Final ZE8000 8K wireless earbuds bring space-age design and audiophile sound on the move
Promising the aural equivalent of high-definition visuals, Final’s latest earbuds are aimed squarely at audiophiles
⊕ Cancelling modes work very well
⊕ 8K setting does make a positive difference
⊕ Precise, helpful software EQ in app
⊖ Comparatively short battery life
⊖ No multipoint connectivity
Japanese manufacturer Final Audio started life in the 1970s developing turntable cartridges, amplifiers and other hi-fi components. Fast forward to 2023, and the company has released a family of wireless earbuds, the flagship model being the new ZE8000s.
Available in black or white finishes, they have a unique design that places most of their electronics outside the actual earpiece, giving them a pretty sci-fi look. Inside they use what Final calls ‘8K sound’ which it claims to be the audio equivalent of high-resolution visuals. The question to be answered is: while audio is being compressed for wireless transmission, can that be true?
Look and feel
The earphones come in a relatively large but very lightweight battery case, the majority of its internal area used to house the bigger-than-usual ‘phones. It has a lid that slides upwards to open, which is not immediately obvious – so be careful not to lift it vertically, which it won’t do. Compared to many other comparably priced earbuds, the case doesn’t feel like it’s quite as sturdy as one would ideally like; it’s decent, but there are stronger ones out there.
A USB-C cable is included for charging and the case has a multi-LCD battery display indicator, which is a nice touch. The buds will charge to full in one-and-a-half hours and the case in two hours, with a quoted five hours of playback from the buds, plus 15 with the case, suggesting three full recharges are available. That’s not stellar by modern standards, with the similarly-priced Master & Dynamic MW08s offering up to 12 hours in the buds and 30 in the case. Furthermore, Final doesn’t state how noise cancelling affects the official battery life.
Up and running
Pairing is as simple as opening the case, which puts the buds into pairing mode and they appear to your devices. Multipoint connection doesn’t appear to be available so it will be a case of re-pairing between devices – a minor inconvenience. Signal strength was excellent however, with no dropouts experienced even in busy commuter environments. The ZE8000s come with five sizes of ear tips and, with the ideal ones selected, fit comfortably into the ears. They are also IPX4 splash-proof.
There is of course a companion smartphone app and, on first use you may well be prompted to install any available firmware update, which takes a few minutes. Then you’re able to make some tweaks to the sound, starting with the listening modes. There’s active noise cancelling, wind cut mode, ambient listening mode (which blends external sounds in for safer use in public), plus voice through mode, which prioritises ambient sound so you can more easily have a conversation without removing the buds (for example, when needing to speak to someone on a train or similar location).
Each bud contains microphones at the top and bottom of their stems, enabling them to use beamforming technology to better analyse both your voice when speaking, and adapt noise cancelling to the external noise. Capacitive surfaces on each bud let you switch modes by tapping, with voice feedback to confirm your selection. The various modes all work very well and the ANC is among the most effective around, firmly isolating you from the outside world.
The next option in the app is a ‘volume step optimizer’ which lets you change volume in more precise increments than your smartphone’s own volume buttons allow. It will be nice for some people but it’s not really a headline feature, especially if you use the phone’s software slider rather than the buttons. More interesting then is the in-app EQ, a four-band system that gives you -/+3 dB boost and cut and handily, the option to save presets. Using the phone’s entire height for the user interface lets you make quite precise tweaks here and it’s more subtle than most EQs of its type, allowing fine tuning as opposed to the rather ham-fisted approach of some other systems. It’s genuinely useful for achieving the kind of sound you desire.
The earbuds use special 13mm-diaphragm drivers in a silicon surround and with a floating mechanism for the voice coils, which Final says help to achieve extremely low total harmonic distortion. They also use class AB amplifiers, where many others use class D. In addition to the standard SBC and AAC codecs they support the high-quality Qualcomm aptX and aptX Adaptive codecs for wireless transmission at up to 24bit/96kHz.
Sonically the buds are really very impressive, offering excellent separation and stereo performance. Low end is full but never overpowering, while mids are crisp and clear, with the top end sparkling and full of life. They are relatively neutral in character – which isn’t a criticism – but you may want to make minor EQ tweaks in the app to suit your personal preferences. As noted, the EQ here is actually useful, rather than being a perfunctory addition.
Going to 8K
In the app, you can activate ‘8K’ mode, which sacrifices a little battery life in order to process sound at higher resolution. Its actual quote is “instead of focusing only on fine-tuning of particular frequencies, the time element of every single bit of sound is also carefully calibrated with digital signal processing”. That’s a bit nebulous as descriptions go, but when you turn 8K on you do hear a slight sharpening of the sound. It’s fairly subtle, but toggling it on and off, you can hear that the higher-quality mode is definitely at least a little more detailed.
The ZE8000s are aimed at audiophiles more than casual users. Their feature set focuses on audio fidelity rather than anything else, hence you have 8K mode combined with shorter battery life, an EQ that’s genuinely useful, but no multipoint connectivity, and so on. The listening modes work very well, which is a feature that’s great for casual users too. The claim of high-resolution audio is more aspirational than factual; since they don’t support lossless Bluetooth audio, they’re not technically transmitting at super high quality in the way that 8K video transmits visuals. Despite that, the aptX codec does its work admirably and audio quality is more than good enough for all but the most diehard purists.
There’s strong competition however, especially from the identically-priced NuraTrue Pros, which do support lossless audio as well as a bunch of other hi-tech features. The ZE8000s are very fine earbuds for music listening, but Final might want to consider adding a few more software features via firmware updates to keep pace with the competition.
- Price: £299 / €329 / $349
- Up to 15 hours battery life
- Proprietary 8K sound option
- Multiple noise-cancelling modes
- USB-C charging case
- 5 sets of ear tips
- 13mm drivers
- In-app EQ
- Capacitive touch surfaces
- IPX4 splash-proofing
- AptX Adaptive codec
Find out more at snext-final.com
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