Technics is back in the audio game! To give a quick history lesson, Technics is a brand name owned by Panasonic Corporation who has been selling audio earphones in recent decades under the Panasonic brand. Known mostly for their amplifiers and turntables in recent years, Technics re-introduced the audio earphones line with the true-wireless EAH-AZ70W. It retails in Singapore for S$399.
Technics spared no expense on the AZ70 to offer an almost complete set of true-wireless features that out-match the incumbents Sony and Sennheiser. Here is the list of what it offers:
- Active Noise Cancelling with adjustable levels
- Ambient Sound with adjustable levels
- EQ that can be adjusted directly in the earbuds
- Manage earbuds with Smartphone App
- 10mm Graphene-coated PEEK diaphragm drivers
- Left-Right Independent Signalling System
- MEMS mic for clarity and labyrinth cabinet structure to suppress wind noise
- IPX4 water rating
- 6.5 hours (ANC on), 19.5 hours with case (ANC on)
Design and Operations
The matt case with hairline aluminium finishing on top and the turntable-spin faceplate are design elements that achieve a high-grade appearance and certainly puts up a good visual impression. The magnets hold the earbuds rather tightly, but thanks to generous protrusion, I can remove them with a good grip on my fingers.
The earbuds may appear chunky but once worn in-ears, they feel comfortable and weightless. I was impressed that the Technics Audio Connect smartphone app can go through the pairing process from the app without separately going into the Bluetooth menu. The app is also very clean and shows the operating statuses very clearly from the main page – battery for both earbuds, Ambient Sound Control (ANC), and Sound Enhancement (EQ).
Under the settings page, you can change the audio quality prioritisation (AAC or SBC), set auto power off duration, voice prompt language. There is also a feature to locate the earbuds by emitting a loud ringtone as well as tracking the last-known position using smartphone GPS. The ringtone would be hard to hear at outdoors but if you misplace the earbuds at home, it should be workable.
Both earbuds connect to the smartphones directly, showing under the Bluetooth menu as one seamless device. When one earbud is off or docked for charging, the other goes into mono and audio continues seamlessly. When the earbud is removed from the case, it will connect to the other earbud and switch to stereo output.
Here is how to operate the touch earbuds: tap once on either earbuds to play-pause, tap twice on right earbuds to skip forward, tap 3-times to go previous track. Tap twice on left earbud to reduce volume, tap 3-times to increase volume. Press-hold the right earbud to change ANC mode, and the left earbud to activate voice assistant. Here is the detailed online help on the touch controls, including pairing process.
Hybrid Noise Cancelling
Technics AZ70 implements dual hybrid noise cancelling, using feedforward and feedback system. The ANC can be customised by selecting the desired level on the app which instantly updates the earbuds, but the maximum level does not equate to highest cancellation. Interestingly, setting the middle level is the best for me. At the lower level, the ANC removes low frequencies while revealing more ambient air. At the max level, I could hear more high-frequency ambient hisses. The best is to try yourself and adjust the level to suit your preference, as some people might not like the stuffed-up feeling.
Compared to Sony WF-1000XM3, the Technics AZ70 is pretty much on par, although the WF-1000XM3 seems to still take the lead in dulling the upper frequencies just a teeny bit more. What I do not like with the WF-1000XM3 is the earbud design, as it protrudes out of the ears and I need to really push it deep into the ear canals to get a better ANC. AZ70 has the advantage of allowing adjustments, so for consumers with air-pressure discomfort, the AZ70 offers the best solution.
Ambient Sound Mode
While consumers may be focused on ANC quality, to me the more important feature is the ambient sound. This is because it allows me to stay in touch with my surroundings, and at the same time makes music sound open.
Just like the ANC controls, I could finetune the Ambient Sound to mix with my audio. Even at max level, it does not sound over-amplified. The tuning is quite natural and provides a full spectrum of sound, including the lower frequency, just like when you are not wearing the earbuds. Comparatively, the Sony WF-1000XM3 thins out the lower frequency so it does not sound that natural. On the Sennheiser MTW2, the amplification is stronger so you hear more ambience.
Another good thing about the AZ70 is that the frequency response between the ANC and Ambient Sound is quite similar. When the ANC is turned off, there is just a slight loss in sub-bass intensity.
The Technics AZ70 is tuned differently from the rest of the true-wireless pack, which can be a good thing. What AZ70 delivers is a lot of the mid-treble vocal presence and clear highs without overcooking the sibilance. The tame bass with subtle sub-bass oomph also gives space for instrument texture to express themselves better. The AZ70 works great when listening to instrumental tracks: like Robert Len “Brasilia”, the solo is more forward and full while the bass and accompaniment, including percussion, are slightly recessed, though still achieving clarity. Acoustic piano tracks from Yiruma “Sunset Bird” sounds clean without the excessive overtones and harmonics. For vocal genres, the AZ70 sounds detailed as long as you do not expect strong bass performance.
When doing A/B comparison, the AZ70 might sound not as exciting as Sennheiser MTW2 due to the lean bass. Turning on the Bass Enhancer in the “Sound Enhancement” bumps the sub-bass slightly but still could not give the elevated impact. The 5-band EQ does not also dramatically alter the frequency response, which I suspect is purposely designed to prevent any unwarranted distortion. But if you yearn for a more bodied solo expression, the AZ70 offers that presentation a lot better, while the other MTW2 has more bass-bodied, sparkly-highs and thinner mids.
Comparing to Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW, the Technics AZ70 sounds clearer without too pushy at the treble while the lower bass gets a little more rumble. The former has a little more energy at the upper midrange, so instrumental tracks offer more body comparatively.
I find that the AZ70 pairs poorly with the OnePlus 8T: the AAC codec sounds compressed with missing details on some frequencies, while the SBC codec is fuzzy with artefacts. Switching the Pixel 4XL delivers better sound output.
I am impressed with the AZ70 call quality. They capture my voice, even when whispering, with hi-fi clarity. Under windy conditions, it manages to control the wind effect while capturing my voice enough to get through. During calls, the AZ70 lets in a bit of ambient sound so that you could minimally hear yourself and avoid talking too loud. This is a default setting and was unable to to activate ANC or full Ambient Sound during calls.
Technics has offered their first true-wireless earbuds complete with adjustable ANC, Ambient Sound levels as well as EQ customisation. The AZ70 sound tuning highlights the treble favourably without harshness and sibilance, keeping it clean yet not too thin nor too muddy, supported by natural bass with a little rumble at the lower end. The AZ70 differentiates its sound from the rest of the true-wireless ANCs in the market, delivering a relaxed sound with spotlight on the solo performer.
They retail in Singapore at S$399. As usual, attractive discounts are available from various online stores during this 11.11 shopping season.