Final Audio Pandora Hope VI (discontinued)
Barun C recognises a Pandora Hope VI-shaped hole when he sees one. And so recognising one in me, tentatively, politely, he PM’d me with an offer I couldn’t refuse- the end product of which is today’s wrap-up article. Tomorrow, Pandora Hope VI returns to its heartful master.
Pandora Hope VI is unlike any headphone I’ve ever used. It makes sense considering that it houses two drivers, one dynamic and one balanced armature. In certain frequencies, it is the opennest closed headphone I’ve ever heard. Most of that openness is expressed in the lows. It extends through the lower midrange. After that, the stereo field mildly compresses, pulling vocals forward, front and centre. Transient upper mids and highs pile on from there, expanding laterally outward with little Y-axis lift. I was prepared for this sound. The Grado PS1000 follows a similar pattern, and in some respects, takes things further.
The two are natural stable mate. Bass openness, low-frequency detail and sound pressure are similar. The Final Audio pulls out slightly less snappy forward and retreating bass edges, but the difference is minimal. Both compress the upper midrange stereo field, but Hope VI’s transition zone to highs is smoother.
If you don’t like clear, forward highs, you won’t like Hope VI. If you’re on the fence, you might get on with it. Highs expand from the midrange in a good lateral array. High frequency texture and 3D space take a small dive, but sound pressure is sizzly fun.
John Darko was right: “Fans of electronic music will find themselves in awe of the Pandora Hope VI”. And awed I am.
But not all is right. The following frustrates me:
- Its pleather head band and ear cups never fail to get icky and sticky
- Pandora Hope VI hisses like an IEM - in fact, it hisses as much as some truly sensitive IEMs
Air conditioning and a bath sort out number one well enough. Number two is the real doozy. Headphone amps and combo DAC units that hiss more than the Lynx Hilo are dime a dozen. Hilo’s background noise is only audible through sensitive IEMs. Until trying Pandora Hope VI, I assumed the same was true for headphones. Which boggles the mind. Hope VI is so sensitive that certain high-end portable players - the original AK100 for example - cause it to hiss.
An expensive circumaural home headphone that hisses as much as do some IEMs is a backward design. It is bad design. And it's an aberration probably due to the use of balanced armature drivers. Plugging Hope VI into noisier sources such as Pro-Ject’s Pre Box RS Digital, which I reviewed today at Headfonia, is right out. Ditto PlusSound’s excellent Cloud Nine.
Because I really enjoy Hope VI’s bright, hard-hitting, but soft-hearted sound, I’d love to join the ranks of owners. It’s generally comfy (if hot) on the head, and after hours of listening, non-fatiguing. Its locking cable port is brilliantly engineered. Its shape is purely headphone. If not for being so damn sensitive, for hissing like an IEM, it would be an easy headphone to recommend.
And for that, there can be no hope.
Finally, I owe a heartfelt thanks to Barun C, whom I understand, may be willing to lend audio gear back and forth with me. Barun, you are a gentleman; as you are finishing your studies, you apear to also be a scholar. Many thanks.
ohm image: For non-rockers - Grado PS1000
DARko: Final Audio Design Pandora Hope VI headphones review
headfonia: Review: Pro-Ject Pre Box RS Digital - Chameleon
headfonia: Lynx Studio Technology HILO Review