There’s certainly sufficient cutting-edge technology here to have us eagerly await the launch of the Technics true wireless later this year
- Review Price: £239
- Dual Hybrid Noise Cancelling
- 6hr battery life
- 10mm graphene-coated driver
Technics has thrown its hat into the true wireless headphone ring, unveiling the EAH-AZ70W at CES 2020.
Since its reboot in 2014, the legendary Japanese hi-fi brand has walked an often awkward line between the stratospheric high-end (hands up if you took out a mortgage for its Reference Class R1 amplifier?) and mid-range posh, such as its Ottava f smart all-in-one audio systems.
With an anticipated street price of £239, the EAH-AZ70W are squarely in the latter camp – but are perhaps all the more intriguing because of it. Can Technics really bring its signature audiophile sound to true wireless head-fi, and does it really have the noise-cancelling expertise to compete with market leaders, Sony and Bose?
Related: Best wireless earbuds
Technics EAH-AZ70W design – Sizable but snug
When it comes to style, these debut wireless buds don’t disappoint. The EAH-AZ70W look suitably swish, with a smart circular design. They’re somewhat fuller than the average earbud, but with good reason: the design incorporates some clever proprietary technologies. Technics isn’t the sort to offer cookie-cutter hi-fi, and with the EAH-AZ70W it’s found its own route to premium personal audio.
The moulded earpieces offer a pleasingly snug fit, which means they can be worn with confidence (although we wouldn’t sport them on a jog), along with welcome sonic insulation.
They also claim to be splash-proof, equivalent to an IPX4 rating, so there shouldn’t be any issues with being caught out in the odd April shower.
Technics’ colour choice is predictably conservative, being either black or silver(ish). The matching branded charging case is part aluminium, giving it a suitably solid feel in the hand.
Technics EAH-AZ70W sound quality – Acoustic control chamber is a genuine innovation
Which brings us to the nitty gritty. Technics has devised a new, large 10mm driver for these buds that uses a graphene-coated hard plastic diaphragm. It operates in conjunction with an airflow optimised acoustic control chamber, designed to refine fine treble detail and enhance bass response.
A proprietary design, we’re told this chamber is unique with a patent pending. It’s key to the EAH-AZ70W’s sonic performance and also dictates the overall shape of the earbuds.
We suspect that Technics knows that the premium true wireless war can only be won if noise cancelling is up to snuff, and the company really seems to have stretched itself here.
The EAH-AZ70W feature Dual Hybrid Noise Cancelling, which transpires to be a combination of FeedForward Noise Cancelling (FF-NC), effectively used to cancel exterior noise, and Feedback Noise Cancelling (FB-NC), which is used to cancel noise inside the ear.
This is wrapped up with both analogue and digital processing to combat noise pollution. Just how effective this solution transpires to be remains to be seen; CES isn’t your typical user-case scenario.
However, the fact that Technics has put a lot of thought into this area bodes well.
Technics EAH-AZ70W features – All the features you’d expect from a premium true wireless
Interestingly, exactly the same noise-cancelling process will be used on Panasonic’s own-brand alternative, the RZ-S500W, which come in cheaper – but we’d expect the execution here to have the edge, since the Technics bud use higher-end microphones, of which there are a trio on-board.
One high-performance MEMS (micro electro-mechanical systems) mic isn’t just for noise cancellation, but is also designed to help with call quality. A beam-forming technique is used to maintain clarity, while suppressing any ambient hubbub.
There are two ways to control your Technics buds, either via the dedicated Technics Sound Control app, or an on-body Touch sensor.
It’s the latter that you can use to activate ambient sound mode – used to mute noise cancelling and hear local sounds – and noise cancelling. A two-second tap allows you to select between each. The app allows adjustments to noise cancelling and external sound-capture levels.
Naturally, the headphones are voice-assistant compatible, supporting Amazon Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. Again, they’re activated by the headphone’s Touch Sensor.
One concern that many users have about true wireless headphones is flaky Bluetooth. To ensure the signal is robust, Technics has instigated simultaneous left/right reception, a growing trend also seen on the Sony WF-1000XM3 and Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW, to name but two.
With individual left/right signalling, each ear cup receives audio directly from the source device, rather than via a master/slave link, which can be prone to signal dropouts. This technique also improves latency, for better stereo sound balance.
Both the Bluetooth antenna and Touch Sensor have been integrated into the ear bud’s control section.
Bluetooth 5.1 is the wireless flavour of choice, and as such dictates battery life. Offering around six hours of playback with noise cancelling engaged, headphone stamina can be considered in line with other premium true wireless earpieces. It would have been nice to see Bluetooth LE Audio, the new low-energy implementation employed, since that would have improved battery life – but obviously the development cycle didn’t marry up.
That said, we might yet get greater battery longevity when the EAH-AZ70Ws launch. Engineers have told us that they think there’s some opportunity to squeeze a little more life from the buds before they go on sale.
The accompanying charging cradle provides backup for two full recharges, so that’s basically around 18 hours of juice on the go.
We don’t actually know what chipset the headphones use, since Technics is keeping schtum – although it did confirm that it isn’t from Qualcomm.
The most important aspect of these highly interesting true wireless headphones remains unclear, and that’s the audio performance we can expect at launch.
Shown in pre-production form at CES, final sound tuning has yet to be finalised, so we won’t know for sure how they compare with front-running rivals until we have a sample of the finished product in our hands… or rather ears.
That said, there’s certainly enough cutting-edge technology on-board to have us eagerly await a final sample, when they launch later this year.
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