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Final ZE8000 review: Stellar sound comes at a price

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £290
inc. VAT

Delivering neutral audio in a striking package, the Final ZE8000 are let down by a mediocre suite of features and an uncomfortable fit


  • Interesting design
  • Superb, neutral sound


  • Poor active noise cancellation
  • Comfort issues
  • Subpar battery life

The Final ZE8000 are the Japanese manufacturer’s all-new flagship true wireless earbuds. Until 2022, Final – best known for wired headphones aimed at audiophiles – hadn’t ventured into the wireless earbuds space. That all changed with the release of the Final ZE2000 and ZE3000, and we were rather impressed with its opening gambits.

Both those pairs of buds were light on features, however, and while the Final ZE8000 add active noise cancellation to the mix, it’s not particularly effective. Further disappointments relating to battery life and comfort ultimately leave the ZE8000 trailing behind similarly priced rivals, despite their admittedly excellent audio quality.

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Final ZE8000 review: What do you get for the money?

At the time of writing, you can pick up the Final ZE8000 for £290 from retailers like Amazon and Selfridges. They operate wirelessly over Bluetooth 5.2 with codec support for SBC and AAC as well as the higher-resolution Qualcomm aptX and aptX Adaptive, with the latter facilitating streaming up to 24bit/96Hz.

Continuing the manufacturer’s tradition for aesthetically pleasing design, the Final ZE8000 are a visually arresting package with long, cuboid stems attached to perhaps the most strangely shaped earbud housings we’ve come across. Available in both black and white colourways, their sharp-edged shells have a dappled texture that resembles rainwater while also protecting the circuitry from real rain thanks to an IPX4 rating.

Inside those shells are 13mm “f-CORE” drivers – more than double the size of Sony’s WF-1000XM4 earbuds’ 6mm drivers – powered by Class-AB amplifiers. Given most true wireless earbuds use Class-D hardware and much smaller drivers, this sets up the ZE8000 as a high-class competitor when it comes to audio specs.

Stated battery life is five hours for the earbuds, and a total of 15 hours including the charging case. It’ll take one and a half hours to charge the earbuds once in the case and two hours to charge the case via the included USB-C to USB-A cable. Also included are five pairs of silicone eartips and five pairs of dust filters to protect the sections of the buds that reside in your ear canals, plus a metallic tool to replace the filters when required.

Feature-wise, the ZE8000 have touch controls and active noise cancellation (ANC). Those options and a “PRO Equaliser” can be accessed via the Final Connect companion app.

Final ZE8000 review: What do we like about them?

Innovative design is always welcome in a saturated true wireless earbuds market and the Final ZE8000’s unique aesthetic certainly stands out from the crowd. Some may find the earbud housings a little goofy to look at, but given only the cuboid stems are visible when worn, they aren’t too showy for daily wear. Likewise, the build feels durable and premium – which is just as well given how much the buds cost.

While eye-catching form factor is a key component of Final headphones’ popularity, audio expertise is its main draw and that experience is clearly evident in how the ZE8000 sound. Out of the box, they’re incredibly well-balanced and deliver richly detailed audio across their frequency range. The soundstage is quite concentrated in comparison to the roomy reproduction of buds like the Campfire Orbit, but decent instrument separation via some precise imaging counterbalances this and results in an engagingly three-dimensional listen.

That prowess, combined with a very natural timbre, meant the Final ZE8000 were best-suited to vocal-led and instrument-based genres like folk, rock, pop and classical rather than bass-heavy electronic tracks. Songs like ‘No Name #1’ by Elliott Smith felt especially vibrant with every acoustic guitar strum remaining incredibly sharp no matter what volume I was listening at. According to Final, this audio quality can be improved via the “8K Sound+” feature in the Final Connect app. Disappointingly, however, it made no tangible difference to the already excellent sound.

The ZE8000’s flat response won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but you can customise the sound via a four-band graphic ‘Pro’ equaliser. In a visually similar setup to the Edifier WH950NB’s equaliser, you can select between 15 frequency points across four graphic bands. There are four options for each of the bass (between 35 and 220Hz), lower mid-range (between 350Hz and 3.2kHz) and higher mid-range (between 1.6kHz and 7.2kHz) frequency bands plus three for the treble frequencies (between 10kHz and 16kHz).

From there, you can boost or reduce each band by 3dB and while I’ve used more impactful equalisers, this one still produced the desired results. To get a more distinctive sub-bass, for instance, I dialled down the upper-bass and low-midrange frequencies to help give lows greater presence.

Final ZE8000 review: What don’t we like?

Idiosyncratic design may be one of the Final ZE8000’s strongest traits but it’s not conducive to a comfortable fit. Though they sat in my ears comfortably enough initially, I began experiencing a dull ache when using the buds for more than half an hour or so. The discomfort was primarily to my tragus – the inner section of the outer ear – likely owing to the nodule after the ZE8000’s tips being fairly large and filling out my concha.

This strain was most noticeable when I moved my ears, when smiling for example, and I was often relieved to remove the buds and release the pressure they’d been applying. Your mileage will of course vary, but this issue negatively impacted my experience with the ZE8000 throughout testing.

Further reducing the ZE8000’s day-to-day appeal is their poor battery life. While five hours for the earbuds themselves is reasonable, with most running for between six and eight hours at this price, a total of 15 hours including the case can’t compete with the likes of the Sony WF-1000XM4 or Apple AirPods Pro 2.

I don’t mind trading a bit of battery life for effective noise cancellation but the ZE8000’s ANC is a major disappointment. Its noise-cancelling system has four modes – Noise Cancelling, Wind-Cut, Ambient Sound and Voice Through – with none of them offering performance worthy of such a lofty price tag. The difference between regular Noise Cancelling and Ambient modes is surprisingly small, with the ANC’s efficacy paling in comparison to much cheaper options like the JBL Live Pro 2. Wind-Cut mode works pretty well but can’t make up for the ZE8000’s deficiency in the ANC department.

The Ambient ANC mode suffers from another big issue, too – a persistent, electrical oscillation noise that’s always present when the mode is engaged. This is likely due to the sensitivity of the microphones and isn’t too noticeable with music playing, but becomes distracting if you’ve got a podcast on or aren’t listening to anything, reducing the mode’s appeal significantly.

Given the limited effectiveness of the ANC, it would be handy to turn noise cancellation off entirely to help save some battery. However, unusually, there is no such option, meaning you’ve got to pick between having it on or using one of the three other options.

The aforementioned microphone sensitivity affected call quality, too. People on the other end reported that wind, rustling of clothes, or general external noise was prominent enough to mishear what I was saying. No such problems occurred in quiet, indoor environments but while on the move, you’ll struggle to hold a coherent conversation using the ZE8000.

Besides these problems, the Final ZE8000 omit some key features offered by their competitors. They lack Bluetooth multipoint, which is a convenience feature I’ve come to rely upon heavily as someone who switches regularly between connections to their laptop and smartphone.

Also absent is the ability to customise touch controls. As detailed in the picture below, the controls have been well-thought-out and cover everything you could want: playback, volume level, ANC modes, calls and voice assistant control. However, I’d have liked to have been able to assign commands myself as some aren’t very convenient to access. Hailing your voice assistant, for example, requires five taps on the buds.

Final ZE8000 review: Should you buy them?

The ZE8000 live up to their manufacturer’s claims when it comes to sound quality: clarity is up there with the best wireless earbuds around and the default tuning provides an almost perfectly neutral baseline to enjoy a plethora of musical genres.

Sadly, the rest of the package is distinctly underwhelming. An uncomfortable in-ear feel, subpar battery life and abject active noise-cancelling are the worst offenders, while more minor irritations and omissions further harm the ZE8000’s cause.

Fans of Final’s in-ear monitors looking to take their first steps into the wireless world might be tempted to pick up the ZE8000 but even they would be better served elsewhere. As good as it is, their exceptional sound doesn’t prevent them from being a letdown for the money.

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