Final D8000 Pro Limited Edition Review

The Final D8000 Pro is one of the more underappreciated flagship HiFi headphones. While the performance and innovation is on the same level as such greats as the Audeze LCD-4 or Focal Utopia, D8000 doesn’t generate the same level of reverence in audiophile circles. With the release of the new Limited Edition version, we have an opportunity to take another look at D8000 Pro with this limited release and see if we have any new insights since our original review.

Build and Design

One of the highlights of the Limited Edition D8000 Pro is the updated package, which includes an incredible locking travel case with TSA approved Travel Sentry locks, as well as updated cables with 4-pin XLR and 4.4mm balanced terminations. The case also includes a commemorative nameplate for the headphones with the serial number on it.

Final D8000 Pro Limited Edition

The headphones themselves have an updated design along with some subtle changes to the build. While D8000 Pro was available in silver or black, the Limited Edition only comes in all black, with a gold grill vent over the back of the driver. The pads have also been updated and are a bit thicker, creating more space between the ear and the driver, than the original D8000 Pro pads.

Sound

If there were one distinction to D8000 Pro over every other flagship planar magnetic headphone, it would be that it’s quite possibly the most natural sounding headphone out there. I was once told by a sound engineer that nothing will ever reproduce sound as realistically as a paper-cone dynamic driver. While that might be up for debate, there’s some truth to the fact that dynamic drivers have certain characteristics that help deliver a more natural timbre – regardless of other technical characteristics. D8000 Pro manages to capture a lifelike feeling that evokes a dynamic driver sound, but with a performance that’s otherwise very much planar magnetic.

It’s not just the technical aspects of the drivers, or things like Final Audio’s AFDS that provide D8000 Pro’s lifelike sound, it’s also the general tuning. D8000 Pro LE offers good bass extension, with a small emphasis in the midbass that provides a tighter punch rather than the broad slam of many high end planar headphones. The bass is very clean and textured, offering a neutral feeling from the low mids into the midrange. The upper mids provide a bit of extra clarity and place vocals from and center in mix, but are attenuated up into the treble. At the very top you get a good balance of smoothness in the treble, with a bit of air at the very top.

Final D8000 Pro Limited Edition

D8000 Pro LE has a wider soundstage than the original, likely due to the new pads, but the soundstage feels moderately sized overall – not as large as some of the other planar magnetic flagships. D8000 Pro LE provides a highly holographic feeling stereo image that further contributes to its lifelike character. The resolution is also notable as D8000 Pro falls into the category of headphones that provide excellent resolution, while keeping aspects of the treble somewhat smooth.

On Rush’s “New World Man,” D8000 Pro LE delivers an incredible sense of space, with a wide stage, and a studio-like presentation of each instrument. There’s a clear sense of space around each instrument and a great deal of detail and texture in each. The interplay between bass guitar and kick drum demonstrates D8000 Pro LE’s balance of natural cohesive delivery, with great layering and separation. Cymbals have a crisp attack and decay while there’s a nice snap to the snare, and a tactile attack from the rest of the drum kit. The whole piece is delivered in perfectly separated pieces that – as they’re fitted together – combine seamlessly.

“Dr. Feelgood (Love Is Serious Business)” by Aretha Franklin  was recorded with a widely panned stereo image and a strong separation between the instruments. Aretha has the center of the stage all to herself, and D8000 Pro LE gives you front row seats to feel the power of her voice – from the sultry low notes to thick belted out highs. The rest of the band feels like they’re pushed out on either side, but D8000 Pro LE maintains a good separation and provides space on the stereo image to avoid instruments feeling like they’re on top of each other.

Final D8000 Pro Limited Edition

Steve Vai is well known for his experimental, progressive, and highly technical guitar playing and arrangements, but at the end of the day it’s rock, and D8000 Pro LE is the perfect headphone to capture both the cerebral and visceral elements of Vai’s playing. On “Gravity Storm” you get crisp, energetic electric guitars, with a good sense of bite and crunch. There’s even some glitchiness in the synths that stands out with D8000 Pro LE. There’s good layering between the busy synths and samples passing in between the guitar and bass to create a wall of sound that comes together with an immense sense of weight and thickness. 

Elliott Smith delivers a half-whispered melody over a simple acoustic guitar rhythm on “Say Yes.” The guitars have a natural body and character, while you can half imagine Smith sitting on a couch a few feet away, stumbling on the words once or twice. As the song progresses additional guitar parts fill in, along with a vocal overdub, but D8000 Pro LE maintains the personal, intimate feeling of a friend sharing a song with you, rather than getting tripped up by the limitations of the production.

Comparison: Dan Clark Expanse

When it comes to the latest and greatest in headphone design and technology, the Dan Clark Audio Expanse is one of the most innovative and technically impressive headphones out there. Does the D8000 Pro LE hold up against Dan Clark Audio’s incredibly well measuring technological achievement of a headphone?

When it comes to the build and design, D8000 Pro LE has an amazing look that evokes classic HiFi, with a fairly simple adjustment system. In the other corner, Expanse looks like something out of a sci-fi movie with a futuristic design and more complex suspension system. While D8000 Pro LE is comfortable, Expanse is lighter and definitely has the edge in overall comfort as well.

Final D8000 Pro Limited Edition

In the sound, there were a number of subtle differences, but two key things that really stood out. The first is the bass. D8000 Pro LE has a not-quite-neutral, but very much natural sounding bass, with a great sense of timbre and texture to it. Expanse demonstrates a bit more color, with more emphasis in the bass – especially in the subbass – and a bit of a darker coloration overall in the low end. Of course, in the rumble department, Expanse can give you more of that full, deep extension.

The other really big difference was the resolution particularly notable in percussion. D8000 Pro LE had a tighter attack on drums, with more of that sense of impact on the drum skin, combined with an incredibly crisp precise attack and decay on cymbals. Expanse didn’t quite capture the ringing of cymbals or have the same level of speed and precision in cymbals and drums.

While Expanse delivers a wider feeling soundstage, and more holographic imaging, there’s definitely a strong case to be made for the D8000 Pro LE, particularly if you value its natural overall presentation and clarity in the upper range over the power in the low end. While headphones like Expanse continue to push technology forward, D8000 Pro clearly still belongs in the flagship headphone conversation.

The Bottom Line

To be honest, I hadn’t give a D8000 Pro a good listen in well over a year, and wasn’t expecting to be wowed after spending so much time with the latest crop of flagship headphones, but the Limited Edition model proved that D8000 Pro is still among the very best in headphone performance, and the subtle tweaks and new finish make it even better.