Final Audio Design FI-BA-SS earphones
In sharp contrast to the Adagio III (a product built with an eye toward delivering high levels of performance for not too much money), Final’s FI-BA-SS is a handmade, flagship product plainly put forward as a cost-no-object design. Accordingly, the FI-BA-SS sports a custom designed balanced armature-type driver created expressly for this model. Where some earphone designers equip top models with multiple sets of balanced armature drivers (sometimes grouped as miniature sets of woofers, mid-band drivers, and tweeters), the Final Audio Design team has—in the interest of superior top-to-bottom coherency—instead opted for a design featuring one single, full-range balanced armature driver. By eliminating crossover networks and unnecessary complexity, so the theory goes, sonic purity is maximised.
Final promises the FI-BA-SS, unlike some competing designs, is fully able “to produce deep bass without the distortion and muddiness normally reproduced by [other, single-driver] BA unit earphones.”
Like the Adagio III, the FI-BA-SS uses the firm’s signature Balanced Air Movement (BAM) earpiece enclosure technology. Accordingly, the FI-BA-SS features a “highly-rigid stainless steel [earpiece] housing” equipped with rear firing “BAM vents”. Like its lower-priced sibling, the Adagio III, the FI-BASS comes with three sets of rubber ear tips and is fitted with a noise suppressing elastic signal cable. As befits its status as a flagship model, however, the FI-BA-SS also comes with a semi-hard-shell case large enough to accommodate the earphones plus a portable digital music player.
Final's FI-AB-SS earpiece enclosure, showing Balanced Air Movement vents
How does the FI-BA-SS sound? These remarkable earphones are so sophisticated that I am concerned a capsule description of their sonic character might not do them justice. Nevertheless, let me make an attempt. In shorthand terms, the FI-BA-SS offers everything we liked about its inexpensive little brother, but with even greater extension at both frequency extremes (especially in the treble range) and with its imaginary “refinement,” “resolution,” and “sophistication” knobs turned up to 15. If the Adagio III earphone is a gifted child, then the FI-BA-SS is the stunningly accomplished adult it might grow up to be—an earphone that is at once suave and very, very revealing.
It is instructive to see how the FI-BA-SS performs on the Viktor Krauss track mentioned above, as compared to the Adagio III. Where the Adagio III captured many of the delicate textural subtleties of the track, the FI-BA-SS captures absolutely all of them (or as near as makes no difference) and does so with ultra-fine-grained resolution. The Adagio III sounds quite good in its own right, but with the FI-BA-SS one quickly finds that many sonic “veils” have suddenly been lifted. Like the Adagio IIIs, the FI-BA-SS can sound slightly too energetic on hard-edged midrange transients, though I suspect extended run-in might mitigate (or even eliminate) this minor drawback. More importantly, the FI-BA-SS offers a truly impressive degree of you-are-there clarity, plus an uncanny quality of effortless, top-to-bottom coherency. In fact, I suspect Final’s flagship ‘phones may well be the class leaders in terms of delivering cut-from-whole-cloth sonic integrity. Then, add in the FI-BA-SS’ superior frequency extension and surprisingly robust dynamics and you’ve got a top-tier contender that is formidable indeed.
To sum up, we consider Final Audio’s Adagio III one of the best moderately priced earphones we’ve yet found—a no-brainer recommendation at their price point. The much more costly FI-BA-SSs are, as you would expect, superior earphones in every way (though you can certainly hear FI-BA-SS “design DNA” in the Adagio III). The Adagio III gives you a view of the sonic mountaintop at moderate cost, while the FA-BA-SS actually resides at the mountaintop, inviting comparison with all comers.
Type: Dynamic driver-equipped earphone.
Driver complement: 8mm dynamic driver in Balanced Air Movement (BAM) earpiece/enclosure.
Maximum SPL: 100dB
Impedance: 16 Ohms
Frequency response: Not specified.