Technics EAH-A800 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones Review
The famed Japanese high-end audio manufacturer Technics came out of retirement in 2014 and has since resurrected itself with fresh interpretations of classic turntable designs like the SL-1200 DJ model. The brand has recently expanded into other categories, adding a number of fully functional headphones to the inventory.
The company’s foray into the over-ear Bluetooth flagship market is represented by the EAH-A800, which offers comparable functionality to Sony, Apple, Bose, and the rest at a marginally lower cost. Though Technics adds an impressively full-featured app that lets you customize almost everything about the headphones to your taste, along with seriously impressive battery life, the EAH-A800 becomes a compelling option for anyone into their distinctive sound and design. Out of the box, the EAH-A800 seem tailored more to “bassheads” than some of its competitors.
What we liked about them
The EAH-A800 has a decidedly bass-forward default voicing, and while the mids and highs sound great, they are overpowered by the sheer amount of low-end energy, making anything with a lot going on down low sound overly cloudy, especially in the upper bass — somewhat reminiscent of the early Beats designs. The frightening “Angel” by Massive Attack, for example, lacked the low-end punch and midrange snap that it should have had in favor of a murky boominess.
Before I downloaded the Technics Audio Connect app, I did this (which lets you alter things quite a bit). The first feature of the software is a five-band EQ with full user programming that enables you to customize it to your preferences. Additionally, it provides fine-grained, changeable control of active noise cancellation (ANC) level and the transparency setting. The onboard buffer may be adjusted to minimize delay (for watching videos) or interruptions (for music or calls) (including an option to emphasize voices while using the ambient pass-through mode). There is a lot of control, more of it than most of the competition and at a finer granularity.
The EAH-A800 was much more enjoyable to listen to once it was adjusted (mostly a matter of reducing the low band of the EQ by a few dB), albeit it was still bass-heavy. (If you’re searching for a headphone in this category that is generally brighter, you should check out the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2.) Because the EAH-A800 are so bass-forward, you could find yourself lowering the low EQ slider anyway.
A high-flow commercial range hood fan was employed; ANC is also quite successful in reducing steady state air conditioner and fan noise to the point that it disappears into the background and is undetectable when music is playing. The amount of fine-tuning (variable in 100 steps, plus an optimization sequence that lets you tailor the overall response to your environment) is very nice to have access to if you don’t need the full effect and you’re sensitive to the slight coloration and artifacting that noise cancellation typically introduces to the material it isn’t filtering out. It isn’t quite as effective as the Sony XM5 or Bose, but it’s almost on par.
The call quality is excellent and there are numerous adjusting options, just like in the listening mode. You can pick between a strong and mild noise suppression mode, and a listening test will determine whether you need to use the four-mic driven noise suppression option or not (good to be able to check before joining a meeting from a distance). Speech is relatively understandable with noise suppression activated, while artifacts are noticeable – it’s basically on par with the competition. Voice quality is obviously much better without any noise suppression turned on.
Overall, Technics has really done a terrific job on the software/firmware end of these headphones. The wear sensor works well, playing and pausing whatever we were listening to almost as rapidly as Apple’s AirPods Max when we put on and take off the headphones. The features are more comprehensive than what most of the competition offers, and they make it simple and quick to customize your listening (though, if you’re anything like us, you’ll find yourself using the app more frequently than you would with other headphones in this class).
Even in comparison to other Bluetooth 5.2 devices that use less energy, battery life is the greatest in class. Technics claims 50 hours of playback when ANC is on (this is when playing back AAC over Bluetooth; if playing back via LDAC, Sony’s high-res codec, from a Sony or Samsung phone, battery life lowers to 40 hours). In fact, we had to wait many days for the voice assistant to tell us anything other than “Battery High” upon shutdown before learning that we had reached “Battery Medium.” Nonetheless, as long as you remember to recharge sometimes, it seems unlikely that you’ll ever have a dead battery. If you forget, there is a rapid charging procedure here as well, as is standard these days, providing you a stated 10 hours of listening after a 15-minute charge (a full charge takes three hours)
They can also be operated wired using the 3.5 mm analog jack. The headphones’ internal amplifier and controls are blatantly bypassed in this case, so there is no microphone or track or volume control. Despite this, they still function, and they really sound rather excellent. Nonetheless, the option is there, and you receive a cable and an airplane adaptor in the case if you manage to drain the battery (or decide to save battery life for later).
What we didn’t like about them
The EAH-A800 can be controlled with the EQ, but because you have to adjust it depending on what you’re listening to, they are a little more difficult to use than some of the high-end competitors, which just have superior sound quality out of the box. These headphones contain a lot of content, but you do have to work for it.
You might find yourself fiddling even more as you transition modes because the EQ interacts very strongly with the ANC and ambient settings (especially if you utilize the voice-enhancement option with the latter, which enhances the upper mids). Even if the EAH-A800 can musically compete with their contemporaries if you put in the effort, that’s just not for everyone. Some people will prefer more rapid satisfaction.
While this is clearly a high-end headphone, the overall industrial design isn’t quite as refined or as low profile as the Sony XM5 or Boxe 700, with old-school plastic arches mounting the ear cups, and the overall fit and finish of those connections isn’t as slick as the AirPods Max or Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 — there are some rough edges here in the molding, and the plastic frame is a little creaky compared to the more expensive models. Nonetheless, the EAH-A800 does fold up into a very small travel case thanks to its flexibility and hinged ear cup attachments, and the case itself features handy engraved instructions should you forget which direction to fold it up into.
Most notably, we didn’t find the EAH-A800 as comfy as the competition, though we recognize that this is subjective. Like a memory-foam pillow molds to your head, the pleather-covered memory foam ear pads and band are extremely comfortable and fit to the contour of your ears. In actuality, this means that the padding is so plush that even with a light clamping force, the pads tend to collapse flat onto your earlobes. In our case, this resulted in the pads getting warm and uncomfortable when worn for extended periods of time, which we didn’t experience with the pads on the superficially similar Jabra Elite 85h, Sony XM5, and Bose 700. Contrary to what one might expect, this problem was averted for us by deeper ear cups with thicker, stiffer pads like those used by Bowers & Wilkins and firmer pads like those found on the AirPods Max. But, if you enjoy the texture of memory foam pillows, you might really enjoy these ear pads.
Given that the EAH-A800 are Technics’ first significant offering in this class, they are a fascinating pair of headphones. But, even if it might not be for everyone, these headphones are well worth the time and money if you like a lot of low end or you’re a picky listener who enjoys having access to far more fine-tuning than other similar headphones do.
The Sony XM5, Bose 700, Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2, or Apple AirPods Max are better options if all you’re seeking for is amazing sound right out of the box and a more upscale design. The EAH-A800 are not quite as good, though. Although they are a few dollars less expensive than some of the direct competitors, you should consider the Jabra Elite 85h if you’re only wanting to save money and aren’t a serious optimizer. The EAH-A800 does provide unmatched battery life and flexibility, so if you anticipate using those features (road warrior audiophiles take heed), these headphones might end up being your next set.