Review - Final Audio E500 (sub 50€)

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Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube 

Intro...

The Final Audio E500 are a budget set of IEMs that I believe were released some time last year, coming in at just over 20€. The reason I opted to pick these up was that I have heard good things about the Final Audio tips and this set comes with a selection of them, including a set of IEMs for not much more than the price of buying just the tips.

While I am not someone who favours this style of small IEMs with fixed cables and that sit rather deep in the ear, I do use the Hifiman RE600s, which are a similar style, when I want to lay down and listen to music or watch a movie, due to their small size that allows me to lay on my side without discomfort.

On a recent business trip (finally we are back to travelling again!), I took the Final E500 instead of the RE600s to see how I got along with them for this same use case scenario. It is obviously not fair to compare these 20€ IEMs with the Hifiman offering that is priced at 10 times that price (although you can find them on sale regularly for a very reduced price), and I do have other options of a similar style, but the RE600s are the ones that get most use in my case, so they do need to compete with them if they want to see any “ear time”.



Presentation…

The E500 arrive in packaging that couldn’t be simpler. It is a very small white cardboard box, without any images, and just the brand, model and a few technical specs shown on it.

Inside the box things don’t get much more complicated. We get the IEMs (with their fixed cable), a small warranty card and 5 sets of silicone tips.



Build and aesthetics…

The build and aesthetics are also very simple. Very small shells with a fixed wire is about all there is to say. The shells are actually around twice the length of the Hifiman offerings (both the RE600s and the RE400) which means that they are not as comfortable to use while laying on my side but they are not terrible. They just stick out a bit more whereas the RE600s disappear inside my ears.

The build quality is not bad, again nothing special but no noticeable issues such as faults or sharp edges. The cable is a simple cable, similar to those found on many budget headphones and IEMs (think Sony, Phillips, JVC etc.). It does present a little bit of microphonics when rubbing against a shirt, slightly more than the cloth cable found on the Hifimans, but is nothing terrible and is not really noticeable when music is playing.

The E500 are not going to win any prizes in the build and aesthetics category but they are adequate for their purpose.


Sound…

I am going to apologize in advance for this sound review as I haven’t spent as much time with music as I usually do. I have spent time listening to music with them but I have mainly used them for movie watching or late night listening when in bed, so I really wasn’t dissecting the music and picking things apart. I have just spent a couple of hours with my test tracks comparing these to the RE600s but, again, this is not really a fair comparison (as far as pricing) and is not as much detailed listening as I would usually do. Then again, straight off the bat, I will say that I wouldn’t choose these for detailed listening anyway.

In the subbass department, these do roll off and are not going to be a good choice for those deep bass range lovers out there. There is enough sub bass presence and extension to be able to appreciate tracks like “Way Down Deep” by Jennifer Warnes or even some electronic options such as “Sun Is Shining” but there they are certainly not a skull rumbling option. I will say that they do have plenty more in this area than the RE600s. The sub bass is not that great though, it is not terrible but it does come across as not being very clean and defined, making everything in these lower ranges sound a little smoothed over.

Moving into the general bass regions, it just sort of continues the story found in the subbass. The bass is not overly boosted, although there is enough to give the whole IEM a warmish (darkish?) sound signature, something that will also continue to be present throughout the higher ranges. Again, the bass is present enough but it is lacking detail and speed for it to be considered good, at least in my opinion. For movie watching, I found the bass to be sufficiently balanced for it to not overpower vocals and midrange when explosions and other low frequency things happen, but not something I would choose to enjoy the details in music. The RE600s are much clearer and better defined, something I prefer much more than the overly smoothed bass response of the E500.

Moving into the lower mids, the bass just continues its slow descent and presents that warm signature that I just mentioned. There is no real transition from the bass to the mids, it is more of an extension of that overly smoothed non defined sound that is found in the lower regions. There is also no real dip, or at least not a pronounced one, meaning that the whole sound just seems to extend from the bass all the way through the mids. Vocals are not terrible but they just don’t have the clarity that I would like to find in these ranges. Listening to “Hallelujah” by the Pentatonix, the separation between voices is not the best and although they can be enjoyable as a background listening experience, I would find myself reaching for EQ to try and find some clarity and separation between the lower vocals and higher voices. 

One of the main factors that causes this sensation is that there is no real rise in the higher mids or even in the treble. Where we would usually find a boost in response somewhere around the 3kHz mark, the E500 doesn't really have this boost, at least not to the usual extent. Even at the point where they are most boosted, around 7kHz, it still really doesn’t climb to a presence that is any higher than the lower mids and higher bass. All of this adds more to the warm/dark signature and leaves me looking for clarity.

I am finding it difficult to explain how these IEMs sound to me as they are not terrible, the vocals are smooth and have a nice texture to them, they just seem to be too smooth to be considered good, again, in my opinion of course.

I will say that they do avoid sibilance, in fact, they reduce sibilance and make tracks that are usually uncomfortable quite listenable. The problem is that this reduction of sibilance is also at the cost of a lack of air and openness in the high end.

As far as the width of the soundstage, they are not bad, not high above average for IEMs but not bad all the same. The placement of images to the left and right is also not terrible, the problem is that there is no real separation of images and layers, meaning that things sort of blend together in the space and are not easily located amongst other instruments/sounds in the same area.

As I have mentioned already, speed and detail are not a strong point of these IEMs. They don’t fall apart with busy tracks but they don’t ever seem to be clear and detailed either. There is certainly a huge step in this regard between the E500 and the RE600s or even the RE400.

As I mentioned before, my main use for these has been to watch movies or listen to music while laid in bed at night. I always like to have something of this shape with me when travelling because they are a great option when crashing at night in the hotel. The sound presentation of the E500 works fine for me personally when watching movies but I must say that I am not someone who is very specific about my audio when watching movies, as long as I can hear and understand what is going on, it is sufficient for me and I think that is how I would describe the sound of the E500 for movies, sufficient.



Conclusion…

This review might be unfair because I haven’t done my usual routine of using them for a full week of listening and then a day of specific detailed listening. It is also not fair that I should compare them to the RE600s as these IEMs are not in the same price bracket (or league in my opinion).

On the trip I just got back from, the IEMs I took were the Moondrop Aria and the Final E500. I did use the E500 exclusively for movies and other video content and I didn’t hate them, I just didn’t love them either. They certainly didn’t become my choice for music when I wasn’t lying down, the Aria are leagues ahead there. As are the RE600s. In fact, I haven’t used the RE400 for quite some time now but from memory, they match my preferences much more.

The E500 is also not as comfortable as the Hifiman options. The fit is similar but as the RE’s are a lot shorter, they are much more comfortable when lying on my side.

I think that my general opinion of the E500 is that I don’t hate them but I will not find myself reaching for them over other alternatives that I already have. 

SenyorC