“Expect crisp, bright audio and incredible noise cancellation packaged in high-end design”
- Bright, crisp audio highlights vocals
- Outstanding noise cancellation
- Light and pocketable
- Sensitive touch controls
- Comfortable fit
- Audio lacks balance in lower registers
- A bit bulky when worn
Panasonic was slow and steady with its first foray into the noise-canceling earbuds market in June, but it was just getting started. With the high-end Technics TWS EAH-AZ70W (AZ70) active noise-canceling earbuds, the company is trying to make a statement with impressive on-paper specifications and a price to match: $249.99.
Do the specifications and high price point translate into earbuds you’re going to want to own? Let’s dig into it.
The Technics AZ70 earbuds share a design philosophy with the Panasonic RZ-S500Ws. They’re compact buds that fit neatly into a small charging case. That case isn’t the smallest we’ve seen, as the Jabra Elite 75t case is smaller, the RZ-S500W case is shorter by about an inch, and the Apple AirPods Pro case is also petite. Still, it’s about two-thirds the size of the Sony WF-1000XM3’s case, and is easily pocketable.
Each earpiece is connected to a stubby, bolt-like cylinder that is capped with a touch-sensitive brushed aluminum pad. They’re a bit bulky, and even when fully depressed into my ear canal, the buds stick out noticeably from the sides of my head. This is a complaint shared in our review of the Panasonic RZ-S500Ws.
Some companies, like Apple, choose to move components down towards the earlobe or, in the case of Sony, inwards towards the jaw, but Panasonic/Technics chose to go outwards, away from your head.
Overall, the design fits my expectation for premium earbuds. The case is a plastic interior surrounded in brushed aluminum, and the top of the case is nicely embossed with the Technics logo. The combination is light without feeling cheap. The buds themselves feel solid despite that light weight of only 6.5 grams per bud, which is less than the Sony WF-1000XM3s at 8.3 grams each. Yes, I weighed them.
I have a narrow ear canal, so I found myself using the extra-small silicon tips, one of five sizes included with the Technics. These buds were not designed for use during activity, so they don’t have a high IPX rating (IPX4) and they also don’t include “wings” to help stabilize them in your ear. They’ll feel secure if you’re sitting in a coffee shop, an airplane, or at your desk. Running? Not so much.
As mentioned, Technics designed the buds so their weight hangs outwards away from your head, and that hurts their balance. I found myself adjusting their fit often during listening sessions, as either the right or left bud would start to dip out of my ear canal.
It took some repeated testing to figure this out, but unless you’re wearing the buds just right, they can feel wildly uncomfortable. The key is to make sure the Technics logo on the end of the touchpad is level. Once I did that, they fit snugly and pleasantly in my ear and were comfortable for long listening sessions. When they fit correctly, the eartip will be at bottom of the cylinder, with most of the bud above it and resting nicely in the outer wall of your ear’s concha.
The Technics AZ70 have a touchpad on the brushed silver cap on the end of each earbud. It’s sensitive. I’ve accidentally touched the pad and paused a song while trying to adjust the fit in my ear. It will work with a gloved hand, which is good news if you’re wearing mittens while listening to music and want to skip a song.
The buds are compatible with Amazon Alexa, and that can be set up quickly and easily from inside the Technics Audio Connect app. There’s also support for Google Assistant or Siri.
Unlike other earbuds on the market, the Technics AZ70 don’t sense if they have been removed from your ear and pause automatically. This isn’t a standard feature industry-wide, but it is present in competitor products.
Getting started with the Technics AZ70 out of the box was simple. Removing them from their packaging, placing them in the charging case, and then removing them again activated pairing mode. My phone was able to connect to them instantly from there. When you put them in your ear, you’ll be greeted with a pleasant welcome tone, followed by each bud telling you that Bluetooth has been connected in a robotic female voice.
I found the Bluetooth connection strength to be good, though not the best I’ve experienced. I left my phone in my kitchen and walked into my backyard, and the buds stayed connected for about 90% of the space. The farthest 10% away from my back door resulted in an inconsistent connection, but I was admittedly far away. I’m almost never going to be that far away from my phone.
The Technics AZ70 are rated for six and a half hours of playback time with active noise canceling enabled, with two additional charges from the case, for a total of 19.5 hours of listening time. There is a quick charge feature allowing 70 minutes of play time from 15 minutes of charge. Among a pretty competitive field, the Technics come in the middle of the pack in this category.
Technics put a lot of effort into trying to make these earbuds sound fantastic, and the company made sure to mention the 10mm driver (which is larger than the standard 6mm driver in many earbuds) and highlighted the emphasis on making sure bass was properly balanced with great mids and highs.
After listening to rock and pop music for the better part of several hours, I can say they mostly got it right.
The bass is very evident and reverberates through my head beautifully when it’s an important aspect of a song. If the music production team wanted me to feel that bass beat, the Technics did an excellent job translating that to me. At the same time, vocals were incredibly clear and full of life. Sia’s Save My Life was highlighted by the Technics’ emphasis on crisp, bright, and energetic audio. I listened to an acoustic guitar solo, the melody to Lady GaGa’s Stupid Love, and felt like the guitar was right next to me.
In the Technics Audio Connect app you can adjust the EQ to either bass-heavy, vocals-focused, neutral, or your own custom EQ. In Custom EQ, you can move five sliders up and down to match your personal taste.
If you love bright and crisp audio that emphasizes a strong beat and clarity of the upper registers, the Technics are a solid win for you. But if you value richness and overall balance, this is where they fall short. Though the bass beat is strong, the lower audio registers feel under-represented.
Here’s an example. When you play the “C” note on a piano, you can simply play a “C.” Playing that note alone will be the purest expression of that note. However, you can play a C-major chord to achieve greater depth to the sound, though it’s not as accurate a representation of the “C” note. The Technics to me seem to lean more towards giving you the singular, accurate”C” note, while the Sony WF-1000XM3s want to give you that deeper, fuller C-major chord.
Obviously, this is subjective. In our review of the Panasonic RZ-S800Ws, Andy Boxall appreciated the emphasis on those higher registers, for example, and the larger drivers in the Technics make for an even better listening experience than what we found in those.
One of the most standout, and perhaps surprising, aspects of these earbuds is their active noise cancellation: the Technics AZ70 have some truly outstanding noise-canceling performance, some of the best we’ve ever encountered.
I have a pretty loud mobile air conditioner in my office and sitting at my desk, the Technics turned its droning fan sound into a gentle whirr. Compared to the Sonys, the Technics were about twice as good at reducing the level of consistent sounds. On the side of the road, I found that the Technics were on par with the Sonys, as both were not as good at reducing inconsistent sounds like cars or clanking metal pipes.
The Technics use two sets of data inputs to cancel noise, a technology that they call Dual Hybrid Noise Cancelling. It works with two sets of microphones: a set on the outside of the buds as is the norm, as well as a set on the inside to sense how much sound is still getting through. The result is a system that seals out noise and can actively adapt to what might get through. Without any music playing, the ANC is so good that I can feel totally isolated in my cozy ball of silence.
You can adjust how much noise canceling or ambient sound you want active on a sliding bar from inside the app. No noise canceling, ambient sound mode, and full noise canceling are all accessible to be cycled through via either touchpad on the buds themselves by holding a down on the touchpad for about two seconds.
Technics has put some thought into making sure calls sound crisp and clean, and I can say they succeeded there. I had no problems hearing voices clearly in any of the calls I made.
Unfortunately, as is the case with many noise-canceling earbuds and headphones, the person on the other end of the line was not blessed with the same pleasant experience. When I was in a space with the need for the noise canceling to be particularly active, such as by a fan or near traffic, my voice was described as echoey and far away, like a digital phone call made over bad internet.
If, however, I was in a quiet space, call quality dramatically improved on the other end of the line.
The $249.99 Technics AZ70 are expensive, but not the most expensive buds in their segment, and come in at about the same price as Apple’s AirPods Pro. The good news is that they largely do earn that asking price with incredible noise cancellation, a lightweight build, and a clean (but bulky) design. With an emphasis on strong vocals and the higher registers, they will work best for those who like to hear music with a crisper, sharp level of clarity.
Is there a better alternative?
For a lower price (we’ve seen them go down as low as $170) the Sony WF-1000XM3s are a solid option if obtaining the most well-rounded audio quality is your foremost concern.
Apple’s AirPods Pro have very strong noise-canceling features, and because they’re in the Apple ecosystem will be a better pick for connectivity and synergy among devices for iPhone users.
For $180, Panasonic’s RZ-S500W are another fantastic alternative, featuring nearly identical specs to the TSWs. The biggest downside is a smaller driver, which does result in slightly less rich audio performance (but only slightly), and less impressive material quality.
How long will they last?
The Technics AZ70 earbuds come with a one year warranty, and additionally, Technics is one of Panasonic’s high-end brands. As such, their products tend to last a long time.
Should you buy them?
Yes. They’re comfortable, have truly outstanding noise cancellation technology, and sound great in a variety of situations.
- Best Sonos deals for May 2022
- Best TVs for 2022: Which should you buy?
- The best Bluetooth speakers for 2022
- Yamaha TW-E5B earbuds sport aptX Adaptive and last 8 hours per charge
- Best Amazon Echo deals for May 2022