During the CamJam Singapore 2022, I auditioned the Technics A800 for a short while and had a brief impression of a prominent sub-bass performance against a capable treble. Of course I was not able to analyse any finer details apart from the general frequency. I was glad that Panasonic Singapore has sent a complimentary review unit so that I can listen in greater details.
Design and Features
Technics is considered a late entrant to consumer ANC headphones, but they have been well-received thanks to its strong brand power and capable product features. I have previously reviewed the AZ70 true-wireless earbuds followed by the successor AZ60 TWS, and both have exceeded my expectations. Besides achieving close to the Sony and Bose ANC level, the overall product features are rather mature, including an app that allows a lot of customisable functions that not many seasoned players offer.
The EAH-A800 inherits all of the features of the true-wireless models, with a foldable design that Sony and Sennheiser have abandoned in their new models, putting the A800 as a top contender for consumers looking for an ANC headphones with a small footprint. The hard case has plenty of space to store the USB-C cable, 3.5mm cable, and airplane adapter. A cloth divider separates the ear cups from the headband for protection.
The main controls of the headphones are still relying on physical buttons: there is the usual three-button layout for play-pause and volume controls, and a separate power button. The right ear cup supports touch gesture only to control ANC and Ambient Sound. I would hope that Technics implement a full gesture control just like the Sony or Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, as I need to feel my way around the controls to make sure I get the right button before clicking it.
The ear cushions are replaceable and uses a soft memory foam that re-inflates very slowly after compressed, compared to other ear cushions. The leather wrap feels thin and soft, offering good wear comfort as it contours around your ears. The headband is fully wrapped with the soft leather to give an overall premium outlook.
The Technics Audio Connect app offers a lot of customisation, similar to AZ60 and AZ70. This includes finetuning the ANC and Ambient Sound, Sound Enhancement (EQ), enabling headphone fitting sensor, Bluetooth LED, voice prompts, Multi-point, audio codec connection mode, latency adjustment, background noise reduction level, and auto power off duration. That’s a lot of customisation compared to other headphone brands.
Battery life is outstanding at 50 hours with ANC activated. Throughout my 2-week review, I have yet to charge my headphones. It’s good that during power off, the voice prompts informs me of the battery level.
ANC and Ambient Sound
An interesting feature for Technics noise-cancelling headphones is the ability to optimise the noise cancellation to individual preference. Once that is set, there is another knob level during normal operations to adjust the intensity of the ANC. For the Ambient Sound, there are also 2 modes: the “Transparent” normal mode and the “Attention” mode where voices are emphasized. Among all the noise-cancelling headphones, the Technics implementation is certainly one of the better ones.
The other outstanding feature for Technics is its background noise reduction prowess when using the microphone. I was thoroughly impressed when I tested it on the AZ60, and now the EAH-A800 equally amazes me. The drawback is that the mic cannot pick up my voice when I speak softly. When I disable the noise reduction, it is able to pick up my voice more dynamically.
Coming to the ANC quality, the Technics EAH-A800 offers excellent noise cancelling capability across the frequency range. While you can still hear the upper frequency, they are quite soft and does not annoy your music listening experience. Remember you can optimise the noise cancelling, and based on my testing, you either let in a bit more midrange or reduce more midrange to make upper frequency sound more prominent due to the frequency being isolated. I compared the ANC quality with the Bose Headphones 700, and the A800 is slightly better in reducing the midrange, resulting in a slightly more quiet experience on-board the underground train. Honestly, I would think the A800 should be better since it is a much newer product.
Equally important is the Ambient Sound mode, to me, because it allows me to enjoy music while paying attention to what’s happening around me. Sometimes I would reduce the music volume so that there is some background music while I keep my attention on the sounds around me. From the smartphone app, you are able to adjust the level of Ambient Sound, but not from the headphones, something which Sennheiser Momentum 4 is capable of using pinch-and-zoom gesture.
On its own, the Ambient Sound is able to let me listen to the surrounding naturally, and clear enough for me to hold a conversation with the other party without removing my headphones. However, the Bose 700 sounds even more open and natural with its ambient mode.
I compared the Ambient Sound of the A800 to the AZ60 and found that the AZ60 is slightly more neutral, while the A800 has slight emphasis on the upper mid frequency, which enhances airy noises coming from the fan. Similarly, the ANC of the AZ60 is more effective in eliminating upper frequencies, giving me complete silence in my study room with a running fan, while on the A800 I can still hear soft blade-swishing sound.
What the EAH-A800 shines is the bass delivery, something that a large diaphragm drivers always bests the smaller earbuds. The tuning emphasises the lows while the midrange and treble shares the other half of the presence. It is definitely a departure from the AZ60 and even further from AZ70. Readers who read my previous reviews would learn that the AZ60 is tuned with more bass presence compared to AZ70. With the A800, the bass is tuned with even more weight.
There is always a compromise that when you boost one frequency, another frequency will have to give way. The A800 has less sparkle compared to the AZ60 and more on the AZ70. Still, the A800 manages to keep listeners entertained with engaging midrange and balanced detailed treble. Sound staging is close but not cloudy, thanks to the boomy bass with good control and does not sound bloated. In any case, there is EQ to adjust the frequency balance, though it could not achieve the wide airiness that the true-wireless models evoke.
At the end of the day, our ears will adapt to the sound balance in the absence of side-by-side listening comparison. Consumers who prefer a more prominent bass will enjoy the A800 as it gives more weight to this area, but not too excessively heavy compared to the “Extra Bass” models of Sony or equivalent. I would say the strong bass presence offers a more “balanced” listening at outdoor setting where our ears are more sensitive to higher frequencies. But for critical listening, a more attentive and precise sparkle, I would recommend falling back on the AZ60 and even the AZ70.
Compared to the Sennheiser Momentum 4, the A800 is less impressive, only because it sounds more neutral albeit more faithful with slight bass emphasis. Additionally, the A800 also supports 3.5mm passive audio but not USB audio. When listening to A800 without power, the bass is less pushy, the midrange is wider and fuller, which extends to the treble to provide more resonance.
The Technics EAH-A800 is a long-awaited over-ear headphones model for fans of this trusted brand. Being Technics first headphone product in recent years, they have delivered quite a comprehensive package after gaining much experience when developing the true-wireless models. It reminds me of how Sony jumpstarted the 1000X series and now after five generations, achieved phenomenal status in the audio industry in its noise-cancelling technology.
After using powerful ANC headphones like the EAH-A800, you begin to realise how noisy the outdoor environment is when you remove the headphone from the ears. Sometimes, you are better off wearing the ANC headphones without turning on audio just to give yourself a breather from the noise. Similarly, with a tap on the ear cups, the Ambient Sound turns on and you can hear the surroundings naturally without removing the headphones. The strength of the A800 is on the mics and the ability to make conversations at any noisy environment.
The ANC headphones market is highly competitive, but based from what I have tested, Technics headphones have unique features and a strong brand power to make them a worthy recommendation.