final ZE3000

ngoshawk

Headphoneus Supremus
Final Audio ZE3000 ($149): Wireless, but still many of the same Final characteristics
Pros: Price
Sound is what you expect from Final Audio
Rich, warmer signature
Detail & clarity
Size
Functions
Cons: Plastic
Fit may not be for all
Competition at this price
Final Audio ZE3000 ($149): Wireless, but still many of the same Final characteristics

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ZE3000

Intro: I have reviewed a few Final Audio models and consider their Type-E to be amongst the best silicon tips out there as well as my preferred choice. I own a pair of Sonorous III’s and like their laidback musical sound. For the price they are quite good. Now if I could only find a case to hold them...anyway, the ZE3000 is a TWS bud with IPX4 water resistance along with layered ANC characteristics. Easy to use controls and a decent fit affords this model typical Final qualities to me.


Specs:

  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • SBC, AAC, Qualcomm aptX Adaptive
  • Max 7hrs on charge, 35 w/ case
  • 1.5hrs charge time-earbuds; 2hrs-case
  • IPX4 water resistance
In The Box:
  • ZE3000
  • Case
  • Final Type-E tips (ss, s, m, l, ll)
  • USB-C charging cable

Gear Used:

MacBook Pro
iPhone 13 Pro Max
HiBy R3 Sabre


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Songs:

Alex Fox
Pink Floyd
Buena Vista Social Club
Elton John
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Peter Frampton
Jeff Beck
Dave Matthews
Tommy Emmanuel
David Bowie
R.E.M.
Lynyrd Skynyrd


Unboxing:

Similar to all other TWS products, there is a box, you open it, take the case out, pair with your device; then listen. It’s not that I eschew unboxing parts, they simply get superfluous. I will add that it is a nice box, though.


Technicals/Build/Fit/Finish:

The ZE3000 is made of what they call ultra-strength, lightweight resin. The chamber is acoustically designed to maximize the dynamics, much like others are now doing. Final recognizes the inherent problems with making a TWS that is efficient in use of the shell, as well as providing accurate sound, without adding frequencies to counter the shell deficiencies.

Utilizing what they call “f-LINK Damping System,” Final creates a natural sound similar to that of wired earphones. In addition, the newly developed "f-Core for Wireless" driver unit delivers ultra-low distortion, resulting in a sound quality that is unmistakably different from conventional truly wireless earbuds. Some manufacturers counter with an increased response from the treble end of the sound spectra, but the design used here alleviates the need for that, according to Final. While the shape of the shell helps, I cannot underestimate that it looks like the Final wired IEM’s previously. In other words, why change what works, when you can fine tune for the desired platform?

I had a problem with the Final A4000 IEM, fit-wise previously; but the ZE3000 has a slightly smaller housing, and as such fits well. I can still feel the edges after long sessions, but all of this is well within tolerances to me.

The driver itself is of a new design (f-Core wireless driver), and since the chamber design is at the front allows for the 6mm diminutive size to mimic a 9mm. The chamber design allows for the expansive sound without the use of equalization like other manufacturers. As you can see from the above picture, there is a “pressure release” optimization housing, which helps give some nice depth to the bass. All of the above changes allow for a remarkably low THD as a result. If any of you have been lucky enough to hear or own the vaunted D8000, widely regarded as one of the best sounding headphones out there, you get that Final takes their tuning and design seriously.

Put this all together, and one would think that the price is commensurate with other Final products, or even be shooting for the Sony or B&W price in the TWS range. To say that this is at the $150 range comes across as high value to me.

The controls of the ZE3000 are easy enough to use and once you realize where the touch is, I had no problems with either changing on purpose or inadvertently. This is where the edges of the shell pay dividends to me, giving the user a place to grasp and adjust as needed. There is a slight delay to the functions, but not with any bother. Phone calls come across as clear and crisp, and to me all but the lowest priced units are a bother in this regard. I even made a phone call on a VERY windy central USA day, without much of a bother. The end caller could discern the wind, but not like on a cell phone, so that is still a good positive.

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Sound:

Coming into this, I had only the A4000 and my Sonorous III as reference points. While I appreciated the A4000, and like my Sonorous III very much, I was not sure what to expect. To say I was impressed is indeed an understatement as a result.

Summary:

The ZE3000 will not be considered a basshead, like the Sony WF-1000XM4, but there is enough and of good enough quality to provide a baseline for the signature. Treble plays nicely into this, and since Final did not boost the treble, you can assume that the overall tuning is meant (as they state) to be of a more even keel. Vocals are present with good resolution, and do not get lost, either. I almost hate to say this, but at this price, this could be my new favorite.

Moar:

Bass comes across with good depth and speed with decay coming faster than attack to me. As a result, you get the depth and a succinctness, but without being sloppy or overbearing. I do like bass. A lot. But this tuning of bass suits me just fine as on David Bowie’s Conversation Piece, even with an early 70’s tuning, comes across as mentioned above. No bleed into the mids occurs either, to me.

Those mids allow Bowie’s vocals to come across as both musical and natural. Final mentions, “allowing the artists songs to ring through,” and I would agree. His voice comes across with strong energy, as it should; which allows me to enjoy the song as intended. Just to make sure, I replay the song a couple of times. Following that with Pomme’s San Toi, her voice rings as near-sensuous; mimicking to me a wired experience. While not completely like that, the sound coming forth is fairly astounding and allows me the pleasure of listening without bother.

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The only bother I have comes up top, in the treble range. Nicely extended, but without becoming strident, there is a certain artificiality to cymbal crashes and hits, along with a bit of that in higher guitar notes as well. Mind you, this is a minor niggle, and one, which really doesn’t bother me if I am simply listening. On Tedeschi Trucks Midnight In Harlem, that tendency drifts away with the wonderful melodic song; so one really need not worry.

Soundstage is very good for a closed TWS system. I get good height on R.E.M.’s Man On The Moon, along with good depth and width. To me highlighting the depth and height makes for a very nice chamber with which to listen. The center point comes across as almost dead center in my head, a nice change from the lifted or elevated center points of previously reviewed gear of late. I thoroughly enjoy the separation & layering as a result. Good height equates to the ability in discerning each layer and those instruments are well placed within the sound signature. I find myself raising the volume not only because of the isolation, but because I am rather enjoying the sound as well!

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Finale:

Comparing TWS units is akin to comparing compact-sized sedans. There is a plethora of them, and the vast majority do things well. You want an appliance? Buy a Toyota Corolla or Prius (we own one, so...). You want luxury? Buy a Honda Civic. Sporty? Buy a VW Jetta or the Si version of the Civic. You get my point, I hope.

Taken singularly, the ZE3000 comes across as nothing but a surprise to me. Not only in fit, but sound as well. This one is a keeper to me, and I am thankful for the opportunity to experience something else from Final. For those who spend $200 on AirPods, or the requisite Beats, you should seriously reconsider their purchase. The Final Audio ZE3000 is better than either, by a large margin to me. A point here, and I shall end. Some complain about spending so much on audio gear, yet I would bet that their children mostly own Beats or AirPods. Heck, even my daughter does (Apple), and I have given her far superior products than those. But, just as often people claim, “at this price,” then state the phrase and seemingly lose credibility. I say balderdash. One must have a point of reference for everything we review, and I do not forget that.

And here is where the ZE3000 competes very well at the price, and to me makes an affordable alternative to the overpriced mass-produced offerings from others. See what I did there? The ZE3000 is a very fine TWS, which is fairly intuitive to use, sounds the part, plus you get the cool Final Type-E tips as well. I find the critter to be easily worth a listen and think you may agree on many of the points I have provided.

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T
tubbymuc
I just love the ze3000!! It looks so unique! And also maybe I am biased towards Japanese audio stuff. Also thanks for the
T
tubbymuc
Thanks for the review**

notaris

New Head-Fier
Final ZE3000: Audiophile quality TWS
Pros: Beautiful tonal balance, clean, transparent, natural and relaxed sound; detailed and well-controlled bass, mellow vocals, detailed but never harsh tremble; huge soundstage in all dimensions, holographic image, great separation and dynamics.
Cons: Hard pressed to find a real flaw.
Introduction

Final is a company that needs no introduction. It has a really long history in the audio industry, and in recent years it is specializing in the design and manufacture of IEMs and headphones. In IEMs, Final has given us such successful models like the E series or the more audiophile A series; while in headphones, the Sonorous series set a benchmark among dynamic headphones and the D8000 among planar ones. What is very unusual is that Final makes some truly humble models, like E1000, costing $25.00 and having a performance that worths several times more; and it also has other models, like A8000, costing $2000.00 and taking you to stellar levels of performance. Final accomplished that by paying attention into two things: Quality and sound. All of the Company’s products talk of quality in the housing, the cable, even the eartips, for which Final is famous; however, what many times leaves you stunned is the Final sound. Now, if someone would ask me to describe the latter, I could obviously start talking about balance, resolution, soundstage, dynamics, etc., as we always do in reviews; or I could summarize everything in two words: “Final tonality”, which for me is really unique, and it is what differentiates Final IEMs and headphones from similar products in the market. In fact, I dare to say that to this day I have not found this exact tonality in any other IEM or headphone set among those that I have tried.

Very recently, Final presented its first TWS (True Wireless Stereo) earbuds, the ZE3000. Now, let me tell you that maybe due to my age, I am a rather old fashioned person, and for me an IEM set is a wired set. I have seen several TWS models in the market and I have even tried some; it was clear to me in all cases that one would choose them for their ease of use and not for their sound. It is not that they sounded bad, but rather indifferent. However, what made me paying attention to ZE3000 is Final’s philosophy: Sound comes always first!

Now, it is well known that it is really difficult to make an audiophile TWS model; a company has to overcome a number of obstacles that mainly have to do with putting delicate electronics in an earbud housing and making sure that these electronics do not interfere with the earbud driver. On the other hand, Final engineers are known for challenging the impossible! Were they successful in this case? Let’s find out!


Description

Maybe the biggest success of Final, among all its IEMs and headphones is E3000, which has won ten consecutive Gold medals in Japan's largest audio awards, the VGP, and it has sold hundreds of thousands of units since its launch in 2017. If you have listened to E3000, you know that they don’t impress you with their extended bass or tremble or their forward mids; what stands out is their natural and relaxing sound, which lets you enjoy the music, and this is what it will make you to appreciate them overtime.

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In developing ZE3000, Final wanted to repeat and even surpass the success of E3000, and in doing so, it had to mainly overcome two challenges:
  • The first is that inside the ZE3000’s housing are delicate electronics, such as batteries, electronic circuit boards and antennas, which leave little freedom in creating a perfect acoustic chamber, necessary for achieving a high quality sound. In addition, the waterproof feature, which is to be expected from a TWS system, excluded the use of a single vent for regulating the air pressure inside the acoustic chamber. The result of this is that the low-frequencies become overwhelming and the overall clarity degrades due to the auditory masking effect. Some companies try to overcome this problem by increasing the high frequencies to regain the lost clarity, but this creates a so-called “V-shape” sound signature and leads to fatigue after a long period of listening. Final took a different path, bydeveloping the “f-LINK Damping System” that optimizes the pressure in the acoustic space inside the ZE3000housing to create a sound equivalent to wired earphones without the need for external vents.
  • The other problem is distortion. This is usually referred to as Total Harmonic Distortion (THD), or THD+N, and it amounts to the sum of THD and (all) other distortions; essentially, it shows how much the signal waveform is (non-linearly) deformated. In order to understand how much detrimental distortion can be to sound, it is enough to think that a DAC or an amplifier has distortion as low as 0.0001%, while a superior IEM has distortion around3%, i.e., 30,000 times more, in the low-frequency range. So, it is easy to understand by how much the sound quality would improve if the distortion problem is confronted. Final’s cure to that was the development of “f-Core for Wireless”, a newly designed driver that achieves ultra-low distortion, and thus resulting in high resolution and extended soundstage and imaging
Let me describe here in a little more details these two important feats:
  • I will start with the all new driver “f-Core for Wireless”. Here Final did not rely on heavy software equalization in order to obtain the desired sound signature, as this occasionally leads to unnatural results and tiring listening experience; equalization was used, but only for making precise corrections in certain points in the audio spectrum. Final instead chose the hard path, which was to start with the “f-Core DU” driver, used in A3000 and A4000, and completely redesigned it to come up with the new “f-Core for Wireless” driver. As we already mentioned, the idea here was to fight distortion, as only that way the new driver would obtain the desired sound signature and would be able to apply the precise equalization whenever needed; for example, with the typical accuracy of about 3dB in sound pressure the precise equalization is bound to fail. In a typical driver diaphragm, monolithic injection molding is used with the center and surround being formed at the same time, while tangential corrugations are added to the surround to stabilize the movement at higher amplitude; this results in a rotational movement of the diaphragm, which causes distortion. In the case of the “f-Core for Wireless”, the center is made of a special resin, which is both light and hard, while the surround is made of a special, extremely flexible silicone, ensuring smooth and undistorted movement. The benefit is two-fold: The effective area of a 6mm diameter diaphragm is equivalent to that of a 9mm diameter monolithic injection molded diaphragm; and the distortion is substantially reduced. In addition, the resin center and the special silicone surround are directly molded together without the use of adhesives, which improves assembly accuracy and significantly reduces weight, thus further contributing to a reduction of distortion. Now, try to imagine how difficult the manufacturing of such a diaphragm might be. Of course, the new diaphragm is complemented by a light CCAW voice coil and a strong neodymium magnet.
ZE3000 driver.jpg


With the reduction of distortion (see the graph below), the resolution has been substantially increased.

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  • As already mentioned, the housing of ZE3000 contains delicate electronics, while the waterproof feature did not allow the existence of a single vent for regulating the air pressure inside the acoustic chamber. The “f-LINK Damping System” intended to optimize the pressure in the acoustic space inside the housing and that way to create a sound signature equivalent to that of wired earphones without the need for external vents. This made possible theprecise control of low frequencies and the benefit was twofold: The vocals appeared to be further away, thus improving the overall image; and the bass notes, combined with low distortion, became more detailed throughout the entire low frequencies range.
ZE3000 housing.jpg


It is quite interesting to see how much the “f-LINK Damping System” smooths out the sound pressure frequency response curve compare to a typical TWS system without a vent (see the graph below).

ZE3000 frequency response curve.jpg


Furthermore, ZE3000 is compatible with a wide range of iPhone, Android devices, PC or Mac and it is (very) easy to pair.It also supports a variety of Bluetooth Codecs: In addition to the common SBC and AAC formats, it also supports the uninterrupted, high-quality aptX™ as well as 48kHz / 24bit wireless transmission using the Qualcomm® aptX™ Adaptive.

Another interesting feature is that ZE3000 supports touch operation, so one can easily control literally everything, i.e.,play / stop / volume up or down / next or previous track and start or end a call, by just a touch. The touch point is on the triangle-like area in the faceplate of the earbuds (it is the part of the faceplate without the logo), and this is designed in order to avoid erroneous operation.

Furthermore, the ZE3000 follows the IPX4 Water Resistance rating, and this makes them suitable for use while one is engaged in sports and in an active lifestyle. Also, if the weather conditions change from sunny to rainy, one should worry about himself, but not about ZE3000, so he can keep listening to his favor music.

Final gave particular attention to the charging case of ZE3000. Besides being compact, it had to be easily maneuverable, namely, not only to comfortably fit in the palm of one’s hand, but also to be easily opened and closed with just one hand. Many different prototypes were tried and carefully evaluated before concluding the final size and form of the case.

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Both the earbuds and the charging case come in 2 color variations, black and white, and they are made of resin with a soft-textured Shibo (old Japanese word meaning a wrinkle on paper or leather) coating reminiscent of what one encounters on top quality cameras. Normally, the Shibo coating, which reminds of an “earth-like” finishing is applied on metal, but Final developed and realized a special process that can also be applied onto resin.

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I should not also forget that you get all this for just $149.00!

Now, all the above show that ZE3000 is a truly sophisticated design, which is not surprising for a Final product. Is the sound of ZE3000 equally sophisticated? Let’s find out!


The sound

As I already mentioned, being an old fashioned person and thus preferring wired IEM sets, I was somewhat skeptical when I first tried ZE3000. Not that I had any kind of prejudice or I was nitpicking, but I was definitely wondering on how good ZE3000 could be compared to a traditional wired IEM model. So, I thought to compare ZE3000 to the Final A4000, which for me is a reference set among wired IEMs up to $300.00. Before giving you details, I will step forward and say: ZE3000 sounds overall better than A4000; yes, if I want to be fair, I have to admit that.

However, please allow me to explain what I mean. What I mostly admire in all Final IEMs (and headphones) is the Final tonality. By that I mean the beautiful tonal balance that all Final models from E,B and A series have; it is a tonal balance that is characterized by an almost perfect balance between the low, mid and high frequencies, which nonetheless are blended in such a way that the IEM does not loose its musicality. So, a balanced, yet relaxed performance, without any picks in the audio spectrum, but never sounding cold and sterile at the same time. For me, Final IEMs have a unique tuning, and I consider this a blend of science and art.

Having said all this, what really impressed me so much on ZE3000 is that the usual Final tonal balance has taken to an even higher level. The balance is as perfect as one can imagine, and the sound is so clean and transparent that I have never heard before from an IEM at this or a much higher price range (wired or TWS). The overall signature is so relaxed to the point that one can listen to really aggressive musical pieces for a long time without getting tired.

I feel that if I started talking in particular about the bass, the mids and the tremble, I would nitpicking, and this is something I hate. Not only because I believe that it depends on the kind of music you are listening to, but also because it depends on factors that are not always the same, like one’s mood. I can tell you though that I spent many hours listening to ZE3000, and each time I was on the search for a flaw; well I found none in the sound quality. It is hard to say if there is more sub- or mid-bass; I would say that these two are balanced, but the bass is greatly controlled, so it is very detailed. The mids is where ZE3000 really shines, and very rarely I heard so mellow vocals both from female and male artists; not a hint of forwardness or recession, just beautiful vocals. The tremble is never harsh or sibilant, but it is never lacking details, which are more than plenty. If all this is combined with ZE3000’s cleanness and transparency, you have a result that would satisfy the vast majority if not all of listeners.

The soundstage is huge, both in width, height and depth, and the image is absolutely to the point. Also amazing is the separation and the dynamics.

Is there any flaw in the performance of ZE3000? In certain musical pieces one might feel that the volume is a bit low; this is because in TWS systems the digital to analog conversion chip controls also the noise, which in a typical DAC is done by a dedicated circuit. Final found that the chip they use is quite good, but for controlling the noise effectively, the volume should not be that high, as higher volume means audible noise, which distorts the overall sound.

I tried many different songs. Listen for example to the classical “The Look of Love” by Diana Krall, from the album with the same name, Verve; I have to admit that it was the best performance for a long time, particularly among IEMs or earbuds up to $300.00. The strong point, as it was mentioned above, is the vocals that blend perfectly with the lows and the mids. However, where I was really stunned was the song “Over my Head” by Asaf Avidan, from the album Gold Shadow, Telmavar Records. If you ever heard this short song, you know that it has some of the most difficult vocals, which primarily has to do with Asaf Avidan’s voice, but also with the way he performs this particular song; up to this day, I have not encountered an IEM or an earbud with such a relaxed performance, i.e., without Asaf Avidan’s voice to sound more or less shouty. ZE3000 gave the best performance, even among IEMs costing three times as much. On the instrumental song “Maria También” by Khruangbin, from the album Con Todo El Mundo, Night Time Stories Ltd, the sound is as punchy, but somewhat more detailed than the sound of Final A4000, which really surprised me. I was also overly impressed by the huge soundstage in all dimensions and the truly holographic image. On the classical song “The Road to Hell” by Chris Rea, from the album The Best, Jazzee Blue / Navybeck Ltd, a very powerful song needing great dynamics to be properly performed, ZE3000 did an amazing job. I could go on and on with songs from all short of different genres, which ZE3000 had absolutely no problem to deliver. So, on top of everything else, ZE3000 is a wonderful all-rounder.

Now, being an iPhone user, I always used SBC and AAC formats; the difference between Bluetooth 4.2 and 5.2 is rather small, and sometimes hardly detectable. It would certainly be interesting if Final uses in a future model LDAC by Sony; that would be a great choice to try.

Am I going to stop using wired IEMs? Hell no! I am an old fashioned person, and “you cannot really teach an old dog new tricks”, so surely I will keep using my beloved Final E2000 and A4000, as after all there are so many wired IEMs which need comparison. However, I will say the following: I shall start using ZE3000 almost as much as my wired IEMs, and, honestly, if I was a young guy and I had to choose between a good wired IEM and a TWS system, I would not think a second time about ZE3000. I think that this clears the subject.


Accessories and fit

The exterior box of ZE3000 is nicely minimal and inside it the user will find:
  • The earbuds.
  • The charging case.
  • 5 sizes SS / S / M / L / LL of the Final newly designed “TYPE E Truly Wireless Exclusive Edition” eartips.
  • A User’s Manual and a “Read before using this product” booklet.
ZE3000 earbuds in case.jpg


The “TYPE E Truly Wireless Exclusive Edition” are designed for maximal comfort, without any feel of oppression, so they don’t cause any pain or fatigue after wearing them for a long time. It is this “TYPE E Truly Wireless Exclusive Edition”, together with the attention given to the housing of the earbuds (see below), that made Final to achieve the “Supreme Highest Sensation of Fit”. Moreover, because the core color of adjacent sizes is different (ZE3000 Black: alternating between dark grey and light grey, ZE3000 White: alternating between clear and white), it has become easy to distinguish between sizes.

ZE3000 eartips.jpg


A special mention should be made for the ZE3000 earbuds superior fit. How Final succeeded in that? First of all, by starting from the basic principle that the earbuds are comfortable if they exert minimal oppression. So, they decided not to use the fitting method which is based on the repulsive force of housing, as this, no matter how good the earbud is designed, starts, sooner or later, to exert force onto the ear, and finally resulting in fatigue. The idea here was a housingshape that limits the contact area with the ear, thus providing a comfortable fit without any feel of oppression, and at the same time allowing the earbuds to stay secure on the ear (keep in mind there is no cable here). The ZE3000 housing can be held at three points for a stable fit. The 1st point is at the cavity of the concha (see the pink dots in the figure below), the 2nd point is at the eartip (see the green dots), and the 3rd point is at the tragus (see the Blue dot). That way Final aspires that the earbuds will fit pretty much every ear. If there is no feeling of oppression at all points of contact, you will feel that wearing earbuds is so comfortable, and it is an excellent wearing feeling as if it were a customized earbuds setjust for you. From my personal experience, after many hours of listening, I can tell you the “the theory” proves absolutely right in practice.

ZE3000 earbuds fitting.jpg


Furthermore, Final eartips are very nicely designed, providing a high level of sound isolation, so ambient noise with ZE3000 was never a problem.


In conclusion

Besides what I already said about ZE3000, beautiful tonal balance, clean, transparent, natural and relaxed sound, detailed and very well-controlled bass, mellow vocals, detailed but never harsh tremble, huge soundstage in all dimensions, holographic image, great separation and dynamics, I would add that I was hard pressed to find a flaw.

Yes, sometimes you might feel that the volume is a bit low; and of course you have to charge them in order to be able to use them, but hey these are not really flaws.

At $149.00, if I was a young guy, I would grab a set without thinking for a second time. And if you are an older person like me, I would definitely give them a shot; trust me, you are for a big surprise!

ZE3000 has my highest recommendation.


Specifications

ZE3000
Communication Format: Bluetooth 5.2
Supported Codecs: SBC, AAC, Qualcomm® aptX™, aptX™ Adaptive
Continuous Music Playback: Maximum 7 hours / Maximum 35 hours with case
Charging Time: Earbud: 1.5 hours / Case: 2 hours
Battery Capacity: Earbud: 35 mAh / Case: 300 mAh
Water Resistant: IPX4
Price: $149.00

https://snext-final.com

Reviewer’s note: The reviewer is grateful to Kyo of Final Inc. for sending him samples of ZE3000.
F700
F700
Just spent 2 days with them, but fully agree with your impressions. These are one of the most satisfying purchase I made this year and I got (and sold) quite a lot of audiophiles priced devices. Very impressed with the sound. Terrific tuning.
notaris
notaris
Thank you all for your kind comments.

Being a traditional IEM lover and user, I am always hesitant about TWS systems; ZE3000 completely changed my view on that.

I am sure that Final works on an upgrade model of ZE3000. It is a Company that always surprises you pleasantly.
8
8bitfanatic
I can only agree to this ode on the ZE3000. Music sounds natural and ‘right’ and I never feel the need to end a listening session due to discomfort of any kind.

Layman1

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: balanced, transparent, very high quality sound at this price point, detailed and musical
Cons: Doesn't use the latest wireless technologies, IEM shape might not be ideal for everyone's ears.
Introduction:

Final is a prestigious Japanese audio company, and the makers of, amongst many other products, the flagship A8000 IEM and the B1 IEM, both of which I have reviewed previously and enjoyed a great deal.

For my fellow suffers languishing in the audio retail purgatory that is the UK, here is a link where the ZE3000 can be ordered in the domestically (other ways of ordering are available) :)
https://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/pr...g-earphones-white?_pos=1&_sid=e06ff4b1c&_ss=r

(NB: this link is for the white model; the black model is also available on this website if you do a quick search there).
At the time of writing, the ZE3000 are retailing for £119 (around $150).

My thanks to Final and John at KS Distribution for authorising this sample to be provided to me in exchange for my honest review. I was also sent the black sample, but for my tastes, I preferred the white model's appearance and got better photos with it (decent photos of the black version are on this product/reviews page here on Head-Fi), so I stuck with that one for this review. They both sound the same, it goes without saying :)
Well, unless you believe in quantum stickers adding that last 5% lift in sound quality, in which case because the white shell acts as a superior reflector of electromagnetic radiation, there is less interference, lower distortion and a 1% improvement in sound quality gained from choosing this colour :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Time for us to elegantly promenade from the written word into the visual world, by proceeding (in an orderly fashion of course) to that section of the review simply known as ‘Photos’


Photos:
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NB: The lights on the IEMs just come on during pairing with a device, powering on/off etc.
They are not there all the time, and they don't indicate Left and Right, despite the classic blue and red colour scheme :D

Build Quality and accessories:



The ZE3000 are a wireless set of IEMs, based around a 6mm dynamic driver, housed in sturdy plastic shells with a pleasing textured pattern on it, referred to by Final as ‘Shibo’.

This not only gives them a cool appearance, but also makes it easier for one’s hands to maintain a good grip on the IEMs when inserting them, which becomes especially helpful when you recall that there are no wires on this product to help you avoid dropping them :)

The ZE3000 features nicely rounded edges on the inside face of the shells, but the outside has that characteristic Final angular design, similar to the B1 and A8000.
Not to carp on too much about the joys of Japanese design, but it’s something that Final do very well and I always appreciate their aesthetics and attention to detail.

With regards to the technology inside, we have Bluetooth Version 5.2, along with the following codecs: AAC, SBC, aptX, aptX Adaptive Codec Support.

Now, Layman1 being a rather classically-minded fellow (which is, to be honest, a generous way of saying ‘a complete Luddite’) I personally don’t use wireless, streaming, Bluetooth or Android apps of any kind, so reviewing the ZE3000 is something very new for me and it does mean I can’t comment much on the technologies used. My understanding is that the technologies employed here were done on the basis of providing the product at an accessible price point (competitive with the corresponding Apple Air Pods for example) whilst endeavouring to maximise audio performance within those budgetary constraints.
However, as always, I shall endeavour to describe to you how it sounds to me as accurately as possible, and allow you to make up your mind accordingly :)


Sound:

I have a few tracks which I’ve only found available on MP3; the vast majority are FLAC or WAV in 16/44 or hi-res 24-bit HDTracks (or equivalent), with a few DSD56 tracks sneaking their way in too.

Regarding music styles, I listen to a wide variety of genres, including Asian pop (Chinese pop/acoustic, K-Pop, Japanese stuff etc), Bollywood tracks, rock, pop, hip-hop, jazz, classical, blues, RnB (both original and modern), folk, acoustic, a tiny bit of electronica/EDM and so on. And even a bit of Country (and, indeed, Western), for the record :)
For the purposes of this review, the source I primarily used was the Sony ZX300 (hardware modded by Nayparm, and using MrWalkman’s ‘Midnight Plus’ free custom firmware), since this would be the use-case combination I would be most likely to employ on a regular basis.

Pairing with the Sony DAP was refreshingly hassle free; after having ensured all devices (earphones, earphone charger case and DAP) were fully charged up, I opened the case of the ZE300, waited for the IEM indicator light to flash red and blue (in accordance with the instructions in the user manual) and then went to the appropriate menu on my ZX300 and clicked to pair the devices.
That’s it. Then straight on to the music :)

Sound Signature:


Lows:

With some IEMs sporting a dynamic driver more than double the size of that used in the ZE3000, I was frankly fearing that the bass might turn out be a little anaemic.
I started out with some songs from one of my relaxing playlists, “Sweet Beulah Land” by American bluegrass group The Petersons, then on to “September Grass” by James Taylor.
It gives me no small amount of vicarious delight to be able to inform you all that the low end – whilst by no means at bass-head levels – was nevertheless warm, rich and engaging.

Switching to Italian hip-hop group Poison, their song “Dove Sei?” features a thunderous synthetic bassline, and I was curious to see how it might sound here.
Again, I found myself very pleasantly surprised. A very respectable amount of rumble with a touch less sub-bass impact and slam; the IEM seems tuned to emphasise mid-bass a bit more than sub-bass. Decay is slightly on the slower side, although by no means sluggish.

Overall, I’d personally say the low end is tuned slightly above neutral and is well implemented; combining technical proficiency with musicality.

Mids:

Overall, the ZE3000 seems fairly well-balanced across the whole frequency spectrum.
With the mids, there’s warmth and weight coming through from that satisfying mid-bass; it doesn’t cause any muddiness here though, a detail which is aided by what sounds to me like a lift in the upper-mids. It’s not to the same degree of something comparatively extreme like the excellent Empire Ears Odin, and not even as much as the Campfire Audio Saber which I recently reviewed and enjoyed greatly.

Nevertheless, I would add that there were a few tracks I listened to – admittedly in the minority – where I felt there was a very small degree of sibilance. “Streatham” by Dave would be an example, where some of the percussion and the ‘s’ sounds from the rapper just came across as slightly raw sounding.

Overall though, what stood out to me, song after song, was the clarity and transparency on display here. Even better for my tastes, this was not achieved through the employment of a sterile or clinical sound signature, but through judicious tuning and capable engineering chops, which enable Final to bring this clarity with a gorgeously musical and engaging signature; the kind where your music really gets your head bobbing, and a foolish grin spreading upon your face. Or is that just me? :)

Now, I need to break the fourth wall here for a moment (as it were) and digress a little.
Just to clarify the above statement regarding sibilance; I listened with my hardware-modded Sony ZX300 DAP, and also with my stock Sony WM1Z (both using custom firmware, as mentioned in the introduction to the Sound section above).

Also, I usually add the disclaimer in my reviews that I have a known sensitivity to some areas of the frequency in the upper mids, something which clearly does not affect the majority of other listeners, merely a small subset of us, who – I like to facetiously claim – must clearly be in possession of the fabled ‘golden ears’ :D

So, drawing all this together, with the WM1Z, I found the sibilance – along with a slight feeling of the aforementioned sensitivities being triggered – to be more noticeably present. Again, just on a few tracks of the hundred-odd songs I listened to, but a diligent focus on transparency is a quality shared by both Final audio and your humble servant Layman1, so my comments will remain :)

Now, as they say “one man’s poison is another man’s meat” (not sure how this rule is implemented if you’re female and/or vegan lol), and if you’re someone who actively likes a touch more forwardness in your upper-mids, then pairing with a DAP that has some brightness or forwardness in that region is going to bring out this quality still further in the ZE3000. Conversely, for those for whom such tunings are anathema, please rest assured that by pairing the ZE3000 with a DAP that features more neutrally-tuned mids should bring you sonic bliss with none of the drawbacks.

However, Layman1 being a responsible kind of chap, it would be remiss of me not to mention it, so consider it mentioned :D


Treble:

Again, in keeping with the rest of the sound signature, I found the treble to be very well-judged and in balance with all the other components. In combination with the slightly elevated upper-mids, the air and the gentle degree of brightness here work very well together to bring an openness and clarity across the signature. I didn’t notice a great deal of treble extension, but at this price point, what is offered here is nevertheless satisfying and well-executed.

Technical performance:

Given that I’m fortunate enough to spend the majority of my listening time with some fairly high-end gear, and remembering the budget gear on offer back when I first started my portable audio journey, the quality of today’s budget offerings continues to surprise me.

No, you’re not going to get $3k flagship levels of performance out of a circa $150 wireless earphone (maybe in 2050, where they’ll be essential when navigating life with a flying hoverboard, Marty McFly style), but equally, this same earphone puts to shame any of the budget offerings I tried even 7 years ago.

I genuinely have nothing to criticise here.

It handles imaging with a precision that belies its price and the layering again surprised me with how well-executed it was.
With the ZE3000, Final strike a balance here between expansive and intimate, musical and technical. As such, I don’t perceive any extremes; the soundstage is extended sufficiently in all directions such that it feels spacious and I don’t ever feel any sense of the sound being ‘closed in’. Equally, with the ZE3000’s consummately executed tuning, there’s a hugely engaging musical quality, but at the same time, all the small details in the music kept popping out to me in that natural and organic way that seems to be a trademark of all the Final IEM’s I’ve tried thus far


Summary:

What can I say? It’s a $150 wireless earphone that’s left me with virtually nothing to criticise, especially given that countless people spend as much or more on Apple AirPods (meaning that a market is to some extent already well-established at this price point).

The only caveats that I can think of would be:

1) That this wireless earphone doesn’t use the latest and most advanced Bluetooth connectivity, so if that’s something that you’re passionate about, then that’s worth bearing in mind (I’d still recommend giving these a listen however).

2) This is a well-balanced tuning which doesn’t go to any extremes. If you know that you’re a treble-head, bass-head or suchlike, just be aware of what you’re getting into here. Having said that, I myself am an unashamed bass-head, and still hugely enjoyed the ZE3000. So again, listening is recommended if you have the chance :)

Final as a company have seriously impressed me with every product from them that I’ve reviewed. They continually manage – even within different sound signatures – to offer an intoxicating blend of musicality and technical excellence. Like the other Final earphones I’ve reviewed, getting to know the ZE3000 has been a hugely enjoyable mixture of surprise and delight. Throw in Final’s usual sleek aesthetics, build quality and design and it all adds up to package that makes a compelling argument for your consideration.

jwbrent

Headphoneus Supremus
The ZE3000 is the new paradigm in affordable true wireless sound!
Pros: Captivating sound, premium Shibo finish, nice slim case design for pocket carrying, Bluetooth 5.2 w/aptX Adaptive and AAC codecs for higher resolution listening, IPX4 rated water resistance, Auto Pairing when removed from case for simpler use, single ear mode, 35 hours of total playback
Cons: No ANC—final focused on best sound vs features for greater affordability
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Overview

No introduction is needed for the brand final, a venerable Japanese company with 50 years of experience designing and manufacturing audio gear. Today I'd like to introduce readers to the newest product in its lineup, the ZE3000, a true wireless IEM that has something quite special for those interested in such designs.

The ZE3000 ($179) gets its moniker from the most successful IEM that final has ever released, the E3000, a model that has enjoyed hundreds of thousands of units sold worldwide making it one of the most successful IEMs ever released by any manufacturer. Since the evolution of IEMs is moving rapidly to TWS designs (no doubt one day cabled IEMs will be viewed as archaic), final's goal in releasing the ZE3000 is to up the performance level of this product category by employing proprietary technology that the company has been working on over the past couple of years.

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Impressions

I'd like to begin by first mentioning that I was supplied with two free samples, white and black, for this review. My sincerest thanks go out to Kyo-san from final Japan who provided these samples for my forthright observations. The source for this review was my iPad mini 5, and I streamed music from my favorite internet radio station, Radio Paradise, which has the option to transmit a lossless stream which is what I used for this review. No EQ was used in my listening.

The ZE3000 comes in a magnetically latched box of good quality. Included is the IEM itself, a battery case in matching color, a full compliment of specially designed tips that match the color of the ZE3000, a USB-C charging cable, and the manual. The presentation, although minimal, is quite nice for a relatively affordable product.

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The shell on the ZE3000 has an angular design in that the faceplate has an upper and lower section: the lower section aids in placing the IEM in one's ear while the upper section is for operating the set with finger taps. I've owned several TWS designs before from JAYS of Sweden and Sennheiser, but the ZE3000 is the least fussy set yet to get a good fit due to this unique design which somewhat mirrors the shell design of the final A and B series IEMs. Additionally, I found it much easier to navigate the controls since when blindly moving my finger to the control faceplate, it was way easier for me to tap the upper angled control section compared to, for instance, the Sennheiser Momentum TW 2 on the first try.
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The shells have a textured finish which final calls Shibo, the same type of finish one finds on high end cameras (or on some of final's headphones such as the D8000), and this aids in placement in one's ears. One of the biggest complaints I had with the Sennheiser TW 2 was its slippery shell design, I had to be careful when using it so I wouldn't accidentally drop them. No such problem with the ZE3000.

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As previously mentioned, final includes newly designed E Series tips that match in color with the shells, and I found they worked perfectly not only for a good fit, but also for great sound. The silicone final uses on its tips is quite soft and pliable, so listening sessions of long duration were quite comfortable.

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Now to the most important part of the review, how does the ZE3000 sound? One word comes to mind ... clarity. For anyone who has listened to final's flagship IEM, the A8000, there is a distinct family resemblance when compared to the ZE3000. The A8000 is well known for its exceptional transparency due to its use of a very low distortion driver made from pure beryllium foil. The ZE3000 uses a newly designed driver made from silicone which final calls f-Core for Wireless, and this new 6mm driver has allowed final to lower the distortion to such low levels that the clarity of its reproduction is the best I've yet heard from a TWS design. Prior TWS IEMs that I've experienced were consistent in one significant way, they were colored sounding, often with an emphasis on bass reproduction which impacted the clarity of the midrange greatly. One may be concerned with the bass performance from a 6mm driver—the ZE3000 is definitely not a bass-head design—instead, the bass on the ZE3000 is neutral sounding which contributes to the sense of clarity and space reminiscent of good quality cabled designs. Simply remarkable for a $179 set!

Due to this clarity that is the hallmark of the ZE3000, the staging and imaging are unlike any other TWS IEM I've heard. Micro-detail is well reproduced drawing the listener in from just listening to becoming emotionally drawn into the music.

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Previously, the best TWS IEM I've owned was the Sennheiser Momentum TW 2 ($299). I actually bought the 75th anniversary edition, and initially for the most part, I was happy with what I heard knowing the sonic limitations of lossy Bluetooth. In the end, though, I never felt engaged when listening to it, rather, it became kind of boring for me due to its coloration, and I had troubles with its operation and fit at times, so I ended up giving it to my son. My thought at that time was this is the nature of the beast, wireless has a long way to go before there is true engagement. After listening to the ZE3000, however, over the past few weeks I now feel we are getting closer to the time when a wireless IEM can approach the performance of a good cabled design.

Conclusion

Are there any nits to pick on the ZE3000? Some may find the absence of ANC to be a disqualifying omission, but final wanted to achieve an affordable price point, so this time ANC was left off the feature list. I suspect final will be releasing a more expensive TWS in the future which will have ANC and other niceties included, but for those of you out there who rank sound quality as what's most important, I strongly recommend giving the ZE3000 a listen. As it did with me, you may be surprised on how good TWS sound can be when implemented with sound performance as the number one criterion.
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AudioBomb
AudioBomb
100€ somewhere else.
Matpar
Matpar
Now you got my attention, 100 EUR where? :)
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