Boogi3's B-Series Shootout

Hi! Intern boogi3 here, I’ve admittedly been out of the scene for a while now, and I’ve not been too familiar with releases from 2019 and ahead. So to get myself up to speed, I’ve decided to do a detailed review of the range of IEMs that I’ve missed out, first with the A series in my previous writeup. This will just cover mostly the sound aspect of these IEMs as I’m not particularly versed in the realm of packaging and nice unboxing experiences, I just think everything’s nice if it has everything I fundamentally need. 

To flesh out my own perceptions and preferences, I’ve got a tendency to like warm sounding IEMs, with an emphasis on subbass. Somedays I’m a basshead, other days I just wans something closer to neutral. I’m a simple guy, if something sounds good to me, it’s good, maybe not for me, but it doesn’t always have to be. 

For reference, my (almost) daily driver IEMs would be the Acoustune HS1657CU, but I do also use the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro a lot (I’m lazy) At home, I use the Audio Technica R70x, but I also do use the Sony CD900st or M1ST when I feel like switching things up. I also have previously used and owned IEMs like the Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor (UERM), the Sony EX800st, the Sony IER-Z1R, and my favourite, the Acoustune HS1551CU. As for headphones, I’ve had examples like the Final Audio Sonorous III, the Sennheiser HD650, the Audio Technica MSR7, as well as the Koss Porta Pros and KSC75s. 

But enough of my ramblings, I’ve got a shootout to do and this time, it’s the Final Audio B series IEMs.

Background knowledge

First, some background information about the B series. There are a total of three IEMs in the lineup, namely the B1, B2 and B3 (obviously), but in a surprising twist, they do not follow a sequential order of price or performance. There is no clear pattern, but to flesh out the lineup:

  • The B1 is the priciest of the three, at 699USD, and is a single DD + single BA hybrid IEM. 
  • The B2 is the least expensive, at 299USD, and features just a single BA.
  • The B3 sits in the middle in terms of price, at 499USD, and has a dual BA setup.

The B series lineup was released around the same time that the A8000 was released, making it a somewhat parallel release to the A series, but with the majority of the A series IEMs being released at later dates (A3000, A4000, A5000), these were the first in line to showcase Final Audio’s new direction and design language, with obvious parallels being the IEM housing shape being largely similar, but not exactly the same, due to driver differences. 

The housing shape is a departure from the tube-like offerings from the Heaven, E and F-series IEMs, a change made to accommodate the multi-driver setups in the B-series, and to have more comfortably-fitting shells for most of the general consumer base. This more conventional driver shell shape is derived from the DIY MAKE series, an exclusive lineup offered only to China, Hong Kong and Japan, and is shaped to fit more conventionally and comfortably for most people.

Sound review

Final Audio B1

I’ll start with the flagship, not usually how a lineup progression goes but it’s numerical so I’ll play along with it. 

The B1 is a single DD paired with a single BA hybrid IEM, and is as simple as hybrid IEMs go, in today’s world of tribrids and more. This simple setup lends itself to a cohesive, musical signature without any use of crossovers, which means it avoids the occasional issue of having an odd transition between frequencies at the frequency crossovers. This also means that the B1 has punchy, impactful DD bass, paired with precise and clear mids from the BA, at least in theory. Sometimes, things don’t quite workout, like in the first true hybrid DD+BA iem, the UE SuperFi 5 EB, but in this case, I think Final has nailed a nice balance between the two driver types, a seamless blend of thick milky kopi and light refreshing teh (I really love my yuan yang, can you tell?).

The bass of the B1, to me is sufficient, but not absolutely mindblowing. It’s never been a Final Audio specialty to have the kinda bass that a basshead would enjoy, but just enough to complement and support the work of the BA and the magical midrange that is the main star of the show.

The subbass isn’t the sharpest or punchiest, but there’s enough rumble and detail in it to feed most genres. There is a nice punchy quality to the midbass, but it’s not overbearing and muddy, and it supports the lower mids in layering on a comfortable dose of detailed bass, especially in one of my favourite tracks to test for bass quality, Gregory Porter’s Holding On (Kem remix). The velvety bass is textured but not aggressive, and rides alongside the Gregory Porter’s smooth baritone vocals. Which brings me on to…

The mids, in the B1, which are unmistakably my favourite quality about Final’s offerings, from the venerable Heaven series to the most recent A-series.

There’s a nice weight and thickness to lower mids, which lends beautifully to soulful voices like that of Gregory Porter’s. His discography mainly comprises of jazz, soul, and gospel music, with some tracks having a modern electronic twist, a collaboration of the classic and the contemporary. Pianos and keyboards, woodwind, strings, and brass instruments are all superbly represented, in another Gregory Porter classic, Don’t Lose Your Steam. If you have a B1, try them on these songs, trust me, or just listen to his entire discography, it’s worth the time. 

Treble on this is comparatively more laid back, smooth and airy. Some people might crave a bit more aggressiveness, but I tend to like more relaxed treble generally, as it’s easier and less fatigueing to listen to.

A surprise genre that I feel works really well with the B1s is Afrobeats, where you have African soulful, floaty vocals paired with percussive instruments and an electronic bassline, and the B1 manages to capture and recreate a soulful listen to this unique and beautiful genre.

KU LO SA by Oxlade and Peru by Fireboy DML are fantastic examples to showcase the strengths of blending the DD bass with a musical vocals. 

One slight weakness would be that the B1 has a slightly closed in and intimate soundstage. It doesn’t have the same width and space as in the E2000/E3000. There is a strong positional imaging to precisely place instruments in a setting, and this greatly benefits live recordings which make use of proper binaural recordings, and positional audio, but the tradeoff (not a cause, just a correlation) is that the smaller staging is something that people might find slightly, if any bit, closed in. 

The B1 itself is as a flagship should be. At 699USD, it enters a slightly saturated segment of a variety of IEMs in different driver configurations, some single DD strongholds like the Acoustune HS1790Ti, full BA offerings like the Moondrop S8 and Sony IER-M7, and other hybrids like the Unique Melody MEST Mini, Madoo Typ 512 and more. It’s an interesting offering as it brings a more versatile to Final Audio’s lineup, instead of the older, more one-trick kinda IEMs like in the Heaven series. It’s a wonderful addition and it introduces more people to Final Audio’s tuning.

Final Audio B2

Now comes thethe entry-level offering sitting at 299USD. For a single BA offering, most might not pay much attention to it, but it has some qualities that make it worth the interest it garners. 

It doesn’t have the dynamic driver bass to round up the low end, so it loses out in the bass department. The slightly anaemic low end means that you don’t get the same thump from the B1, and the slightly limp bass kick just means the B2 sounds more like a warm/bright IEM in comparison to the B1. The subbass rolloff is just an attribute the single full-range BA setup that is unavoidable. The midbass is detailed, but not punchy, and lacks the DD punch most people enjoy.

Final’s midrange has always followed one of the more musical styles, and can be very polarising when it comes to the tonality. I personally do enjoy it, but not for every genre. On the B2, there’s enough of a thickness to the lowermids that plays very well with male vocals, but for some people, it might not be completely accurate to the true tone. It’s something that can be a dealbreaker for some, but for me, I do enjoy the switchup. It’s not superbly detailed, but is musical and enjoyable, carrying similar quality to it’s older brother, the B1. Likewise, it pairs incredibly well with Afrobeat tracks, and also with punk rock and more “chaotically mastered” tracks. 

When you get to the high end, it’s just nothing to shout home about, it’s fairly inoffensive, but doesn’t have that airiness that is crucial for adding atmosphere to tracks that are spacious. It rolls off quite hard and this just means all the energy in the frequencies lay mostly in the mids. 

For a single BA IEM, it’s fairly standard as far as tonality goes, but it does have pretty accurate imaging and instruments can be placed quite well relative to your listening position. It’s a nice introduction to the Final Audio BA house sound, but at the same time, the mid-centric tuning might not fit a lot of people. It’s a tough sell at 299USD, given how many fantastic single-BA offerings there out there, or even IEM of other driver configurations at the same or a lower price point. 

Final Audio B3

The middle child, the B3, boasts a dual BA setup, split into a full range and a tweeter without any crossovers. Priced at 499USD, it sits precisely in the middle of the B1 and B2. The addition of a tweeter greatly improves the B3 over the B2.

The full range BA seems to be slightly different as well, as the subbass response is marginally better, and doesn’t have the same rollof that plagues the B2. This allows the B3 to pair well with a wider variety of tracks. There is also more subbass texture which gives the B3 a unique rumble-y bass, just lacking the DD style thump. It might be favoured by some, to have slightly faster bass that doesn’t hit as hard.

The midrange retains most of that musical, euphoric quality that is found across the entire B series lineup, and I won’t need to repeat my words much as it’s largely similar to the B2. just having slightly better staging and spaciousness, which helps with musical presentation. The B3’s stronger bass quality adds a nice layering to the lower mids, and allows for a nice weighty vocal presentation that coddles you if you listen to jazzy tracks with low baritone male vocals (see: B1 review above).

The addition of the tweeter greatly improves the treble response, giving the B3 tons of air and sparkle, making it almost as kira-kira as the gorgeous silver plated copper (SPC) cable it comes with. There is improved clarity and resolution, to satisfy most treble enthusiasts. Nothing more needs to really be said about these, they’re fantastic, and in a different way from the B1.

One interesting presentation quirk about the B3 is that the soundstage presented is much more spherical, compared to the usual wide and sometimes one-dimentional nature of spacing instruments out until it feels unnaturally wide. The B3 excels at imaging too, and this shines very clearly.

The B3 does enter the market in a very crowded space too, with a multitude of technically impressive chi-fi offerings, but it stands alone with the pride of the Japanese tuning that it boasts over many others. It’s incredibly musical, and relaxing to listen to, and will be a great fit for a versatile range of music. I can’t fault it, I like this quite a lot.

About Boogi3

I am a DIY guy with none of the technical expertise, I just build keyboards and PCs, dabble with personal audio, play video games, oh and I dance. I am fairly simple with audio, using the R70x for home, and the Acoustune HS1657 for going around (actually just Galaxy Buds pro really, I'm lazy). I listen to a wide variety of music, but lately hip hop and house music has been my earworm.


Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published