Technics EAH-AZ80 Review
A compelling alternative to the likes of Bose and Sony
Reassuringly refined, with a helpful feature set, these flagship wireless earbuds from Technics offer a compelling alternative to best-sellers from Bose and Sony. Noise cancelling is excellent, but some may find them just a little too reserved…
- Effective noise cancelling
- Superb vocal clarity
- Three device Multipoint Connection
- Stylish design
- Sluggish bass
- Could be more dynamic
- Premium price
- Wireless Hi-res audioSupports LDAC Bluetooth streaming
- Bluetooth multipointConnect to three devices at once
- JustMyVoice technologyOffers improved ambient noise reduction
Technics has pulled out all the stops for its new flagship wireless earbuds. These dot-style earphones employ an entirely new driver, and boast innovative usability features that could well seal the deal for those that want more than just in-ear entertainment.
For the first time, there’s three device multipoint connectivity, so you can seamlessly hop between a trio of devices, and there’s an all-new background filter to combat wind noise when taking calls out and about.
But do they deliver when it comes to sonic fidelity? As always, the answer is complicated…
- Chonca-fit style
- Silver or black colour choice
- Qi wireless charging compatible
Adopting a chonca-friendly shape to better sit in the ear, the Technics EAH-AZ80 is available in two finishes: classic black and silver/grey. My sample was the latter, which I think looks a class above the usual true wireless buds and reflect Technics high-end Hi-Fi heritage. Build quality is light, but good enough for the price point.
They’re compact and light at 7g apiece. Out and about, I felt reasonably confident they weren’t going to pop out, but I wouldn’t be inclined to wear them for gym work or jogging (as if I jog), even if they are IPX4 (equivalent) rated for water resistance.
They travel within a matching neat charging case, which measures a pocketable 69 x 36 x 29mm. Rather generously, Technics supplies a choice of seven sizes of silicon tips, all the better to ensure a snug fit and maximise noise isolation.
The box also includes a USB-C charging cable. The charging case will work with a Qi charger, if you want to stay wireless.
- JustMyVoice technology
- Bluetooth 5.3
- Three device multi-point pairing
Technics has clearly thought long and hard about how we use our earbuds and have concluded that improved Bluetooth connectivity is a must-have feature. Clearly envisaging road warriors juggling an array of office equipment, the EAH-AZ80 are the first buds I’ve seen to offer three devices at a time connectivity. You can Bluetooth pair them with a smartphone, laptop and tablet, and switch between as required.
The AZ80 also incorporate novel JustMyVoice technology, which improves intelligibility by muting background noise. MEMS mics, along with a Voice Activity Detector, Acoustic Echo Canceler and a Voice Call Post Filter, mute unwanted hubbub. This technique proves to be particularly effective combating traffic noise and wind roar but doesn’t actually improve the quality of your spoken voice.
Technics has taken a Dual Hybrid approach to noise cancellation, using a combination feedback and feedforward noise cancelling and both analogue (via a dedicated chip, for faster processing) and digital (software) filtering. This belts and braces approach pays dividends.
Technics rates noise cancelling efficiency at 80 per cent, and it’s certainly impressive in real world environments. It throws a blanket over intrusive conversations, and the earbuds even do a decent job combatting the more aggressive sounds of London underground train carriages.
The earbuds run Bluetooth 5.3, which goes a long way to preserve battery life. If you’re using Bluetooth AAC, you can expect to get roughly seven hours of playback on a full charge.
However, if your codec of choice is LDAC, this drops to just over four hours with Noise Cancelling on (you can grab an extra 30 minutes if you switch NC off). The diminutive charging case has a reserve of around 17 hours.
The AZ80 employs four microphones per bud – a feedforward mic to cancel external sounds, a feedback mic to cancel internal noise, a voice detection mic, and a talking mic.
The AZ80 is voice assistant compatible, working with Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa. This can be set up with the accompanying Technics Audio Connect app.
- Spatially accurate
- Excellent vocal clarity
- Bass a tad sluggish
The key to the AZ80’s performance is a newly developed 10mm free-edge aluminium diaphragm which proves to be supremely good at creating spatial placement and sonic nuance. Recordings with a live ambiance really pop.
The seductive sax of Benny Golson (Art Blakey, Moanin’ Remastered, Tidal), is delivered with authentic insistence, and is clearly positioned in front of Art Blakey’s languid backbeat. The soundstage is wide and believable. It’s a shut-your-eyes-and-you’re-there level of delivery.
The AZ80 get a little bogged down with bass though – David Guetta’s dance anthem I’m Good (Blue) sounds sluggish rather than euphoric and Metallica’s Shadows Follow (72 Seasons, Tidal) hits with heavily padded gloves rather than a muscular fist.
But there’s also measured musicality that serves jazz, country, and more melodious fare brilliantly well – vocal articulation is faultless, and that toppy presence zone, which can so often sound over sharp, is peerlessly managed.
Mozart’s sprightly Violin Concerto No.1 confirms a deft ability to handle strings, which sound rich and sweet, yet never edgy.
This characteristic, incidentally, makes the Technics EAH-AZ80 a great choice for podcast listening and spoken books. There’s nothing fatiguing about them at all!
The AZ80’s mid-range is also reassuringly percussive. Cozy Powell’s Dance with the Devil (Tidal) blends a propulsive pop march with a choral refrain, and the AZ80’s sound glorious. Those aluminium drivers are tighter than glam rock loons, and I approve.
Should you buy it?
If you like a class leading spec and solid ANC: With powerful noise cancellation, a unique feature spread, and an winning way with a wide variety of genres, the EAH-AZ80 is a True Wireless headphone that warrants its premium price point
If you like rock and dance: While the AZ80 gets most genres right, they’re not the most dynamic of earbuds. Consider rivals if your playlist is predominantly high energy…
There’s a lot to like about the Technics EAH-AZ80. I reckon they’re a convincing alternative to the usual true wireless suspects and gain an edge over many thanks to their class-leading feature specification.
Technics isn’t just relying on its audio cred to sell the AZ80, it’s actually thought long and hard about how people use their earbuds, and how the experience can be better.
Three gizmo multipoint connectivity will be a boon for many, and the JustMyVoice technology is a clever solution when making calls in less than perfect surroundings.
Kudos to that.
They also have style in abundance. Nicely finished, with that comfy curve and classic logo, these earbuds are a class above. You’ll want people to notice you’re wearing them.
Musically, I think they’re impressive, if somewhat genre dependent. They’re at their best with more artful recordings, allowing you to savour fine detail and ambiance. They sound absolutely gorgeous with jazz and guitar-led indie rock. They’re also a superb choice for podcast enthusiasts.
Bass handling and dynamics are a little more contentious. While they can drop deep, they’re a little less energetic than I would have liked. Dance tracks and riffing metal are perhaps not their native habitat. If you’re into heavy beats they may not entirely satisfy.
That said, these true wireless earbuds are not easily bettered. File under formidable
How we test
We test every pair of headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry-standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested for a week
Tested with real world use
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With its Bluetooth multipoint support, you can connect to up to three devices simultaneously.
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