Continuing « Headphone Month » at Hifi Pig, we are pleased to have been given the opportunity to take a listen to the Japanese Pandora Hope VI headphones that have a novel driver implementation.

I first had a brief listen to the Japanese made Pandora Hope VI headphones at Munich earlier this Final-Audio-Pandora-Hope-VI-1400x1400year and thought they sounded pretty nice in far from ideal surroundings, so was pleased to be offered a review pair to try at home.

The £550 Hope VIs arrive in a hexagonal box which opens at the top to reveal the headphones surrounded by black faux-fur which lines the box and is a pretty nice touch which adds to that “Christmas morning” effect. Inside the box you’ve got the very basic instruction pamphlet, the removable 1.5m cable and the headphones themselves.

Pulling the headphones out the top of the box the first thing that strikes is that these are a pretty heavy headphone, coming in at around 480g. The second is that they look pretty classy with their silver and black finish (stainless steel and ABS resin). Popping them on your head they’re immediately comfortable with a well padded headband and position nicely over the whole of the ear – smaller over ears can sometimes be a problem for this reviewer. The earpads (and headband) are covered with faux leather and well padded. Positioning is by way of a simple slider mechanism and the cans themselves pivot nicely so you get a comfortable fit automatically – they also rotate slightly, but more of this later.
The cable is well made and has two minijacks that plug into each of the cans on the headphones and one that pops into the amp’s socket. Now these are pretty heavy headphones and I can’t see me wanting to walk about the town (or heaven forbid exercising) with them and I do most of my listening on headphones at home, so would have preferred to have seen a quarter inch jack on the end of these. On the positive side of things the fact that the cable is “independent” will allow, for those so inclined, to experiment with after-market cables. I also realise that many use headphones when traveling on business and in hotel rooms using computers and portable audio players and so this mini-jack does actually make sense in the real world.

From a design perspective the Pandora Hope VI headphones are an interesting concept. They are a hybrid design that uses a balanced armature along with a 50mm dynamic driver and this is where the slight rotation of the cans comes in – you can position the balanced armature so you get the sound that suits your ears best. Personally I preferred them turned full forward, but it was interesting to experiment.
They are 8 Ohm closed design with a sensitivity of 105db and as such an easy headphone to drive.

Sound

Listening was predominantly done using Flacs from the computer using JRiver and JPlay via the VAD valve DAC and the headphone amp on the Coffman GA1 preamplfier we use daily.final-audio-design-pandora-VI

Popping on the excellent “Coz” album from David Crosby you’re immediately aware of there being a nice wide soundstage with decent a three dimensional feel to give a good to very good “out of the head” experience that is sometimes really lacking when using some headphones. Clarity of the sound is very good, with piano, guitar and vocals shining out from the mix. The sound is tight and accurate with Crosby’s distinctly toned voice being instantly recognisable. Individual little percussion sounds are very evident and overall you get a great insight into the mix with slight effects on the guitar being easy to hear.

Overall the sound is really rather pleasing and very easy to listen to with this kind of laidback music and it’s very difficult not to reach for the tablet and pick more of this from the virtual shelf.
The beginning few bars of David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” are crisp and precise and when the vocal comes in it’s a real delight to listen to. Bass is tight and, whilst not as deep as some other headphones, it presents itself well: There’s a tendency these days to over exaggerate the lower frequencies with cheaper (and some more expensive) headphones to appeal to the younger generations of listeners desire to conform to the “beats” sound. The Pandora Hope VI will certainly appeal to the more mature (in experience rather than years) listener who appreciates a balanced sound over and above the boom and tizz offered up elsewhere. “Smoke on the Water” from Deep Purple’s “Made in Japan” record has a great electric bass sound that is a bit of a highlight of the record for me and here, despite it being a little light overall, it’s well toned giving a good impression of the effect used.

Square Pusher’s “Ufabulum” album is clever drum and bass at its very best with complex sounds coming and going in the mix and with the Hope VI you feel that there’s an accuracy to the sound. The snappy snare hits cut through the intricate mix and there’s that out-the-head sensation to the soundstage again. Do you miss the very lowest bass registers?…well no, not really you don’t. Personally I’d rather have the tight and well toned bass the Pandoras give up rather than an overblown, dominating and, in the final analysis, artificial sounding bass “the youth” seem to crave. Here you have speed, control and tautness that is a delight to listen to…really musical and enjoyable!

On the funky disco of Salsoul Orchestra’s “Street Sense” record and particularly listening to “Burning Spear” the infectiousness of the groove comes through brilliantly and the horns, when they begin, cut through the mix just as they should. Bass kick has that tightness again as does the electric bass guitar which, given the overall balance of the Pandoras, sounds right in this context.

Moving onto a bit of jazz in the form of Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” the sense of the recording space is apparent and Freddie Hubbard’s cornet soars to the fore. There’s an overall “liveness” to the music and Tony Williams light touches on cymbals and hats glimmer through the other instruments. With the Pandora Hope VI there’s a sense of separation of the instruments in space that allows you to listen critically should you want to, but the overall feeling is one of a cohesive and enjoyable listen.

Plugging the headphones into the little Studio portable player from HiSound they prove to be really easy to drive and you can crank them up to outrageous volumes should you wish. If I was popping off for the weekend on business I’d be more than happy with the sound of this combo.

Comfort

These fit nicely over the ear enclosing it and ensuring good sound isolation from the outside world, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbut the faux leather earpads can become a little “sweaty” on warm evenings when you’re wearing them for extended periods – I would have liked to see a fabric alternative in the box. *There is also a tendency (with my ear shape) for the hard plastic mesh inside the can to rub slightly on the antihelix (I had to look that up), part of the ear – this could be simply cured by having deeper cushions on the earpads, though I’ve experienced this with other headphones and so, as I suggest, it could just be my ear shape. They fit quite loosely on the head and if you do move your head about over enthusiastically they do move about. All that said they were pretty comfortable on the whole and I managed to spend a good few hours at a time wearing them.

Conclusions

The Pandora Hope VI from Final are a superior product both from a finish and sound quality perspective.

Sonically they perform very well with all genres of music, offering up a clear and cohesive sound that’s a real pleasure to listen to. There’s a sense that they have a balance and sophistication to them that clearly puts them in the audiophile bracket. Bass is tight and tuneful (though not massively low), mids and tops are clean and precise. Soundstage is one of their really strong points and they really do that out-of-the-head thing really well with instruments clearly separated and in their own space.

Comfort-wise I found them to be fairly comfortable with the caveats mentioned. Given their loose fit I don’t see them being suitable for the very active, but great for the commute to work or for when away on business.

At their price-point they are not in any way a budget or impulse buy and whilst I do think they punch somewhat above their weight sonically, I’d suggest you see if you can get a pair to try on before you buy, or take advantage of current distance selling regulations, to see if they fit your ear-shape properly.

Stuart SmithRECOMMENDED LOGO NEW

Sound – 8.25
Comfort – 6.75
Fit and finish – 8.5
Value – 8
Overall – 7.88

Recommended for those looking for a well made an “audiophile” sounding headphone that punches above its weight and has a fabulous soundstage.

And now Linette’s thoughts on the Final Pandora Hope VI headphones.

I have said it before and I will say it again, the whole process of buying a new bit of hifi and then bringing it home to unbox should be a bit of an event. A cracking product carefully packaged and boxed will make more of an impression than something just slung into a plain box with a bit of bubblewrap.
Final Audio have nailed it with these headphones; they come in a hexagonal black box, with silver embossed logos, like something you would get jewellery or expensive perfume in. The inside of the box is lined with a thick, black (fake) fur and acts as a headphone stand which the ‘phones nestle into, very nice.

Taking them out of the box I was impressed with the stylish, minimal design and the build quality. final-audio-design-pandora-VI-lifestyle-shotThey have a quietly retro feel to them with polished black ABS plastic that has a matte finish and stainless steel. The headband is broad and well padded and the earcups slide easily up and down to adjust the fit. The detachable cable clips in, in a satisfyingly solid fashion.

One thing I would say, these are not really grippy headphones and I don’t think they are designed for anything much more active than sitting and listening to music. They are not for running about in (which is fine by me!)
They also sat comfortably on my head while wearing glasses, if I’m sat using my computer whilst wearing headphones, this is pretty important to me.
Although the earpads were pretty thick and comfortable I did have a bit of an issue with some parts of the driver or driver housing that were not covered by the pads and were slightly uncomfortable on my ears.

The Final website states that the Pandora Hope VI feature ‘a hybrid design that merges balanced armature with a 50mm diameter dynamic driver unit coupled with BAM (Balancing Air Movement) mechanism’ and that they have ‘achieved an extraordinarily vast sound stage’

Have they? Well it sounds pretty good to me!
‘Papua New Guinea’ from Future Sound of London soared through my ears with plenty of detail in the mid and top and a huge punch of bass.
The soundstage did sound wide and deep…maybe Final have something here.
Not quite on the same level as the Audeze LCD – XC but the Pandora Hope VI are a third of the price at around £550 UK retail.

The Hardfloor ‘Once again back’ test was next….this tune really does get played on every piece of review equipment that comes in. Again they seemed really bassy, but controlled and tight with everything else present in the top and mid that I was looking for from this track.

Wanting to listen to some of the same tracks in each headphone review I put on Gil Scott Heron’s ‘Ghetto Style’ again. It was engaging to listen to with a well defined soundstage and the bass/mid/top mix sounded right to me.
I would have happily sat and listened to the whole album but things were starting to get quite uncomfortable in the ear department.

I was pretty disappointed, the Final Pandora Hope VI sound very good….but they are just not the final-audio-design-pandora-vi-side-1650x750headphone for me. Comfort is really important to me with a pair of headphones.
*I found them quite uncomfortable after wearing for a while, I think the way that the driver and housing is designed makes the part not covered by the pads stick out too close to the ear, I imagine this could be overcome by increasing the earpad thickness to take the driver a little further back away from the ear.
However, headphones are not a one size fits all and I would definitely suggest trying them to see how they feel on your own ears….just because they didn’t work for me doesn’t mean they won’t for you.

Linette Smith

Sound – 8/10
Comfort – 5/10
Fit and finish – 8/10
Value – 7/10
Overall – 7/10

A great sounding, beautiful looking set of headphones, just not a recommended from me because of the comfort issues, which other people may not have a problem with.

*Robin from KS Distribution, who are the UK importer of Final Audio products, contacted Hifi Pig to tell us that ” larger earpads are available if someone doesn’t like the original earpads – these were produced specially for those who find the original pads uncomfortable. The larger pads were produced for western markets and one of the guys at KS who experienced some discomfort said they resolved the issue completely”.
Review system: Ami MUSIK DDH – 1 DAC and Headphone amp, The Chord Company USB cable and laptop running Foobar 200.

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