Final ZE8000 MK2 review

Your Final destination for great sound, or just a sonic dead end? Tested at £299 / $399

Final ZE8000 MK2 in-ear headphones on wooden table
(Image: © What Hi-Fi?)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The ZE8000 MK2 have plenty of detail and enthusiasm, even if their lack of class-leading insight means that they’re not quite the Final word in great sound


  • +

    Bright, lively sound

  • +

    Dig out plenty of detail

  • +

    Strong support for hi-res codecs


  • -

    Lacking outstanding musical and dynamic insight

  • -

    Treble can be hard-edged even after extensive use

  • -

    Buds and charging case feel cheap

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Like an up-and-coming UFC fighter hyping himself up before stepping into the Octagon to do battle with the heaviest hitter in the business, the Final ZE8000 MK2 talk a big game. The new wireless earbuds’ internal software gives its contenders the “fullest possible portrayal of sound texture and detail” via digital signal processing, calibrating every facet of the audio played while reducing irrelevant noise and highlighting the subtleties of your favourite tunes.

They’re big claims, but promises are hollow if they’re not backed up with heavyweight sound and a complete performance across the board. We’re keen to discover whether Final’s telegraph pole-shaped buds are champions elect or ham-fisted no-hopers.


Final ZE8000 MK2 in-ear headphones in case on wooden table

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

With a premium price of £299 / $399, the Final ZE8000 MK2 are a smidge more expensive than the Award-winning Sony WF-1000XM5 benchmark setters (£259 / $299), and a substantial step up from Apple’s five-star AirPods Pro 2 (£229 / $249). That said, they’re a touch more affordable than the rather substantially-priced Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds (£300 / $299).

Build & comfort

Final ZE8000 MK2 in-ear headphones on red cloth surface with case in background

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Final’s long-stemmed earbuds are cheap feeling and oddly shaped, with a lean rectangular design that puts us in mind of a small telegraph pole or miscellaneous Tetris block. That might well be your cup of tea, but the accompanying charging case leaves us feeling underwhelmed thanks to its oversized dimensions and cheap, plasticky feel, stumping almost every member of our test team as they initially sought to open it vertically rather than use the sliding mechanism provided.

The ZE8000 MK2’s thin, long-stem form does seem to keep the buds as light as possible, and in fairness to Final, they don’t feel heavy or cumbersome in the ear. The five provided tip sizes certainly aid in obtaining a better fit, and while there’s no in-ear fit or hearing test to guide you in your quest for the perfect seal, you should be able to get the lock you want if you’re willing to do a little manual legwork.

Final ZE8000 MK2 tech specs

Final ZE8000 MK2 in-ear headphones

(Image credit: Final)

Bluetooth 5.2

Codec Support AAC, SBC, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive

Noise-cancelling? Yes

Battery Life 15 hours total (5 from buds, 10 from case)

Finishes x 1 (black)

Weight 104g total

The ZE8000 MK2 isn’t explicitly designed for sport, and while more secure fitting buds such as the Bose QC Earbuds can cross boundaries from everyday companions to sporting heroes, the new Finals are best left sticking to the former. Strenuous exercises, such as gamely thwacking a punching bag or hauling yourself up for that twentieth strained chin-up can cause the buds’ seal to come loose, and though they never dislodged themselves entirely and tumbled to the gym floor during our time together, that propensity to drop in and out of true security did prove distracting when getting in a good pump.

Getting a decent fit is only the start of the battle, of course, and many in-ear buds can begin to feel uncomfortable, even downright painful, after a good while nestled within your lugs. Happily, our long-term experience with the ZE8000 MK2 was broadly positive, and though we’re still more convinced by the security provided by rivals such as the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, the Finals’ light profile and soft, pliable tips kept ear-wrenching discomfort at bay over long periods.


Final ZE8000 MK2 in-ear headphones top down view of earbuds in case

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

It’s only fair to start with the ZE8000 MK2’s big selling point: “8K Sound”. While that term might raise a few eyebrows from technical editors and sound engineers everywhere, it’s best to simply treat it as Final’s label for its proprietary sound processor, a nifty feature akin to Sony DSEE tech which enhances the quality of audio by analysing and calibrating your music’s digital signal processing. We’ll dig deep into sound further down, but we can attest that switching on 8K, while a drain on our precious battery, did give the buds a crisper, cleaner and more detailed sound when trawling through our favourite hi-res test tracks. 

Back in more familiar territory, the ZE8000 MK2’s noise cancelling works well without ever blowing us away. Final offers four main modes to keep the intrusions of the outside world at bay: standard noise cancelling, wind-cut (i.e. wind reduction), ambient sound and voice-through. Such provided modes work adequately enough, with the main noise cancelling setting most effectively performing its key duty of reducing external sounds without ever giving you that comforting cocoon boasted by the best premium buds on the market.

To cycle through those varying noise cancelling modes, you’ll need access to Final’s proprietary app, a well-organised and easily navigable platform from which you can also tweak your EQ settings, manage the ZE8000 M2’s multipoint connections and toggle 8K sound. You can also try out the buds’ “Volume Step Optimiser”, essentially a way of setting your reference listening level for more precise volume tweaks.

Battery-wise, the ZE8000 MK2 are adequate but far from outstanding. Battery life doesn’t always directly correlate to sound quality or even price, but we were hoping for more than a maximum of 5 hours from the buds themselves and a total of just 15 when including the charging case. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s not challenging the 8 hours (24 including the case) of the Sony WF-1000XM5 or the 6 hours (24 including the case) of the Bose QC Ultra Earbuds.

They are sufficiently robust, though – an IPX4 rating won’t let you take the ZE8000 MK2 for a dip (why would you?) – but their ability to survive light splashes of rain means you needn’t fear taking your new buds for a stroll under ominously cloudy skies. Call quality is strong, too, with conversations taken over the phone feeling natural, steady and, most importantly, immutably clear. 


Final ZE8000 MK2 in-ear headphones with ear-tips attached on read cloth surface

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

A breezy, funky remix of The Wombats’ Greek Tragedy has become something of a hit across social media recently, and while that would normally be enough to have us running for the proverbial hills, those trendy youngsters might be onto something with this one. As a test track, it’s great for assessing facets such as timing, detail and vocal delivery, all of which the Final ZE8000 MK2 adeptly showcase their knack for, thanks to their crisp, open character. The track’s snappy drum beat and groovy synths are particularly well serviced as the wireless buds dig out the music’s sparky, peppy underpinning, driving things forward with a tangible sense of rhythmic propulsion. 

It’s a similar story when we take a sideways step over to De La Soul’s Rock Co.Kane Flow, a more hard-edged hip-hop offering from our test room darlings which starts with a forceful drum beat accompanied by a repeating vocal hook. Again, the Finals dig out the details and timbres of those sharp, rich snare hits, punching through with force and aggression and keeping up with the music’s relentless, front-footed attitude. That said, tracks with a lean character and an aggressive leading edge can often end up feeling overly harsh on the ears, and while we’re keen on those products which convey a recording’s essence with true transparency, the Finals can tend to accentuate that upper-range brashness to the detriment of certain songs and genres. 

We would still stress that we’re impressed with how purely detailed and clean the Finals sound, and there’s no question that the ZE8000 MK2 will find a market among those users who prioritise analysis and space over what we might term musicality and dynamic aptitude. The complex, ever-shifting bass section of Muse’s Hysteria may lack the same depth and robustness as when played via the Sony WF-1000XM5, but you can close your eyes and pick out every pluck and pull without ever feeling as though you’re losing individual tones to a clamorous, amorphous mess.

Detailed doesn’t necessarily mean insightful, though, and it certainly isn’t a substitute for genuine musicality or talent for dynamic contrast. Camila Cabello’s Havana is a nice tester of the latter, and although the ZE8000 MK2 appear to uncover many of the particulars from the sultry Latin anthem, they’re not so hot when it comes to really feeling the richness and musicality of the track’s woody, expressive piano hook. Listened to on the Sony XM5s, those piano keystrokes feel more natural, arriving with weight and force before fading naturally back into empty space – the Finals outline every note with precision and detail, but the way that they deliver the rise and fall of each note’s energy just feels less musically authentic and engaging overall.

Such shortcomings can lead the Finals to feel just a smidge rote with regard to their sonic presentation. Sticking with Havana, any earbuds worth their salt must get to grips with Cabello’s suggestive, slightly overdone vocal presentation, especially if you’re playing the Spanish language remix and want to get that authentic Latin American experience. The Finals just slightly keep the music at arm's length, flattening dynamics and vocal quirks to the detriment of genuine soul and expression. A decent pair of earbuds are like Havanese locals, well-versed in the salsa moves of the island’s legendary, rum-soaked club scenes. The Finals can pull off an okay impression, but they slightly come across as tourists in a foreign land. 


Final ZE8000 MK2 in-ear headphones with ear-tips fitted on wooden surface

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Final ZE8000 MK2 talk a big game, with a bright, enthusiastic sound presentation that will find favour with anyone enamoured with their spritely energy and detailed nature 

No, they’re not the best in the business when it comes to musicality or dynamic expression, but there’s plenty to like about the ZE8000 MK2’s attention to detail and crisp, snappy nature. It’s an admirable effort, and while we’re unconvinced that these wireless earbuds are quite the final word in great wireless sound, there’s a lot to like from Final’s game effort. 


  • Sound 4
  • Features 4
  • Comfort 4


Read our review of the Sony WF-1000XM5

Also consider the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds 

Read our Apple AirPods Pro 2 review

Best in-ear headphones: tried and tested earbuds

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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