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Technics EAH-AZ80 wireless earbuds review: feature-rich but up against tough rivals
4:27 pm | June 2, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Technics EAH-AZ80: Two-minute review

The Technics EAH-AZ80 earbuds outside their case

The units look bulky, but they fit well (Image credit: Simon Lucas)

There are a lot choices when it comes to picking the best wireless earbuds. So in a move of either supreme corporate confidence or utter corporate hubris, Technics has decided to join the fray with the EAH-AZ80.

And in virtually every respect, the EAH-AZ80 make a strong case for themselves. The triple-point connectivity (a first in a product of this type) proves stable and useful, and thanks to ‘Just My Voice’ technology these earbuds are far less prone to wind-noise interference than any number of rivals. The sound they make is also accomplished – it's both swift and accurate, as well as balanced and detailed.

It’s not the most energetic sound you've ever heard though. And marginal shortcomings related to battery life and the effectiveness of the active noise-cancellation confirm that Technics has missed the bull’s-eye by a tiny margin with the EAH-AZ80. They will be absolutely perfect for some customers looking for the best noise-cancelling earbuds, mind you…  

Technics EAH-AZ80: Price and release date

  • Release date: on sale now
  • Price: $299; £259; AU$499

The price of the Technics EAH-AZ80 is that of a premium product, for sure – but happily, so is the specification. They have Bluetooth 5.3 with LDAC compatibility, triple-point connectivity, big and serious drivers doing the audio business, sound telephony functionality and noise-cancellation, a thoughtful and comfortable design. Honestly, it’s hard to know what more Technics could have done.

The issue is this: at that price, their closest competition is the Sony WF-1000XM4 (which launched at $279 / £250 / AU$449.95 but are slightly discounted these days owing to a 2021 release date) and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 ($299 / £279 / AU$429). Anyone familiar with either product will know that to call these earbuds stiff competition is an understatement. 

Technics EAH-AZ80: Specs

Technics EAH-AZ80: Features

Technics EAH-AZ80 app triple screens on gray background

Technics' Audio Connect app is clean, stable and logical, with plenty of functionality and no flashy graphics to distract you (Image credit: Future)
  • Bluetooth 5.3 with triple-point connectivity
  • SBC, AAC and LDAC codec compatibility
  • 10mm full-range dynamic drivers

When it comes to the business of a) getting audio information on board and b) making the best of it, Technics has gone to considerable lengths with the EAH-AZ80. Really, it’s hard to identify a gap in the specification here.

Wireless connectivity, for example, is handled by Bluetooth 5.3, and there’s high-resolution LDAC codec compatibility as well as the more prosaic SBC and AAC alternatives. And in what the company confidently claims is a world’s first, the AZ80 have triple-point connectivity, which means that for those of us who can’t possibly manage without our earbuds being simultaneously connected to our laptop, smartphone or tablet, can switch seamlessly between them.

No matter the source of your digital audio information though, Technics delivers the sound to your ears via a pair of 10mm full-range, free-edge aluminium dynamic drivers. These work in conjunction with an internal acoustic control chamber and harmoniser to serve up a frequency response of 20Hz to 40kHz. And thanks to an IPX4 rating, you should be able to enjoy these full-range sounds in any realistic environment.

Each earbud is fitted with four mics: ‘talk’, ‘voice detection’ ‘feed back’ and ‘feed forward’. Technics wants the EAH-AZ80 to be your go-to earbud when it comes to communication. Its ‘Just My Voice’ technology is designed to enhance vocal clarity in unhelpful environments and suppress those external sounds that can impact on in-call intelligibility. The mic array also deals with the ‘dual hybrid’ active noise-cancellation, of course - and in addition to the ‘feed forward’ and ‘feed back’ noise-cancellation, the AZ80 have a software filter dealing with digital signal processing and a hardware filter for the analogue equivalent.

The charging case has a USB-C slot for connection to mains power, and the Technics are compatible with any Qi-certified charging pad too. From ‘flat’ to ‘full’ takes around two hours, and 15 minutes in the juice should be good for more than an hour’s action. Battery life can be anything from a quite acceptable seven hours in the ‘buds and 25 in the charging case (if you’re listening to AAC files with the ANC switched off) to a rather less impressive four hours (earbuds) and 16 hours (charging case) if you switch the ANC on and stream hefty LDAC files.

Where control is concerned, you’ve a number of options. The capacitive touch surface on each earbud is large and responsive, and you can reliably control ‘play/pause’, ‘volume up/down’, ‘skip forwards/backwards’, ‘answer/end/reject call’ and ‘cycle through ANC options’ this way. The fact that the number of taps or presses each function requires can be user-defined is very welcome, too.

You can define the controls in the ‘Audio Connect’ app that’s free for iOS and Android. It’s a clean, stable and logical app, with plenty of functionality and no flashy graphics to distract you – altering the intensity of the active noise-cancellation (or dialling the amount of ambient noise you hear up or down), setting custom EQ levels, and checking for firmware updates are among the highlights.

That quite complex arrangement of mics comes into its own where voice-control is concerned. The EAH-AZ80 are compatible with all native voice-assistants except Bixby, and your interactions with the assistant are reliable and responsive. 

  • Feature quality score: 5/5

Technics EAH-AZ80: Design

The Technics EAHAZ80 inside their case with the lid closed

The case is compact; the branding suitably understated – and we'd expect nothing less (Image credit: Simon Lucas)
  • 7g per earbud 
  • Careful ergonomic shape
  • Milled aluminium touch surface 

Obviously Technics didn’t tear up the rulebook where the design of true wireless in-ear headphones is concerned when it finalised the EAH-AZ80. But as well as giving a necessarily small and discreet product a hint of ‘premium’, it’s also created an earbud that manages to be both more comfortable and more stable than the norm.

The basic look is good – the fairly large milled aluminium touch surface on each earbud looks and feels good. The same is true of the charging case in which they travel in. Each part of the product has a confidently understated ‘Technics’ logo stamped on it, which isn't too obstructive. 

The plastics that constitute the majority of the product are sturdy and feel robust, despite the earbuds weighing a svelte-enough 7g each – the charging case is an equally trim 50g. Build quality hasn’t been compromised in order to keep the weight down though – the EAH-AZ80 feels like a product that will last for the long haul.

Technics has included a moulded extrusion into the otherwise-unremarkable drop-shaped body of each earbud. The company calls this shape ‘concha-fit’, and it’s designed to fit as naturally and unobtrusively as possible into the ear. It also distributes the weight of the earbuds as evenly as possible once they're in situ. And to further maximise the comfort of the AZ80, Technics provides seven different sizes of silicone earbud in the packaging – the accuracy of the fit is all-important when wearing in-ear headphones, of course, and Technics isn’t shy about pointing out your ears may not be identically sized. That’s why it’s given you as good a chance as possible to get the ideal fit for both your ears. 

  • Design quality score: 5/5

Technics EAH-AZ80: Sound quality

The Technics EAHAZ80 earbuds one facing up and the other down

That 'concha-fit' shape might look a little big, but the weight distribution is bang on (Image credit: Simon Lucas)
  • Detailed, natural and neutral (though not the most exciting sound)
  • Excellent telephony 
  • Average active noise-cancellation 

Where audio quality is concerned – and let’s face it, that’s what most of us are here for most of the time – the Technics EAH-AZ80 are a vexatious combination of really impressive and slightly underwhelming.

A track that played to their strengths was a Tidal Masters file, Grapevine by Weyes Blood, which offered lots to admire. The whole frequency range is really nicely balanced and coherent from top to bottom and very even-handed from the (deep, nicely textured) bass to the (clean, politely attacking) treble. The midrange is eloquent and informative, thanks to impressively high detail levels, and the journey from floor to ceiling and back again is smooth and seamless.

Control of the lowest frequencies is good, with nice straight edges to the attack of sounds and no discernible overhang to the decay. This helps the AZ80 remain nice and positive when it comes to rhythmic expression, and it means that the midrange is never in any danger of being swamped or dragged at by overconfident bass. The opposite end of the frequency range is equally well controlled, though in ultimate terms the Technics could do with a little more substance and shine to those treble sounds.

The sky-high detail levels means no harmonic variation or minor dynamic discrepancy goes astray, and the AZ80 are just as capable when it comes to barrelling through the big dynamic shifts in a recording too. Their soundstage is spacious and well organised, so even complicated or instrument-heavy recordings are solidly laid out and easy to follow. And even though every element of a recording gets sufficient space in which to express itself, the Technics properly unify recordings into a convincing whole, into an actual performance.

They’re not the most exciting sounding earbuds you ever heard though, it has to be said. For all of their precision and insight, the AZ80 are just a little short of the sort of drive and animation that can turn listening into an invigorating, exciting experience. There’s no denying the admirable nature of their even handedness and realism, of course – but some music demands the sort of bite and attack that the Technics don’t seem especially comfortable with delivering.

And there’s a similar diffidence to the way their active noise-cancellation is implemented. The problem for the EAH-AZ80, of course, is the problem that all true wireless in-ear headphones have when it comes to ANC: the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. Compared to the best in class, the AZ80 can rescue overall noise, do an especially worthwhile job on high-frequency stuff – but they’re unable to do a complete job on all the external distractions you might encounter. In the opposite direction, though, their amplification of external sounds when using ‘ambient sound’ is impressive.

The way they handle connectivity and communication needs no caveats, though. The triple-point system provides seemingly unbreakable connections to your three nominated devices, and multitasking is a breeze as a result. And the ‘Just My Voice’ technology works well too - wind-noise is dramatically reduced, and voices are far more prominent as a result. They sound slightly less than ‘natural’, it’s true - but that’s infinitely preferable to wind interference when you’re trying to hold a conversation. 

  • Sound quality score: 4/5

Technics EAH-AZ80: Value

The Technics EAHAZ80 inside their case

Shiny, jewel-like buds which look pricey – and they are (Image credit: Simon Lucas)
  • Properly built with premium materials
  • Many performance positives
  • But not an across-the-board success

Around the edges, the Technics EAH-AZ80 represent great value. They look and feel every bit of the asking price, all their clever functions are implemented flawlessly, and they give that ineffable pride of ownership that so many alternative designs strive in vain for. And in many ways, they sound great too, especially if you value accuracy and neutrality of sound above all else. But their slight lack of animation is compounded by second-tier ANC and battery life, which means they can’t quite score full marks. 

  • Sound quality score: 4/5

Should you buy the Technics EAH-AZ80?

Buy them if...

You intend to wear your earbuds all day
Some carefully considered design, along with a lavish selection of silicone ear tips, means the EAH-AZ80 should stay comfortable no matter the size or shape of your ears.

You want to switch between devices
Triple-point connectivity is a world-first in a product like this, and it’s brilliantly convenient for those of us who surround themselves with sources of audio.

You prefer a neutral, lifelike sound
There’s nothing artificial about the way the Technics EAH-AZ80 sound, they offer convincingly realistic and coherent listening in all circumstances.

Don't buy them if...

You intend to wear your earbuds all day
Even at its best, the battery life available here is nothing special – long-haul flights are a non-starter, unless you want to recharge halfway through.

You have a lot of external noise to block out
While it’s true to say there are less capable noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds around, it’s equally true to point out that there are more capable alternatives too. 

You prefer an animated, exciting sound
For all of their poise, balance and accuracy, the Technics EAH-AZ80 don’t produce the most out-and-out animated sound you ever heard.

Technics EAH-AZ80: Also consider

How I tested the Technics EAH-AZ80

The Technics EAH-AZ80 inside their case

(Image credit: Simon Lucas)
  • Tested for a week or more
  • Used in a home office, on the street and on public transport 
  • Apple iPhone 14 Pro and Nothing Phone (1) as source players

The benefits of the Technics EAH-AZ80 are obvious. They stay comfortable for easily as long as their battery lasts, they connected to all the sources of music I could stash on me at once and they’re simple to use for phone calls even in a wind-tunnel. 

If it wasn’t for the fact that I could hear some of the sounds around me, especially on the train, and the fact that I know some of the music I listened to should sound fiercer, I’d give them a wholehearted five star recommendation.   

Read more about how we test

First reviewed June 2023

Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal review
1:33 pm | February 8, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Two-minute review

Those people and businesses that are protective of their liquid assets will probably exclude the Danish luxury brand Bang & Olufsen from their product choices.

Bang & Olufsen has a long and impressive history of delivering excellent audio technology for those that care more about quality than price, and its new Beocom Portal headphones haven’t strayed from that path.

However, compared with gaming-orientated or audiophile-luring headphones, these have been designed more with hybrid workers in mind. And are being promoted by Bang & Olufsen as “the next big step in our efforts to grow our business-to-business portfolio which is an important strategic focus area for Bang & Olufsen”, according to John Howard, Head of Enterprise at Bang & Olufsen.

In service to those objectives, these Bluetooth-connected headphones are Zoom-certified out of the box and come with support for all the commonly used communication platforms.

Therefore, irrespective of the particular standardisation of the purchasing business, these should be suitable.

One caveat of deploying these types of devices away from the office is resolving technical issues without onsite support. The Beocom Portal headphones come with Beocom link USB wireless Bluetooth adapters (with aptX Adaptive Codec), pre-paired for use and supporting both USB Type-A and USB Type-C ports on the host device.

If the connecting technology is already Bluetooth enabled, Bang & Olufsen has apps, Apple and Android, that can establish the pairing easily with the minimum of fuss.

These headphones aren’t exclusively Bluetooth, as they include the cables to connect them to both USB and 3.5mm audio systems. The USB-A to USB-C cable also doubles to charge the Portal headphones, although no charger is included for those that don’t have access to a USB-A system.

Once these are connected, the user can experience the “uncompromised Bang Olufsen signature sound”, or clear communication and audio rendering for those who don’t speak PR.

It achieves this by using an array of beamforming microphones to isolate and amplify the voice of the user while cancelling out background noise, though cancelling can be disabled if required. A prerequisite for those that spend their days calling others, along with long-wear comfort, these are things that business headphone designers can no longer ignore.

While these might look very similar to the previous Beoplay 500 design, plenty of business-friendly changes make these more suitable for hybrid workers.

Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal price and availability

The Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal isn’t cheap or even attractively priced, and those expecting otherwise aren’t familiar with this brand.

The only choice here is that they come in Black Anthracite, Navy or Grey Mist colour schemes.

Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
  • Value score: 3/5

Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal design

  • Designed by Jakob Wagner
  • Stylish and lightweight
  • Simple to operate

For those unfamiliar with the name, Jacob Wenger is an American industrial designer and entrepreneur that founded his own design firm, Jacob Wenger Design, LLC, and it specializes in high-end custom furniture and product design.

Therefore, while it might be a leap to suggest that he designed the Beocom Portal headphones, his design team was responsible for their ergonomics and visual styling.

Unsurprisingly, these have all the hallmark deference of a product design exercise where every sharp edge has been eliminated and replaced with a sweeping curve.

What makes these stand out from other headphone makers' products are some simple refinements that elevate the user experience.

Where most headbands have a notched connection to the driver covers, on the Beocom Portal, they move smoothly, allowing for a great degree of positioning. It’s a tiny thing, but it makes for even greater comfort. The breathable fabric used for the headband is another factor in making these easy to wear throughout a working day.

In other respects, the control mechanisms of the Portal follow a pattern that anyone who has experience with B&O Bluetooth headphones will be familiar with.

Each of the metal surfaces on the cup faces operates as a touch input, but the subtle nuances of this design are that strictly what gestures do entirely depends on the mode of operation.

For example, if the wearer is taking a call, then tapping on the left cup will end the call. But the same action will pause a track playing over Bluetooth. Some actions overlap, and some are entirely different. These peculiarities might take some learning by the user, but it’s logical.

However, the controls assume oddly that music lovers never repeat tracks or fast forward.

Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

What the designers avoided was using touch on the cups for volume controls, instead using a rocker/slider on the left cup to control noise cancellation and one on the right side to adjust volume levels.

Each side also has a single pressable button, with the right one doubling as the power and Bluetooth pairing control and the left side mute.

The physical controls have their limits, and we’d strongly recommend installing the Bang & Olufsen Beocom app on your phone, as this allows you to easily switch between different modes and levels of noise cancellation. And, this tool can also update the onboard firmware should the makers release updates.

Both the USB-C connection and 3.5mm audio jack is placed on the right side, assuming that the computer will be on that side of the user if they’re using wired technology.

Bang & Olufsen opted for a design that doesn’t have a boom microphone, instead a beamforming array to identify the wearer from other sounds and focus exclusively on that source. The quality is more than acceptable and well within the spec required for making and receiving calls, but it isn’t the clarity needed for broadcast work, like a podcast.

Overall, these are exceptionally classy headphones that work well in a business context, although some audiophiles might take exception to the inability to reverse skip tracks and move through audio accurately.

Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Design score: 4/5

Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal features

  • AAC and aptX Adaptive
  • Google Fast Pair and Microsoft Swift Pair
  • Good battery life

The Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal that was sent to us for review came with the following hardware:
Frequency range: 20 – 22,000Hz
ANC: Adaptive ANC with Transparency Mode plus Dolby Atmos
Drivers: Electro-dynamic driver w/ Neodymium magnets
Drive diameter: 40mm
Driver sensitivity: 95dB @ 1kHz / 1mW
EQ: Presets and custom settings via Bang & Olufsen App
Designer: Jakob Wagner, LLC
Fit: Circumaural
Dimensions (WxHxD): 167.3 x 178.7 x 92.6mm

The Bluetooth technology in the Portal is version 5.1, which goes beyond the standard ABC codec with both AAC and aptX Adaptive.

Due to the audio compression used, variable between 5:1 and 10:1, the aptX Adaptive is the preferred method of connection for best audio fidelity, as it offers up to 420 kBits of data at 48 kHz.

That’s for a single source, but it is possible to have multipoint connections for those transitioning from a PC to mobile phone use.

By default, the headset will automatically try to connect to the last device that was paired, and it supports both Google Fast Pair and Microsoft Swift Pair technologies.

Ironically, the best audio quality available is undoubtedly over USB. When connected using the provided cable, these will be seen by the connected PC as rated for Dolby Atmos playback.

Another high-quality sound option is the audio jack mode, but it has a few limitations since it won’t work if the Portal isn’t powered by the battery or through USB. But with power available, even when using audio jack input, the noise cancelling and some controls will work as expected.

Noise cancelling on these is good, but not quite as amazing as we’ve experienced on some of the more expensive options from Sony. The effect is that low-frequency rumbles are all but eliminated, but higher ranges are muffled. This allows you to realise someone alongside is speaking to you in person but removes most unwanted background sounds that you might experience in an office. There are five levels of ANC, enabling the user to find the one that makes them less distracted by those around them while not entirely deaf while wearing them.

You can also adjust the level of your own voice feeding back into the headphones, which can be helpful if you are raising that to cope with a bustling environment.

Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal

The B&O Android application provides full control over the features of these headphones (Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

The similarities between the Beocom Portal and Beoplay 500 series headphones might lead some to think they are the same product, but some distinct differences exist, especially in respect of the battery.

Where the Beoplay 500 offer 19 hours of talk time with Active Noise Cancellation, the Portal has extended that to 23 hours and listening to music at a moderate volume level offers 47 hours with Active noise cancellation (connected to the Beocom Link A or C dongle).

That extra time should make the Portal last through at least three working days, as they turn off after 15 minutes without an active audio stream.

The quoted times are dependent on the sound being relayed through the headphones, as high-impact audio, like rock music, will use more power to output compared to a flute solo.

Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal

Both USB-A to USB-C and 3.5mm audio cables are included (Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
  • Features score: 4/5

Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal Sound

  • Best over USB
  • Balanced soundscape

When phones get more than 10,000 mAh, they’ve got enough battery for extended use without a recharge, and this one has 10800 mAh of battery inside.

According to Doogee, the V30 should operate for more than three days of typical use without needing a recharge, and it might make it to a fourth.

The included 66W charger can recover 50% of its battery capacity from empty in around 30 minutes, although if you use the 15W wireless charging, it will take four hours to reach the same level.

There are rugged designs that offer more battery, but they trade weight for that advantage, and the physical mass of the V30 isn’t so great that it becomes impractical.

The available capacity is enough for a camping holiday, and the power efficiency of the platform makes the most of it.

  • Sound score: 4/5

Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal

(Image credit: Bang & Olufsen)

I could wax lyrical about the balanced frequency response, how they feel after you’ve been wearing them for hours and the generally wonderful build quality, but none of these things obscures the fiscal elephant in this room.

If you want some high-quality headphones that are equally impressive user for work or play and carry this logo, then be prepared to open your wallet wide.

Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal score card

Should I buy a Bang & Olufsen Beocom Portal?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider