Technics EAH-AZ60 review: How do they sound this good!?
- They sound amazing
- Turning on the active noise cancelling just turns off the world in a way that is unsettling, but helpful
- There are 7 different sizes of ear tips in the box
- Very good battery life
- Feels a bit plastic
- Terrible for wearing while running
As much as I may resent true wireless buds for becoming the dominant style of headphones, due to their inability to be repaired or recycled, they are just so gosh darn convenient to carry around in a pocket. Technics is a Panasonic brand best known for its premium turntables and DJ gear. While a Technics turntable might not be the best you can get, it is one of the best options that costs less than a house deposit.
The AZ60 is the brand's third pair of wireless earbuds, and although they're priced at the absolute top end of widely available true wireless headphones, they have some of the best audio quality I can remember hearing in a true wireless earbud. With an RRP of $379 it's in the same category as the AirPods Pro and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2. While the AirPods Pro and Momentum True Wireless 2 are both very good, the AZ60 just sounds so full and rich that I know which I'd choose if sound quality was the only metric that mattered.
Technics EAH-AZ60 review: Design
The pair I got was silver, and from a distance it looks like a striking and classy pair of metal buds. Thankfully, for weight reasons, it's just moulded plastic. This allows them to be just 7g and thus not destroy your ears. They do feel very plastic though, which somewhat cheapens the experience. The small case continues this theme.
The case is a little wider than other true wireless headphone cases, but pretty narrow and fits easily in a pocket. The case isn't waterproof at all, so don't take it swimming, but the buds themselves are IPX4, so you can sweat in them.
One of the most thoughtful things I found about the AZ60 was just how many ear tip options were included in the box. So many companies these days are just including 3, maybe 4 sizes, leaving many people in the cold, but the AZ60 had 7 options, including 2 different lengths of the smaller sizes, meaning I found it easy to find a tip to fit each ear perfectly.
The fit of a pair of true wireless headphones is key, because if you don't get a proper seal, they'll sound terrible, be uncomfortable and fall out constantly. Having the extra options does mean set-up will take an extra minute or two as you try to find the Goldilocks zone, but it's absolutely worth it in the long run.
The fit was so good that I comfortably played the drums with them in for an hour, moving my head around a lot. I only had to occasionally adjust the left ear bud – my left ear rarely plays nice with true wireless buds.
I'm a punk drummer who learned to play in the country. I do not play softly and would like to take this opportunity to apologise to my neighbours. But, with the AZ60 in properly, I couldn't hear the taps on the electric pads at all. It was only when the left ear came loose that I realised how much sound it was blocking. Super impressive.
However, things started to come undone when I took them for a run. These are not exercise headphones. Even with ANC off to make them safer, they're just not designed to stay in your ears with the motion of running.
Technics EAH-AZ60 review: Performance
Obviously, the most important thing in a pair of headphones is that they sound good, and the AZ60 absolutely nail the brief. The sound is very full, rich and detailed, even at lower volumes. I kept putting on my usual test songs so I could focus on the little details to see how the headphones performed, and instead just got lost in the music, which is exactly what you want.
For a long time I believed that even premium earbuds just can't give you the same quality of soundstage as good over-ear headphones, but these disproved that theory.
The bass and music sounded fuller on the AZ60 than it did in a direct comparison with the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Apple AirPods Max. In fact, next to the AZ60, the AirPods Max sounded a touch tinny. My desk is currently strewn with about 20 pairs of what I thought were the best wireless headphones I've ever owned (of all form factors), and while all of them are much more comfortable to wear for long periods, only one of them can quite touch the sound quality of the AZ60. Given the BeyerDynamics Amiron Wireless is a $1,000 pair of headphones, one would hope it would beat the AZ60, instead of just equalling it.
Though, it's important to note that the AZ60 can only beat the rest because I could get them to fit perfectly. Somehow, none of the 7 sizes quite fitted my wife, so she thought they sounded rubbish. This did not help my existential crisis over headphone form factors, but does show the risk in investing too heavily in a pair of headphones you can't try on first.
The main song I use to test all headphones at all price points is Chasing Twisters by Delta Rae, because it has a bit of everything: a cacophonous bridge, high notes, low bass, important spaces and moments of silence, and just a metric tonne of emotion.
I was interested to note that while the song mostly sounded perfect on the AZ60, if a perhaps little bass heavy (which was easily adjusted in the EQ app), it was missing just a touch of the emotion I usually expect. About halfway through the song there's a vocal tear that usually makes me genuinely believe she's killed a man, and instead I just bought that she really maimed him and perhaps sold her soul for a bottle of whisky.
But all the spaces are there, which not all noise cancelling headphones can manage – they often have a fuzz that gets in the way of the silence. One thing that I often find on headphones that focus on bass (which tends to be most headphones for the Australian and American markets) is that the upper registers blur a little. That wasn't the case here. The driving bass filled all the room it was provided, but I could still tell the difference between the crash and splash cymbals in the bridge and outro.
Black Roses by Clare Bowen is another song that relies on space to convey emotion. Of course, her voice comes across as rich, perfect and filled with emotion. But one of the things I love about this song is how much it focuses on the resonance of the snare drum to drive the story along. I don't know the name of the drummer, but they're a master at snare technique, using every inch of the snare to get different tones. On these headphones you can clearly hear all the details, and make out the minute differences in the position near the rim. On some headphones you can just pick out that there are rim shots and regular strikes. But, on the AZ60 you can almost see their hands move. I hadn't been able to pick out the muted shots before because they're so subtle.
They're also frankly excellent headphones for metal. Conquer Divide is a hard band to properly reproduce on headphones because their songs are so full of tonal extremes, but these nail it. Kiarely Castilo's relatively delicate melodic vocals cut through Samantha Landa's frenetic double kick-heavy drums, and it all sounds cohesive. I spent a very long time in a COVID testing queue marvelling at all the little details in their cover of Bad Habits by Ed Sheeran. Even though the AZ60 is bass heavy, nothing gets lost and it's like the default EQ was made specifically for this song and band.
Speaking of spending 3 hours in line to get a COVID test, turning on the active noise cancelling almost comically turned off the sound on the world around me, saving my sanity.
There is a fairly basic, easy-to-use app that allows you to customise the EQ and noise cancelling settings. To get the best experience I did need to change the EQ a bit when changing genres, so keep that in mind, particularly if you're not super into bass. Remember that Technics is a brand mostly favoured by DJs, so dance music is what these were made for.
Technics EAH-AZ60 review: Battery
In terms of battery life, I tested it as having 7 hours and 13 minutes with ANC on. I did have the music paused for 1 hour of that time, but they remained on with ANC the whole time, so Technics' claim of 7 hours seems right. With the case, you can expand to 24 hours of music, which should be enough to travel if you can stand having them in your ears for that long (I'm not sure I could).
Should you buy it?
- Buy it if you want incredible true wireless headphones that sound great.
- Don't buy it if you want one pair of headphones for everything, including exercise.
The Technics AZ60 true wireless headphones sound incredible. I just cannot get past how full and rich they sound. Wireless headphones shouldn't be able to sound this good. I'm not sure they're comfortable enough to wear for 13 hours on a long-haul flight, but they'll instantly upgrade the sound quality on your commute to work.
Compared to other true wireless headphones with a similar shape, these are hands-down the best, even if you do pay a premium for that quality. The Apple AirPods Pro might be more comfortable, but these sound better if you can get the right fit.
$380 is a lot of dollars to spend on true wireless headphones, given that their batteries have a roughly 2-year lifespan. But I have seen them around on sale for $265, which is an easier price tag to swallow with that kind of expiration date. If I was in the market to buy headphones with this shape, these are the ones I would buy.
Technics EAH-AZ60 review: Pricing and availability
How we tested
- I spent nearly 3 weeks listening to a wide variety of music genres including metal, country, folk, classical, pop rock and showtunes. I also directly compared them to at least 20 other pairs of headphones because I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing and just kept getting more down from my headphone wall to test.
- I was sent the Technics AZ60 by Technics' PR company.
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Images: Alice Clarke
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