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Fullness of sound
Very intimate sound
Amazing for instrumental/acoustic music
Fullness of sound
Very intimate sound
Amazing for instrumental/acoustic music
Cons: Won't go loud enough to cause you long term hearing damage
EQ changes are subtle
EQ changes are subtle
Good Morning and Afternoon. I’ve been using Final Audio’s latest flagship tws the ZE8000 for just over 2 weeks now and have managed to get the experience down into words. Potentially too many words but this bud asks a lot from your wallet so I shall ask just as much of your time.
Thanks to the Addicted to Audio team who allowed the transaction of currency in exchange for goods.
The Final ZE8000 is seriously worthy of attention, but it depends on what you prioritize in a bud as well as what genre you find yourself listening too.
In the very specific genre of Goa trance that I mostly listen to, I wonder how good a track can really sound. Being mostly made on software or via hardware directly recorded into a tape you don't get to hear all of the little breaths and edges of sounds, the fingernails lightly touching the wood of the guitar It's just not as much of a factor. While resolution is nice, I wouldn't call it paramount.
But there is chaos, danger and clashing of sounds together as they twirl and spin into melodic bliss. I’ve always thought that it must be similar for metal fans, the risk of the whole thing just falling apart is always present and the symphony of noise can feel dangerous. Do increases in separation and clarity reduce that sense of chaos? Or is that up to the artist?
To be clear, the Final ZE8000 is clearer than any TWS I've heard within a certain range of genres. Its presentation of sound is completely addicting and makes it hard to go back to other buds once you get used to it. It has me listening to a whole bunch of new music I normally wouldn’t listen to just for the enjoyment of the sound presentation (Have any of you really appreciated Taylor Swifts Blank Space?) But it isn’t without its list of things that could be improved upon which should all be possible with updates.
Disclaimer* I don’t like audio tropes; when I hear people say things like "It feels like I'm right there in the studio" I think “Don't you want your music to sound better than that? Don't you want it to feel beyond what is felt in the studio? Don’t you want it amplified baby!” The Final Flagship is perfect for this kind of thought as the music sounds like it’s being given a colour to it that you wouldn’t hear on reference or Neutral buds. This is perfect for me as I like character over neutrality.
Well extraversion is the name of the game for these buds, in it’s audio processing as well as for it’s design. And if you want to explain to people exactly what 8K sound means, well you better do it with confidence or the whole conversation is just going to fall apart.
All that being said, I'm not normally nitpicky, but Finals Flagship is $499 AUD placing it at the top of the range, so today I'm gonna be.
These fit quite well and are secure upon testing. However they don’t have the most secure feel making the paranoia of falling out feel like a constant. I’ve been for several runs with them which is more than they are advertised as being capable of and I didn’t have any issues once I trusted them enough to stop thinking about it. Still, sweat can fall on the part of the bud that sits on the concha making it’s way between the two. This can be discomforting.
The ear tip design increases the size of the tip but not the round body piece that secures it in the ear. I’ll address this later but I would have had them designed as two separate rubber pieces differing in size so people could find the right combination.
Ask yourself something. Do you want to feel like a Zoid? Voltron? Or Full-Metal-Jackass doing coke and business as you shout into your Bluetooth earpiece? Then prepare to stick these sticks in your ears and become mecha.
It takes some time to feel cool in these rather than as if you’re trying to make a statement or vying for attention. The music experience helps take your mind off things and if you still struggle just tell yourself that if you really feel like it, you could deploy your shoulder Gatling guns and eliminate those judgy pedestrians.
Just smile and wave
Final has designed an app for these baddies. Connection is fast and immediate but does require you to physically go into it to connect each time. However previous presets are remembered. You have the option to change the ambient/anc/wind noise/hear through modes, eq, a volume step, 8k sound and firmware updates.
I’ll go into the features later but for now the app is clean and smooth.
These are as good at connecting to things as Facebook is to me with strangers I haven't met who would like to marry me 10/10.
Final claim 5 hours battery life with a reduction using 8k sound. I’ve tested them down to 25% after 3 hours with 8k on and volume at 80%. So I would say pretty consistent to 4 hours once maxed out. Once putting them back in the case and driving for 20 minutes I took them out again to find them almost fully charged.
This is probably the most addicting sound on a TWS I've heard. They come across as about as warm and full as I can imagine a sound being while projecting an intimate performance right into your ears. There is no shortage of space for the music to move so the thickness of the mix rarely feels suffocating……For more casual genres.
I think they are genre dependent or rather ‘genre exclusive’. They exclude intense genres like a a popular 14 year school girl excludes the weird new girl with glasses and curly hair. You will get the biggest gains on these with instrumental recordings and music you can describe as “heavy” without being overly busy. Keep in mind that most bedroom producers aren’t going through a crazy mastering process and may not have the skills to mix their sounds like Rick Rubin. Therefore you aren’t getting significant gains in some electronic genres.
It's true, I haven't heard any tws clearer than the ZE8000, In Dean Martins That's Amore there are moments where I'm sure I can hear the sound of his lips coming apart as Martin begins his next verse SENIOOORREEEEE
Ringa dinga ling ~ tinga linga ting the rest of the tones travel forward and are delivered with incredible warmth and expression, the warmth doesn't mean that they sound slower this feels simply Amore.
Describing the impact of electronic music on these is hard. What is electronic music? Carbon Based Lifeforms ambient? Astral Projection Goa Trance? Kraftwork? Aphex Twin? There are too many styles to sum up electronic so I will split this into the two differences I noticed that these excel and fail at.
For certain electronic music made on software, I can't say if you get to experience the most out of these buds. Whatever that 8K sound is doing, and it is doing something, you don’t get to really appreciate it with electronic that is missing the nuances of live recordings. Also the kickdrums don’t crackle and do feel wider than they are deep. However, I could say the same thing for just about any in ear I’ve heard. The low end is still deeper and more full than my previous favorite bud the Nuarl N6 Pro2.
However, there is plenty of electronic music that sounds quite spectacular on these. Anything that could be defined as ‘liquid’ like drum n bass or dubstep feels completely encapsulating and thick. The thickness of the mid-range and lows creates a rumble and gives you the feeling of being in a sweaty nightclub with speakers pumping music out from around you. Trap, Street, Grime, Hip-Hop all sound fantastic and show off the smooth sub-bass of the Final.
The faster and busier the track the more the ZE8000 starts to feel too thick, too heavy and somewhat suffocating. They are fine for anything up to techno bpm’s (130-140 bpm). Same goes for anything in the progressive territory like progressive psytrance. However as music gets faster and more hectic the weight of the sound is fun for about an hour but starts to feel quite dense after that.
With live recordings (Including electronic made on hardware) you start to feel the tonal expression that Final have touted. Due to the stage and warmth of the sound you get a sense of being in front of a stage in a concert hall. The music sounds as full as if it’s being projected from clear and precise speakers from either side of you as the different aspects of the track fly forward.
When playing rock/metal you get a mixed experience. Vocals carry in the centre of the mix with instruments shooting around the sides and guitar slices screeching over the top of it all. Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train is the first time I've really appreciated the guitar work and noticed all of the goings on of the chords.
As I'm finding out, this kind of tuning can mean that sometimes instruments can creep over the edges of vocals, but in a realistic way that you would get from a live performance. As instruments pump forward.
Slayer Black Magic sounds a bit busy but also a bit crazy and this is where the clarity and separation starts to let the ZE8000 down slightly.
I heard bass tones in Dido’s Hunter that I’d never heard or noticed before. Her voice lingers and leaves a resonance in the air once it has disappeared.
Time for some fast electronic in the form of MFG's Goa trance monster Desert Sun. The bassline comes in completely electrifying and vibrating around my ears. The kick drum hits with focus but without effort. You feel every twist and turn of the melody and can spot the edges of each tone. This track is beautiful in it’s relative simplicity and is full of colour.
When listening to Puccini's Madame Butterfly on other tws Maria Callas only sounds truly destructive in her final verse. But on the ZE8000 her voice comes across as powerful in her first note. When the final verse finally comes It was pretty overwhelming and I can see why so many of the translated reviews I read on E-Earphone . jp used that word to describe them. I listened first on my Nuarl, then Fiio and then the Final and had to check the time stamp of the track using the ZE8000 to see if she was already at the final act as all of her other verses came through with the power and emotion which I originally only heard in the final act.
As for overall sound signature
Calling it warm would do some justice, another good explainer would be to describe what it feels like the music is being presented. Rather than anything sounding veiled in it's presentation, it feels more like there is a black velvet curtain sitting behind the music with all of the tones and layers dancing through the air in front of it. This is true for the noise cancelling as well. It doesn't feel like sounds are being electronically dulled, but more like someone has draped a thick curtain between you and the noise. It's a different way of doing it and I suppose possible due to all the new little discoveries they implemented in this model.
There are occasional times when the darkness behind the music can feel a little mucho and as if there is a missing airiness. The sound is thick no doubt, but thick without bloating and muddiness. However as mentioned, I feel it begin to let me down in convoluted tracks with a lot of loud noises going on.
My go to track to convolution is We Lost The Sea’s Last Sun which eventually explodes at the end into a mass of devastation. On many speakers and tws it feels like it’s going to cause some kind of damage or pop the drivers. And after listening to this track I get the first hint of why the Final doesn’t go louder. At the 13:30 peak of the song the instruments turn into more of a white noise sound as the speakers struggle to keep things clear. This isn’t purely a fault of of the ZE8000 as much as of the recording and it doesn’t ruin the track but rather make it more dangerous sounding. However I used the FW5 to see how it handled it with it’s triple driver arrangement and it managed to bring the sound across as clearer (Still messy). This is as much due to the difference in thickness between the two buds sound but worth noting if this is the kind of music you want to listen to.
Bass: Bass hits with a thud and vibrates in the ear. You get steady vibrations for sub bass and decent amount of eye wobbles from the kickdrum. Sub bass could be eq’d up and for some genres you may want the kickdrum to go deeper rather than wider. Counter intuitively (Or intuitively for those of you that are good with eq) toning the eq frequency down gave kickdrums more depth and opened the sound up.
Mids: Come across as beautiful and full. Voices linger in the air and you can feel the emotion of every tone. Let’s channel our inner synaesthesia to describe lead lines and melodies. Where once you may have been able to view them as bright yellow or golden the ZE8000 presents them as an electric amber. It’s a significant difference made more obvious by EQ on Wavelet as you switch back and forth between different profiles.
Highs: are also significantly warmer and I am yet to experience a moment of harshness. If anything during EQ sessions I bump them up to add more air to the track. There is no harshness, peakiness or sibilance.
With more time on the Final, when I go back to any bud for an A/B test everything sounds a little thin in comparison. I might be able to hear everything just as well but the ZE8000 sound signature has become addicting.
Call quality is fantastic and fun to use. Everything comes through clearly and the feeling of having one of those old school bluetooth earpieces is hard to beat.
Testing the Claims
Final has made a whole bunch of technological breakthroughs for this product….Or so they say, let’s put them to the test….my test.
8K sound. Final claims to have found a new way unknown to the audio world before hand to represent sound, finding every detail an presenting it. “Overall, 8K SOUND delivers an exquisite sound experience at a level of distinction, detail, separation and speed that has never been accomplished before.”
Ok, so they may have found a new way to present sound, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the sound itself is different. 8K Sound? Perhaps we should settle down a touch. I’ll say yes the sound is quite smooth and thick (After a bit of eq), the sound is also magnificently coloured, you aren’t getting reference tuning here and I prefer it that way, but this isn’t going to be the new benchmark nor is it going to be your endgame (If you're into tws an endgame probably doesn't exist, we're here to consume baby!) There is some fancy processing going on in their chipset and it’s noticeable here.
The features all work kind of well and I don't think Final has used all of it's new little tricks and features purely as a marketing ploy. The wind reduction eliminates wind completely without any interference to music. Did I mention I was on a boat? The wind of the seven seas while I sit on the deck drinking overpriced Australian Draught seems non existent.
Without music the ambient mode comes through more like a recording being played to you but with everything perfectly placed so you can tell exactly where the sound is coming from. With music Ambient might be a bit less obvious as the music is so encapsulating, but at lesser volumes it works quite well.
Voice through I’m unsure about. The first time I tested it I thought I remembered being able to hear the music in the background at quite a dull volume, ever since it feels like music has been switched off completely. I find turning music down on ambient mode more effective than voice through.
As for ANC, the claim is that unlike other tws out there Final has found a way to avoid the unavoidable change in sound quality when anc is activated. It’s hard to say for sure as noise cancellation isn’t the strongest point of this bud, but also because there is no way to turn off all of the different sound modes to see what the actual difference is. So this claim I’m going to say is null and void until this feature (or lack of) is instituted. However I never feel any pressure and despite not getting migraines from anc ever, I still don’t with the ZE8000.
Nitpicking and Negatives - Or as I like to call it "Let's finish on a low shall we?"
1 - The first and most significant issue of the ZE8000 is EQ. The in app EQ may as well be called unresponsive and isn’t particularly well made. You have the choice of 4 eq sliders with a dial at the bottom to select 4 or 3 different channels per slider. As far as I can tell you can set the dial to a frequency to eq it but can’t change the dial on the same slider to increase that freq. For example the first dial changes to 35, 60, 110 and 220 hz but you can only influence one of these frequencies at a time.
I have had some success following the eq preset of the Majorhifi reviewer which I would originally have thought was counter intuitive as I was trying to increase bass. But you will notice some improvement in sound and spacing with the following eq. However It doesn’t feel responsive enough. I can slide every band to the max db range of + or - 3 (Not enough db btw) and barely notice an influence on the track. If I open Wavelet and do the same thing you will find a significant difference via eq.
I was told these had a similar sound signature to the Sonorous III which I read was similar to the Sonorous X, as I couldn’t find the III on wavelet I opted for the X auto eq which improved the sound of these quite a bit. Highs become sharper (in a good way) and the bass went deeper and shook more heavily.
2 - Volume: This should have been top of the list. These need to be louder. There is a way to max volume on the buds, then the phone and then an app setting that suggests that Final can boost volume even more (Or reduce it) based on preferences. I would wager that a fancy BT player could amplify these with impressive returns but I also shouldn't need to feel this way.
The problem with an incredible sound is that people want more of it. I don’t feel at all like these would struggle to deliver more DB in the overall sound department and this would be my #1 suggestion to make these a winner for more people.
Now they still go plenty loud, tracks from Youtube can sometimes be too loud and Spotify and physical files can be just right at max volume. But I shouldn’t be up to the whims of the uploader nor should I feel wanting. Quite fairly; I get this feeling more with trance tracks than with band music and it isn’t a deal breaker knowing it now. But they just don’t feel like they would struggle to produce the sound even a bit which makes me want more of it LOUDER.
3 - A less serious but fairly nitpicky consideration is regarding the new style of rubber ear piece that overlaps the part of the bud that would ideally rest against the concha. Cool and normal to think that, not a bad design. This is what Final calls it’s new TYPE Q ..…Q tips….Nice
However, why not just have one silicon piece over the concha bit (Maybe supply spares of different sizes) but most importantly removable tip only pieces so we could add different tips. This would be fun from a sound perspective but also a fit perspective as I noticed that each size piece made a significant difference in which sounds were amplified, like an equalizer meaning that the right fit meant the one that sounded the best. I didn’t find that the bigger sizes fit any better or worse than the smaller ones and settled on large for the SQ.
Different eartips would change this and probably increase ear security + considering the current sound quality between sizes, who knows which unplanned combinations could bring in terms of sound quality and fit gains.
4 - Another critique is the the buds always being on one setting or another. you either have NC on, ambient, voice through or wind reduction. But no option for all of these to just be turned off. It's not the worst thing in the world as their claim of a no pressure Noise Canceling is 100% certified. I didn't realize it was on at first but it also meant I didn't realize the world was being blocked out, because it wasn't. So it's not the best NC as far as actual reduction goes and I wouldn't get these as an ANC focused bud, but it does the job without any pressure and is smooth about it.
Nuarl N6 Pro2
The Nuarl was the first and last of the tws to blow my mind, I was still fresh to the game and these were a remarkable step up that I still think are one of the most underrated and best looking tws out there. It taught me that mids and high could be presented in a way that could be described as beautiful.
Now that i've heard some higher end models like the ZE8000 I know that the Nuarl isn't the be all and end all. But it isn’t far away from an enjoyment perspective.
The Nuarls HDSS technology which I am more convinced is a real thing rather than some marketing gimmick gives you an out of head feeling leaps and bounds above anything else i've heard at the price range. The lustre of the mids and highs plus accurate presentation of the bass make it a fun listen.
But Everything about the ZE8000 sounds clearer, cleaner and more present. Bass and mids are fuller and I would still describe the ZE8000 as beautiful as well. It presents vocal music better and gives you that in front of a stage feeling. The Nuarl can go louder, but what you do hear of the ZE8000 makes it the better audiophile choice and now that I’ve heard these the Nuarl is hard to go back to.
This should all be obvious for the price difference
The two buds might be able to compete between one another for clarity and separation. I'm the fit of the Fiio is better for activities and public spaces (Still working on the unwavering Zoid confidence. As i'm surrounded by drunks on a boat I feel like it's inevitable that someone will ask me about them but I wont be able to hear and now it's a whole thing. No thanks, I'm trying to relax). The Fiio also feels like the sturdier choice and I want to be careful with the Final.
Once going back to the Fiio from the ZE8000 the sound does sound thinner but I think it's your brain getting used to the drawing back of that curtain that sits behind the music. But it does make the Final sound laid back and slower in comparison.
The Fiio is faster and more energetic and has a more responsive eq in the app however, the triple driver set up doesn’t sound as cohesive with treble always feeling placed at the top of the ears, bass lower and mids…well in the middle. It’s not hard to believe 3 drivers are being used. Neck for neck I think the Final is the more impressive bud But perhaps not the most practical.
For the price and marketing of 8k sound I’ll admit I wanted to be blown away. However the warmer signature and thicker sound feels more like a soft blanket you fall back into to be wrapped around instead of a cliff edge you are pushed off with a wing suit and no training. Overall it will come down to the music you listen to.