In Brent Butterworth’s review of the Technics EAH-TZ700 earphones, which appeared on SoundStage! Solo in October, he highlighted that they “employ an unusual design that almost no one uses, and that’s for very good reason. From an engineering standpoint, it makes a lot of sense. But from a marketing standpoint . . . not so much.” Brent went on to explain how “the design packs a single driver into a tiny enclosure made from highly non-resonant material,” which, he said, “adds no significant resonance of its own” and, due to its small size, negates the “need for a long or twisty soundtube between the driver and your eardrum.” The result, Brent summed up, has the listener “hearing the driver and almost nothing else.”
The problem for the marketing department is that to implement a single-driver design providing the sound quality that audiophiles desire requires high-quality materials. This means costs go up, which is at least partially why the EAH-TZ700s have a retail price of $1199 (in USD). That’s expensive for this product category and makes these earphones more difficult to sell, particularly since, as Brent notes, “earphones with two, three, or even five drivers are available for much less.” But Brent added that “sound quality doesn’t necessarily increase with driver count” and the EAH-TZ700s sound as good as any earphones he’s heard.
The EAH-TZ700s are also not hard to drive. Technics specifies the impedance of the EAH-TZ700s as 37 ohms, which Brent’s measurements corroborated, and the 1mW sensitivity as 102dB, which is actually a little lower than the 106.7dB that Brent measured. Therefore, the headphone jack on a smartphone should suffice to drive the EAH-TZ700s, which was something Brent tried: “I got them cranking to extremely loud levels with just my Samsung Galaxy S10 phone, and they never sounded like the earphones or the smartphone’s headphone amp was straining.”
In his review, Brent explained that the single 10mm driver used in each EAH-TZ700 earpiece has “an aluminum diaphragm with a compliant surround,” as well as “ferrofluid around the voice coil (a feature commonly found in tweeters) to provide cooling and damping.” He also remarked that the “enclosure holding the driver is made from cast magnesium, while the part forming the soundtube is made from titanium.”
Packaged with the earphones are two sets of cables, each 1.2m (3.9′) long. One cable set is tipped with a 3.5mm (1/8″) connector for a typical single-ended source, the other with a 2.5mm (3/32″) balanced connector for a balanced source. Also included are four sets of round silicone tips and four sets of oval silicone tips, both types in varying sizes, as well as a modest carrying case that Brent declared “doesn’t scream ‘I just spent $1200 on earphones!’”
Although Brent was disappointed by the quality of the case, he found little to criticize in the sound quality of the EAH-TZ700s. Playing Shirley Scott’s Soul Shoutin’ (320kbps Ogg Vorbis, Prestige/Spotify), featuring saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, Brent noted that the EAH-TZ700s “embodied the hard-grooving sound that characterized most of Turrentine’s career, with a just-right amount of bass, whether from Scott’s organ pedals or guest bassists, and wonderfully clear, rich renditions of Scott’s Hammond B3 and Turrentine’s tenor [sax].” However, he wasn’t sure if a slight coloration he heard was due to the earphones or the recording:
I did notice what I thought was a little extra emphasis on the mid-treble, which brought the ride cymbal and the snare wires of the snare drum out a bit more, but it was to a subtle-enough degree that I couldn’t know whether the emphasis originated in the mastering or the earphones. After more listening, I came to believe it’s in the recording, because the EAH-TZ700s sounded at least as neutral as any earphones I had on hand—and perhaps the most neutral.
Brent’s impression of the utter neutrality of these earphones was confirmed when he played Alicia Keys’s “3 Hour Drive,” from her newest album, Alicia (24-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, RCA/Qobuz). He wrote: “The bass (all programmed, like almost everything else on this album) struck an addictive balance between fat and defined—exactly what almost everyone who plays a bass instrument wants to achieve, I think. (OK, not Chris Squire.) Keys’s and Sampha’s voices sounded utterly, completely uncolored; I just couldn’t find a thing to criticize in the earphones’ vocal reproduction. Nor in their reproduction of the little details: subtle sounds of water dripping, colossally reverberant handclaps, etc.”
When he played “Queen of the Highway,” from the 50th-anniversary edition of the Doors’ Morrison Hotel (24/96 FLAC, Rhino-Elektra/Qobuz), Brent described being “a little shocked” because he “never thought a Doors album could sound so good.” He then elaborated: “I could hear through the EAH-TZ700s that the recording itself was remarkably natural-sounding and far more detailed in the treble than I’d expect from circa-1970 reel-to-reel multitrack tape recording. Try as I might, I couldn’t spot a sonic coloration in Jim Morrison’s voice, the drums, the organ, or the two tracks of electric guitar.”
In the “Conclusion” section of his review, Brent conceded that some people might find earphones they like a little better, particularly if they’re looking for “something fancier, with more drivers, interchangeable filters, a cooler-looking design, an ostentatious woven cable, or a fancy leather case.” But for sound quality, Brent believed they “would have a very tough time finding earphones that sound more natural and less sonically colored.” It was Brent’s praise for the EAH-TZ700s’ sound that earned these earphones a Reviewers’ Choice award when the review was published, a 2020 Product of the Year award for Outstanding Performance last month, and is now earning them a spot on our list of Recommended Reference Components. As Brent pointed out in the final sentence of his review: “The EAH-TZ700 earphones are a sure bet.” We think so, too.
Manufacturer contact information:
Panasonic Corporation of North America
Two Riverfront Plaza
Newark, NJ 07102