Stellar sound and superb noise canceling with improved match
Good battery life
Can pair with three units concurrently
LDAC audio codec help for Android units
Do not like
Voice-calling efficiency is first rate however might be barely higher
On the time I am penning this evaluation, Sony is gearing as much as launch its rumored and much-anticipated WF-1000XM5 earbuds, the follow-up to its wonderful XM4s that earned a CNET Editors’ Selection in 2021. These upcoming Sony buds — presumably dubbed the WF-1000XM5s — are thought-about the odds-on-favorite to be the highest earbuds for 2023. However wait! One other Japanese firm, Panasonic, has launched a shock contender, the EAH-AZ80, beneath its flagship Technics model. These are next-generation earbuds that not solely sound terrific however function superb noise canceling in a extra ergonomic design. They’re obtainable in two shade choices — black or silver — and carry an inventory worth of $300.
Outfitted with Bluetooth 5.3, the EAH-AZ80s have nearly every thing you’d need in a set of earbuds, together with wi-fi charging, help for Sony’s higher-resolution LDAC audio codec for Android and different units that help it and the flexibility to pair with as much as three units concurrently (Panasonic says that is an “trade first” for multipoint pairing). However extra on all that in a minute. Let me begin with my one small gripe, which can not apply to you — and your ears — however might affect some folks.
Improved match (largely)
Panasonic discovered one thing from its earlier earbuds, which included the EAH-AZ70W that I reviewed favorably again in 2020. On account of their form, they did not fairly nestle in my ears in addition to they in all probability ought to have and a few folks complained that they put stress on sure elements of their ears after utilizing them, for a short while. That is modified with this mannequin as Panasonic has revised its design to raised conform to the pure form of your ear, notably that a part of the ear known as the concha.
The EAH-AZ80s now nestle in my ears higher, becoming extra comfortably and securely. My solely subject was that I used to be type of in between a big and extra-large ear tip — six sizes are included — and the form of the ear tip wasn’t fairly completely suited to my ears (I had the identical subject with Sony’s WF-1000XM4 buds). I used to be capable of get a good seal, however the extra compact AirPods Professional 2 and new Beats Studio Buds Plus match a bit of extra comfortably.
Since I evaluation so many earbuds, I’ve bought a number of additional ear ideas, so I went looking for a greater match and ultimately discovered a set of ideas from my assortment that labored a bit of higher. The vast majority of folks in all probability aren’t going to have my downside, however considerably beefier buds like Sony’s WF-1000XM4 and Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wi-fi 3 can pose a match problem for some folks. The EAH-AZ80 aren’t overly weighty for high-performance earbuds however they do weigh 7 grams per bud or simply 0.3-gram lower than the Sony WF-1000XM4s. They appear pretty sturdy — I dropped a bud onto the pavement as I used to be strolling my canine — and are IPX4 splash-proof so you’ll be able to run with them (they did keep in my ears whereas I ran with them, however that might not be the case for everyone).
I assumed the contact controls have been fairly responsive and labored effectively. You’ll be able to customise what your faucets (or faucets and holds) do within the Technics Audio Join app for iOS and Android, which does provide a wealth of settings choices, not so in contrast to Sony’s Headphones app.
I praised Technics’ earlier earbuds for that includes superb sound high quality. However the EAH-AZ80s take it up a notch on the sound entrance and are proper up there with the very best-sounding earbuds, together with the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 S2. These buds do not function twin drivers just like the Bowers & Wilkins’ buds do, however Panasonic says they’ve a brand new 10mm driver with a “free-edge aluminum diaphragm that delivers the best sound high quality ever from Technics’ true wi-fi earbuds, extending excessive and low frequency response whereas decreasing undesirable resonance and distortion.”
The readability and depth to the sound is spectacular, and I observed a slight enhance in sound high quality once I paired them with a Pixel 7 Professional with LDAC help and a streaming service like Qobuz that serves up high-resolution audio tracks. In addition they sound wonderful with an iPhone 14 Professional, which makes use of the AAC audio codec, although Qobuz does sound higher than Spotify. Be aware that it’s important to activate LDAC in Technics Audio Join app to make use of that audio codec on Android and different units that help it.
They lack that additional little bit of bass extension that high-end wired earbuds provide, together with Panasonic’s personal Technics EAH-TZ700 in-ear screens ($1,200), however for wi-fi earbuds, they ship a premium audio expertise that measures as much as just about every thing that is on the market on this worth vary and even increased. You get a number of earbuds that sound superb for his or her dimension, together with the AirPods Professional 2, however fewer that function the correct sound with additional readability and three-dimensionality that you just count on from expensive headphones.
These are the kind of earbuds that can help you distinguish separate devices, even in sophisticated tracks the place devices get mushed collectively when listening to lesser Bluetooth headphones. Singers’ voices sound pure, there’s good sparkle to the treble (with no sibilance), and the bass is tight. They do not have fairly as a lot bass vitality because the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 however you’ll be able to kick up the low-end a bit with the bass or superbass enhance settings within the Technics Audio Join app if bass is your factor. (I take a look at bass with tracks like Spoon’s Knock Knock Knock, Athletes of God’s Do not Need To Be Regular, Orbital’s Soiled Rat and generally throw in Taylor Swift’s Vigilante Shit for good measure, as a result of my youngsters inform me she’s form of in style.)
Past the handful of preset EQ modes within the app, you may also create your personal customized equalizer setting. I primarily caught with the default signature sound setting as a result of it sounded simply wonderful.
Be aware that Panasonic has additionally launched a brand new step-down mannequin to the EAH-AZ80 known as the EAH-AX60M2. They function the identical options because the EAH-AZ80 however have smaller 8mm drivers and are lacking the ergonomic design improve discovered on the step-up mannequin. I’ve not tried them but, however they record for $50 much less and I think can be discounted to lower than $200 within the not-so-distant future. I would personally advise you to pay the additional cash for the EAH-AZ80 buds.
Upgraded noise canceling and improved voice-calling
On the subject of noise-canceling for earbuds, Bose and Sony are on the high, with Apple nipping at their heels. It is at all times actually arduous to say which firm’s noise canceling is best — or greatest — however the EAH-AZ80 options wonderful noise canceling with a few ambient sound modes (Apple calls it a transparency mode) that lets ambient sound in and permits you to hear the skin world.
I spent a couple of days commuting on foot within the streets of New York and the buds diminished what appeared like about 85% of the noise round me. Some increased pitched frequencies leaked in (I might hear folks’s muffled voices) however visitors noise was muted to a pleasant diploma, as was the rumble of trains within the New York Metropolis subway. I do not suppose these are fairly on the extent of the Bose QuietComfort 2 earbuds, the present gold normal for noise canceling, however they appeared proper there with Sony WF-1000XM4 and AirPods Professional 2 by way of their noise muffling capabilities. (I’m assuming Sony will elevate its noise-canceling recreation with the arrival of the XM5s, nevertheless.)
Within the app for iOS and Android, you will discover a noise-canceling optimizer possibility you could have interaction (I ended up jacking it as much as the Max setting each time I used to be exterior). There’s additionally an possibility within the app to run a take a look at to listen to how a lot background noise is being diminished whilst you’re making a name. Additionally, you’ll be able to go for a “regular” noise discount setting and a “robust” noise-reduction setting (on the robust setting your voice high quality suffers a bit).
Panasonic says its improved JustMyVoice know-how “makes use of eight high-sensitivity MEMS mics, a delicate voice detection sign, and surrounding noise suppression to seize and transmit your voice clearly.” Callers informed me they may hear my voice clearly on the “regular” noise discount setting but in addition heard a good quantity of background noise, particularly once I spoke. On the “robust” setting, background noise was tremendously diminished however I seemed like I used to be in a tunnel, callers stated (I might hear them simply wonderful). I had two folks inform me they thought the decision high quality was fairly good however lower than what you get with new Beats Studio Buds Plus and AirPods Professional 2. (I did one firmware improve already however we may even see extra as Panasonic tweaks options and efficiency).
With the AirPods Professional 2, Apple’s transparency mode is on or off and mechanically adjusts to the world round you. With these buds, you’ll be able to manually regulate transparency ranges within the app — I discovered the mode sounded most pure (most like not having earbuds in my ears) once I set it at round 50%. There’s additionally an Consideration mode you could toggle on, which emphasizes voices so you’ll be able to hear folks speaking higher in noisier environments.
As I stated, the one distinctive function is the improved multipoint pairing that permits you to pair three units concurrently — say a pc, smartphone and pill. The one caveat is that when you use the LDAC audio codec, you’ll be able to solely join two units concurrently, and it is actually greatest to have the buds paired to a single machine if utilizing LDAC for optimum bandwidth (you make your multipoint/LDAC choice within the app).
Whereas battery life is rated for as much as 7 hours playback with ANC on (at 50% quantity), I bought nearer to six hours as a result of I play my music at nearer to 70% quantity. You get a bit of greater than three additional fees from the charging case, which, as famous, could be charged wirelessly or by way of USB-C. There’s additionally a fast cost function that offers you 70 minutes of playback from a 10-minute cost.
Technics EAH-AZ80 ultimate ideas
One ought to count on quite a bit from earbuds that value $300 — and sure, that is nonetheless quite a bit to pay for headphones, even when loads of folks appear to be keen to pay upwards of $450 for the likes of Apple’s AirPods Max headphones. Total, Panasonic has finished a pleasant job of making an all-around top-performing set of buds that provide an improved match with wonderful sound, superb noise-canceling and a sturdy function set.
Voice-calling capabilities are first rate however do not fairly dwell as much as their billing (but). Hopefully we’ll see some firmware upgrades that enhance the voice-calling expertise in noisier environments. Regardless of that caveat, so long as they suit your ears effectively, the Technics EAH-AZ80 are proper up there with the most effective wi-fi earbuds available on the market proper now.
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