Your forever earbuds: Technics’ superb AZ80

10/10

Summary

Technics AZ80 Bluetooth Earbuds REVIEW

The new Technics AZ80 earbuds exude quality, but as PAT PILCHER discovers, they’ve got all the bases covered with this leading-class product.

$499

Competition in the Bluetooth earbud space is intense. You can score a Bluetooth earbud for a song. But while there are bargains to be had, it’s extremely rare to find an earbud that gets it just right in every way. Step up to the podium, AZ80!

The AZ80 sports a sleek but clever design. The charging case is a good example of this. Many wireless bud charging cases are flimsy afterthoughts crafted from brittle plastic, while the Technics has a reassuringly solid build and exudes durability. A magnetic lid catch and bud charging port add a satisfying touch, hinting at the brand’s attention to detail.

On the comfort front, the AZ80s sport an ergonomic design that evenly distributes pressure on your ear for a snug, secure and super comfy fit. Technics has cleverly figured out a design that fits the natural shape of most ears, especially that part of your ear called the concha (I thought it was a Mexican cocktail, but there you go). In short, for extended listening sessions, they’re a joy to wear.

They also have a machined alloy control surface that adds a touch of sophistication. Speaking of the control surface, the AZ80’s touch-sensitive controls make for easy playback control, volume adjustment, and answering/ending calls. Driving the buds is done by tapping gestures, which can be easily customised using the Technics Audio Connect app. Rounding out their design chops, they’re also IPX4 splash-proof, which means that while you can run with them in the rain, you shouldn’t take them swimming.

Pairing the AZ80s with my Android phone was also a straightforward process because of the app, which steps you through the entire pairing process, and that’s helped along by the Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity.

Taking the AZ80s out for a stroll around Wellington’s noisy and RF-congested CBD, the Bluetooth connection remained stable and reliable the entire time. Noise cancellation was also excellent, and the traffic and construction noise drone was reduced to a barely perceptible whisper. If I were to quantify their active noise cancellation capabilities, the AZ80s managed to knock around 85% of external noise out, even if some higher frequencies did sneak in at a much reduced audio level. Handily, the Technics Audio Connect app has a noise-cancelling optimiser slider which is useful for particularly loud situations. Much of their noise-cancelling capabilities come down to dual feedforward and feedback mics and a liberal dose of clever audio processing algorithms.

With support for LDAC, SBC and AAC codecs, the audio the AZ80 fed into my wax factory was exceptional. As well as hi-res codec support, they feature 10mm dynamic drivers and a bunch of clever audio processing tech, which makes their audio output crisp, detailed and balanced with plenty of warm bass. They delivered a wide soundstage and, most impressive, largely neutral treatment of music so it’ll sound as the recording engineer intended. Regardless of genre, the buds delivered music with both precision and finesse.

Another feature I always appreciate with earbuds was also clear and present: wear detection. If you remove the buds, media will pause, only to resume when you stick them back in your ear holes. It might not be groundbreaking, but it is super handy. The other feature I’ve increasingly appreciated is the “Just my voice” function, which uses eight separate tiny microphones, active wind noise reduction and clever audio processing to greatly reduce background noise from phone conversations.

Also worth a mention is the ability to charge wirelessly using the Qi feature, a significant real upgrade on previous generations.

If you’re looking for active noise-cancelling goodness for medium-haul travel, the AZ80 offers up to six hours of continuous playback from a single charge. In addition, their charging case provides three full charges, extending listening time to 24 hours. In practice, this translates to the wee ‘phones lasting a full day with intermittent use.

So, should Sony be looking over their shoulder with more than a small measure of concern? Based on my testing, the answer is a definite yes. The AZ80 buds are an excellent addition to the Technics audio line-up. Offering standout sound quality, a solid well-crafted design, rock-solid connectivity and decent ANC, these wee beauts will richly reward both serious music fans and casual listeners.

https://www.technics.com/nz/products/headphones/true-wireless-earbuds/eah-az80e.html

 

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