Founded in 1975 by Kanemori Taki, Final has been one of Japan’s leading manufacturers of high-end earphones, headphones, and phono cartridges for almost 47 years. The brand was focused on phono cartridges until 2009, before they made the decision to enter the personal audio market.
The decision to enter the wireless market took some time because they did not posses the capacity to add a new product line and ownership were not happy with the initial designs and held off. The Final ZE3000 True Wireless Earphones are their first foray into the TWS segment and an auspicious debut to say the least.
Final have sold over one million pairs of their E3000 passive in-ear headphones ($49.99 at Amazon); the number of high-end brands that have sold one million units over the course of their corporate history is probably something you can count on one hand. For a small, boutique audio manufacturer, that is an extraordinary number.
What makes that number even more impressive, is that it only applies to one product in its rather extensive lineup.
In addition to the E3000 IEMs, Final manufactures a full lineup of IEMs and over-ear headphones starting at $100 USD and climbing to almost $5,000 USD for their top models.
Using the E3000 as the template for their first wireless model makes sense as they have a potentially huge market for it, but the risk is that if it does not live up to expectations, they would face a huge network of former customers criticizing the product online.
The ZE3000 reminds me of the time that someone at Jeep decided that they needed to develop a 4-door version of the Wrangler; it was a “get it right or look for another career in food service” moment for both sets of engineers.
The Japanese market for headphones and earphones is quite different than the ecosystem that we exist in, consumers are far more sophisticated and have a much larger pool of choices. Screwing up the Final ZE3000 could have been catastrophic for the brand.
Everyone on the team can exhale. Most brands wish their first generation wireless earphones were this good.
The wireless model IEMs will be sold under the ZE banner and headphones under the UX name. Final sent me two pairs of the ZE3000’s; one each in black and white for the purposes of reviewing them.
The kit is pretty standard with the earpieces, case, charging cable, and five sets of Final’s E-Series tips. There is almost a cult following for these specific ear tips; people replace the stock tips on their IEMs with the Final product and this newly designed version for the ZE3000 is going to likely result in a similar response.
The earpieces and case are made from a polymer with a finish known as Shibo — which is Japanese for paper or leather. Up close, the finish looks like tiny water droplets on the surface; from a longer distance it does look like crinkled crepe paper.
Color choices are either white or black with a matching case and earpieces. I took the liberty of putting the opposite color with the cases for contrast. The shells are fairly large and appear very angular and sharp at first glance, but the surfaces that come in contact with the ear are rounded.
Consumers who own other Final IEMs will certainly see some design similarities with specific lines, but there is a new wrinkle with the Final ZE Series.
Final’s design team decided from the onset of the project that the ZE3000 needed to be waterproof which meant that venting could not be used; venting of a dynamic driver is required in most cases because a sealed rear chamber creates pressure that resists rearward moment of the driver and causes distortion.
Final set about to design a new 6mm driver and damping system that would eliminate this distortion without the need for external venting. The results are the “F-core Driver” for wireless and the “F-link” damping system.
The nozzle is used as a rear vent to balance pressure the driver faces to reduce distortion and allow more linear movement. You can read more about the design process and technology here.
The result is an earphone with an IPX4 rating that is capable of stopping any water from entering once a proper seal is achieved. I suspect that the rating may be higher than IPX4, but the Final is being conservative with their rating.
Other internals include the Qualcomm QCC3040 single chip Bluetooth solution, touch sensors, and a lithium ion battery that provides roughly 6.5 hours of battery life per charge. I tested with aptX adaptive for the most part so use of other codecs (AAC, SBC, and aptX standard) may impact your battery life differently.
The case provides four full charges and part of a fifth before needing to be charged itself which is quite good considering the case size is smaller than average. The case is built extremely well with a very solid hinge design and snap closure, an external LED indicator, and fits easily in a pocket.
The downside is that when opened, it won’t stand up and with the charge port on the bottom, it cannot stand while charging. It takes roughly 90 minutes to recharge the earpieces from a full discharge and about 120 minutes to recharge the case once it is drained.
Setting up the ZE3000 is straight forward as they immediately go into pairing mode when first opened or can be placed into pairing mode by disconnecting from the previously paired source device, placing the earpieces back in the case, and waiting 3-5 seconds for them to reset.
There is no control sequence for forcing the earpieces into pairing mode and they do not support multipoint, so pairing to a new device requires removal of the old pairing or the disabling of the Bluetooth connection until the source vanishes.
Once connected, I found that the Final ZE3000 did extremely well with no issues with drop-outs as long as source was kept within 10 meters in open space.
Latency was quite good as well, with movie watching well synced between video and audio. The ZE3000 also supports a mono mode for those who wish to use a single earpiece at times when situational awareness is needed.
The controls are straight forward and all handled by touch sensors; Final made the decision to not create an app for these wireless earphones, and I support that decision. One should not need to be a technology wizard to use a pair of earphones.
A single tap of either earpiece is play/pause, double taps raise (right) or lower (left) volume, and press and hold advances to the next track or moves back to the previous.
When you want to receive an incoming phone call, tap to answer, double tap to reject, and tap and hold to end a call. Triple taps open Siri or Google Assistant if enabled on the host device. It is an intuitive system and one learned quickly which again shows Final’s dedication to making the product as consumer friendly as possible.
Not everything about the Final ZE3000 hits the mark; the decision to place the microphones on the outside of the shell picks up way too much outside noise which results in noisy calls in the car, bus, train, and while out shopping. In quiet environments, that isn’t an issue but they would not be my first choice if making phone calls all day through your wireless earphones is a priority.
The voicing of the Final ZE3000 is interesting and why I believe these wireless earphones are likely to succeed. There is a mild bass lift around 100Hz with a gradual roll-off on either side of that.
The low end impact is solid down to almost 28Hz before the roll-off becomes perceptible; it would be remiss to call the ZE3000 ideal for bass heads, but it is not bass shy either.
The mid bass has more than enough impact and I was impressed with how it managed to remain controlled, tight, and very quick into the upper bass; there is almost no bleed into the lower midrange which keeps the overall coherency and clarity quite good.
The midrange is the one part of the spectrum where one can really start to see how the ZE3000 delivers some of the best aspects of the Final range stating with the E-Series and going all the way up to the ZE-Series. The lower midrange has very good note weight and a very natural sounding tone. Male vocals are strong and delivered with excellent presence; I found them to be quite clean sounding with accurate tone.
Piano and guitar have accurate timbre and strings have just enough energy and color to be quite lively without ever sounding thin or lacking in detail.
There is no significant lift in the upper midrange; what extra energy exists helps give upper strings and female vocals just enough energy to sound realistic, but without pushing female vocals too far forward in the mix.
The lower treble is very similar to the midrange; clean, transparent, and more than enough detail and energy to give instruments and vocals presence without sounding harsh or sibilant in the process.
Snares have very good rattle with a crisp level of attack; cymbals have excellent energy and never sound too metallic.
The top end is airy, but just enough to keep the ZE3000 from sounding closed-in and it never really sounds hard or etched.
You should never expect miracles in regard to closed-back IEMs when it comes to soundstage width and depth; that proved to be the case as the soundstage is wider than it is deep or high.
The instrument separation is very good along with the imaging; the orchestra is certainly wider and shallower sounding than usual, but that doesn’t stop the ZE3000 from presenting everything in its proper place.
There is some mild compression in the low end as tracks become busier and faster and I would rate the single driver ZE3000 as above average in the dynamics department.
What makes the Final ZE3000 so impressive, is that it doesn’t feel like a first generation product; the reluctance to rush a pair of true wireless earphones into the market was clearly the right move.
Final took the time to develop a high quality product that lives up to the standards set by the original E3000; both in terms of build and sound quality.
The microphones don’t live up to the rest of the design and Final will clearly have to rethink how they work in the next generation to come; too many consumers use true wireless earbuds paired to their smartphone for Final to not have an above average feature in that regard.
The sound quality is impressive for a true wireless design and if you have always wanted to experience a wireless version of the best-selling E3000s — this is the best and most cost effective way to do it.
Does the Final ZE3000 deserve to make my “Best of 2022” list? At only $149 USD, it might be the biggest bargain in the category right now. I’m starting my Christmas shopping early with a few pairs for the music lovers in my home.
- Communication Format: Bluetooth® 5.2
- Supported Codecs: SBC, AAC, Qualcomm aptX™, aptX™ Adaptive
- Continuous Music Playback:
- Maximum 7 hours (earbuds)
- Maximum 35 hours with case recharges
- Charging Time: Earbud: 1.5 hours / Case: 2 hours
- Battery Capacity: Earbud: 35 mAh / Case: 300 mAh
- Water Resistant: IPX4