Review: Final Audio Design Pandora Hope VI (interesting hybrid full-size headphones)

Firstly I would like to thank Robin at HiFiHeadphones for lending this sample to me, I got to use them for a week. Robin has been a great supporter of my reviews, and as such it was great that he wanted me to be one of the first to review (also hifiheadphones is local to me)

I always try to write honest reviews, I cannot say these received over 50hrs of burn-in because of the limited time I had with them.

Gear Used:

iPod Classic 160gb (rockboxed) > Silver LOD > iFi Audio iCan > Pandora VIFiio X3 > Pandora VI

MSRP: £699

Packaging, Build quality and Accessories:

Well what do you expect from FAD, the box is Hexagonal and hand made from cardboard, all black with Pandora VI on the front. Two top parts of the box open to reveal the headphones, the entire inner part of the box is covered in black fur like material. The headphones are kept in place by a middle part of the box, and well protected by the furriness. On the bottom of the box you will find the specifications, the box is unusual and very impressive.

Build quality is up to FAD standards as expected, the design is unique and well built. All the plastic parts use high quality plastics, which are similar in texture and look to that of Nikon cameras. They use a lot of metal in the design too, which does add quite a bit of weight to the headphones, but makes them feel solid. The headband is metal and covered and cushioned with pleather. The cable is detachable and uses a mono 3.5mm jack into the the housing on each side, the cable has a locking mechanism which you just twist to lock the cable in place. The cable has metal jacks and y-split, a rubbery texture which is flexible and soft, also of sufficient thickness, it is terminated with a 3.5mm jack and not a 6.3mm.

Accessories: not really any included I'm afraid, just the headphones + cable. I'm still unsure if these are portable or at home cans. They are big and heavy, but are also closed back and come with a short cable. In any case the do look big on your head and I would advise you to get a case for them if you are planning to use them for portable use.

Comfort and isolation:Comfort is where I have problems, the pads are soft, the headband is well padded but the headphones are very heavy, and also the pads are so soft so they compress, leaving your ears touching the baffle. The baffle has big hard plastic ridges, to keep the pads raised and a constant distance from your ears, this causes discomfort after only 20 minutes of listening, because your ears are against hard plastic ridges. Using a little kitchen paper I raised the back of the pads and this helped with the ears touching the baffle but they are still heavy and become heavy on the top of your head.

Isolation is ok, nothing great but better than open headphones. They muffle outside sound, but don't block out a lot of external noise.

Split into the usual categories:

Lows: Full and rumbling lows, big sub-bass presence with realistic kick. Not fast in speed or recovery, but very natural timbre, if not in a north of neutral quantity. The dynamic driver can produce some impressive sub-bass whilst still having good punch and detail. Separation in the lows is very good, when listening to jazz the double bass sounds very real with excellent articulation and reverberation. Obviously depending on the recording, the lows can be very well behaved, they don't dominate the sound but are always present.

Mids: Final audio design usually have a mid forward sound signature, but not these, they actually sound a little behind the abundant lows. But saying that they still have good detail and are very clean. I don't know where the BA driver kicks in, but the lows are big and rumbling whilst the mids are clean and detailed. Listening to Deolinda - Passou Por Mim e Sorriu, Ana Bacalhau's vocals are beautifully presented, with power and finesse, never shouty or harsh, very real and detailed, whilst being borderline warm. So in presentation these are similar to some other FAD models with amazing vocals, but in quantity these are slightly behind.

Highs: well compared to some other FAD models, these are not as relaxed in the highs. But these are far from bright, these have more presence in the highs but are still smooth and they certainly don't throw detail at you, if the detail is there these will present it in a non offensive way. The highs are on the smoother side, but have enough presences to keep the energy there and not become too dark. The highs also don't have the best extension but spacial cues are very accurate, and decay is another strong point in the highs.

Soundstage is wider than normal but not huge. It gives a sense of space and air, with good 3D sound being wide and having good depth also. Imaging is very good and it is easy to pick out different spatial cues.Instrument separation is very good too, the lows don't warm the sound up too much.
Over all these are well built but a little too heavy, the sound is great for just kicking back and listening to. They have the FAD natural/warm sound signature, with details and fun/engaging sound. The sound has a thick, rich tone to it, whilst still retaining good detail across the board.These excel with well recorded jazz and also classical, but fair well with other genres.. If it weren't for the comfort, they would be great cans with a lush sound. As for the price, well they are excellent but again would not be a good all rounder, more suited to compliment an already good collection.

Amps:Well they are easy to drive and don't need an amp, but do improve with one. The sound becomes fuller and tighter.Using my Bravo Ocean amp they became very full and thick, very fun to listen to but I did prefer them with a more neutral solid state amp.

Headphone stand from Oscar's Audio (not me, another Oscar):