On A4000, starting at around 0:01, I hear the drummer making what sounds like 2 circles on the snare with brushes which I hadn’t paid attention to on ER2XR. Once I knew it was there I could faintly hear it on ER2XR as well and by increasing volume I could hear it clearly but at the expense of making everything louder.
The piano sounds warmer, fuller and rounded/blunted on A4000 while on ER2XR the attack is more defined/sharper, has nice decay and sounding tonally richer and more “real” (actually sounds like piano keys being struck).
On A4000, cymbals and hi-hats sound more emphasized, splashy and have a lot of sizzle, drawing attention to them in the mix while on ER2XR they are just there, are more articulate and cymbal strikes actually sound like wood (drumsticks) hitting metal.
The upright bass is more emphasized and has more body and mid-bass on A4000. It stands out more in the mix than on ER2XR.
Imaging seems more precise on ER2XR, for example with the piano and especially on hi-hat, cymbal strikes and snare hits.
While the instruments seem to be panned to similar width on both IEMs, on A4000 the cymbal strikes sound closer and higher. I assume this is because of the boost in the highs. The A4000 also has a larger “sense of space” (wet/reverb).
With ER2XR, the piano is the star of this track (which is how I think it’s mixed), while on A4000 the trio seem to be fighting for attention. The A4000 has what I call “emphasized detail” on this track where certain sounds/instruments are emphasized (which might make it interesting for some people) at the cost of tonal richness and sounding “natural”. This track is more engaging, immersive and richer on ER2XR for me.
To start with I had very high expectations from the final A4000 with some early reviews calling it a “baby A8000”, the A8000 being final’s flagship earphone that cost $2000. Given my experience with some earphones from final’s E-Series (E500 and E3000) that seemed very pleasant and maturely tuned but lacked both in quantity and quality in the highs for my preference and the fact that final is one of those few companies that seems to be very passionate about what they do, I was really hoping to find a final earphone that came close to my preference. So clearly I was going into this very biased.
Before I share my initial impressions it’s important to understand some context. At this point my reference earphone is the Etymotic ER2XR and I would classify myself as being a neutral-head. I listen to any and all types of music but I generally stay away from most forms of electronic music. I’m listening to music from Spotify (very high quality – downlaoded) on the Sony NW-A105. These impressions are OOTB (Out Of The Box) with no burn-in and I’ve listened to them for a couple of hours. final recommends 150 to 200 hours of normal-usage burn-in which according to them is primarily for the adhesive in the driver unit as it may affect the slight movement of the diaphragm and usage over time might allow it to move more freely.
With that out the way, here are my initial impressions:
The first thing I noticed is the bass. It is slightly more than on the ER2XR but the delta feels like it’s a lot more than it actually is because of the emphasis in the mid-bass on the A4000. This gives it more thump and makes it punchier compared to ER2XR (which has a sub-bass emphasis with a lot more rumble and comes across as cleaner and leaner).
Mids and vocals seem more forward on the A4000 and also very slightly cleaner.
The A4000 has a noticeable boost in the highs compared to the ER2XR but without sounding harsh to me. You can “hear the metal” of the instruments on the A4000 without any resonances that might make it sound metallic. This area might be problematic for some people as I’ve seen tolerances vary a lot when it comes to higher frequencies.
Imaging and separation seems to be slightly better on the A4000 while transient response is slightly slower compared to ER2XR.
Need to spend more time with them to say anything about resolution/detail retrieval as they seem very close.
These are power hunger with only 18 ohms of impedance but a sensitivity of 100 dB/mW and require similar power as the ER2XR which has an impedance of 15 Ohms and sensitivity of 96 dB at 0.1v (98 dB/mW )
The A4000 is super light, fits very well in my ears and is super comfortable for me, but the cable is very thin (above the y-split) and I feel like I’m going to break it every time I take them of while holding it just above the 2-pin connector.
If you prefer a dark and smooth sound, the A4000 might not be for you.
Overall I think it has a well balanced sound signature, sounds very coherent, has great timbre for most instruments and is more “fun” than the ER2XR on most tracks, which is not necessarily a good or bad thing, just different and I think they compliment each other well.
These are very early impressions so take them FWIW. My impressions might change after I spend more time with them and get some “brain burn-in”.
P.S. I haven’t heard the A8000 so can’t confirm the “baby A8000” claim.
That’s all for now. I’ll be doing a listening session post with these soon, so subscribe to the blog with your email to get notified as soon as I make future posts: