The Final Audio Design Sonorous VI Closed Back Over Ear Headphones were kindly provided to me by KS Distribution (Final Audio Design’s Authorised UK distributor) in exchange for a fair and unbiased review on Amazon.co.uk, no additional compensation was given in exchange for posting this article on my blog.
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During this review I make more than a few passing comparisons between the Sonorous VI’s and the Sonorous III’s which I reviewed a few months ago. I realise this is a less than ideal comparison given the difference in price points, but with the only other set I had to hand at the time of writing this review, was a pair of Beyerdynamic DT990 PRO’s so seemed a better comparative baseline than none at all for my claims, comments and opinions.
The 8 Ohm impendence means that no additional hardware is required to drive the Sonorous VI’s and they are as happy connected to a HiFi as they are a laptop, tablet or phone. That said and rather curiously the 16 Ohm Sonorous III’s are easier to drive on some mobile devices, most notably my Tab S2.
While the Sonorous III’s are an impressive set of cans there are notable chinks in its armour, specifically with tracks that encroach into the upper echelons of the high range such as Dido, White Flag and Quindon Tarver, Everybody’s Free, by comparison the VI’s frequency across the range is more competently and consistently handled.
For prolonged use, however the Sonorous III’s do have the edge on comfort, not just in the physical sense (due to the additional 70g of weight on the Sonorous VI’s) but also due to often bright highs with a range of tracks (the most common culprit being cymbals and snares) that can become fatiguing after an hour or so without a few minutes break.
There is no doubt that the Sonorous VI’s are expensive, they are however an investment and like a good quality hand made pair of leather brogues, they will last you a lifetime. Sure, they may need a new pair of soles from time to time (or rather pads) but the audio quality produced will if anything only get better with time.
The lack of a bundled carry case with the Sonorous VI’s is a little disappointing and will mean those seeking perfection on the go will need to make an additional outlay to protect their investment with the Final Audio Design Semi Hard Carrying Case.
PACKAGING & CONTENTS.
The Final Audio Design Sonorous VI headphones come supplied within a high quality, although rather basic retail style cardboard packaging. On the front is an image of the headphones along with Final Audio Sonorous branding and on the rear is found a cup dissection diagram along with some product bumpf and specification information in multiple languages.
Opening the box up you are greeted with a plain brown cardboard insert on which the headphones are retained, sadly, without any further protection. Alongside the headphones a gold plated 3.5mm to 6.35mm adaptor and 3.5mm male stereo jack to dual mono 3.5mm male jack cable (which will be discussed in-depth shortly) are found in a clear resealable plastic bag.
Finally (no pun intended) in the bottom of the box a good quality illustrated instruction booklet is found offering instructions in English, German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Russian and Chinese (I think) with just 2 pages of information offered per language.
The packaging (style and quality) as well as the accessories provided along with the Sonorous VI’s, are identical to those provided with the Sonorous III’s which I had the privilege to review last year. In that review I stated that the packaging was good quality, but rather basic and the lack of a bundled case, even if it were just a drawstring bag to protect the headphones from dust was a little disappointing.
Given the price of the Sonorous VI’s I would have to go one step further and state that the packaging somewhat detracts from the experience as unboxing a pair of cans costing this much should be an occasion, perhaps even inducing a tingling feeling of apprehension and excitement on the back of your neck (or in the case of Captain Slow, between your legs), and sadly it isn’t.
- Headphone Type: Over Ear
- Cable: Removable single stereo 3.5mm jack to dual mono 3.5mm jack (each cup has separate inputs for left and right channels) with a twist lock connection
- Driver Size: 50mm
- Driver Type: Dynamic driver and proprietary balanced armature driver hybrid combination.
- Earcup Design: Closed back with replaceable pads
- Frequency Response: 20-35,000 Hz
- Impedance: 8 Ohm
- Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR): 105 dB
- Weight: 480g (this is just the headphones and the cable adds 40g)
Like the Final Audio Design Sonorous III’s the VI’s have a detachable, replaceable cable, in fact the similarities between the two cables goes far beyond this as with the exception of the length of the cable (perhaps due to being hand cut and assembled ?) both cables are visually identical from the cable sleeving and thickness to the connector housing and split reinforcement.
The supplied cable measures just shy of 151cm long (including the connector jackets, but not the connector pins) with a single 3.5mm male stereo jack on one end and two 3.5mm male mono jacks on the other end, one to connect to the left cup to provide the left channel and one for the right cup to provide the right channel. (It should be noted that the cable supplied with my review sample of the Sonorous III’s measured 160cm long and if the cable is indeed handmade the length will likely differ slightly from one pair of headphones to the next).
All three connectors are identical in style, shape and size, well, except for the two twist lock pins found on each of the mono jacks that secure the cable to the underside of the headphones by inserting and then twisting the connector approximately 45 degrees.
All connector pins are gold plated with a 4.5mm long, 5.5mm diameter black plastic spacers between the pin and the jacket to aid with the fit on mobile devices especially those used within cases.
The connector jackets are made from aluminium with a mirrored silver finish and somewhat resemble the style of a reversed bullet casing with the main body, measuring 8.9mm in diameter tapering to 6.5mm at the rear where the cable exits the rear of the housing.
Curiously, at the rear of the jacket there is no additional reinforcement where the cable exits, although I suspect that the tapered section at the rear of the jacket provides this function and also considering the thickness and quality of the cable, additional protection is most likely not required.
The cable that exits the rear of the stereo two pole 3.5mm jack measures 3.96mm in diameter and located 95cm down the cable is the splitter that separates the cable. The split is reinforced by a housing and jacket that is visually almost identical in style, size and design to that of the connector jackets found at each end of the cable.
At the opposite end of the splitter two separate wires protrude for the left and right channels measuring 2.93mm in diameter and 47.5cm long between the splitter and rear of the mono connector jackets.
As for the cable itself, this is rather similar to the Fisual S-Flex design only much thicker, the cable is coated with a matte black PVC sleeve that offers absolutely no resistance when dragged across a multitude of surfaces (or more importantly garments) and is entirely limp being able to coil the entire cable up in a loop measuring less than 2″ in diameter. This cable does have a tendency to tangle if not correctly coiled before storage, however, given the slick nature of the PVC sleeve, all that is required to untangle is to hold one end and give it a couple of shakes.
While the 3.5mm stereo connector jacket is entirely plain the two mono connector jacks sport a discreet “L” and “R” indicators for correct placement of the connectors in the ear cups and the splitter reinforcer bears an equally discreet “Final” tri hexagon branding logo.
While this cable is hardly thin or light it is compared to most cables I have encountered with over ear headphones and with the Sonorous VI’s only having an impendence of 8 Ohms Final have made the effort to make the cable as suitable as possible for use on the go. I would, however advise for those wanting to use the Sonorous VI’s about town to invest in a lapel clip to reduce noise generated by the cable rubbing on clothing.
HEADPHONE BUILD QUALITY & MEASUREMENTS.
Starting with the headband this measures approximately 58cm long (measurements taken on outside edge, side to side) and is non expanding with the cups being adjusted by sliding them up and down the headband. At its core the headband is made from a varied width, 1.48mm thick band of stainless steel with a brushed effect finish.
At both ends of the headband is a 14.5cm length of exposed, bare stainless steel measuring 23mm wide at the top and 16mm wide at the bottom. This section of the band is contoured at a 110 degree angle, providing a level of sprung torsion allowing the headphones to expand to suit all manner of shape and sized heads.
At the very bottom on both sides of the bare stainless steel sections of the headband is a 13.92mm diameter black plastic disc which prevents the cups from sliding off the band. On the outside these discs are fitted with flush fitting stainless steel inserts bearing “L” and “R” indexers for correct placement of the cable and ear.
As noted earlier the cup placement is adjusted by sliding them up and down the bare stainless steel sections of the headband, which on the Sonorous III’s is a reasonably smooth, consistent action with a stiffness suitable to prevent accidental, unintentional movement yet allow for easy adjustment while worn on the head.
With the VI’s in fairness the same could well be said about the action of the cups, but it is very clear that there is greater resistance in their movement. That said while trying to adjust the placement of the cups on the Sonorous VI’s in the hand clearly requires more effort than the III’s, when adjusting the cups on the VI’s while worn on the head, I have to admit to not being able to detect much difference in their action as sufficient force can be applied with the use of a thumb pushing up on the underside of each cup while retaining the headband on the sides with a few fingers.
At their shortest length of adjustment the measurement from the top of one cup to the other is just over 26cm long on the inside edge of the headband and from the base of one to the other measures approximately 46cm. It should be noted that when the cups are set at their shortest the bottom edge of the bare stainless steel section of the headband protrudes from the bottom edge of the ear cup by approximately 2.5cm.
With the cups moved all the way to the base of the headband (set to their greatest length) the measurement from the top of one cup to the other on the inside edge is approximately 34.5cm long adding a further 20cm if you want the measurement from the bottom edge of one cup to the other.
Some rough measurements of my head are as follows… middle of ear over head to middle of other ear is approximately 41cm and the circumference of my forehead, around the top of my ear is approximately 61cm. With such a sized head, I find that setting each cup 7.4mm short of its greatest expansion provides a perfect fit, exactly as it did with the Sonorous III’s.
At the top of the bare stainless steel section of the headband finely textured black ABS plastic caps are found anchoring the ends of the padded section of the headband which are made from two sections clamped together and secured with two small recessed screws on the inside surface. On the outside a recessed, flush fitting 31mm wide, 11mm high stainless steel badge, bearing Sonorous branding in black letters is found as opposed to the black plastic branding badge on the Sonorous III’s.
The padded section of the headband is again identical to that found on the Sonorous III’s in terms of quality, materials and construction. A very soft and supple synthetic leather covers the top of the headband with a thin layer of foam padding located exclusively on the underside, the total thickness of which at its greatest point is approximately 12mm squashing to a minimum of 4.5mm.
Located between the top side of the stainless steel, that forms the foundation of the headband and the top layer of leather, is a semi rigid piece of unknown reinforcement that serves to prevent the leather coming into contact with the stainless steel metal band (which if it did would eventually wear a hole in the sides of the leather or stitching). Overall measurements of the padded section are 22.5cm long (side to side over the top), 32mm wide (front to back) at its narrowest point and 49mm at its greatest.
Finally, we come to the cups themselves, these are clamped onto the bare stainless steel section of the headband, with a ball joint articulation hidden within the cup that has an action that is every bit as joyful and exquisite to behold as it is on the Sonorous III’s, I said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a small detail but it is beautiful to behold.
The articulation of this ball joint is approximately 15 to 20 degrees forwards and backwards, 15 to 20 degrees left and right and 40 degrees up and down. I know it sounds silly, but audio quality aside, it is easily my favourite feature of the Sonorous III’s and the VI’s.
The construction of the cups themselves again matches the size and style of those on the Sonorous III’s, with an additional splash of stainless steel replacing some plastics to complement their more premium price tag. The main frame of the cups is created using the same finely textured black plastic, as found retaining the headband padding in place with a simple silver metal detailing between the cup and padded ear surround and a bowl shaped stainless steel outer cover.
The ear surrounds are covered with the same soft plush synthetic leather as found on the headband and the padding provided is via a 22mm wide, 19mm thick foam with no memory retention. The space within the cup for the ear measures 57.5mm in diameter (they are round) and approximately 18mm deep.
Obviously, as the surrounds are foam there is a degree of give, that said with ears larger than one would call average that semi stick out (although nowhere near a full on Prince Charles) I had absolutely no problem with space, and if anything, they felt light and airy. Thankfully, these pads are easily replaceable, replacements, however, are far from cheap at just shy of forty pounds a pair.
FIT, ISOLATION, LEAKAGE & COMFORT.
To be honest, I am not expecting the Sonorous VI’s to perform much different to the III’s in this section as the frame design, size and construction, with the exception of a couple of plastic panels being replaced with stainless steel, is the same. One area they differ, however (with the exception of an added proprietary balanced armature driver and aluminium backplate within the cups) is weight.
With the Sonorous III’s weighing in at 410g and the VI’s at 480g while it doesn’t sound like much of a difference on paper the difference is very noticeable in the hand, but is it on the head?
Firstly leakage, to put things into perspective, I should first note that I find a comfortable listening volume to be in the region of 20% when the Sonorous VI’s are connected to my workstation laptop and 35% volume was about the limit my ears could take for a short time. With a Moto G4 smartphone the comfort level was more like 30% and 40% was about the limit my ears could take for a short time.
When listening through the Moto G4 bleed is only evident above 40% volume at a distance of 75cm and when listening through my workstation laptop bleed is evident at a distance of approximately 8m with the volume above 51% (a volume which is best described as very painful), both examples given with an ambient sound level of 23dB.
Next up is isolation, sat in front of a slightly noisy, workstation replacement laptop on a cooling pad and typing on a Cherry MX Brown mechanical keyboard, at arm’s length, the detected sound level next to my ear was 67dB. Wearing the Sonorous VI’s with no audio playing the fans on the laptop cooling pad were just about evident, as for the keyboard, when typing that was still entirely evident although the frequency was slightly lower.
With the volume set to just 8% the only thing I could hear was the music, by comparison a volume level of 14% was required with the sonorous III’s to drown out the same noise level although this can entirely be attributed to the fact that the VI’s are easier to drive.
Finally, we come to comfort and fit. The Sonorous VI’s, even by over ear headphone standards have large cups and they are an ill match for the young or those of a petite stature. While the degree with which the cups can be adjusted is commendable, the size of the headband, even with the cup positioning shortened as much as possible, the fit will be sadly too limp for such individuals.
Thanks to the ball joint mounts on the cups, that offer an excellent 3 dimensional articulation, even those with prominent facial features will find that as long as their head is remotely near that of an average adult or larger, they should find the Sonorous VI’s comfortable with little in the way of a clamping sensation.
I earlier noted some measurements of my head and to complete the picture my head is a sort of round shape squashed in at the sides with no prominent features such as jaw or cheek bones. For me, a perfect secure fit is easily attainable and they are entirely comfortable to wear and secure with only the slightest clamping sensation on the back of my jaw, becoming evident after about 60 to 90 minutes of use.
Sadly for me at least the Sonorous VI’s do not quite meet the same comfort levels as the III’s at least over time. With the Sonorous III’s I had no issues using them for 3 hours with a 1 or 2 minute break every half hour, due to interruptions and after four hours I started to develop a very mild headache, that cleared after a pause of about 15 or 20 minutes.
Despite having a closed back over ear design and pleather surrounds, after wearing the Sonorous III’s for such a long period, I did not suffer with overheating or sweaty ears and even after 4 hours my ears had only just started to warm up.
With the Sonorous VI’s they are every bit as comfortable as the III’s, at least for the first hour. After 60 minutes my ears noticeably began to warm up, after 90 minutes I began to get a very mild stiffness in the back of my neck and after 2 hours my ears were sweating and I began to develop a very mild headache, all of which were elevated after a 15 to 20 minute break.
Prior to conducting any sound testing with the Sonorous VI’s they were first left to burn in for approximately 40 hours on a pink noise loop. The following sound quality testing was conducted using 320kbps MP3 tracks with the Sonorous VI’s connected to a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2. Earlier I noted that the comfortable listening volume, when used with a workstation laptop, was about 20% and with a Moto G4 smartphone it was about 30%, with the Tab S2 it was curiously more like 60%.
Now, while I do not claim to be an audiophile and I bow to the superior knowledge of my betters, I have done my best to articulate the quality, as best as possible, with a selection of music from various genres.
Metallica: Nothing Else Matters (Metallica & San Francisco Symphony Orchestra).
Listening to this track on the Sonorous III’s I was highly impressed with the clarity, separation and tight natural sounding bass with the only detraction being the deepest notes between 0:17 and 0:26 sounding a little wobbly with some notable reverberation giving the track giving a score of 4.8/5.
The performance on the Sonorous VI’s are despite my best efforts, flawless… well nearly. The only and I sincerely mean the only point of detraction that I would find, is that the cymbal highs sounded a little too bright for my liking, easily the closest I have personally ever heard to audio perfection. Overall 4.9/5
Nirvana: The Man Who Sold The World (MTV Unplugged).
With the Sonorous III’s I found the performance erred towards the higher end (most notably the vocals) and the bass while clean, felt a little weak and was perhaps best described as neutral with the instrumental section being the highlight of the track offering a rating of 4/5.
The performance with the Sonorous VI’s is much better balanced, that said Kurt’s guitar like the cymbals in the previous song, do produce notably bright highs, which, given the prevalence throughout the song, does become slightly fatiguing on a second back to back play through.
To give an idea of just how impressive the clarity and separation is with the Sonorous VI’s, several imperfections are evident during this track, most notably some microphone feedback at the 1m58s marker, none of which I have ever noticed on any headphones I have previously reviewed, including the Sonorous III’s. Overall 4/5
Rage Against The Machine: How I Could Just Kill A Man.
With the Sonorous III’s I noted that the deepest bass lows were a little flat and that they tended to overwhelmed both the vocals and other instruments. At 40 seconds into the track, when the electric guitars come into play, the entire track fell apart and become rather harsh and quite chaotic and I gave a rating of just 2/5.
In stark contrast the Sonorous VI’s offer a far more balanced and bearable performance, again the cymbal highs are replicated a little bright for my liking. More concerning however is the deepest bass notes produced from the 3m14s marker which exhibit a degree of distortion as if they were coming from a sub with a damaged cone or obstructed air port, which unlike the cymbals, do rather detract from the experience. Overall 3.5/5 although it would have been 4.5/5 if not for the dodgy bass near the end.
Cage The Elephant: Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked.
Well, this is something I did not expect to write if I honest, when I reviewed the Sonorous III’s I stated that this track was “Easily the sweet spot for the Sonorous III’s, that said the guitar riffs, only evident on the left channel (by design) sounded disjointed at times, 4/5”.
With the Sonorous VI’s the bright highs are very prominent and blindingly obvious with this particular track to the point, that at times, instrumentals sound somewhat tinny. Separation, compared to previous tracks seems lacking as does the bass, which at best seems rather dull and muted. Overall 3/5
With the Sonorous III’s I found the highs to be slightly harsh producing a fatiguing experience and gave a rating of 3/5, or 4/5 after a little tinkering with an equaliser.
In comparison, I would say the Sonorous VI’s produce a performance that is slightly better than the III’s when they had some EQ assistance. The highs evident continuously through the track still err on the bright side and on the second back to back play through fatigue did begin to set in. Overall 4/5
Tracks that sounded better with the Sonorous VI’s than they did on the III’s…
- Beastie Boys: Intergalactic, Sonorous VI’s = 4.5/5, Sonorous III’s = 4/5.
- Coldplay: The Scientist, Sonorous VI’s = 5/5, Sonorous III’s = 4/5.
- Righteous Brothers: Unchained Melody, Sonorous VI’s = 4/5, Sonorous III’s = 3.5/5.
- Dolly Parton: Jolene, Sonorous VI’s = 4/5, Sonorous III’s = 3/5.
- Alanis Morissette: Ironic, Sonorous VI’s = 4.5/5, Sonorous III’s = 3.5/5.
- Dido: White Flag, Sonorous VI’s = 3.5/5, Sonorous III’s = 2.5/5.
- Alicia Keys: Empire State Of Mind, Sonorous VI’s = 3.5/5, Sonorous III’s = 2.5/5.
- Quindon Tarver: Everybody’s Free, Sonorous VI’s = 3.5/5, Sonorous III’s = 3/5.
Tracks that sounded as good with the Sonorous VI’s as they did the III’s (although perhaps not for the same reasons)…
- Johnny Cash: Hurt = 4.5/5.
- Dire Straits: Romeo and Juliet = 5/5.
- Gorillaz: Clint Eastwood = 4/5.
- David Bowie: Space Oddity = 4.5/5.
- Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here = 4/5.
- Massive Attack: Unfinished Symphony = 5/5.
- Macy Gray: I Try = 5/5.
- Primal Scream: Loaded = 3.5/5.
Tracks that actually sounded superior with the Sonorous III’s than the VI’s…
- The Cranberries: Zombie = 4/5. A couple of short patches of distortion evident in the track that were not with the III’s, unsure if it is due to the superior components, highlighting faults with the track or that the headphones handle the track poorly, slightly raspy electric guitar riffs. Rated 4.5/5 with the Sonorous III’s.
- Queen: Somebody To Love = 4/5. Frankly astonishing bass, but vocal and instrumental highs sound slightly harsh at high volume and at lower volumes the cymbal highs sounds a little tinny. (Rated 4.5/5 with the Sonorous III’s).
- Bob Marley: I Shot The Sheriff = 2/5. The high range is handled very poorly even when considering the age and quality of the track. (Rated 4/5 with the Sonorous III’s).
- Iron Maiden: Run To The Hills = 2.5/5. Rather harsh highs and poor balance. (Rated 4/5 with the Sonorous III’s).
- P!nk: Family Portrait = 3/5. Snare highs are quite harsh and bass is a little muted. (Rated 4/5 with the Sonorous III’s).
Other tracks that sounded good with the Sonorous VI’s (not tested with the III’s)…
- Eminem: Without Me = 4/5.
- Gorillaz: On Melancholy Hill = 4.5/5
- Spin Doctors: Two Princes = 4/5
- The Smashing Pumpkins: Bullet with Butterfly Wings = 4/5
- Rage Against The Machine: Bulls on Parade = 4/5
WHERE TO BUY.
The Final Audio Design Sonorous VI’s are available in the UK from Hifiheadphones on Amazon.co.uk at a cost of £549 with free P&P. In the US the Final Audio Design Sonorous VI’s are available from AUDIO 46 on Amazon.com at a cost of $699 with free P&P. (Prices correct at time of posting).
Thank you for taking the time to read this review, I hope it has been helpful to you. If you have any questions or comments regarding this review, please post a comment below and I will do my best to answer them.
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