In-ear headphones with Bluetooth on board promise potent, wireless music enjoyment. There are a lot of ambitious newcomers but also established brands that throw their hats in the ring. The revived hi-fi showcase Technics is also in the running: And the new Technics EAH-AZ80 has ambitions in the 300-euro class. But how does it fare against the top dogs from Apple, Bose & Co.?
Wireless in-ear headphones as mobile entertainers have long since arrived in the mainstream. The advantages are obvious: With their lightweight design and helpful operating features, they confidently compete with on-ear and over-ear models, which take up significantly more space, being smart and space-saving when out and about. As “True Wireless” models, they even do without any cords.
In addition to unquestionably special 1,000-euro high-end models such as those from Beyerdynamic, the hard-fought upper class is already teeming with quite patent in-ears, such as the latest knobs from Apple (AirPods3), the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II or Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 3.
The special features of the Technics EAH-AZ80
Of course, the developers and engineers at Technics have a long experience. But it is also clear that the traditional company from Japan is venturing into territory with its in-ear speakers that are quite new for Technics and are also being used by companies worth billions. So you have to offer something. The EAH-AZ80 is the top model from the Japanese and confidently draws attention to its entrance with a rather wealthy, cuboid, stable cardboard box.
Inside, headphones and accessories find their place to lie and anchor cleanly and precisely. The in-ears can rest – and be charged – in a small, stylishly styled metal box. Also included: a saucer-sized energy dispenser and USB connection for wireless charging, a short USB-C charging cable, and a small accessory box with seven different silicone adapters for individual ear adjustment. A small, black soft case with a click fastener also protects the storage/charging box when moving.
So: First dock the “Qi” charging plate onto the laptop, then simply place the case with the earplugs on it – done. Micro-LED changes from blue to green, and the box also changes to green: In this mode, the “empty” plugs fill up with energy within around three hours – which should be enough for between seven and seven and a half hours of gaming, depending on the situation whether active noise canceling (ANC) is activated or not. Because the difference is striking: With ANC switched on, the EAH-AZ80 manages up to 7.5 hours, without ANC up to 25 hours.
Charging is easy and fast: charging takes about three hours in the wired charging station, about 3.5 hours with the charging station but without the cable, and about 15 minutes in the quick charge function (enough for 70 minutes of playback).
Back to active noise canceling, which suppresses annoying environmental noise: This mode can be adjusted steplessly via the smartphone using the free “Technics Audio Connect” app. Bravo at this point for the idea. Since the app offers a wealth of setting options, we’ll download it right away. The variety is impressive: nothing is left to be desired, from the battery charge status to a 5-band equalizer to various individually assignable touch modes of the earphones.
The charged in-ears can be picked out of their resting box like candy and, thanks to the clear left/right marking, can be docked or docked in the outer ear canals without any problems. The in-ears sit comfortably and pressure-free in the auditory canals without wobbling when the head turns. This indicates practical long-term suitability, which should be confirmed after many sessions.
The touch and processing quality? Class, especially for the price range, has a valuable metal and plastic mix. This feels clean and good, not too light, not too heavy. However, the bumps seem relatively lavishly dimensioned. It’s unbelievable what a concentrated load of miniaturized electronics works in the tiny capsules, including Bluetooth 5.3 and the HiRes technology “LDAC”, which enables data streams of up to 96kHz/990Kbit/s for the benefit of the sound. Incidentally, the headphone sessions are also splash-proof according to “IPX4”.
Let’s talk about speaking; that is the headset function of the Technics EAH-AZ80. There are four microphones per side: “Feedforward” and “Feedback” microphones for the analysis of intrinsic and ambient noise, which help to achieve clear voice articulation during phone calls via “JustMyVoice” technology. The voice recognition microphones capture and isolate your voice, and ambient noise is properly banished. If someone radios, tap the left or right shell, and you can take the call – in the practical test, the callers’ voices sounded quite clear, and your voice was well articulated when the other person spoke – even in strong ambient noise.
This is probably due to the “Dual Hybrid Active Noise Canceling Technology” built in by Technics. By combining a digital software filter and a feedforward microphone, it wants to eliminate disruptive noises during the telephone call efficiently.
In addition, in the “Natural environment” mode, important ambient noises can be actively and transparently incorporated into the conversation or music – for example, so as not to miss important announcements on the train. Active noise canceling (ANC) is designed to reduce environmental noise. Both worked great in everyday life, for example, in the IC, in city traffic, or on the balcony with the neighborly murmur of voices. However, the ANC could seal off more vehemently here and there. I know that better from the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II.
After checking into the ears, there is acoustic feedback, as usual with headphones of this class: “pairing,” “connected.” This works very smoothly with the smartphone or iPhone. Since the Technics in-ears can contact up to three Bluetooth devices, we complete the basic pairing with the laptop and iMac simultaneously – the seamless switching between the devices also worked great here. Laurels for the practice – followed by others: The Bluetooth radio range ended after over ten meters and two consecutive rooms. Fine.
The operation via the small outer surfaces of the earphones takes some getting used to. This requires some practice and possibly nerves before you can safely and purposefully direct with touch-typing. Wipe you were here, as is sometimes the case with other competitors such as Apple, doesn’t exist. After getting used to it, you have the operation under control. Incidentally, a practical automatic function helps to save energy and nerves during breaks: if desired, the knobs switch off automatically when you take them out of your ears.
The experienced home hi-fi engineers at Technics have given their in-ears a ten-millimeter aluminum cone (rigid, light) and acoustic chambers to optimize the airflow for hi-fi euphony. Here are some impressions:
The Japanese don’t let themselves be looked at more closely. Never mind, let’s just come to the practical measure of all things: the hearing test.
Already in advance, when checking the tools and the ANC, the latter turned out to be an acoustic enabler in active mode, meaning: the sound was more coherent, more physical, and more balanced overall. The hearing checks were therefore carried out in this mode. Sources such as Amazon Music, Qobuz, and music from the hard drive provided food for this.
For example, when Kate Stables, of British band This Is The Kit, raised her voice to the beautiful “Bullet Proof” during her sessions at Manchester’s Old Granada Studios, accompanied by drums, bass, guitar, and her banjo, she shone Voice, the rumbling drums reached the ears concisely and full-bodied. Simply sympathetic and authentic and dynamic and gripping, but not perfectly fanned out in complex passages.
Audiophile music from the hard drive, such as the Würzburg duo Carolin No, scored with a fine room ambiance, transparency, and a harmonious tonality. Incidentally, the mentioned Bluetooth device change from the iPhone to the MacBookPro occurred here: smart and with bravado.
Soul/R&B singer Arlo Parks was also great tonally. Guitar music by masters like Al Di Meola got down to business with fine dynamics. The classics section included Sol Gabetta and Hélène Grimaud with a Brahms recording: vehement, with beautiful physicality. The sound was radiant, I was completely satisfied.
But how do the in-ears from the comparatively “small” Technics brand fare against giants like Apple and Bose? Surprisingly good. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II sound fuller overall but more tame and less intoxicating. The Boses, however, has to be credited with the fact that their noise canceling is probably the best in this class.
Compared to Apple’s AirPods 3, you can attest to the similarities in sound – with slight advantages for the Technics in my ears, which twirl a touch more agile. However, Apple is always ahead of the game regarding the easy operation, which doesn’t just apply to the Technics.
Conclusion Technics EAH-AZ80
The in-ear pair played its sound trump cards without serious weaknesses. The sound impression is open, with a pleasant presence and resolution, a nice sense of space, and excellent low-frequency pressure. The sound is so full of character and balanced that the Technics in-ears can impressively assert themselves against the big top dogs. And the service department via the app also provides pleasing extensive help.
|+||Clear, balanced, quite spacious, long-term sound|
|+||Good telephone voice quality|
|+||Diverse settings and customization options via the app|
|–||ANC could act even more vehemently|