Pros: Great mids and strong highs, good value
Cons: Subdued bass, Treble sometimes harsh, Comfort
Previously I have reviewed the Final Audio Design Sonorous IV and was impressed by just how clear and dynamic the mids and treble were from the addition of a balanced armature to a dynamic driver in each ear. Now with the similar looking but smaller brother, the Sonorous II, it’s time to see how it compares and stands on its own with just a dynamic driver in each ear.
Build Quality of the Sonorous II Headphone
The Sonorous II shares the same shape as the rest of the line. The headphone has the same internals as the Sonorous III but is lighter in weight. I enjoy having the size adjustment come from sliding the cans up and down on the metal arms extending downward from the headband. It feels smoother and less jarring than the rigid increments some headphones snap to. Where the cans attach to the metal arms is a greased ball joint that makes the headphones very flexible and easy to rotate. The detachable 3.5mm cable is a solid black rubber that plugs into both sides of the headphones.
Sonorous II Audio Quality
The Sonorous II does tend to go towards the brighter side. Similar to the Sonorous IV but nowhere near as forward and less crisp on the upper mids. The soundstage is good for the price but not quite as large as the IV or other headphones just a tad higher cost. Acoustic instruments seem to benefit the most from the driver and I found guitars and orchestral focused pieces to display amazing timbre and body. As the strength of the II lies in its ability to deliver the goods in the mid and upper frequencies the low end is usually more subdued.
Design & Look
Shares the basic shape of the rest of the Sonorous line with some small tweaks. Just like the III and IV, the II is mostly matte black with some silver detailing. The brand, logo and name of the headphone model are white and readable compared to being black on black with the IV. This contrast on the II breaks up the simple black and silver color scheme of the IV and makes the headphones feel less like a concept model. Since the L and R are visible it’s much easier at a glance to tell with side to put on.
Given that the Sonorous line share the same design style their fit is very similar. I did notice that the II was slightly less heavy than the IV. Both models have a well-padded headband. The issue with the IV having a small space for my ears to fit between the earpads and the driver cloth grill still appears with the II on extended listening sessions. One thing that is different in the II from the IV is the appearance of small holes poked in the bottom of the earpads. This is to relieve pressure and make the earpads softer, and just pressing on the pads of the II and IV is enough to feel the difference the holes make.
Soundstage: Not quite as big as its older brother the Sonorous IV but still decently sized for a closed back headphone. The II seems to be good at differentiating instruments inside the space even though the space is not massive. Chicane’s Saltwater clearly set backing vocals out to the edges, percussion on top, running synth in the middle and the lead vocal soaring over everything else. The backward to forward sweep in the track was noticeable but not quite as transportive as the IV or other higher priced headphones.
Highs: Energetic. I loved the way violins, xylophone, and high woodwinds danced around on Joanna Wang’s “Moon River” without being harsh. At times the power of the high frequency instruments did step over the vocals. The crushed bit synth sounds on Knife Party’s “Rage Valley” really popped and stabbed out in a super dynamic presentation alongside thick bodied upper chords. The high piano on Ryo Fukui’s “Scenery” was a bit too forward for me and music with many high frequency elements may be fatiguing over longer listening sessions.
Mids: Solid. On Rush’s “YYZ” the drum kit and guitar were well defined and clear but neither overpowered the rest of the mix. Coming from the Sonorous IV where the mids and highs were very strong and forward the II feels much more smoothly blended into all the frequencies. Vocals in general were very clear and accurate. None of the elements on Iggy Azalea’s “Change Your Life” were stronger than the vocals. On Gustav Holst’s “Mars, the Bringer of War” the classical orchestra is given great presence and dynamics among the instruments. The horn crescendos are epic without losing sight of the snare drum and clarinets.
Lows: Good body and decent clarity. Datsik’s “Annihilate” had clearly lurking wobble bass rolling around the edges and punchy kicks but still a bit overshadowed by the power of the upper end. On Calvin Harris’ “Under Control” the roving bassline was a bit muddied under the other higher synth elements in the mix. However, I really loved the thick chugging and booming drums that were thrown out on Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning.” The headphone seems to do better with the sustained lows in metal and acoustic music rather than the more staccato electronic lines and kicks.
Should I Buy the Sonorous II?
The Sonorous line are fantastic at producing clear and crisp mids and highs. If you like vocal focused, rock, jazz, or other acoustic instrument centric music the II will give you great bang for your buck. Listeners that tend to favor bass heavy music such as EDM, rap, or hip-hop may find the Sonorous II a bit too easygoing on the low end. If you are a gamer, the enhanced mids and highs will be useful in staying aware of surroundings in an fps game such as Overwatch.
While being a bit bright the Sonorous II still has solid detail and clarity. The lows are bit restrained but may be enhanced with a good DAC/amp pairing to help unleash the low end. For the price these are a good value and a different taste to a market that sometimes feels very bass heavy.