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Technics is one of the big old brands of audio. Half a century’s worth of hi-fis hasn’t left the brand with a whole lot of sex appeal, but instead there’s a reassuring sense that this lot probably know what they’re doing.
And so it is with the new flagship EAH-AZ80 earbuds. It takes confidence to go toe-to-toe with Apple, Bose, and Sony at the $300 end of the true wireless earbud market, but Technics has earned it.
With an understated design, excellent audio, and the near-unique ability to connect to three devices simultaneously, these are one of the best options around for those who care more about how their buds sound than what brand is on the box.
Design & build
Premium build quality
Choice of seven ear tip sizes
Chunky carry case
The AZ80 buds look simple enough. Available in either black or silver, the buds are built out of plastic, but with a brushed metal-effect finish on the outer touch-sensitive side.
That surface area is compact, the buds an almost-circle when they sit in the ear, and they don’t jut out much either.
Technics has prioritised both comfort and security of fit in two ways. Firstly, the body of the buds is curved hither and thither in a way that apparently encourages them to sit snugly inside the conch, nestling into the organ’s actual shape.
Second, the company supplies the buds not with the customary three pairs of silicon eartips to pick from, but a full set of seven in various shapes and sizes, so you’d have to have really outlandishly proportioned ears to not find a fit.
Every ear is different of course, but a little experimentation quickly found me setup that’s stayed in place during running and weightlifting, and proved comfortable over multi-hour listening sessions.
My only real complaints are to do with the charging case that comes with the buds. It looks good enough, with a top that matches the brushed effect of the buds and an engraved company logo, but after just a week it’s already picked up a few scuffs and scratches that detract from the effect.
It’s also at the larger end of the spectrum, which is good for battery life, but does make it feel bulky when you throw it in the pocket of a pair of jeans.
Specs & sound
Large 10mm aluminium drivers
Rich, expansive sound
The sound is the reason to buy the AZ80. These earbuds sound fantastic, and can hold their own against any other premium pair you’d care to try.
Technics has equipped them with newly designed 10mm drivers made from aluminium. Combined with an acoustic control chamber and a harmoniser, the company says the whole setup delivers extended response at high and low frequencies compared to its other high-end earbuds while minimising distortion.
Normally I’d tell you to take that with a pinch of salt, but performance here really is sublime. These have one of the most open, expansive soundscapes I’ve heard yet from earbuds, with a clarity to the sound that’s hard to find elsewhere.
Dive into the accompanying app’s EQ settings to crank up the bass and these can deliver pulsating low-end without compromise, bringing out the best of the slinky baseline on Men I Trust’s ‘Oncle Jazz’, or propelling some of The Chemical Brothers’ punchier tracks forward.
Technics has included support for high resolution audio courtesy of the LDAC codec too, with compatibility on Android and certain other devices – though iPhones won’t support it. You won’t need to compromise on quality if you’ve got high-res files, or subscribe to one of the streaming services that handles that higher-end audio.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
Of course there’s noise-cancelling too. The tech here is good, but perhaps the main audio area where you might find the likes of Bose and Sony pull away from Technics just a little.
I found it mostly good at blocking out my surroundings, especially lower level background noise, but noisy traffic or the music playing at my gym still tended to break through a little. You can customise the noise-cancelling level, but there’s no smart mode that tunes it to your hearing.
Getting an exact fit with the silicon tips helps though, and this may be where some people find the AZ80 buds better than rivals, because the seven sets may allow those with unusual ears to find a fit that they couldn’t elsewhere and thus passively block more noise.
As is standard now there’s also an ambient mode, which lets in outside noise and amplifies it slightly – perfect when you need to hear what’s around you or hold a conversation.
Technics has also worked on its noise cancellation and voice isolation tech for calls, and this is impressive. Call quality in noisy environments is better here than on most other buds, making these an especially good choice for remote workers who may have to take calls or meetings on the go.
Smart features & app
Connect to three devices at once
Fully customisable controls
The smart side of the EAH-AZ80 buds is handled through Technics’ Audio Connect app, available on Android or iOS.
The most exciting feature here is support for three-way multi-point connections. That’s a lot of jargon for saying you can connect to three devices simultaneously, rather than the one or two usually supported elsewhere, so you could, say, switch seamlessly between phone, tablet, and laptop.
The only caveat here is that you won’t be able to take full advantage of both this and the buds’ LDAC hi-res support. If you switch on LDAC then you’ll be limited to two simultaneous connections, and in fact the app will even encourage you to limit yourself to one device at a time, so there’s a trade-off to be made.
The app allows more control than just that though. Sound can be tweaked, with six default sonic profiles plus a five-track custom EQ option, and you can also adjust the intensity of the noise cancellation and ambient modes.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
Impressively, the buds’ touch controls are also fully customisable – a rarity. You can change the effect of single, double, triple, and long taps for each bud independently, giving you a total of eight possible interactions, with nine possible controls to assign to them (plus the option to disable some inputs, if you’d rather keep things simple).
Smaller options include swapping between a spoken notification or a simple sound when you change ANC modes; adjusting the auto power off settings; and tweaking how the buds behave when one is taken out of your ear during playback.
In short, the app delivers a lot of flexibility.
What it doesn’t deliver are any clever tools to optimise the sound for you. Rival buds now often include tests to help correct the buds’ fit, fine-tune noise cancellation, or optimise the EQ around your hearing and ear shape – here, everything is manual.
Finally, Amazon Alexa support is baked into the buds, though you can also use your phone’s default virtual assistant through them – or, of course, none at all.
Battery & charging
Up to seven hours on a single charge
24 hours including case
Wired or wireless charging
Battery life is another impressive strength here. Technics’ official numbers are that the earbuds can last up to seven hours of non-stop use, with a total of 24 hours of battery between the buds and case.
Those figures are based on listening with noise cancellation on, but the more power-intensive LDAC codec off, so figures could go up or down depending on your use.
Flitting around between settings, I was always impressed with how slowly battery drops on the buds – easily visible within the official app, which also shows the case’s battery, and most Android phones will also display this automatically.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
It took a full week of regular use before I felt the need to connect the case to a charger. Even better, at that point you get the choice between wired USB-C charging or simply dropping the case down on any Qi wireless charger.
Price & availability
At $299/£259, available from Amazon and elsewhere, the Technics EAH-AZ80 buds are by no means affordable – but they offer excellent value in the sense that they’re as good as anything else you could spend this much on.
The Technics EAH-AZ80 earbuds are an unexpected delight.
There’s not a lot of room for error in earbuds this expensive, and Technics has delivered a set that nails all the key areas: audio, noise cancellation, connectivity, and battery life.
Other pairs might look a bit flashier, and while the ANC here is good it’s not quite the best about, but few rivals are as well-rounded as these – and the combination of hi-res audio support and three-way connectivity is genuinely unique.
Tech Advisor's Deputy Editor, Dom covers everything that runs on electricity, from phones and laptops to wearables, audio, gaming, smart home, and streaming - plus he's a regular fixture on the Tech Advisor YouTube channel.