IF YOU NEED your headphones, above all else, to be comfortable on your head and to remain so even for the length of a long-haul flight, these Panasonics are ideal. They're snug and sturdy, and feel built to last.
That, and the fact that they cancel outside noise very effectively, is the good news. The bad news is that they sound poor. Most unusually, the RP-HC500s sound poor in wholly different ways depending on whether or not the noise-cancelling is switched on.
With the system off, the Panasonics don't let much sound in. The sound they give out is muddy and laboured – low frequencies are thick and clumsy, with scant regard paid to the leading or trailing edges of notes.
The rest of the frequency range defers to the over-prominent bass, so vocalists go short of detail and the top end sounds like an afterthought.
Switch the system on and outside noise is all-but banished, and the sound made switches emphasis. This time, high frequencies are overconfident and brash. Bass shrinks away, leaving vocalists too prominent; the overall signature becomes thin and clattering.
More after the break
We like the way these 'phones keep noise out, but not the noise they make while they're doing it.