Final ZE8000 MK2 review: enough of an upgrade?

The Final ZE8000 MK2 sound great, but with minor updates over the original it's still a hard sell in this competitive market

Final ZE8000 MK2
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Final ZE8000 MK2 deliver sound as great as you'd hope, but just like the original model there are too many rough edges in such a competitive market that the minor changes for this newer model aren't quite enough.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Really great sound

  • +

    App gives plenty of control

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    ANC is subtle

  • -

    Sizeable design

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Perhaps now more than ever it’s getting pretty hard to clearly tell the difference between generations of the best wireless earbuds, unless a total redesign has been made for whatever reason.

The Final ZE8000 MK2 on review here are a case in point: from the outside the changes over the original ZE8000 model are almost impossible to spot, and the tweaks under the hood aren’t exactly life-changing either. 

Just a year on from that first iteration, are the changes Final has made worth a whole new model, and do these earbuds get closer to justifying their price tag? I’ve been wearing them for a few weeks to see. 

Final ZE8000 MK2: Price & availability

Final hasn’t seen fit to make any price adjustment for the ZE8000 MK2 compared to the original, so you’ll still find them priced at £299 in the UK and $399 in the USA.

That means they’re still very much aimed at a premium purchaser, and sets these in-ears up against top-of-the-line competition from the likes of Sony, Bose and Apple.

Final ZE8000 MK2 review: Features

Final Audio ZE8000 MK2 Review image 3

(Image credit: Future)

The '8000' in the ZE8000 MK2’s name stands for what Final calls '8K Sound', and if that sounds a bit like a marketing tagline, it very much is one. 

If you penetrate through the waffle it effectively translates to impressively high-resolution capabilities for earbuds, with comparisons between 4K and 8K displays muddying those waters a little. 

In terms of actual build quality, though, there is almost nothing whatsoever to pick between the MK2 and the original ZE8000. The case and earbud dimensions haven’t changed at all, from what I can tell, meaning their interesting (and potentially divisive) design remains untouched.

You get a pretty chunky case to pocket or stick in your bag, with the earbuds nestling inside, magnetised by those prominent stems to clip into place. It’s pretty lightweight and plasticky, though, with a sliding cover that feels somewhat less sturdy than one might hope. 

Final Audio ZE8000 MK2 Review image 4

(Image credit: Future)

The stems are the real sore spot for me, visually speaking, with a slightly throwback attitude to how big an earbud should look when in the ear. Final says that housing much of the internal specs in these stems makes the actual in-ear portion as light as possible for enhanced comfort.

However, the Z8000 MK2 are relatively comfortable, with a very minor update having been made to their ear tips, which now have extra little flaps of silicone to seemingly create an even better seal. I was happy wearing them for extended periods of time, which is good news in the land of the best noise-cancelling earbuds

They’re a pretty unique shape, so it’s great that Final ships five different tip sizes in the box, as you’ll almost certainly end up trying more than one before you find the right fit. Still, from an ergonomics point of view, I couldn’t help but feel that these uniquely shaped and designed tips really underline how impressive the likes of Apple’s understated work is on the far more uniform AirPods Pro 2. Each to their own, though.

You can pick up the Final Z8000 MK2 earbuds in black or white and, with either choice, you’ll find they have a mottled finish that does stand out and feel great in the hand. 

Final ZE8000 MK2 review: Performance

Final Audio ZE8000 MK2 Review image 6

(Image credit: Future)

Final’s core boasts around the ZE8000 MK2, like the first version before it, all revolve around its sound quality – and that’s fair enough, given they are earbuds after all.

Slipping them in (which takes some getting used to thanks to those interestingly-shaped tips) and I pretty quickly understood that the price tag isn’t completely spurious. These are great-sounding earbuds that don’t act too heavy-handed in any one section of frequencies. 

Just as said in T3's original Z8000 review: "there’s quite a lot to enjoy about the way the sound. The top of the frequency range is bright, substantial and carries an awful lot of detail. The bottom of the midrange is equally information-rich". It's very much the same story here with the second-gen model. The soundstage on offer is really wide, giving you a real sense of range as you listen to music with plenty of complex orchestration.

If there’s an area that lets things down slightly it’s still the bass – just as we found with the last version – as it lacks a little power. If you’re really into electronica or heavy rock that could leave you wanting more, although power will always be a sore spot for true wireless earbuds to some degree. 

Final Audio ZE8000 MK2 Review image 7

(Image credit: Future)

Just like the original ZE8000, too, the MK2 suffers from the need to get your ear sealed just right - the shape of the eartips meant that I found I had gaps letting sound out and affecting my listening much more often than I’m used to experiencing. And you'll want a perfect seal for noise-cancelling to have its most prominent impact. 

Battery life sits at a solid five hours of listening without needing a charge, which isn’t exemplary and doesn’t really improve on the last version, but should be more than enough for most people to get through a long task or a journey. There are only a couple more charges in the case, though, so you may find it won’t get you through a week without needing to plug in. 

Final Audio ZE8000 MK2 Review image 8

(Image credit: Future)

Another middling note comes in the form of the again-not-really-refined active noise-cancellation - Final says it’s now 32% more isolating, but given that it was starting from a pretty underwhelming place I’m still not completely impressed. The simple fact is that comparing the amount of sound occluded to the AirPods Pro (my everyday workhorse), the Final ZE8000 MK2 couldn’t get particularly close. 

Welcome changes have been made to the already very slick Final Connect app, though, to let you exert more control over the earbuds than before. For one, you can toggle ANC off completely, which wasn’t possible on the last version, while full EQ controls let you fine-tune your sound easily. 

One option I really appreciate is the possibility of turning off touch controls completely - while tapping to play and pause has worked fine, some of the other controls on the earbuds’ outer surface are finicky, and being able to disable them to just use my phone as the main control source has been ideal for me.

Final ZE8000 MK2 review: Verdict

Final Audio ZE8000 MK2 Review image 5

(Image credit: Future)

It’s slightly hard to figure out why Final felt it had to release the ZE8000 MK2 as a supposedly completely new version of its earbuds - the changes made are so minimal compared to the original Z8000 earbuds, after all.

In update summary: there are new eartips, new app features, and a small boost to active noise-cancellation performance. However, I still couldn't get an ideal fit, while the ANC still isn't compelling enough in this highly competitive market. 

There’s still a lot of creditable work here, of course, including on its core sound performance, which can really sing in the right conditions and with the right genres of music. Certain listeners will love Final's soundstage and delivery, so if you're non-plussed about the best ANC in the business then these earbuds still show their worth.

Still, if you don't sit in that niche, then in a market as wildly competitive as it is right now, it remains pretty hard to recommend the ZE8000 MK2 too fulsomely - just as was the case with the original Z8000 model.

Also consider

Final Audio ZE8000 MK2 Review image 2

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re shopping for a premium set of earbuds, you’ve got a whole bunch to pick from right now, but probably the two choices that I think are best for most people come from familiar names.

If you’re an iPhone user, there’s no ignoring the AirPods Pro 2nd Gen, which now come with the welcome addition of a USB-C port on the case and still sound fabulous. They're cheaper than the Final option too. 

Alternatively, Sony’s latest flagship earbuds, the WF-1000XM5, are top-of-class in ANC performance and sound phenomenal, making them a superb option as well.

Max Freeman-Mills

Max is a freelance writer with years of experience in tech and entertainment. He's also a gaming expert, both with the games themselves and in testing accessories and consoles, having flexed that expertise at Pocket-lint as a features editor. He has tested all manner of tech too, from headphones and speakers to apps and software.