After reading its product page, I’ve been led to believe that the Final A8000 is the scientific ideal of a flagship IEM. It’s the result of extensive research into the ideal materials, design, and construction, to create the best possible measurements and push the limits of how we reproduce music for the human ear. But once all the science is settled, the question remains: does it actually sound good when humans listen to it?
Build and Design
One of the first things you might notice about the A8000 is that it’s an absolutely incredible looking IEM that could almost double as jewelry with its mirrored shells and silvery cable. The shells themselves are quite durable, though they pick up scratches and scuffs fairly easily. The package includes the IEMs, cable, a case, a selection of Final eartips, earhooks, dust filter screens, and an “MMCX assist” tool for removing the cables. The “OFC silver” (which basically means it’s high purity copper with silver plating) cable is excellent, if a touch stiff for my preference. The case is minimalist and functional, with a hard metal top and rubber back and interior. The other pack-ins are nice, including the ability to change the dust filter if it gets dirty or has earwax stuck in it. Personally I stuck with the loose cable, but the earhooks might help with stability and fit.
The IEMs themselves look great, but the ergonomics aren’t quite as amazing as they look. The shell is on the larger side, and the nozzle is quite short. That combination means that I had trouble getting a consistent fit and seal with any number eartips, ranging from the provided Final tips to SpinFits, Comply foam tips, and a handful of other tips that I pulled out of my spare tip bin. Generally I have an easy time getting a good fit with IEMs, so while this was a little tougher for me, I’m sure there’s someone out there for whom this fits perfectly. Once I was able to get a good seal (using eartips a size up from my normal ones helped), I was able to maintain a solid comfortable seal through the rest of my listening.
The Final A8000 has one of the most crisp, responsive sounds that I’ve heard in an IEM. Considering that it’s a single dynamic driver design is quite competitive with the 3, 5, or even 12 driver designs at its $1999 price point, whatever science that Final Audio cooked up to conjure this level of sound quality is quite impressive. The tuning has excellent extension on the low and high end, with the primary focus of the tuning being in the upper mids and highs.
The soundstage and imaging are immersive. In terms of space, it occasionally hints at a massive open space, but generally settles into a nice sized concert hall with a good sense of the sound fully surrounding the listener. The imaging borders on holographic, with a great sense of layering and position. The general sense detail adds to the imaging, as each layer is fleshed out and filled with lifelike texture.
The general sound of the A8000 is balanced but a bit bright. The brightness doesn’t cross the line into harshness, and the mids and highs are very well sculpted and controlled. The instrument and timbre vocal reflect this well. Vocals are a major highlight, with good presence, and loads of detail and texture. Cymbals have a tight splash and a natural decay, and the instrument timbre is natural but bright. The bass is a little lacking in the mid-bass region – at least compared to what I typically like in a dynamic driver IEM – but has deep extension into the bottom end of human hearing.
Depending on the genre you’re listening to, and the specifics of your setup, the bass can either feel slightly subdued, or surprisingly powerful. In particular, I found that on older recordings the bass was often just a little too low in the mix. On more modern tracks, there’s a stronger emphasis on lower bass frequencies and subbass where the A8000 can really demonstrate the impact its dynamic driver is capable of. Getting a good seal was also a big factor. I could imagine someone feeling that the A8000 was brighter than it actually is because of fit or seal issues, where getting a tighter fit would allow the bass to be fully realized.
I tested the A8000 using my usual array of sources, with a handful of DAPs ranging from the iBasso DX160 to the Astell&Kern SE200, portable DACs like the iFi micro iDSD Signature, and full sized desktop units like the Questyle CMA Twelve and even the Burson Soloist 3 Performance (using the CMA Twelve as a DAC). The desktop units provided incredible soundstage and enhanced the dynamics of the A8000. I was able to use both in low gain mode without any perceptible hiss. The micro iDSD Signature was possibly my favorite source to use with the A8000, as its slightly warm response and XBass+ let you color in a little bit more low end without losing the bright, crisp character of the A8000.
Comparison: 64 Audio U12t, Campfire Audio Solaris
The most challenging thing for the A8000 is the competition it’s up against – particularly the U12t and Campfire Solaris. The U12t is one of our house favorites, with it’s almost impossibly “complete” sound, and the Solaris is also a top pick for it’s natural delivery and rich low end. While the A8000 may not have the rich, deep bass of the Solaris, or the all around performance of the U12t, it provides an interesting contrast and a strong alternative if you find that those IEMs aren’t really your thing.
In terms of the overall tonality, all three are generally well balanced across the frequency spectrum. The Solaris is the warmest of the three, while the A8000 is the brightest, with the U12t falling in the middle – with smoother treble and more bass than the A8000, but without reaching the warm, smooth depths of the Solaris’s low end. The A8000 and Solaris share a slightly more natural timbre than the U12t, with the Solaris being, perhaps, the gold standard in the natural reproduction of acoustic instruments like acoustic guitars and drums. The A8000 feels natural and transparent, but there’s just a little bit too much brightness in the instruments at times.
As far as the more technical aspects, the U12t feels the fastest in terms of transient response, but the A8000 has a crisp, snappy response with drums and cymbals that is on the same level as the U12t. Both the A8000 and U12t have a larger soundstage than the Solaris, with other aspects of the 3D image being a bit more nuanced. The Solaris does a better job of putting the music “in a room” with a stronger sense of cohesion, while the U12t and A8000 have a stronger sense of separation and layering, but subsequently less cohesion.
Reading these last couple paragraphs, I’m sure one or two things stuck out as “That’s exactly what I’m looking for in a sound!” and maybe it was the A8000, or maybe it was the Solaris or U12t. Either way, it’s clear the A8000 is definitely a strong contender among flagship level IEMs in the $1500-$2000 range.
The Bottom Line
In a comedy, the idea of a company attempting to use science to create a perfect experience would almost always end up being a punchline, but in the case of the A8000, the science created an amazing sounding IEM. It absolutely stands tall among many of the best IEMs in the world, and is quite possibly the best single driver IEM ever made. Whether you want to judge it by measurements or feelings, the Final A8000 is a great all-around flagship IEM.