Headphones – and earbuds especially – are the obvious gateway drug into proper audio. With so many people discovering music via personal listening devices before moving on and up, this has led to a deluge of brands getting in on the act, including many that favour fashion over sonic substance.
Thankfully Final takes the opposite stance, focussing on audio grade quality at wallet friendly prices.
The ZE3000 model on test here takes inspiration from the brand’s less pricey and less visually arresting hardwired E3000 model, adding wireless connectivity alongside a raft of other tech, sitting between the ZE2000 and ZE8000 models.
Having to house more components than their wired counterparts including batteries and extra circuitry, can lead to sound quality compromises for many wireless earbuds, which is why for the ZE3000 (and ZE2000 models) Final developed its ‘f-LINK’ damping system for a more natural sound. This works by optimising the pressure of the acoustic space within the earbuds to mirror the benefits of wired earphones without the need for external vents. This sealed approach also means they’re water resistant to IPX4 levels (equating to splashes from any direction).
Continuing the brands ‘f’ tech approach, the ZE3000 also sport dedicated “f-Core for Wireless” 6mm drive units, with custom resin centres and silicone outers that are moulded without adhesives, all for lower levels of distortion.
At the streaming side of things, the ZE3000 support standard Bluetooth and AAC codecs alongside data up to 24-bit/48kHz via Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive tech.
Fit has also been considered, with their external shape being designed to sit within a user’s outer ear, with five sets of ‘TYPE E Truly Wireless Exclusive Edition’ silicone tips supplied as part of the package. These are designed to sit within the ear canal’s entrance than further in to reduce irritation, with extra small, small, medium, large and extra large tips catering for all lughole diameters.
Up and running
Removing the earbuds from their charging case automatically turns them on, and if not a quick tap on each one’s flat touch panel area brings them to life. Pairing is equally straight forward, taking no time to hook up with my iPhone 13. There’s also a ‘single ear mode’ option which automatically switches them from stereo to monaural playback, should you want to listen to a single bud.
A single tap on either bud pauses/plays the music while a longer hold on the left/right bud goes back/advances to the next track. Volume adjustments follow suit with a double tap on the left bud to lower the volume and the same on the right bud to increase it. Equally simple steps allow you to accept, reject and end calls should your music be interrupted.
With their distinctive angular looks, the ZE3000 feel well made and it’s nice to see how their ‘shibo’ textured finish is also applied to their charging case which features magnetic closing to keep them safe. Charging time is 90 minutes for the buds and two hours for the case, leading to seven hours playback (35 hours with case).
Right from the off it’s clear Final has engineered the ZE3000 for a smoother and more natural sound than many of its rivals at this price point. Dialling in The War On Drugs Thinking Of A Place from Qobuz at 16-bit/44kHz and the harshness across the symbols I’m used to hearing on other entry level buds is thankfully absent, while still being presented with plenty of detail and realism. And when the lead guitar kicks in midway there’s decent levels of bite without sounding overly bright.
Spinning through the rest of the album on repeat listens also reveals the Final’s to be less fatiguing than many cheaper buds, with their sound being evenly balanced across the frequency range. And while this may seem an obvious ask for an earbud, I’ve lost count of the cheaper models I’ve tested and rejected for being initially arresting (and forward sounding) only to become tiresome because of their overly harsh equalisation a few tracks in.
Like any buds with soft eartips, getting their bass reproduction sounding right is all about fit. The medium tips are the best match for my ears providing a snug fit that’s comfortable while avoiding sound leakage or the buds working themselves loose.
Beaming Badbadnnotgood’s Time Moves Slow featuring Future Island’s Samuel T. Herring on vocals and the Final render the bass guitar notes with a sense of natural scale and decent levels of impact without sounding boomy of overwhelming the mix, again nodding towards their more natural sounding credentials.
Articulation and soundstage scale are also impressive for buds at this price point. Interpol’s 2012 masterpiece Turn On The Bright Light’s remastered at 16/44 is delivered with levels of instrument separation I’d expect at buds costing twice the price and more, while the soundstage has plenty of room to let the album’s atmospherics breath, with the reverb on tracks NYC and Hands Away having genuine depth.
On first listen the ZE3000’s sound doesn’t scream for attention compared to many entry level rivals, which bombard your senses with boom and tiz that can sound initially arresting before quickly becoming hard word.
And that’s kind of the point of these buds, being engineered for a smoother and more balanced sound that favours longer listening sessions. Their looks may be a little marmite for some, but they’re solidly built with a premium finish and will certainly ensure you stand out from the crowd.