Panasonic RP-HC500 review

These headphones cancel outside noise very effectively, but they sound poor Tested at £140.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Peculiarity may help a product stand out, but it’s unlikely to help it sell


  • +

    Comfortable, durable headphones that cancel noise well


  • -

    Sound is either thick or thin

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

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.

We like the way these 'phones keep noise out, but not the noise they make while they're doing it.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test