Without any shadow of a doubt, some of the best-sounding earbuds that money can buy. Battery life might not be stellar, but they’re comfortable and slick-looking enough for it not to bother you too much.
Punchy, impactful bass
Clean, buttery highs
Above-par noise canceling
Extremely average battery life
You can always trust iMore.
Standard practice for me when reviewing headphones is to pop them out or off my head whenever I go to do something about the house. If I’m going to refill my water bottle, I pause my music and take my buds out. Making a snack? Earbuds back in their case while I sort myself out. Answering the door? Headphones off.
The ZE8000 stayed on my head almost the entire time that I’ve been testing them — because I:
- Forgot I was wearing them
- I was enjoying listening to my music so much I didn’t want to pause it
There are compromises, sure, but pound for pound, these are the best-sounding wireless earbuds I have ever in my ears.
Final ZE8000 MK2: Price and availability
Incredible sound does come at a price, of course. The ZE8000 are $399, or £299 across the pond. That puts them above the AirPods Pro 2, Sony’s WF-1000XM5, and most of their other competitors — but you’ll find all the same features to go with that incredible sound quality to make that price sting just a little less.
You can get a pair from all your go-to retailers. They’re available on Amazon for one, as well as a smattering of other retailers that you can find on Final’s Dealers page. Wherever you go for a pair, you’ll be paying that $399 price tag, however, so bear that in mind.
Final ZE8000 MK2: Build and fit
The ZE8000 are big. There’s no way of getting around it, by every metric, they are some large buds. The stem sticks out, and the unit containing all the audio gubbins is larger than most other buds on their own. Protruding from those units are some silicon ear tips, now with added fins and sealing bits. They sit nicely in the ear, and feel very secure — you’re not going to find them flying out when you get headbanging.
You see, for how big they may be, they are also terrifically light. Add that to the interesting silicon tip design and you’ve got a very comfortable recipe for buds that live in your ears and don’t make you feel fatigued while wearing them. It’s pretty special, and there’s no trade-off to get the excellent passive seal. Complicated though they look, the silicon tips are the star of the show.
The size of the buds means that the charging case is also large. It’s a palm-sized pebble of a thing, with a cool sliding top design that keeps the buds in place when you’re not using them. That case is noticeable when you slip it into a pocket, so you might want to start carrying around a purse, or one of those fanny packs that seem to be getting ever cooler by the month. The sliding lid feels sturdy, thankfully, and the entire package feels like you’ve spent $399 on your buds.
It’s plastic, sure, but it’s sturdy-feeling plastic that inspires confidence in its longevity, so you’ll not worry too much about tossing it in that fanny pack with your keys, lip balm, and whatever else you might carry in a waist-mounted bag. The buds are made of a similar polymer, and there are no sharp molding edges anywhere that you might find digging into your ear.
It’s all wrapped in a kind of wet look, rough-texture coating that I last experienced in Final’s excellent UX3000. It’s an interesting thing to touch, and sets them further apart from the competition. Final calls it Shibo, and apparently it’s ‘an old Japanese word meaning a wrinkle on the surface of paper or leather”. I can see where that comes from — although it is a lot more pronounced than that makes it sound.
Final ZE8000 MK2: Features
When you’re paying so much money for a pair of earbuds, you’d hope they have enough features to justify the price beyond the sound quality. Thankfully, the ZE8000 are a fully-featured pair of earbuds with all the requisite bells and whistles to make them worth the price.
First off, you’ve got Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX adaptive compatibility, as well as Snapdragon sound compatibility. There’s also support for 24bit/96Hz bitrate, so they’ve got all the right wireless audiophile accreditations.
There are ANC and transparency modes on board as well, and they are remarkably effective. The ANC is particularly good here — while it doesn’t quite take the fight to the AirPods Pro 2, it more than makes a massive dent in the rest of its competition. It manages to block out a great deal of noise in pretty much every single opportunity that I gave it, including a busy bus, the humdrum of a cafe, and a packed station platform. The very loudest sounds manage to trump them, but there aren’t many buds out there that can manage noises like that. There’s a wind cut mode as well, designed to reduce wind sounds when it's breezy outside — it works well, and you can change to the mode with a brief touch on the side of the left bud. Press the right bud, and you activate the similarly good transparency mode, giving you more options than other Final headphones.
This is also the first time that I’ve used a pair of Final earbuds or headphones that use an application installed on my iPhone 15 Pro Max. It’s a fine app with all the right functions — ANC settings, a comprehensive EQ, and firmware updates — but it doesn’t do much more than that. It does everything it needs to do, but no more. In my eyes, this is a good thing, but those looking for more features and functionality in the app will be left wanting.
Battery life is, unfortunately, not stellar. The buds themselves will give you five hours of playback, and the case has a further 10 hours on board for a total battery life of 15 hours. Charging is managed through a USB-C port on the case, and it’ll juice up in two hours for a full charge. While the buds take one and a half hours to charge, you can get 45 minutes of charge in them with 5 minutes in the case.
The reason that the battery life doesn’t bother me as much as it might on other buds, however, is the same reason that they’re lodged in my ears far more than the other buds in my drawer of wireless earbuds — the 8K sound quality. The Final website is filled with all kinds of words and paragraphs, comparing it to the 8K cinematic image format, and other, technical-sounding bits and bobs. In the end, however, it’s actually really simple for us, the end users. You press a button in the app, and your battery drains even quicker in exchange for some of the best in-ear sound quality this side of $1000.
Final ZE8000 MK2: Sound quality
It’s like audio alchemy. While you give up some battery, these are the most well-rounded pair of earbuds I’ve ever stuck in my ears. They’re neutral without being too analytical, with plenty of punch when you need it to go with the accurate, buttery mids and highs. It’s remarkable.
I’ll be honest — I thought 8K sound was marketing twaddle that wouldn’t mean anything. That the non-8K sound would be somehow hobbled to make the 8K sound button seem more impressive than it actually is. No — the extra audio processing builds on some already sonically impressive buds for an epic in-ear listen.
Cloak’s Into the Storm is a tumultuous journey through darkened black magics and incantations set to distorted guitars and pummeling drum beats — and the ZE8000 place you in the center of the storm. It’s an epic, swirling time, the highs smooth and uncluttered, with plenty of clarity and accuracy where it counts. The mids allow the screams and guttural roars to cut through the tremolo-picked wall of sound with punch and presence, while the lower end emphasizes the darkness at hand.
Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft from The Carpenters' fun but ill-conceived final album is an absolute treat. The mechanical, synthesized voice at the start sounds three dimensional, its multilayered processing a joy to behold. The bass guitar cuts through as Karen Carpenter croons over the top, the synths laying their ethereal backing — and the ZE8000 don’t miss a beat. There’s a remarkable soundstage as the orchestra cuts in, making the music feel airy, free, and spacious. The drum kit feels like a multi-part instrument as Karen's sticks dance from ear to ear.
James Judd, Benjamin Grosvenor, and the Royal Liverpool Philarmonic Orchestra got together in 2012 to record Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and it gives the Dynamic range of the ZE0008 a chance to really flex its muscles. The sax at the genesis of the track soars with aplomb, steadily climbing in volume and presence, crashing down as the rest of the orchestral ensemble joins in. The quietest parts of the track are delicate and velvety smooth, while the loud sections are perfectly formed and lack any kind of distortion or busyness.
Honestly, the sound of these headphones should be enough for anyone — although you really have to give them a try. They must be heard to be believed.
Final ZE8000 MK2: Competition
There is stiff competition out there for the ZE8000. The AirPods Pro 2 are a great pair of noise-canceling buds for around $160 less, and they have the crucial Apple logo that might make you want a pair even more — and the magic connection and device switching for those invested in the Apple ecosystem. The Sony option, the WF-1000XM5 are also out there, stunning with their noise-canceling performance. There are plenty of the best wireless earbuds vying for your money — so the ZE8000 have a big job on their hands.
But none of them sound like this. There really isn’t anything that touches them when it comes to their sound — and it makes all their other weakness melt away as you drift off into a different, audio-induced realm.
Final ZE8000 MK2: Should you buy them?
You should buy these if…
- You want the best-sounding earbuds out there
- You like simple earbuds
- You work near a power outlet
You should not buy these if…
- You need more than 4 hours out of your earbuds per charge
Final ZE8000 MK2: Verdict
In the US, the average commute time is 27 minutes. In my eyes, that’s the only real time that the battery life problem crops up, and even if your commute is over an hour, the Final ZE8000 are going to have plenty of life. Want to use them throughout your work day? Charge them over lunch while you stuff your face with a cream cheese bagel and come back to an almost fully charged pair of buds for the rest of the day.
You’ll want to make excuses for the battery life just because they sound so good. The other features are like icing on a very, very tasty cake — albeit a cake with slightly smaller portion sizes.
Best sound of all
Final's ZE8000 MK2 are an audio triumph. They are a little costly, but the incredible sound quality is well worth the investment.
As iMore's Senior Staff writer, Tammy uses her background in audio and Masters in screenwriting to pen engaging product reviews and informative buying guides. The resident audiophile (or audio weirdo), she's got an eye for detail and a love of top-quality sound. Apple is her bread and butter, with attention on HomeKit and Apple iPhone and Mac hardware. You won't find her far away from a keyboard even outside of working at iMore – in her spare time, she spends her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays. Also known to enjoy driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.
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