Final D8000 Pro – Japan’s Answer to Sony, Meze, Focal

Over the many years that I’ve attended the Tokyo FUJIYAAVIC headphone festivals, Final (or Final Audio as they used to be called, and now trading under the S’NEXT brand) were something of an enigma. Their original stewardship under Kanemori Takai resulted in some very unique headphones and IEMs that gained a loyal following amongst some Head-Fi members, though many were put off by their rather unusual tuning.

Every time I tried their flagship headphones, I was not at all impressed, though their mid-range offerings seemed to have something worthwhile going. It wasn’t until after Kanemori passed away, and the company folded into S’NEXT that things started to get interesting.

The D8000 headphones, their first planar magnetic, were announced at a special private event at one of the Tokyo festivals. Detailing the in-house manufacture of the headphones, and offering an audition, I liked what I heard.

It wasn’t until I was offered the new flagship A8000 IEMs, which I agreed to, not knowing what to expect that I got an understanding how Final had transformed. Impressed with those, I arranged a review of both pairs of their flagship headphones.

As far as headphones go, I’d consider the D8000 Pro as relatively neutral, though compared to a free-field speaker response, the mid-range might be considered slightly recessed. I’m more partial to a Harman Target Curve in headphones, and the D8000 Pro is closer to that, and my preferences.

The tonality I would describe it as not emphasising any particular frequency range, unlike, say, the Focal Utopias, which are upper-mid/lower-treble forward, or the warmer-tuned Meze Empyrean, for which I consider an aftermarket cable to bring out the top end a bit more to be a necessity.

The D8000 Pro, to me, has a fascinating character of seeming to have only the character of the music playing. If there is a lot of bass, there is a lot of bass. If there isn’t, there isn’t. If the music is bright and harsh, then bright and harsh is what I hear. Depending on what I’ve been listening with recently, they might seem thin and bright, or warm and dull.

If I’ve been listening with the very lively MYSPHERE, then the D8000 Pro seems dull. If the Empyrean, then they seem lighter on the bass and brighter. This leads me to feel that they sit closest to a “listening neutral” than other headphones I have here.

In a different direction, detail retrieval is where the D8000 Pro excels. Whether it be a precise bass that delivers deep drum hits with glorious precision, or the passionate expression of Miles Davis’ trumpet on Solea (Sketches Of Spain 50th Anniversary), or the full texture of cymbals on a direct-to-tape recording of Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry (Jex Saarelaht Trio), the music just seems to come through as it is.

I began noticing, as I listened to my usual very eclectic mix of tracks on my 1600-track TIDAL playlist, which I assembled from the music I rated the highest while listening to Radio Paradise, that I could hear how each track was assembled, as it were, from parts (in the case of modern pop/alternative) or the nature of the venue (in the case of traditional stereo recordings). This brought the feeling that I was actually listening to the music, and not the headphone’s editorialising of the music, as is often the case.

Unforgiven was distortion, revealing tape hiss in all its (in)glory on Miles Runs the Voodoo Down (Bitches Brew Live) or the less than stellar mastering of I am Kloot’s Natural History album. But what it brought out in such raw form included, to use the Miles David track just mentioned, was all the glory in the weirdness of that peculiar track. What was interesting was that I noticed a grainy artefact in that album I hadn’t heard before. Checking that it wasn’t an issue with the digital transmission and finding none, it seems that the D8000 Pro had revealed yet another layer of that recording I hadn’t found before.

The D8000 Pro was no less revealing of up-stream components. Amplification wise, it picked the subtleties of each tube I had put in the Studio Six. The slight mellowness of Audio-gd’s Master 9 also came through cleanly. Out of the Drop THX 789, the D8000 took on a super-lively character, emphasising even the most subtle of details, even with the slightly mellow Schiit Bifrost 2 feeding it.

Likewise, the slightly “musical” character of Soundaware’s P1, which I find to be just the right pairing for the Schiit Yggdrasil when sharpness is less desired, was readily apparent.

For preference, I liked them most on a more lively set-up. I rolled a sharper and clearer-sounding Sylvania or Russian MELZ 6SN7 into the Studio Six, or, sacrificing a bit of depth, used them with the Drop THX AAA 789. I really wish I had one of the Benchmark amps here. Direct out of the Hugo 2 was fantastic as well.

It seems crazy to use this description with what are headphones capable of rendering extreme detail, but the Utopia and Empyrean felt more “one note” when listening for the subtleties in music. The precision of the bass from the D8000 Pro was, for example so blatantly noticeable that even the beats on Sophie Tukker tracks came through more clearly than they did from the other two headphones.

The ever so slightly muted treble, which make the D8000 Pro hard to appreciate when listening at meets, arguably takes away from the liveliness of the sound ever so slightly. Think of the effect you get putting cloth pads on the Focal Utopia.

However, the result is a balance in the sound that puts them firmly between the Utopia and (re-cabled) Empyrean that is perfect for me. I really wish I could compare them to the Stax SR-009 and T8000 set-up again, as the jump up for me felt like my experience with that electrostat rig.

I only wish that the D8000 Pro was as comfortable as the Utopias or Empyreans. Really, that is its only fault, alongside the weight and slightly unwieldy (if beautifully over-built) stock cable with it’s custom-made plugs on both ends. I weighed the D8000 Pro at 528g, with the cable adding up to another 118 grams. Compare that to the Utopias at 497g, Empyrean at 444g and Susvara at 418g (all measured without the cables). That weight and the big, round ear pads weren’t doing me any favours at the end of a long day when I was heading towards getting a headache.

But their construction is excellent, with clearly custom made locking connectors on the headphone end, and a plug on the other that has just the right-shaped entry for the cable. The ear pads stretch on, and the whole set-up can be disassembled into parts for repair.

That leaves me ultimately impressed with the Final D8000 Pro. I have thought for a long while that planar headphones would eventually catch up with electrostats, but they never quite managed to get there. Now I think that, with the D8000 Pro, at least, they may very well have.

Source set-up for amps mentioned:

Chord Hugo 2 + 2go or Schiit Yggrasil Analog 2 with Unison USB.

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