Along with the ZE3000 TWS, final released their first wireless headphones UX3000 equipped with ANC and hybrid noise canceling, an interesting exercise that blends together Japanese elements and tech-inspired features.
Final points out that generic noise-canceling methodologies will degrade sound quality and require heavy equalizing to compensate, causing a fatiguing and unpleasant output. This is not the case for the UX3000, and it has some special functions to offer.
aptX™ Low Latency (LL) connection
The UX3000 supports aptX™ Low Latency codec in addition to SBC and AAC, which means you could use it for music games and fps without delays that would affect your performance, or to ensure lip-sync when watching movies.
Hands-free conference call
The UX3000 is equipped with high-performance microphones and the noise-canceling function would not be muffling out the voices, so you could use it for conferences, gaming, or watching TV while being freed from ambient noises
Connect to multiple devices
The UX3000 also supports multipoint connections, which means you can connect say both your phone and your laptop simultaneously. When a call comes in you can take the call and resume playback after the call is hung up.
Same as the ZE3000 TWS earphones, the UX3000 uses the Japanese-styled “Shibo” surface finish which you may have seen on the premium camera lenses and DSLR bodies.
This sophisticated “Shibo” coating which denotes the wrinkled texture on paper and leather, enhances the resistance to dirt and scratches and adds a good sense of elegance to the dark-themed design.
The aesthetics, on the other hand, is simple and practical, unlike the highly decorated high-end headphones from final, this is more for everyday duties.
The build quality is very promising; molding quality is what you would expect from a Japanese company, the metallic joints are rugged and do not shake. Although the UX3000 is constructed of plastic it feels solid and firm and could probably withstand some abuse.
Beneath the earcups, you will find all the functional buttons including on/off, ANC, and volume controls. You will also find a 3.5mm jack that allows you to connect to the earphone with 3.5mm terminated cables. As mentioned above the ANC function can be turned on standalone.
Comfort & Isolation
The UX3000 is designed to be foldable yet and the earcups can be rotated at all angles to fit different heads and ears to ensure a good seal.
Low-resilience earpads are used as claimed by final to prevent fatigue after long listening periods. In practice, it does seal well which further free the listening experience from noises, though you may need to take a rest every few hours or else it may get sweaty.
Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling
On each side of the headphone, there are two microphones that pick up the ambient noise as well as the sound from the driver. The signal is processed immediately to cancel out the ambiance so that disturbance from the outside, for example, noise in the train, plane, or in a busy coffee shop, will be lower.
If you just want to get some ‘me-time’ you could also turn on the noise cancellation function without any music being played, which could be very useful for meditation or studying.
By pressing the ANC button without the headphones being turned on you could get the ANC function running, and it works surprisingly well even indoors.
Lower frequencies get dampened quite heavily, all noise from the air-con is gone and it feels quieter than sticking my fingers in the ears. Only faint hiss can be heard and when putting on some music, it is hard to detect.
The UX3000 can playback up to 35 hours on a single charge and up to 25 hours with ANC on. If it is out of power, you could use the supplied 3.5-3.5mm cable to connect to your players or laptops. This is a very handy backup plan allowing users to enjoy the music even when the battery on the UX3000 is drained.
Packaging & Accessories
As usual for final products, the UX3000 comes in stylish and professional packaging and accessories. The headphone is well protected and secured inside for shipment.
On the box, you can see the Bluetooth 5.0 logo, Qualcomm aptX Low Latency badge also other technical specifications that show you what is it capable of. Digging inside the box you will find a fabric pouch, 3.5-3.5mm cable for wired connection and a user manual.
I have been using ANC earphones and headphones extensively for flights since a decade ago before CIEMs come into sight. Back then ANC headphones are noisy and lossy, but now the enhanced Bluetooth codecs and new driver technologies seem to offer much better noise control, also sounding much more natural.
Being said, the UX3000 does not sound tiring and you can barely feel that it is DSP corrected. When ANC is on there is a faint hiss in the background that could be undetectable on transport.
The V-shaped tuning on this set of headphones packs in good dynamic, clarity, and articulation that works well with streaming content, pop, and electronic music.
Playing some rhythmic pop tracks on YouTube, there is good energy in the punch and decent depth. The lower bass is elevated to bring forward better dynamics which at the same time color the output subtly warm.
Considering the price there is satisfactory resolution and low-end extension, even when ANC is switched on, and the bass is responsive and layered with electronic music that is rich in bass elements.
With shifting bass, tapping on bass, and double bass, there is sufficient energy to make it sound engaging. The UX3000 is also responsive to higher resolution tracks or better mastering, to give clearer transients.
On the street, the ANC function cancels out most of the ambient noise in particular the lower frequencies, such that the bass is clearly heard without EQ compensation.
While it is not the strongest noise cancellation function I have experienced, the UX3000 satisfactorily takes away most of the noise and sounds quite natural to my ears without much uneasiness unless listening at a very loud volume.
The bass articulates well to the mid-bass, which is rather shy compared to the sub-bass. While the vocal and mid-range instrument is pushed back, it keeps the mid-range free from congestion, and works swift and smoothly for instrumentals and gaming BGMs.
Powerful voices may sound thinned on the UX3000 with the recession around 500Hz, but the upper mids are bumped to give lighter voices a good push.
If you like thick vocals the UX3000 may sound hollowed out, but if you are the sort who likes a clean touch playing pop, folksongs, and other light-hearted music, the tuning helps some voices cut through easier may do the magic.
Inevitably ANC headphones may sound more boxed and final is doing a nice job here to give the treble a gentle roll-off that doesn’t make it sound unpleasantly compressed.
With violins and flutes, it still sounds fairly extended and transparent when listening outdoor or on a train. There is little harshness that can be heard which makes the UX3000 suitable for longer listens.
Staging is the weaker department for some ANC headphones so when ANC is on, the bass output generated to cancel out the ambiance may take away some of the “spacious” feeling inside the headroom.
On UX3000 the x-axis feels rather confined and the midrange frequencies are recessed to give more depth. While staging is limited the output is rendered rather natural in tone even with ANC in action. You get satisfactory stereo imaging and separation with enough power that allows drum sets and a small band or quartet to sound defined from each other.
Since the UX3000 is marketed as a wireless ANC headphone, the performance comparison will be based on wireless mode, albeit quite some other wireless cans can be connected with a cable or even supporting USB connection.
Bose QuietComfort 45 (QC45)
The Bose QC45 features TriPort acoustic architecture and a volume-optimized Active equalizer that boosts the highs and lows to maintain high-fidelity performance at all volumes. It also features an aware mode that allows ambient noise to pass through such that you could spy people around in your headphones as if you can’t hear them.
Looking at the specs the QC45 supports only AAC and SBC unlike the UX3000 that supports aptX LL, this is making a difference in terms of latency when testing with videos or over longer distances connecting to the TV.
The QC45 will get you 24hours of playback on a single charge and the UX3000 can playback for 25hours when ANC is on so both are great for travel.
The Bose QC45 has the brand’s iconic design and tech-forwarded aesthetics, while the UX3000 has a Japanese-styled design and flatter earcups, both feel quite light on the hand and won’t cause much stress even if you put them on during a long flight.
Both headphones are supplied with detachable wires so that you could still listen when power runs out, and the QC45 has the cable terminated in 2.5mm which to me is more prone to damage.
I have been using the QC35 on flights before the pandemic II and since the Bose outlet has the QC45 on display, I am giving it a try and comparing it to the UX3000.
Putting on some bossa nova tracks the QC45 sounds more expanded and fuller in the mid-bass compared to the UX3000, the vocal is more forwarded and energized while the UX3000 is cleaner and pushed back in the mids.
With guitars, you can feel the QC45 punching fuller and with a bigger image, while the UX3000 maintains better balance, more agility in the mid-lows, and a seemingly denser image.
When switching to pop music and gaming BGMs, the vocal image is larger on the QC45 but less as defined in the upper mids than the UX3000. This is more obvious when connecting with aptX or higher resolution tracks which boosts the transient’s performance and resolution.
The QC45 is a tad bit stronger in ANC though the UX3000 feels more natural without pushing out the mid-lows and treble as much to compensate for the ANC effect. I would prefer the fullness and noise cancellation power on the QC45 for flights but the UX3000’s design, better openness, and cleaner signature make it a great candidate for everyday commuting.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 is perhaps the most technically proficient and feature-rich ANC headphones in the market with an LDAC connection, though it does not support aptX LL. With Sony’s Headphone Connect app users could adjust noise-canceling functions and tweak equalizers, also to set the function of the CUSTOM button.
The WH-1000XM4 has an advanced feature called “Speak to Chat”, users could hold two fingers on the cup panels to activate this function and the headphones will mute the music and pick up the voice of the speaker so that you don’t need to take off the headphones to communicate.
There is also an Ambient Sound Mode to allow the ambiance to pass through as well as a Quick Attention Mode that allows the ambiance to be heard temporarily.
The WH-1000XM4 has an excellent build quality and finish, it is also foldable and padded with a spongy headband.
On the hand, the two cans feel very similar in weight and I would consider the build quality marginally better on the WH-1000XM4, but the Shibo finish on the UX3000 makes it classier. If I am not told the price and positioning in advance, I would likely believe that the UX3000 is the more premium one.
With touch panels and app support for additional features, the WH-1000XM4 is an advanced experience both in sound and technology. The UX3000 in contrast is more minimalistic, classy, intuitive, and has no thrills without extra functions.
With a 40mm driver inside, the WH-1000XM4 is able to deliver a strong bass performance. The bass is dense and the mid-range is presented in a fulsome manner.
The treble rolls off slower even when stronger ANC is applied, though it does not feel as smooth as on the UX3000. Detail retrieval power on the WH-1000XM4 is stronger and you can hear a more distinct, 3D vocal image.
The UX3000 sounds more characterized, as it emphasizes the upper mids, the very low end, and takes away some of the midrange frequencies.
As such it strengthens the transients on some particular genres like EDM and pop and sounds rather different from what I expected to hear on ANC Bluetooth headsets. The listener’s attention will be shifted to the upper mids, the backing instruments; elements that may be overlooked.
Further testing confirms that the WH-1000XM4 has stronger resolving power and stereo imaging, while the tone on the UX3000 sounds fresher and less attention-stealing, which could work well if you are working at a coffee shop or want some me-time at home.
Final’s products always stand out for their designs and audible clarity. The UX3000 is no exception. Although the UX3000 is not as rich in features nor as strong in the noise-canceling department that could fight off plane engine noises, for a fraction of the price the UX3000 offers decent isolation from city noises and an unaltered, uplifting sound experience.
For those who value portability, Japanese design philosophy, and extended battery life, the UX3000 is a practical option with a beautiful outlook that doesn’t hurt the piggy bank.