With the B-Series, Final Audio’s first foray into multi-driver designs, Final demonstrates both their design skills and a few of their quirks. A quick look at all three models will have you doing a double-take at the price: the B1 is the most expensive, B2 the cheapest, and the B3 is in the middle. They’re listed as such because Final let engineering drive the marketing, and they assigned names in the order of development, not based on any kind of tier list or performance expectations. So now that we have those expectations out of the way, let’s dive in.
The Build and Design
Each one of the B-Series IEMs shares the same basic shell design, but with a different finish and driver complement for each. First of all, this is an absolutely stunning set of IEMs. They look and feel premium, and exceed many more expensive IEMs in terms of general construction. The B1 has a mirrored polished rose gold finish that outshines (literally) most of what you see in sub-$1000 IEMs. The B2 is a slightly glossy gunmetal finish that seems a bit more durable, and is also quite eye-catching. The B3 has a silver matte finish with a little bit of texture, making it the least likely to pick up stray smudges.
The B1 and B3 get Final’s SPC cable, which is similar, if not identical to the cable included with the flagship A8000. It has a premium feel and a good mix of softness and stiffness. The B2 also has an SPC cable, but it just has a black rubberized finish without the same premium feel as the others. All the cables are removable MMCX, so you can mix and match or replace the cables as you please.
The B-Series shape is similar to the A8000, but with some minor re-contouring. I found that I had a much easier time getting a good seal and a secure fit than the A8000, but I found the B-Series to be less comfortable overall. It’s definitely something that will be a matter of how it conforms to your specific ear shape, but there was a certain vertex in the design that put just a little too much pressure in one spot on my right ear.
While they all look very similar, in terms of sound, there’s less of an immediate similarity between the three IEMs. While the model numbers aren’t particularly clear, the price can tell a bit more of the story. B2 is $299, B3 is $499, and B1 is $699. Now let’s take a closer look at each (in ascending order by price, rather than by model number).
The B2 is a single BA driver IEM. It has a fast response and a strong presence in the mids and highs with an intimate presentation and a smaller soundstage. The mids are clear and well defined with good body and thickness, and the treble is forward but well managed. The key aspect of the sound seems to be the detail and sense of space presented in and around each instrument. Instruments, particularly when they’re somewhat isolated, sound realistic. Vocals are very prominent and intimate.
This works well with genres like folk, and with some smaller jazz ensembles – it also works well with classical – but with a lot of rock and pop, you lose the sense of detail in the individual instruments, and the layering becomes a bit muddled. With all the energy up top and very little in the bass to balance it out, the B2 can present a bit of harshness.
The B3’s tuning reminds me a bit of the Campfire Andromeda, but with a little less bass and a little more bite in the treble. It’s a 2 BA IEM, and it has surprisingly strong bass extension and an overall sense of balance and a neutral delivery. The mids are well placed, but just a little bit thin. The treble is bright, with crisp splashes in the cymbals and a tight pop to the snare. Vocals have a good sense of air and breath.
The soundstage is larger than the B2, though it doesn’t have the same sense of intimacy. The B3 is the most neutral of the three, with good amounts of both bass and treble, and the mids only pulled back the slightest bit.
B1 is a hybrid dynamic/balanced armature IEM with a soft-V tuning. There’s clear accentuation in the bass and treble, but with a softer roll-off in the mids that still leaves a good bit of body there. Compared to the more neutral B3, the B1 smooths out some peaks in the highs, and adds a stronger low-end presence.
You still have the exciting cymbals and percussion, but with less bite, and you get a stronger low-end presence. There’s a strong physical impact and good bass extension, but not at the expense of the rest of the music. It’s not a basshead IEM, but if the B2 is the brightest, and the B3 the most neutral, the B1 is the closest to crossing over into basshead territory. The B1 also has the broadest overall sense of dynamics, with a good sense of space and depth to the sound as well.
To get a better comparison between the three, I listened to a handful of tracks back to back to back to provide more specific impressions.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7
On the new Freiburger Barockochester hi-res recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major, the B2 provides a generally coherent and cohesive rendering of the orchestra. The general sense of imaging and position is good, and the dynamic range is generally strong. The higher registers of the flutes and violins can become a bit sharp, but the overall performance was quite enjoyable.
With the B3, there’s a stronger sense of smoothness on the top-end which takes away some of the harsh overtones, but also some of the character of the instruments. If the B2 was intimate with a more crowded stage and front row seats, the B3 is in the middle of a somewhat larger concert hall. There’s also a better sense of low end dynamics: where when the timpani hits, you know about it. The B1 moves you up a couple rows from the B3, but also widens the soundstage a bit. The general feel and dynamics are similar to the B3, but with a stronger low-end and slightly recessed mids that take away some of the body of the orchestra.
Steven Wilson, “Pariah”
On Steven Wilson’s Pariah, the B2 provides great clarity and layering with the initial waves of synth and acoustic guitars. The guitar is just a touch on the bright end of natural. Both the male and female vocals are crisp and clear. As the bass and drums fill in, the B2 keeps everything together with a good sense of separation, though the big crescendo loses some coherence.
The B3 adds on just a touch more detail and texture to the songs intro, and cleans up the sound of the acoustic guitar a bit. The vocals hit with the same intimacy and clarity as on the B2. While the layering on the B2 was very strong, there’s an extra layer or two between the instruments and synthesizers that I was able to more clearly unpack with the B3. The B3 gives the final crescendo the immensity and cohesion that it deserves, with a more powerful, dynamic feeling than the B2.
With the B1, it’s almost as if you get one more layer to unroll, as some of the subtle details that were stronger on the B3 are even more crisp and clear on the B1. Everything has just a little more feeling of depth and texture, particularly the vocals. The B1 also delivers more punch in the low end to add more energy throughout.
Queen, “Somebody to Love”
On “Somebody to Love,” the B2 presents Freddie Mercury’s lead vocals as crisp and airy. The drums in particular stand out in the mix with very tight cymbals, and a good snap in the snare. The backing vocals blend nicely in the mix, and when the guitar comes in, the B2 captures both the smooth licks and snarl of the heavy chords. In terms of space, the stage feels a little narrow, but reasonably deep.
The B2 painted a nice picture, but the B3 fills things out a little more. The tight cymbals and snappy snare have a little more support from the bass guitar and bass drum, and there’s more authority to the toms in the drum fills. The backing vocals have more room to breathe and a clearer sense of separation between each part. The overall mix feels smoother as well, with a little less edge in the treble.
If the B3 filled things in a little more, the B1 finishes the job. There’s an added depth and roundness to the bass, and the imaging moves up a level, giving you a clear sonic picture of the band on the stage flanked by a choir (a choir that consists entirely of members of the band, but that’s another story). The B1 also provides the most natural delivery of the vocals.
To sum up their comparative performance, I’d say that the B2 does what many IEMs in its price range do. For the most part, in the $300 and under range, IEMs tend to either be fairly well balanced, but bland, or have some really strong qualities, while not having the overall balance and versatility. The B2 is that second type, with really incredible delivery of quiet, intimate performances, and a great sense of depth and texture with some instruments, but it lacks versatility and can become harsh in some situations..
The B3, on the other hand, punches a bit above its weight class. It’s a really tonally well-balanced IEM with a good sense of space and imagining coupled with strong dynamics and a fast response that really helps set it apart $499. At the top of the line (and the bottom of the numbering scheme) the B1 also strikes me as a strong performer that, while it’s not quite in the same class as the $1099 IEMs like the Andromeda, Dorado, and Rai Penta, its overall performance is very strong in the $699 range.
The Bottom Line
For their first multi-driver IEMs, Final Audio really knocked it out of the park with the B1 and B3. While the single-driver B2 performs admirably for the price, the B1 and B3 provide excellent overall performance, and point to great things to come in multi-driver formats from Final.