In this Final Audio UX3000 review, we're looking at the first wireless headphones with active noise cancellation from a company that's happen to turn out everything from wildly expensive headphones (its D8000 planar magnetic model will set you back thousands) to humble entry-level stuff (the E500 wired in-ears cost the same as a round of drinks).
The Final Audio UX3000 were worth the wait, though – the company has certainly taken its time to challenge the best noise-cancelling headphones, but it's done so while playing the company's own game.
The world isn’t short of products like this, it’s true, but we’re always happy to see (and hear) headphones that seem to be specified beyond their price-point. Generally in these instances, the price/spec ratio is too good to be true, but not always – and Final Audio has kept its focus on sound quality, and delivered something to really challenge the best wireless headphones at the affordable end of the market.
Final Audio UX3000 review: price & release date
The Final Audio UX3000 are on sale now. In the United Kingdom they’ll set you back £119, and in the United States that translates to around $149. Customers in the Eurozone will have to fork out €139, but Australian consumers will have to wait and see if Final Audio decides to launch the UX3000 there. If it happens, then expect them to be marked up at AU$209 or thereabouts.
This sort of money (or just a little more) is enough to buy you a very agreeable pair of Sony WH-XB910N, while the Skullcandy Hesh are similarly specified too and even less expensive. So while the UX3000 are undoubtedly very aggressively priced, it’s not as if they’re short of competition.
Final Audio UX3000 review: features & what's new
The Final Audio use Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless connectivity, with SBC, AAC, aptX and aptX Low Latency codec compatibility. So it’s reasonable to expect a robust connection and tight audio/video synchronisation.
Battery life is quoted at 25 hours with active noise-cancellation switched on, or 35 hours with ANC switched off. The UX3000 can go from ‘flat’ to ‘full’ in around 150 minutes when charging, and they use USB-C.
Final Audio has had quite a long, hard think about the way active noise-cancellation is implemented here. There’s always an effect on the driver that’s delivering music when ANC is switched on, and it’s how well its dealt with that dictates how well the driver will perform.
For the UX3000, Final Audio has designed a new full-range dynamic driver that’s intended to better withstand the stresses placed upon it by engaged ANC circuitry. It’s possible to enjoy the noise reduction the headphones deliver even if there’s no incoming signal – the ‘earmuff’ function is how Final Audio refers to it.
Final Audio UX3000 review: performance
It’s a fine line between ‘neutral’ and ‘bland’ where the sound of headphones is concerned sometimes, and it’s one any number of price-comparable rivals to the UX3000 don’t even try to walk. Instead, they hit you with overconfident low frequencies and a sort of sonic relentlessness that’s easily (but only briefly) confused with ‘excitement’.
Safe to say the UX3000 don’t indulge in such cheap nonsense. They’re about fidelity and realism – so while they may not sound the most 'exciting' on first acquaintance, they are far, far easier to live with in the long run.
Given content of a half-decent standard to deal with, the Final Audio are an accomplished listen. They deliver a tightly integrated and properly consistent tonality from the top of the frequency range to the bottom, with punchy and controlled bass underpinning things.
They are articulate and revealing through the midrange – good news for vocalists of all kinds – and shinily substantial at the top end. Throughout the frequency range, detail levels are high and control – of the attack and decay of individual sounds, as well as of overall integration – is absolute.
They don’t create the biggest soundstage around, it’s true, but nevertheless the UX3000 can lay out a recording coherently and draw a convincing audio image. Specific instruments or performers have autonomy in their own little area of the soundstage, and there’s no blurring or muddling of positions on it.
And they’re similarly talented and confident where dynamics are concerned. Any headphone worth its salt can deal with the broad ‘from-quiet-to-loud-and-back-again’ stuff – it’s the minor dynamic variations audible from one key-push or skin-hit to the next that really highlights the experts. It’s safe to say the UX3000 do better work with this kind of transient, yet crucial, stuff – and they don’t sound in any way forced or unnatural as they do so.
It’s the same story where rhythmic expression and certainty are concerned, too – there’s an almost instinctive manner to the way the Final Audio resolve even more testing rhythms and tempos.
As far as noise-cancellation goes, Final Audio’s determination to let the drivers do their thing without being corrupted by the influence of ANC circuitry is successful. They’re not able to remove every hint of external sound, it’s true – you'll need to at least double your budget and look to Sony or Bose if you want maximum noise blocking – but they’re not bad at all. And, let’s not forget, they don’t shift their sonic character while they’re cancelling (most of) that noise.
Final Audio UX3000 review: design & usability
Not much is new in the world of over-ear headphones, certainly not where design is concerned. So it’s nice to find even a tiny point of difference here – Final Audio has deployed what it calls a ‘shibo’ finish over the fairly hard plastics that comprise most of the frame of the UX3000. An old Japanese word describing the wrinkles on the surface of paper or leather, ‘shibo’ here basically means an interestingly mottled finish that (in some lights) makes your headphones look like they need a bit of a wipe.
Where they’re not made of plastic, the UX3000 are built from nicely pliant, memory foam-filled pleather at the contact points. Both the earpads and the headband are comfortable, and stay that way for hours at a time. These headphones will fold usefully small (Final Audio provides a carry-pouch for when they’re not on your head), and all their hinges and points of articulation feel robust and hard-wearing.
Perhaps most agreeably of all, the UX3000 are notably small and compact by the standards of their peers. Many over-ear headphones like to dominate the wearer’s head, but not these.
Voice control is available from either Google Assistant or Siri, and there are some physical controls around the edge of both earcups too. On the left side there’s an ‘ANC on/off’ button just above a USB-C socket that’s purely for charging. On the right, along from a 3.5mm analogue input for hard-wired operation, there are three nicely spaced controls which, between them, handle ‘power on/off’, ‘Bluetooth pairing’, ‘play/pause’, ‘volume up/down’, ‘skip forwards/backwards’, ‘activate voice assistant’ and ‘answer/end/reject call’.
Each earcup also features both internal and external mics. These handle voice-assistant interaction and telephony, as well as monitoring noise inside and outside the earcups for active noise-cancellation purposes.
Final Audio UX3000 review: verdict
Anyone with realistic expectations of what this sort of money can buy where wireless over-ear active noise-cancelling headphones are concerned will be very pleasantly surprised by the Final Audio UX3000. They’re a mature, quite sophisticated and nicely balanced listen, they’re properly made and comfortable, and they’re not at all bad at cancelling noise either.
Yes, you can spend similar money on more upfront sound, or on a more high-profile brand logo – but it won’t buy you any more musicality than is available right here.
Final Audio UX3000 review: also consider
They’re a little more expensive than the Final Audio, but the Sony WH-XB910N wireless noise-cancellers have a lot going for them. Battery life is as good as the UX3000, while their noise-cancelling is arguably better. They’re a more exuberant and less sophisticated listen than these, though, and don’t have the (admittedly fairly limited) visual appeal of the Final Audio either. But if the idea of an instantly recognisable and well-regarded brand logo affects your purchasing decisions, the Sony are well worth investigating. Here's our Sony WH-XB910N review.