It's a Headphones Thing

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REVIEW: Final Audio Design Heaven IV – Uniqueness


Prior to the review, I’d like to thank Wilson & Claire of Jaben for providing me with the review unit.

Final Audio Design (Originally called “Final”)is a Japanese company, originally founded as a high-end MC cartridges, booster transformers and pre amplifiers manufacturer, back at 1974. Since then, the company underwent lots of expensive, high-fidelity products, some of them being turntable related, while later on, they also started to sell their own horn speakers too. In the late 2000s, the company had begun to develop their own earphones line, which turned out being some of the most interesting, expensive and special in the market. A few months ago, the model that I’m reviewing, the Heaven IV was introduced. It is the cheapest model in FAD’s “Heaven” (A BA IEMs line) lineup, retailing at around “only” $200. As its “Heaven” series relatives, also the IVs utilize FAD’s Balancing Air Movement (BAM) technology. I’m very excited to try my first FAD IEM, let’s see what all this buzz is about!

As always, before I’ll start the review, here are the published technical specifications of the Heaven IV IEMs:

Driver: Custom-Made Balanced Armature

SPL: 112 dB

Impedance: 16 Ω

Cable Length: 1.2 Meters

Weight: 16 Grams

Packaging: The Heaven IV’s packaging is very simple, nothing too special or unordinary; it has a picture of the IVs over a black background, while its back has some product information written in Japanese. After all, the packaging’s job is to protect the products inside it, a thing which this packaging does well.

the case inside the packaging

Accessories: The following accessories are provided with each Heaven IV:

the case is very impressive looking

A Chrome storage case – Its mirror finish makes it look very fancy and classy, in addition to its similarity to an old-fashioned metal cigars case. Its inside is velvet lined, which is nice and quite impressive. It should be noted that this case would ideally be used only as a storage case, due to its size (It wouldn’t fit any pocket). The case is a fingerprints and scratches magnet because of its mirror finish. In the bottom line, the included case is very delicate, which makes it more impressive than useful.

the inside of the case is velvet-lined

6 Pairs of tips – FAD includes six pair of tips, all being single-flanges. 3 of the pairs are small-bore tips, while the 3 remaining pairs are large-bore ones. This is a nice touch, as some people prefer the longer small-bore tips, while others might prefer the shorter large-bore tips, from sound, isolation and comfort points of view.

Overall, the included accessories are quite different than what other manufacturers choose to include with their products; the quantity of them is smaller, but they’re more special, impressive and unique than what others offer. The rating for this category is 8.5/10.

the stainless steel made housings look very good

Building Quality & Design: I’m highly impressed by these IEMs’ design every time that I see them. The barrel shaped housings are made of shaved stainless-steel, which looks rather classy and impressive on them, while being tough and strong too. It has the same mirror finish as the included case, and as it, also the housings are fingerprints magnets, though, it seems that they’re less scratch-prone than it. Each sound-tube is covered by a protective cloth piece, in order to prevent wax and dirt from entering in the drivers. FAD’s logo is written in italics on the housings’ side, while the left and right markings are printed in the IEMs’ bottoms. Moving on, the silicon strain-reliefs are weirdly shaped, but I found them to do their job in a pretty good way. The flat cable continues the stylish approach of these IEMs, though, I would’ve preferred a regular round cable instead from a durability and toughness points of view. The Y-split is just a small piece of plastic with good strain reliefs and the word “China” written on it, as this is FAD’s first product to be manufactured in China. After the Y-split, the cable gets thicker and stronger, because it is double-layered from under it.  The utilized jack is L-shaped, quite small and low-profile, with a small strain-relief and a gold plated plug. Overall, the building-quality seems tough and strong, and there should be no problems with it. The rating is 9/10.

the Y-split and the jack

Comfort & Fit: Comfort-wise, I was very pleased with these IEMs; their housings aren’t particularly small (they’re about the same size and shape as Etymotic’s HF5s), but I found the included ear-tips to be soft (but not too soft) and pleasant feeling. Also, there’s no pressure build-up even after long listening sessions, a thing which I was very happy of. The Heaven IV’s fit is quite deep (though not Etymotic or ACS deep) and it feels quite secure too when worn straight down, as they were designed to. On the other side, over the ear wearing would be a bit hard because of their shape, their flat cable & the lack of a chin-slider (which I think that every IEM should include). The rating is 9.5/10.

the Heaven IVs and the HF5s

Isolation & Microphonics: The Heaven IVs offer a deep insertion fit and fully closed housings, two things that contribute to its isolation ability, which is great; not Etymotic level of isolation, but quite close. The flat cable is less microphonic than the one utilized in the Fischer Audio’s DBA-02 MKIIs, though it still makes some noise. The ratings are 3.5/5 for the microphonics and 4.5/5.

Sound: As its other “Heaven” series relatives, also the IVs use FAD’s BAM (Balancing Air Movement) technology, which optimizes the air movement inside the IEMs, so they’d be able to produce a more live, natural and open sound with a better sound-stage. This time, the BAM mechanism is used in a different structure; all of the previous IEMs that were utilizing the BAM mechanism, had vented housings; this time, the IEMs utilize fully sealed housings.

The Heaven IVs’ sound-signature is warm, slightly dark, quite balanced and smooth. I found that this kind of sound-signature is the most ideal one for long listening sessions, as it is almost fatigue-less.

The Bass: The Heaven IV’s bass is surprisingly impactful, powerful and quite strong; not to the point which makes it a bassy IEM, but it’ll satisfy most of the users more than the anemic and shy bass which is produced by some of the BA based IEMs.I find the bass quantity to be enough for most (if not all) of the genres; this, together with a great speed, makes these IEMs very versatile. The texture is very good, quite similar to the one found in the GR07’s bass. Finally, the extension is rather impressive, the bass digs very deep.

The Midrange: Each review of a FAD product that I read had mentioned that FAD’s midrange is unique and special; well, it indeed is. I never heard a midrange like the one produced by the Heaven IVs. It is colored in a very un-regular way, which makes it feel very musical. It feels quite airy, open and a bit dark, while the upper mids are slightly veiled, perhaps a bit grainy, but not in a bad way. In the bottom line, the Heaven IV’s mids are exceptional, in a good and surprising way.

The Treble: The highs are quite smooth; I wasn’t able to detect any unwanted sibilance at all. The detailing is good, but I’ve heard some IEMs in the same price-range which were better in this aspect, as the DBA-02 MIIs for example. As the bass, also the treble extends quite far, so hearing very high notes won’t be too hard, though, the detailing in this areas isn’t really special, it is average at most. The highs aren’t as dark as the midrange, but they’re not the brightest ones that I’ve heard either. I’ve noticed that the highs are quite speedy, so these should have no problem at all with some complicated guitar solos, etc.

Sound-Stage & Imaging: The sound-stage of these is very wide deep and quite tall too. I was very impressed by it; it gives the music a feeling of a live concert. The imaging is very nice; it comes pretty close to imaging champions as the BA200s and the PFE 232s. The instruments separation is great, no problems in this department.

The rating for the “Sound Quality” category is 9.1/10. This rating is given in ratio to the cheapest price that these IEMs can be purchased for at the time of the review.

Final Conclusions

In Conclusion, I found my first FAD IEM to be rather unique, interesting and special. I enjoyed very much reviewing these IEMs and was quite impressed by them. I found them to be very versatile, every genre that I tested with them sounded good. These IEMs offer a good value for their price, not as well as the likes of the BA200s or the GR07s, but good enough for a FAD product. I liked and enjoyed these IEMs very much, and I cannot wait to try more of the company’s products, as these made me a FAD fan. The final rating is 9.2/10.

Where to buy? The Heaven IV’s MSRP is $180-$200, in a direct conversion from JPY. These IEMs aren’t the easiest to find out of Asia, but they can be bought internationally from Jaben, a Singapore based store, which is an authorized FAD dealer.


One response to “REVIEW: Final Audio Design Heaven IV – Uniqueness

  1. James 21/09/2012 at 2:48

    Nice review and they do have the most unique sounding mids I’ve ever heard and bass that shouldn’t be coming from a single BA, very solid IEM from FAD.

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