Two big slabs of wrought aluminum wrap around my favorite pair of headphones here at CES 2016: the Technics EAH-T700s. I've spent this morning touring all the headphone makers' suites at The Venetian, exploring what the latest and greatest sounds like, but once I came upon this pair I just had to stop.
On first inspection, the T700s look like one of those over-engineered German sedans that have 68-way adjustable seats — each ear pad pivots 90 degrees and also slides back and forth as well as up and down — which usually makes me wary that the default design just isn't all that great. But that worry was immediately dispelled when I put them on. These headphones are not light, weighing 470g, but their weight is distributed so well across my head that I feel perfectly comfortable. They are spacious enough to accommodate even the largest of ears and the strap is nicely padded.
The T700s don't look like they'd be great portable headphones, but they are
There are many excellent sets of headphones here at CES. But to get the most out of them, you usually require a dedicated amplifier and DAC, which adds to both the cost and bulk of any potentially portable audio solution. Not so with the Technics T700s. I just plugged my iPhone 6S Plus into them and they made my brain melt with pleasure. Rated at 28 Ohms, they can be easily driven from a mobile device and their sound is awesome enough to make external DACs and amps entirely optional.
It's like someone tuned these cans to my exact preference, with a strong, pronounced bass that never overwhelms the rest of a recording. High details are just as present and tangible as low-end boom, which is probably down to the dual-driver system that Technics uses. There's an angled 50mm dynamic driver, which is embedded inside that aluminum shell, and a separate, differently angled 14mm "super tweeter." I'm okay with calling it super. With the T700s, I'm okay with all the usual exaggerations that come from headphone companies. Premium, uncompromising, superlative, etcetera.
Four-figure price for sound that makes you use four-letter expletives
Everything feels right and true and proper with these headphones. I was effusive in my praise of the Fostex / Massdrop TH-X00s, but I have to say these sound even better. For a set of closed headphones, Technics' T700s also have an impressively wide sound stage, and I can pinpoint the precise position of every cymbal splash. They're just a pleasure to listen to. The only downsides I can note with the T700s are that my ears did warm up after listening to them for half an hour and that they're still quite bulky and not everyone would be comfortable to wear them as a true pair of portable cans.
And then there's the price. Take a deep breath. The Technics T700s cost $1,200. Having never spent that much money on headphones, I can't really say if they're worth it, but I can already vouch for the quality and enjoyability of their sound. The T700s will be available in February, a few months before Technics' revival of the SL-1200 turntable makes it debut.