Get to know the Panasonic RP-HC720s.
Pictured is the speaker element, sans ear pads. Notice how high up the speaker element is here? It may mean that you'll have a little bit of tussle trying to get the headphones to sit on your ears just the way you like, but it's built that way to make room for the AAA battery.
The backs of the are fairly nondescript, though they are home to the blue indicator light when you flick on the active noise canceling.
Made of plastic and metal, the band of the adjusts to fit your noggin.
While the does come with a 3.93 foot long cable, you can replace it if you feel like it. Just look for a 1/8th inch male-to-male TRS cable, and you can use it with your Panasonic cans!
The plug of the included cable is your standard, run-of-the-mill 1/8th inch affair.
At the bottom of the left ear cup is where the cable connects to the s. This is unlikely to be damaged, and if it is, you can easily replace the cable.
Along with the cable, you can also use the included airplane adapter to avoid shelling out more cash to watch the usually-terrible in-flight movie.
Along with your headphones, the packaging includes a cable, carrying case, airplane adapter, AAA battery, and assorted documentation.
Despite the fact that the s are primarily made of plastic, they can withstand a certain level of abuse. Additionally, you can replace the cable, which is usually the first thing that breaks on any set of headphones.
The s keep a rather minimalistic profile, and definitely don't scream "LOOK AT ME" when you're out and about. They're not the prettiest headphones in the world, but there's something to be said for an understated, matte black style.
If it wasn't for a huge drop in the 2.5-5kHz range, the frequency response of the s would be good. Unfortunately, whether these headphones are using active cancellation (pictured above) or not (below), there is a severe under-emphasis of the 2.5-5kHz range. For those of you wondering what this will mean for your music, basically it means that the highest notes of a piano, guitar and cymbal "shimmer" will be almost muted in comparison to the rest of your music.
With the active noise cancellation enabled (above), there's a small amount of distortion. It's nothing to worry about, as you will most likely never notice it, even if you know what you're looking for.
If you turn the active noise canceling off, this small amount of distortion gets even smaller. As you can see below, some of the tiny peaks visible in the first graph are smaller.
It doesn't matter if you have active noise cancellation enabled (above) or not (below), as both responses have very erratic swings from the left channel to the right. You will notice this in your casual music listening.
To their credit, the s do block out quite a bit of high-frequency sound. However, even with their noise cancellation circuit turned on, they don't block out any of the lower-frequency noises, which can be a problem if you were hoping to block out a subway or truck noise.
Despite the fact that they actively cancel noise, the s do tend to leak a bit of noise, so be careful to keep the volume controlled when there's a lot of people around.
If you like to listen to your music at a loud volume, the can bump tunes at 114.3dB before the level of distortion reaches 3%. Still, we'd prefer that you kept your volume to a minimum for extended listening, as you could damage your hearing permanently at that level.
When you plunk the s on your head, you'll notice right away how soft the leather-ensconced foam is on your ear. The band doesn't dig into your scalp, and overall these are fairly comfortable headphones for most. Your mileage may vary depending on your head size, however.
Over long periods of time, we got a few reports of the ear pads getting hot, but otherwise the s did fairly well.
Aside from choosing a new cable, there really isn't a whole lot that you can do to customize your cans. Oh well.
The 's included cable is 3.93 feet long, ending in a regular ol' 1/8th inch plug. There aren't any in-line accessories, so we'd avoid using this as a headset for a smartphone.
Even though these headphones have a carrying case, they're a little bulky to be carrying around. The case itself does slide quite nicely into a backpack, however.
If you start to notice that your headphones have a sort of gunk building up on your ear pads, you can safely remove them to wipe them down. Additionally, if your cable breaks, or if your plug snaps, you can simply buy a new one.
A necessary evil, the battery of the s lasts well over 20 hours of listening to music. Still, it does mean that you will have to continue to spend money on your music listening habit if you use these cans, and your music can cut out on you if you don't carry a spare AAA battery around with you.
Active Noise Cancellation
By flicking the switch on the side of the headphones, you turn on the active noise cancellation and the world... gets marginally quieter. The active noise cancellation on this pair of headphones is a bit lackluster, as it doesn't really block out a ton of noise above what the headphones physically block from your ears.
Though the product designs of both sets of headphones are quite similar, they look quite a bit different. Aside from that, the Bose headphones also put quite a bit more juice behind active noise cancellation, and are much more effective at it.
While neither has what we'd term a "good" frequency response, the Bose cans don't have the severe underemphasis problems that the s do.
Both have mild distortion problems, but nothing that's going to totally ruin your listening experience.
Despite their flaws, the tracking errors of the Bose Quietcomfort 15s are smaller, and less noticeable than those of the .
The Bose Quietcomfort 15s attenuate an insane amount of noise, while the s do not.
Because there are smallish differences between the two sets of headphones, the best way to determine which fits better is to try them both on. If you get the chance, see if your local audio store has both headphones before you buy.
If you're willing to spend the much larger amount of money, you will get very good noise canceling performance from a pair of Bose Quietcomfort 15s. Still, $300 is a lot of money to spend on headphones, and you may decide that the shortcomings of the s are something you can live with. In the end, it's up to you.
In every aspect of their design, the Sony MDR-NC7s are far more cheaply-made than the s are, and it shows. They do not have the same durability features as the s, and they suffer for it.
While the s aren't exactly what we'd call headphones with good sound quality, the Sonys are just horrible.
The Sony MDR-NC7s have an extremely noticeable level of distortion.
Both headphones have their issues with tracking, but the Sony MDR-NC7s have somewhat more extreme issues.
See how the NC7s don't attenuate that much sound? That's because their "active noise cancellation" really doesn't work as advertised. All it does is change the level of bass to make you think it does.
While neither set of headphones is uncomfortable, the only way you're going to know if a pair of headphones works well for you is to try it on. Both sets of headphones are fairly common, so see if you can check it out at your local store.
This comparison exists to demonstrate that not all headphones that fall a little bit behind are "bad." While the Sony cans are much cheaper, paying even a bit more for the will net you much better audio performance, and better features. While for many people a cheap set of cans is perfectly fine, it's often very beneficial to increase your budget a bit to grab the better set of headphones.
Even a casual glance will tell you that in-ears and over-ear headphones are very different. Despite the physical differences of each set of headphones compared here, the and the Phiaton PS 20 NCs have very similar function. However, the Phiatons do have a remote and microphone, enabling use with a smartphone.
Despite the obvious issues with channel preference, the Phiaton in-ears have a better frequency response, if only for their lack of underemphasis problems.
The PS 20 NCs have a little bit less distortion, but it's not a huge amount.
Both sets of headphones have bad tracking issues, but the Phiatons seem to have significant troubles in the low end.
The Phiaton in-ears attenuate a larger range of noise than the s do, especially in the low end.
In-ears are generally not that comfortable, and it is often difficult to get the best fit in your ear canal. For most users, over-ear headphones will typically be far more comfortable, and the soft leather of the s certainly feels good.
This all comes down to what's important to you in headphones: if you want better performance, stick with the PS 20 NCs. If, however, you want better comfort and a lower price, the s are probably more your speed.
Buying a set of entry-level headphones is usually a mixed bag performance-wise, and the s fit this description very well: while they aren't bad, they certainly aren't all that impressive either. The truth of the matter is that there aren't very many good entry-level options for active noise-canceling headphones, as the technology has certain drawbacks.
As far as performance goes with the s, you can expect a rather average experience, but with higher notes muffled to an odd degree. The active noise cancellation does block out a bit more sound than the s do naturally, but it lets in a lot of low-frequency sound.
With all that on the table, it seems that what you pay for when you buy the s is middling performance and a set of comfortable and easily-repaired headphones. But at ~$100, that's not bad at all. Sure, you could probably do better, but sometimes those options aren't readily available, or they may not work out for you personally. You could do a lot worse than the .
Meet the tester
Staff Writer, Imaging@cthomas8888
A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.
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