Technics' flagship noise-cancelling earbuds beat AirPods on all-day comfort
I don't know about you, but I can typically only wear a pair of earbuds for a couple of hours before my ears get sore. Given that I write about the best wireless earbuds for a living, this usually means I carry out any listening test evaluation over several days to ensure that any discomfort is kept to a minimum. That is, until I got my hands on the Technics EAH-AZ80 flagship earbuds that go on sale today (May 18) priced at $299 / £269 / AU$349.
Whether I'm wearing a pair of versatile AirPods Pro 2 or the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds, a couple of hours is long enough for most of my work commutes and ample time for my workout sessions at the gym. It's very often a welcome relief, though, to remove whichever earbuds I am trying out from my ears and relieve the pressure build up on the concha that makes many designs too uncomfortable to wear for much longer periods.
It's a factor for many earbud designs I've tried and something I've become accustomed to; even my recommendations for the top 5 wireless earbuds for every budget are not immune. With that in mind, I was intrigued by the all-day comfort claim Technics makes for its new flagship EAH-AZ80 earbuds, so I gave them a try and wore them for an entire working day. Here's how it went.
One set of wireless earbuds for all
According to Technics, many of us own 3 or more sets of headphones and around 35% of us regularly use 2 different models. As the rankings in our buying guides covering the best noise cancelling headphones as well as the best headphones with a mic suggest, not all designs are universal.
On some level, this makes sense. Some earbuds are better suited to cancelling out ambient sounds while listening to music, while others are better designed to handle voice calls. This gives some insight into why many of us may own more than one pair of earbuds, with certain designs being better suited for some uses depending on our activity and preference.
Still, Technics is looking to change our need for multiple earbuds and bills its new EAH-AZ80 earbuds as a universal model for all our needs. To achieve that, of course, they need to sound great, have great call quality and call handling capabilities, as well as be comfortable enough to wear all day long no matter what your activity. This makes a lot of sense, so I wanted to try them out by assessing how they coped with my various routine activities throughout a typical working day.
Technics EAH-AZ80 endurance test
First of all the design of the all-new EAH-AZ80 earbuds is surprisingly light and elegant. The ergonomic design genuinely feels as though it fits in each of my ears neatly and without any undue pressure being placed on the concha. The fit feels comfortable yet secure at the same time, and there were no signs of slippage even after several hours of wear or a lunchtime trip to the gym for a routine workout session. The buds even stayed securely in place when I pulled a t-shirt over my head, something I find impossible to do with the AirPods Pro inserted in my ears.
As with most earbuds, the medium eartips worked best for me and gave the most effective acoustic seal. Impressively, there are 7 different eartip sizes supplied, which is more than most models come with. Eartip sizes range from XS2 to XL, but you're on your own when it comes to working out what size fits best for you. Unlike the AirPods, Technics doesn't provide an ear tip test to help make sure they fitted correctly for the best acoustic seal and optimum sound performance.
They're IPX4-rated for water resistance, which means they're protected from sweat and water splashes as effectively as the AirPods Pro 2 and the newly launched Beats Studio Buds+.
I am not someone who makes or takes a lot of voice calls, but when I did Technics' JustMyVoice technology apparently gave my voice extra clarity, according to my partner on the other end of the call, and background noise appeared to be kept to a minimum. I'll be evaluating this further to see how it compares to rivals, but its already looking like a contender for the best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls.
One of the things I found most useful about the EAH-AZ80 was the effectiveness of the noise-cancelling mode during working hours, which enabled me to work free from household distractions. It can be dialed up from any level of my choosing from 1 to 100. When I wanted to rejoin the outside world, switching to Ambient Sound mode brought me back into my surroundings at exactly the level I wanted thanks to its own 1 to 100 adjustment.
By the end of the working day, there was no soreness or discomfort in my ears.
By the end of the working day, there was no soreness or discomfort in my ears. Apart from the occasional tickly itch when I had to slip the earbuds out momentarily, I spent the majority of the working day oblivious to the fact they were plugged into my ears, and I wore them for considerably longer than any other earbud I've tried.
Luxury sound and comfort from iconic Hi-Fi brand
The Technics EAH-AZ80 wireless noise-cancelling earbuds are the all-new flagship from the well-regarded Hi-Fi specialist. The Japanese company is perhaps better known to Tom's Guide readers for its iconic SL-1200 turntable, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.
Like many audio specialists, Technics has more recently diversified into the wireless earbuds market, and we've seen the company's EAH-AZ60 earbuds and EAH-A800 over-ear headphones rank highly among the best wireless earbuds and best audiophile headphones respectively.
As the new wireless earbuds flagship, the EAH-AZ80 carries the company's best noise-cancelling tech as well as Technics' signature sound, LDAC support for highest quality audio handling over Bluetooth, and 7-hour battery life with ANC enabled. Additionally, there's 3-device multipoint connectivity, Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa voice assistant compatibility, along with a Qi-compatible wireless charging case.
But what I've found most interesting is the high levels of comfort on offer, thanks to the ergonomic design of the earbud shape that avoids pressure points on the ear and mostly alleviates the long term wear discomfort I've experienced on models elsewhere.
It's important to point out that while I found the Technics EAH-AZ80 to be one of the most comfortable earbud designs ever, they may feel different to others.
It's important to point out that while I found the Technics EAH-AZ80 to be one of the most comfortable earbud designs ever, they may feel different to others. Although I've yet to complete my standalone review, these are already looking like my new favorite companion for my daily work routine.
Look out for my full Technics EAH-AZ80 review coming soon.