Colors: Black; silver
Battery life (rated): 50 hours (ANC on)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Processor: Not specified
Size: 7-11/16 x 6-11/16 x 3-3/8 inches
Weight: 10.5 ounces
The Technics EAH-A800 over-ear headphones have everything they need as far as looks, pride of ownership and on-paper specification go. In terms of battery life, they have as much as anyone will ever need. And where sound quality is concerned, they have some real strengths — not least the amount of detail they reveal and their impeccable top-to-bottom tonality.
They can be bettered where out-and-out noise-cancellation is concerned, though, and that price-tag could be problematic.
In the meantime, read on to discover how I found the Technics EAH-A800 headphones.
Technics EAH-A800 review: Price and availability
The Technics EAH-A800 are on sale now at $349 at Amazon (opens in new tab). In the U.K., you'll find them priced at £299 at Technics dealers or with a slight discount through Amazon where they're currently on offer at £286 (opens in new tab), while in Australia the asking price is AU$549 or so.
You don’t have to look long or hard to find plenty of similarly specified alternatives from equally auspicious brands. The obvious alternative is Sony’s acclaimed WH-1000XM4 (and if the rumors of an imminent replacement are true, then there may be some authentic deals to be done). But why stop there? Everyone from Bose and Bowers & Wilkins to Sennhesier and Shure have competitive, well-turned-out models competing for our attention.
Technics EAH-A800 review: Design
The EAH-A800 follow the classic on-ear headphone design built for comfort and performance. They’re available in black or silver and are reasonably compact by prevailing standards and fit into an egg-shaped semi-rigid carry-case that’s also reasonably compact. And that’s really your lot as far as visual ‘design’ goes. Which is just as we all want it.
On the inside, Technics has fitted the EAH-A800 with a pair of 1.6-inch dynamic free-edge drivers. Each one is supplemented by an acoustic control chamber designed to regulate air-flow and, consequently, offer improvements to spatial expression and low-frequency precision.
Technics EAH-A800 review: Comfort and fit
Technics has deployed faux leather-covered memory foam for the earcups and the inside of the headband here, and it proves both tactile and comfortable. Clamping force is nicely judged too, and at 10.5 ounces the EAH-A800 are reasonably light. So comfort is assured for even the longest listening sessions — and the fact the contact-points manage to avoid getting uncomfortably hot from the wearer's own body heat is quite helpful for long-term comfort too.
Technics EAH-A800: Controls
The bad news for left-handers is that the EAH-800 keep all their physical and touch-controls on the right-hand earcup. The good news is that they’re well-differentiated and reliable in operation.
As far as physical controls go, there’s a three-part button handling ‘play/pause’, ‘skip forwards/backwards’, ‘volume up/down’ and ‘answer/end/reject call’. Another button takes care of ‘power on/off/Bluetooth pairing’, and adjacent to these there’s a USB-C input and a 3.5mm analogue connection.
The touch-surface on the right earcup is equally responsive but rather more restricted in its functionality. You can specify it to deal with engaging or disengaging noise-cancellation, activating ambient sound, or handling phone-calls — but that’s about it.
Telling the touch-surface what you want happens in the Technics Audio Connect control app. It’s also where you specify the degree of noise-cancellation or ambient sound you want, where you can fiddle with a five-band EQ adjuster, where you can specify your preferred voice-assistant (choose between Amazon Alexa or Siri), check for software updates and stuff like that. On the plus side, the app is stable and logical; on the downside, it’s not as wide-ranging in its functionality as, say, the Sony equivalent and it’s a lot less fun to look at too.
Technics EAH-A800 review: Sound quality
The list of things the Technics over-ear get right is considerably longer than things they don’t — so it seems the best place to start.
Tonally, they have nothing to learn from any nominal rival. From the bottom of the frequency range to the top, the EAH-A800 are beautifully judged — they’re never less than realistic and convincing, and they reveal masses of detail in terms of instrument texture and timbre making it easy to make a connection to your music. So no matter if you’re listening to the wholly analogue, organic sound of The Beatles’ "Here Comes the Sun" or the processed, never-existed-outside-a-laptop "She Just Likes to Fight" by Four Tet, the Technics seem to understand its requirements down to a microscopic level. The journey from the bottom of the frequency range (which is deep, controlled and endlessly varied) to the top (which is bright, shiny and very nearly, but never quite, hard) is smooth and even.
In between, though, is where the Technics are at their most expressive and enjoyable. They absolutely pile on the detail, bringing a vocal track to life in the process — all the character, all the effort, all the intensity of a singer’s performance is spotlit. Which means singers are endlessly listenable and engaging.
There’s plenty of dynamic potency on display too, both where the ‘quiet/LOUD’ variations are concerned and the more subtle harmonic equivalents. The EAH-A800 create a fairly large and very well-organised soundstage, with more than enough elbow-room for each element of a recording to do its thing unhindered. And they make a decent job of serving up rhythms and tempos in a nicely naturalistic manner.
Technics EAH-A800 review: Active noise cancellation
Things are less cut-and-dried where active noise-cancellation is concerned. To their credit, the Technics don’t alter their tonality regardless of the level of ANC you’ve requested, and they don’t add anything (not that cabin-pressure sensation, not the faintest sound of hard-working ANC circuitry) either. But they just don’t deal with as much external sound as the best of their rivals do — and that’s not just Bose, which has always been supernaturally talented at this sort of thing. There are quite a few pairs of more affordable rivals to the EAH-A800 that will remove you more completely from your surroundings.
Technics EAH-A800 review: Battery life
The most appropriate word here might be ‘ample’. The Technics EAH-A800 have a bottom-end battery life of 30 hours (when listening to the hi-res LDAC codec with noise-cancelling switched on) and a best-case of 60 hours (listening via AAC with noise-cancelling switched off).
It hardly needs emphasizing that these are deeply impressive numbers, and are bolstered still further by the fact that the Technics can go from ‘flat’ to ‘full’ in around three hours. Just a quarter of an hour on the juice is enough for 10 hours of playback (AAC, no ANC etc etc). If you’re the sort of person who’s always on the go and not always next to a mains power supply, the EAH-A800 are made to look even more enticing by these figures.
Technics EAH-A800 review: call quality and connectivity
Some of the Technics’ prodigious battery life is explained by the fact they use the energy-efficient Bluetooth 5.2 for wireless connectivity. Here it’s compatible with SBC, AAC and LDAC codecs — which is great as far as it goes, but the absence of any of QualComm’s aptX codecs is a mild disappointment.
There are a total of eight mics spread over the EAH-A800’s earcups — they look after noise-cancellation, voice control and call quality. Certainly the lengths Technics has gone to — beamforming mics, a feed-forward mic buried far from external influence, signal processing designed to suppress all but your voice when engaged in a call — look impressive when written down. And the results are pretty impressive, too — call quality is very decent indeed where clarity and minimization of external interference are concerned.
Technics EAH-A800 review: Verdict
Just because the world wasn’t exactly waiting for them, that’s no reason to dismiss the Technics EAH-A800. In some ways they’re as complete and convincing a sonic proposition as any sub-$400 headphones of this configuration — certainly you’ll be hard-pushed to find an equivalent pair that’s more expressive on the finest details in your favorite recordings. But they’re let down just a little by their noise-cancelling properties — and, as we all know, they’re hardly short of competition.