all that lovely Final sound inside my ears.
The Final B3's housings feature seven points of contact with the ear for a comfortable fit.
And so we move on to that Final sound. Firing up the music with the B3s in my ear was a total revelation. The sound stage was so wide and focused but without being taxing on the ears. Some earphones deliver a very technical soundstage that ends up sounding too precise, which makes it hard to listen to because you find yourself concentrating on the placement and details of the instruments instead of the tune.
The B3s present the music in fabulous detail but with a massive dollop of musicality that draws out the rhythm in the recording. The bass notes are handsomely presented with a warmth and softness that just wraps the music around you in a warm embrace. It’s particularly good with acoustic double bass and bass drums. It’s all there in great detail but never overcrowding the midrange with booming sub-bass that can fatigue the ears.
The midrange of the B3s is the real star of the show as everything is presented so clearly. It’s neither too close to the ear, nor too far away. In other words; it’s like Goldilocks’ favorite porridge: just right. The midrange underpins the whole soundstage and it’s what makes the B3s sound so open and fresh with almost any genre of music.
The ear tips provided with the Final B3 IEMs are in a range of five sizes to suit every type of ear.
Because the Final B3s use two balanced-armature drivers – one for the bass and midrange and the other to take care of the treble frequencies – the top end of the music is presented in sharp relief, although not so hard that it could give the listener a headache. There’s sufficient top end to add texture and shape to the plucking of guitar strings or the shimmer of a cymbal crash. I’ve heard a lot of earphones with dual balanced-armature drivers, and they often tend to be a bit light on bass and sometimes a little too harsh with the treble. Final has tuned the B3 earphones to deliver a sound that, for me, is bordering on perfection. It’s a great sound for rock, jazz, and hip-hop, in fact anything with a catchy rhythm that needs a driver that’s nimble on its feet.
Verdict: Final has done a fabulous job of tuning the two balanced-armature drivers in each earpiece to produce a sound that just sings and makes it possible to pick out and place every instrument on the soundstage without turning it into a chore. The build quality of the Final B3s is exemplary and they are incredibly comfortable for an all-metal housing with such angular edges. The cable is a work of art and beautifully plaited, from the MMCX connectors to the 3.5mm jack. These are earphones that should last a long time and maybe even something to pass down the generation like a Patek Philippe watch. If music matters to you, the B3 will put a lasting smile on your face.
Pricing: £439 / $499 / €489
More info: www.hifiheadphones.co.uk
- Housing: Stainless steel (frost silver)
- Drive: Two balanced armatures
- Connector: MMCX
- Cable: OFC silver coated
- Sensitivity: 102dB
- Impedance: 19Ω
- Weight: 36g
- Cable length: 1.2m
- In the box: B3 IEMs, 1.2m cable, 5 pairs of ear tips, silicone storage pouch.
Even the box that the Final B3 IEMs are supplied in has deluxe feel about it.