Similarly, the top of the frequency range serves up all the brightness and clarity that’s crucial to treble sounds—but its controlled to the extent that the Technics never threaten to sound hard or edgy, even when given unsympathetic material to play or too much volume at which to play it.
It’s between these extremes, though, that the Technics really shine. Their midrange reproduction is just endlessly listenable—they load a singer with so much information, so much detail and nuance of tone and technique, that it almost seems intrusive. Want to know exactly what your favorite vocalist’s attitude is and concerns are? The EAH-A800 will clue you in.
Elsewhere, the musicality of the headphones fluctuates between very good and great. They have the dynamic headroom to properly emphasize volume shifts, and the insight to make the more subtle harmonic dynamics of an instrument apparent too. They can handle even tricky rhythms and club-footed tempos without apparent difficulty, and have no problem unifying any number of instruments, no matter how disparate, into a singular entity. As far as the suggestion of a performance goes, the Technics are happy to express it.
They don’t establish the largest soundstage for performers to do their thing on, mind you, but the stage they describe is, at least, well defined and easy to understand. Even if it’s absolutely packed with musicians—as with a symphony orchestra, for example—the Technics can keep order and allow each of them at least a little elbow room.
The active noise-cancellation aspect of the EAH-A800 performance is a success of the more qualified kind, however. Unarguably, the ANC circuitry here can filter out external sound without altering the winning tonal balance or introducing a suggestion of counter-signal into the background—but it simply doesn’t deal with external sounds as completely as the best rivals can.
When talk turns to pure noise-canceling ability in products like this, we invariably invoke Bose, Microsoft and, yes, Sony—and, there’s no getting around this, the Technics lag behind a little. That’s emphatically not the same as saying they’re not effective noise cancelers, you understand, it’s just that if this is an important feature for you, one you won’t compromise on, you can buy better. And spend less while you’re at it.
So we go out the way we came in: wondering how on earth anyone (even Technics) can hope to dethrone the Sony WH-1000XM4. After all, if a brand as capable as Technics can’t quite manage it (despite throwing the metaphorical kitchen sink at the task and then slapping a big price tag on), what chance does anyone else have?