Like the Return Of The King or The Dark Knight Rises, the new Technics EAH-AZ40M2 feel like the conclusion to a trilogy. Following the premium EAH-AZ80 and the upper-mid-range EAH-AZ60M2, the revamped AZ40M2 are the most affordable of Technics’ current trio of wireless earbuds released this year.
Competition is fierce at this end of the market, and then there’s the fact that, while we certainly enjoyed our time with both the AZ80 and the AZ60M2, our four-star reviews reflected two pairs of buds that couldn’t quite reach the highest heights to compete with their illustrious rivals. Spacious, clean and technically sound were the watchwords across both respective assessments, and it’s a similar story for the new AZ40M2, albeit at the lower end of the price spectrum.
They look good, they’re well-furnished with features and they share their siblings’ refined and uncluttered sonic style, but is all that enough for the AZ40M2 to find a place in a market populated by some truly outstanding earbuds?
At £129 / $170 / AU$259, the EAH-AZ40M2 are placed at the bottom of Technics’ EAH-AZ range, sitting below both the AZ60M2 (tested at £199 / $229) and the flagship EAH-AZ80 (tested at £259 / $299 / AU499).
This price puts them on a collision course with the 2023 Award-winning Sony WF-C700N, which are currently available to buy for just under £100 in the UK (tested at £100 / $120 / AU$200), while the entertaining five-star JBL Live Pro 2 TWS are yours for a similar £130 / $150 / AU$200 price. With this in mind, the AZ40M2 have to work even harder to justify what now seems like a £30 premium over their class rivals. Of course, newer models are always going to be more expensive than those that have been out for a while, but even so, Technics’ affordable buds must bring something new to the party to pull consumers away from their established rivals.
Comfort & build
The AZ40M2 are a noticeably chic set of wireless earbuds, and our sample model, daubed in a rather fetching rose gold, could certainly pass for a more expensive pair. That shiny outer exterior meeting the matte finish which leads into the buds’ ear tip is particularly pleasing to the eye, giving the buds just a little added visual flair to help them stand out from the crowd.
Codec Support LDAC, SBC, AAC
Battery Life Up to 5.5 hours (ANC on); total 18 hours (with charging case, ANC on)
Finishes x3 (Silver, Black, Rose Gold)
Weight 5g (each)
As with Technics’ pricier earbuds, build quality throughout is reassuringly solid, and while we might have criticised the Panasonic-owned brand for not pushing the boat out aesthetically with the more expensive AZ80, on a cheaper model the build quality and design feel rather more satisfactory. The buds’ rounded body comes out at a ninety-degree angle to the stem and fits comfortably into the ear without much hassle, while the lightweight plastic case boasts a dependable, flat-bottomed design with a lid that closes with a rather pleasing snap.
It’s also nice to see Technics not skimping on the ear tip options, and although the AZ80 furnished their more spend-happy buyers with a whopping seven sizes, the four provided by the AZ40M2 by no means feels miserly. What you don’t get is an ear tip fit test in the app as is offered with many rival brands, while adjusting your fit by pushing the exterior of the unit can lead to unwanted pausing thanks to the buds’ touch-sensitive on-ear control panel. That, however, is a gripe for another time.
We have to say we’re rather impressed by the features loaded into the cheapest of Technics’ current range of wireless earbuds. As mentioned above, the circular outer edges of the buds themselves are touch-sensitive surfaces, and you can fully customise pretty much every function you’d need from the buds by holding down or single, double and triple tapping the flat exterior. While some may prefer clickable buttons, we can’t begrudge Technics for implementing a responsive and impressively flexible system, and we’re certainly impressed by how many customisation options are available at this price point.
Battery life clocks in at seven hours on a single charge, with a total charge of up to 24 hours with the charging case, roughly the same as the more expensive EAH-AZ60. With ANC turned on, the buds will give you 5.5 hours of music playback, with a total of 18 hours with the case. Those numbers really aren’t bad, although they don’t quite see the Technics compete with the 30 total hours provided by Apple’s third-gen AirPods.
What the AZ40M2 do have, though, is not one, but two, aces up their metaphorical sleeves. First is the inclusion of industry-leading three-device multipoint connectivity, which has trickled down from both the higher-end models to find its way into a more affordable pair of earbuds, a feature that once again is implemented brilliantly with the AZ40M2. Second is support for higher quality audio transmission thanks to support for the LDAC Bluetooth codec, something which, rather ironically considering it is Sony software, the rival WF-C700N don’t have at the time of writing. For that £129 asking price, we feel much more spoiled than shortchanged in the features department.
We’ve noticed a rather distinctive sonic character when testing Technics’ recent run of wireless earbuds. Namely, a broad, open sound characterised by fine detail and a knack for proper musical organisation. In this regard, the AZ40M2 are a continuation of a theme rather than a break from tradition, serving up an audio profile with which we’ve become somewhat familiar.
As we’ve also stated before, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing; rather, these AZ40M2 will serve a specific customer with a specific musical taste and thus specific technical needs. In providing a neutral, balanced sound, Technics’ cheapest wireless buds will appeal to anyone who wants their music to be truly given space to breathe. A subtle piano composition such as Nils Frahm’s Ambre is well-served by this approach, with the Technics giving each twinkling keystroke its own musical space to inhabit. In a composition defined as much by the areas in between the notes as the notes themselves, this really plays to their strengths.
Things get trickier when the music calls for a little more oomph and spark. Pump some Nirvana through the hugely capable Sony WF-C700N and you’ll receive plenty of meaty wallop from the Award-winning exemplars. The AZ40M2, by comparison, don’t quite nail the grungy, robust feeling of tracks such as In Bloom, Breed or On A Plain, while the existential exhaustion emoted in Pennyroyal Tea is served far better by Sony’s slightly cheaper rivals. They’re simply better at conveying emotion and drama than the rather austere, removed AZ4M20.
The Technics also struggle a little bass-wise, and perhaps part of the reason for that lack of overall sonic punch has its roots in what is a slightly limp, spongy lower end. It’s not a disastrous Achilles heel, yet we just feel that there could be a little more power, focus and robustness to go with the AZ40’s detailed and refined mid and upper ranges. Play Liars’ Big Appetite, say, and you might find those big, broad bass plucks to be a little lacking in depth and body, as though the bass isn’t quite as well-formed or distinct around the edges as you might like.
The AZ40M2’s overall sonic landscape is a pleasant one, though, putting us in mind more of a meadow on a still summer’s day than a dramatic, undulating landscape pulled straight from a Tolkien tale. For those of you with an artistic disposition, it’s a case more of Mondrian than Van Gogh when it comes to how they choose to deliver sound.
Like their more expensive siblings, the Technics EAH-AZ40M2 are a satisfying, attractive pair of wireless earbuds that provide a spacious, open presentation alongside a bevvy of well-performing features. If you desire that clean, unobtrusive Technics sound at the lowest price currently available, the AZ40M2 really make a solid case for themselves.
- Sound 4
- Features 5
- Build 5
Read our review of the Sony WF-C700N
Also consider the JBL Live Pro 2 TWS
Read our Apple AirPods 3 review