I really want to believe in “8K sound”, even though that isn’t a thing.
Resolution that refers to pixels per square inch doesn’t translate aurally. Those who care about the quality of their music usually prefer the term ‘hi-res audio’, specified as anything above 1,411 kilobits per second, also known as ‘CD-quality’ 16-bit/44.1kHz. Audiophiles work in audio bit-depth and sampling frequency, not the number of pixels crammed into a horizontal display for visual crispness.
But Final Audio isn’t alone in wanting to promote an “evolution in sound quality” via a bit of fresh terminology. Amazon Music refers to its top-tier streaming quality as “HD” (also not a thing in audio), while Apple Music prefers to put its improved audio propositions into ‘Lossless’ and ‘Hi-Res Lossless’ categories – which, although are very decent in quality, are again slightly misleading terms. Even Tidal isn’t immune to a bit of slick wording, choosing to label its most expensive streaming quality ‘Max’ (which is actually up to 24-bit/192 kHz).
But let’s stop talking about the hi-res chops within each of the best music streaming services and move on to Final’s gorgeous looking new earbuds. Behold, the Final Audio ZE8000 MK2!
They’re a surprizingly early update on the February 2023 issue inaugural ZE8000, but given the list of improvements and tweaks the company has made to them, an MK2 moniker is highly justified.
You now get (deep breath): new ‘Shield Fin’ eartips in five size options, which boast a 32% increase in isolation with ANC active and a more secure fit; software and hardware changes to improve the signal-to-noise ratio; the ability to deactivate ANC and all other noise control settings; a 5dB increase to the maximum volume, plus updates to the Final Connect app including improved ‘Volume Step Optimization’ and new multi-point connectivity.
And to say Final is a talented audio specialist is putting it mildly: see our five-star Final Audio UX3000 review if you need convincing of the company’s prowess when cutting the wires from its listening gear.
Analysis: Final Audio has probably hit a home run here
If the first-gen ZE8000 received mixed reviews, the slightly underwhelming noise-cancellation (rather than the audio quality itself) seems to have been the main issue. And with Qualcomm aptX and aptX Adaptive both listed on the spec-sheet, on paper they’re an accomplished listen.
We cannot vouch for the ZE8000 MK2 yet (although that is coming – I’ll be reviewing them soon) but given the classy build and plethora of tips offered, achieving a good seal to maximise both the audio quality and the noise-cancellation may well be all the update they need.
That said, most of the contenders in best noise-cancelling earbuds guide can outlast Final’s battery-life claim here, which is up to five hours from the buds or up to 15 hours including the case. The splendid Technics EAH-AZ80 can go for up to seven hours before needing a charge and up to 25 hours with the case; the entry-level Sony WF-C700N equal Final’s 15-hour total but offer seven and a half hours from the buds themselves.
How good will the updated app, new tips, tweaks under the hood and software upgrades prove under intense review? Time will tell, but if you simply can’t wait, the Final Audio ZE8000 MK2 are available from today (December 8) priced $399 / £289 (which is around AU$609) from Amazon and selected retailers worldwide.