Final Audio has released the second iteration of its successful flagship wireless earbuds, the ZE8000 MK2. Designed to approximate the quality of a high-end wired IEM, the first ZE8000 was kind of a surprise, given its particularly warm and easy sound signature (especially when compared to more affordable models, like the ZE3000). So, it seems that Final is aiming for something distinct with this model. How does ZE8000 MK2 perform? Is it a worthy upgrade from the first model? And what kind of sound signature can you expect?
What’s in the Box?
- Final Audio ZE8000 MK2 Earbuds
- Charging Case
- Ear Tips (5 Sizes)
- USB-C Charging Cable
- Acoustic Tool
- Dust Filters
Look and Feel
Modern and edgy in its understated way, Final Audio has put its classic elegant characteristics into the ZE8000 MK2. The speckled matte finish behind the simple logo adds just a touch of shine to an otherwise minimalist look. And little touches, like the sliding lid of the charging case suggest that, yes, you have spent some good money on this. That said, the build is far from compact; both the charging case as well as the earbuds themselves are on the larger size when compared to competing models. And I must admit that I felt a little clumsy when taking the earbuds out of the charger and putting them back in. But once you get used to the somewhat clunky design of the earbuds, putting them on becomes a more seamless exercise.
In terms of comfort, I had no problems. The two tier seal is noticeably snug, providing great natural sound isolation, but it never bothered me, even after extended use.
Controls and Functionality
Most of the controls can be accessed from the touchpads on the earbud stems, such as track navigation, call answering and voice assistant. You’ll also be able to switch between noise cancelling and ambient mode, which allows in sound from the outside environment.
Final Audio has included a companion app that offers extra features, such as an equalizer and 4 modes of noise control. But personally, I had problems pairing my earbuds to the Final Connect app, so none of these features were available. Fortunately, this is probably just a glitch that will be fixed in the next update.
The ZE8000 MK2 supports Bluetooth 5.2. Pairing was relatively easy, and I experienced no dropouts, even in the middle of Manhattan. As for hi-res support, you’ll be able to use aptX and aptX Adaptive.
You’ll get 5 hours of continuous use from the MK2, with another 15 hours of charge in the case. This is on the lower side of average for a pair of earbuds in this echelon, but I guess hi-fi sound comes at a price.
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
As effective and the natural sound isolation is, I didn’t notice much effect from the ANC mode. But to be honest, the ANC is not really needed, given how good the seal is. And as mentioned above, if you want to hear more of the outside environment, you can switch to ambient mode, which lets in the sound of your surroundings.
This probably has to be one of the most multidimensional soundstages I’ve heard in wireless model. While not endlessly vast, there’s tons of depth here, with instruments reaching way behind and in front the ear when called upon. You’ll hear an impressive amount of height too, with elements soaring to the top of the head, while the play between elements reveal subtle gradations in height with colorful clarity. In addition, the fantastic separation injects plenty distance between elements, adding to the holographic sense of space. So, while the stage is relatively contained and focused, you’ll hear plenty of variation across all planes, creating an uber-vibrant bubble of sound.
The bass is powerful, warm and quite speedy. There’s nothing stingy about this low-end response, providing ample punch and weight to pop tracks and other modern genres. At the same time, the bass has good discipline, always staying in its lane and never breaching into higher frequencies. Listening to strings in this range, the MK2 reveals an impressive amount of transparency, while injecting some rich color into the timbre of the instruments. So, while the textures and resonance sound natural and highly detailed, there’s a weight and majesty to the presentation.
It’s been a while since I’ve listened to the original ZE8000, but the MK2 seems quite bit cleaner, especially in the low mids, achieving a more definitive break from the controlled bass frequencies. The separation and layering are pristine, ensuring that no element is lost, even in the most crowded mixes. And this is a hard feat to achieve for such a warm sound. As we move up the frequency range, a more delicate delivery develops in the slightly forward upper-mids, handling instruments like guitars intricately and tenderly, and bringing vocals up close to create a super detailed and intimate performance.
I was surprised to hear airiness in this range, but vocals sound like a fresh breeze at the very top registers. You’ll get some sparkle up here too, which rarely turns into sharpness at the treble peaks. Listening to acoustic instruments in this range, the MK2 achieves a nice balance between smoothness and texture. So, while the presentation is somewhat fluid, you never feel like you’re missing out on detail.
The ZE8000 MK2 is a significant upgrade from Final’s original flagship model. In fact, the MK2 might be a five star wireless earphone, held back only by its temperamental companion app and average battery life. And once the firmware updates fix any bugs, the ZE8000 MK2 will be a tough model to beat. With a super holographic soundstage, a warm and powerful bass, expressive mids and airy highs, the MK2 presents an addictive sound signature with a level of skill that approximates a great IEM.
You can buy the Final Audio ZE8000 MK2 at Audio 46.