Technics was late in the game on the true wireless earbuds, but it came in with a bang. The Technics AZ70 launched in late 2020 has almost everything in the package: active noise cancelling, ambient sound, adjustable EQ, smartphone app. This year, Technics took no chances and followed up with new TWS models – the AZ60 with ANC and the entry-level AZ40 without ANC. Panasonic Singapore reached out to me to try out the AZ60 few weeks before its retail launch in Singapore. At S$379, it is S$20 cheaper than the AZ70 launch price (now available at a much lower price if you can find one).
After getting response from their debut TWS, the AZ60 delivers improvements in all aspects to make it more desirable and competitive against the incumbents.
- Dual Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling with adjustable levels
- Ambient Sound with adjustable levels
- Attention Mode increases human voice clarity
- EQ that can be adjusted directly in the earbuds
- Multipoint Pairing (LDAC disabled)
- Manage earbuds with Smartphone App
- 8mm Biocellulose drivers
- JustMyVoice (TM) technology with adjustable noise-reduction
- 8 MEMS mics to deliver all the noise cancellation, ambient sound and voice processing features
- IPX4 water rating
- LDAC audio codec, Hi-Res Wireless Audio certified
- Supports Google Fast Pair
- 7 hours (ANC on), 24 hours with case (ANC on)
Comparing AZ60 and AZ70
After enjoying the AZ70 for a year, I have similar expectations on the AZ60. From the list above, the technical improvements are obvious, and I have little doubt after comparing both models that the AZ60 is a better product overall – except for one arguable yet critical feature.
First, the charging case is smaller and more compact, albeit in plastic, which is not a deal-breaker. Most of the TWS cradles are plastic.
Second, the earbuds are slimmer and more ergonomically designed, achieving a more comfortable fit. The eartips come in 7 sizes, including 2 variants on XS, to cater to people with smaller ear canals. The ear tips have a foam insert, which I believe is part of the acoustic design.
Getting the Technics AZ60 to work with your Android devices are simple via Google Fast Pair. Without doing anything, the smartphone will prompt that the AZ60 is nearby and offers to connect it. If your device does not support Fast Pair, enable pairing mode by pressing the AZ60 left or right touch controls for 7 seconds.
I also like the re-designed Technics Audio Connect smartphone app, which accesses the earbuds for plenty of customisation as well as firmware updates. As you can see in the screenshots, you can customise the touch sensor, turn on-off Bluetooth blinking LED, define auto-off timer, adjust ambient sound and ANC levels, adjust EQ.
The LDAC audio codec will make a difference in the audio quality if you are very particular with that. You also need to have a good audio source. I tested with the Huawei P30 Pro and it could not stream smoothly at high-quality mode. I had to downgrade to “stability” mode. I faced no issues when pairing the AZ60 with LG V30+, and the overall audio presentation is also less compressed. Note that the LDAC is not enabled by default: from the smartphone app, go to “Connection Mode” to enable “LDAC for Headphones”.
Another popular feature found in recent wireless headphones is the Multipoint Pairing. This allows the headphones to be connected to multiple devices simultaneously and switch to either active devices when needed. To enable Multipoint pairing, LDAC has to be disabled.
One other feature is the ability to use the AZ60 with a single earbud. The audio will be switched to mono (two channels down-mixed into one). When the other earbud is removed from the charging case, the audio reverts to stereo.
Mic Noise Reduction Really Works
One key feature that Technics has been shouting with their new TWS is the JustMyVoice (TM) technology, which is essential picking up your voice against the background noise that many other earbuds claim they can do well. As what I have mentioned in all my previous reviews, I do not care the technology jargon, as long as it works. Technics is so confident about this technology that they even provided a test page to let you compare the difference.
I am quite impressed with the demo, so I went further to take the test to real life situation. I tested the AZ60, AZ70, Sennheiser CX Plus and Sennheiser MTW2 at a food centre during the peak hours. Take a listen at this YouTube clip.
Besides this, I have conducted several other scenarios like walking, in-car with windows wound down. The AZ60 really can detect my voice and suppress all noise when I am not talking at all. But as you have heard in the video, it is still not as super clear as when you are in a quiet environment. It still sounds muffled, but at least you can have a decent conversation at a noisy location.
ANC and Ambient Sound
When you first start the smartphone app, it will ask you to optimise the noise cancellation. This feature is not commonly offered, and the other brand that has this is the Jabra Elite TWS series. What I find is that the most effective level is at about 65-75%. Anything higher, I would hear some hissing noise. Once this is tuned, you can then adjust the intensity of the ANC from the main page.
After doing some close comparison, I have to say that the ANC level is on par with the AZ70, maybe just a little bit better, but I would not say it’s noticeable. The ANC is good enough to be one of the top, surpassing the Sennheiser, but Sony is still the king thanks to its ability to suppress upper frequency even more.
With the Ambient Sound, I can hear a difference between the 2 models. The AZ60 emphasizes more on the midrange frequency, making the sound a little veiled and probably more natural, while the AZ70 sounds more open, detailed and more hiss.
The AZ60 has a new feature not available on AZ70, and that is the “Attention” Ambient mode. Clearly taking a leaf from their national competitor, Sony, this mode pauses the audio and emphasizes the vocal frequency while reducing the lower ambient sound. It works if you really just want to be aware of people and voices, for example, on public transport. Personally, I prefer the standard “Transparent” Ambient mode as I could faintly hear the ambient sound while enjoying music, making the AZ60 somewhat an open-back headphones.
The AZ60 uses a 8mm BioCellulose driver as opposed to the 10mm Graphene drivers on the AZ70. One of the first impressions I got from the AZ60 is the sound staging. The instruments are positioned wide with the bright upper frequencies resonating in a small room, while the bass is kept rather close. This gives good listening comfort to enjoy details, but the disadvantage is that there is a lack of stereo authenticity. The overall mix is more laid back than the AZ70 or the Sennheiser. Though the mid-bass is more prominent than AZ70, the midrange remains clean, hence the overall mix remains detailed and not too bloated. Vocals and solos sounds wider, percussions are more sparkly but mixed softer. On the other hand, the AZ70 engages the main instruments better, more transience, more timbre, more tight.
If I were to adjust the EQ on the AZ60 to make it sound closer to AZ70, this is how it would look like:
What I find is that the AZ70 is a way better earbuds for instrumentals and jazz, or genres that you would rather have upper midrange details than bass. I enjoy the vocal lines on the AZ70, above all other instrumentations. I must admit though, that the AZ60 is tuned to be less “imperfect” in the eyes of the consumers. See, there is more bass, but not excessive, and it has clearer treble without overwhelming the senses. The AZ60 sounds less pushy and forward, which encourages you to turn up the volume, resulting in a more immersive sound across the frequencies.
When compared to the Sennheiser MTW2, the Technics AZ60 bass is less boomy, the treble is more blended into the mix. Sennheiser sounds more exciting with stronger bass, clearer treble. If your source has a stronger treble, it creates a balance to counter the beefy bass. So while Robert Len’s Fragile sounds too warm and muffled on MTW2, Daft Punk sounds more groovy than on AZ60.
- Bass: 8.2/10. Impact contained within the frequency range, keeping midrange clean.
- Midrange: 8.2/10. Spatial instrumental placement.
- Treble: 8.2/10. Sparkling performance with balanced mix.
The Technics AZ60 has once again caught up with the competition with a new true wireless release, plus an entry-level AZ40 to cover the market segment. Its focus on balanced audio quality for the discerning listener brings about a different acoustic tuning but I believe it is better suited for a wider audience. Due to this, the AZ70 still remains a relevant model and should continue to hold its value to audiophiles. Other than the acoustic tuning, everything about the AZ60 is better: lighter, more comfortable fit, relaxed but detailed mix, and a full suite of noise cancelling features to handle the noisy distractions in life.