Perhaps it is that they can be had for under $30? Perhaps it is that there are so many awful headphones on the market? Perhaps it is that they don’t try to do too much? Perhaps it is that they are retro and still sound good? Perhaps it is that they just do what they are supposed to do? Perhaps it is we bought these for the wrong reasons? Perhaps it is because they are made by a company that isn’t known at all for headphones? Whatever “it” is, it’s special. Get ready to get your world rocked, here comes our take on Panasonic’s RP-HTX7 headphones. (Yeah, seriously, Panasonic headphones)
We are going to mention this a couple of times, in case you haven’t noticed – but Panasonic is not a company that is known for headphones. Even amongst the major electronics makers, Sony is the one that comes to mind for making headphones, not Panasonic. In fact, we weren’t sure that Panasonic made more then a couple of models that could be bought at your run-of-the-mill brick-and-mortar store. We definitely were not expecting them to make quite a collection of models in various styles and some topping over $300. We aren’t going to lie – when we bought the Panasonic’s we really bought them because of the retro look – we were not expecting anything more then the price we paid, boy were we in for a tad bit of a surprise.
The clash of old meets new starts with the packaging, which of course we didn’t take a picture of. Panasonic tempts you with the modern plastic box that shows off 1/3rd of a side of the headphone – allowing you to get your first glimpse of your retro headphone. After opening the box, which isn’t exactly something a fourth grader could do – you’ll find the basics: headphones, warranty card, adaptor. If you ever have to repackage these – good luck because you probably made a mess of the box when you were opening them, but we don’t really see you returning them anytime soon.
Panasonic makes a few versions of this retro headphone, all of them begin with RP-HTX7; after that you have the RS (Ryan Sheckler edition with a special paint scheme), K1 (black, the one’s we are reviewing), W1 (white), R1 (red), G1 (lime green) and P1 (light pink). None of the headphones are any different internally and they all are the same price, except for the RS which commands a tad bit more for the skateboarder’s endorsement. The RP-HTX7 is very retro looking with a tad bit of new age touches on the outside. The cups slide about two inches up the side, a rather wide range, meaning that anyone should be able to get the perfect fit. They house a 40mm Neodymium magnet driver. We aren’t really sure that material is, but spellcheck does. It’s apparently rather new and advanced which continues that new age theme that is prevalent throughout the headphone. The cups are plastic with the standard leather pads; the only straying from the norm is the lack of cloth to protect the tweeter. Panasonic instead opted for plastic with a decent amount of holes to allow the sound to get to your ear. On top is leather that wraps around most of the headphone. Personally, we think that a tad bit of customization to the white model, perhaps say tan leather on the cups and headband could create the ultimate retro – but we aren’t going to complain.
We Love Cords:
Panasonic really seemed to focus on the details, without losing sight of the big picture. Example number one is the cords. The headphones feature the one cord on the left side (instead of the Y-shaped option.) That cord measures 3.9 feet, the perfect distance in our opinion, but is oddly rubbery. Instead of a smooth plastic that we see on most headphones, we get a tad bit of rubber and we assumes it helps with durability, but it’s definitely one of those subtle touches that makes us appreciated the RP-HTX7s a tad bit more. Amongst our favorite features are the cords that run from each cup through the headband. These are wrapped in a ballistic nylon like material that provides that contrast between the old and the new.
Out of the Box:
We do 100 hours of burn-in on all of the headphones we review. Is it necessary? Probably not. Our friends at Shure say that their engineers can’t record a difference in technical data with burn-in. Despite their scientific findings, nearly anyone that’s ever taken a dip into anything above Best Buy grade sound products will know something about the possible myth that is burn-in. On a lot of products we are convinced that there is a drastic difference after 40 hours or 60 hours. We can’t really say that about the RP-HTX7s. The bass didn’t become lower, the highs didn’t become clearer and we couldn’t tell the mids becoming clearer. So, in our completely non-scientific findings, what you get out of the box is what you are going to get after 100 hours. With that being said, if you don’t give a product at least a couple of hours of use, there is no way we think you could make an accurate assessment.
Panasonic list the RP-HTX7s as “monitor” headphones, that’s a stretch. The first instance has to do with the power needed to drive the RP-HTX7s, minimal at best. Despite having a credible 40mm driver, an iPod can power the RP-HTX7 just fine. To this point, this is the least affected headphone when it comes to hooking it up to a headphone amp (this will change in about a week, but Panasonic can where this crown for the next seven or so days) that we have tested. This has to be good news for most users, as unlike with some prior headphones we reviewed, the amp vs. no amp discussion is really a matter of splitting hairs, even for us.
The Start of Something Good…
Well, these are headphones, so you want to know how they sound. “Shocking” is one way to put it. You could also try something like “surprising.” Perhaps even “special.” We are going to go with “very good.” Before we start, these headphones are not perfect, but remember the big picture – Panasonic did. The first thing we noticed when the first noise poured into our ears (Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling) was the sound, and how good it was. What we got was not what we expected by any means. Rather then some washed-out bass and overemphasized highs, we were given some pretty deep and accurate lows and a nice range of highs and mids. When the bassline picked up about a minute and a half into the song, the RP-HTX7s produced a pleasurable reproduction of the summer hit and really began to show its colors. And even when the song ventured into the higher ranges, rather then a disappointing attempt, we got a confident companion to accompany the lows.
The Lows (that are really the best part):
In some sense the RP-HTX7s hit gold with our choice in first song. Quite frankly, the song suits Panasonic’s headphone perfectly. Bass heavy with some attempts at the higher ranges; and for those songs the RP-HTX7 is gold. Even in U2′s interesting melody “In a Little While,” the RP-HTX7 does an admirable job mixing Bono’s raspy voice with a variety of guitars and bass lines. The headphones are without a doubt bass-heavy, but for most users, that’s probably a good thing. Never could we find a song that shamed the RP-HTX7′s bass, even Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” with power from an iPod couldn’t outdo Panasonic’s retro headphones. The bass reproduction is great, but we aren’t going to claim for one minute it’s not “bass heavy.”
We thought the highs were the most balanced of the spectrum of the RP-HTX7. On most songs we got a clean reproduction of vocals and instruments and more often then not we got we thought was a good sounding upper range. More importantly, the RP-HTX7 didn’t try to do more then they could. It seems Panasonic knew that there was a limit and rather then trying to give it 110%, they stopped while they were ahead and settled with a sound that was still enjoyable. While we wouldn’t recommend using the RP-HTX7s to go through your Bach collection, we can’t say that you shouldn’t at least try a little bit of Yo-Yo Ma.
The Mids that are Low.
The only real gripe we have: the mids. It’s our opinion that the best sound is not created by mids, rather tied by mids. A booming bass and amazing reproduction of the upper ranges needs a strong, but not overwhelming mid to balance the two and create the distinct sound that we can call excellent. In some songs, the mids were fine and played the role of melting the two ends of the spectrum together. Other times, the mids jump to the front and create a muddled sound that that is to say the least disappointing. We’d like to feel comfortable telling you that if you listen to “x” genre you are find and avoid these if you primarily listen to “y” – we can’t. If you listen to hip-hop, you are fine. If you listen to rock, it seems to just depend on the song.
There are two places where the RP-HTX7s really shines: price and comfort. The latter is perhaps the single least talked about amongst those that wouldn’t dare to venture into the “audiophile” lands. If headphones aren’t comfortable – it doesn’t matter how graceful they sound, it’s going to be painful. As we mentioned above, the RP-HTX7s allows for a wide adjustment amongst users. Despite what is quite an impressive sound isolation, the headphones don’t push themselves against your head anymore then they should. We think there is one thing that makes these truly one of the most comfortable headphones we have worn: weight. These are feather lights, there’s no other way to say it. Don’t get us wrong – the cups are made to be extremly comfortable and whoever designed them at Panasonic gets a gold star; but these weigh 153 grams. In contrast, our Shure SRH840s weigh 318, slightly more then double. While we find the SRH840s to be incredibly comfortable, we can only imagine how comfortable they would be at half the weight.
A Step Back…
We really feel that if the engineers at Panasonic had tuned the mids to be like the highs and the lows, the headphone would have been more enjoyable. Perhaps this creates an even more bass heavy headphone, but perhaps not – whatever the case, we are splitting hairs. Panasonic seemed to look at the big picture and when we do: we remember what these headphones cost, we remember what we thought before we turned them on and we remember what we are comparing them. So how do you make sense of all this? For a headphone that costs what it is – you’d be crazy not to buy them, unless you avoid music with bass in it.
We hope that when you visit TheMacFeed/TheAudioFeed you feel like you are a having a conversation with a friend. We hope that you realize that a person wrote this, not a legal staff. We try not to throw numbers in your face (despite the fact we just did) and we try to give you what we would want to know. We also try to give you a unique insight on products, tell you something you didn’t know. It makes us feel good when we can play the role of the neighbor or coworker telling you about that secret restaurant that has great food in a wonderful atmosphere that you’ve never heard of before and we love it when you see the bill come and it’s pennies more then McDonalds. That’s why we love Panasonic’s RP-HTX7.
In the End…
When you hear sound through the Panasonic RP-HTX7, you aren’t fooled that it’s a headphone. At the same time, you are getting some incredible isolation. The soundstage is not the best that we have heard, but then you have to put it in perspective. The headphone retails for $59.99, but can be found rather easily on the street for around $30. And that’s when it all makes sense. For $30, the discussion is over as far as we are concerned, it’s not going to get any better. Sound, power, comfort and isolation at that price is unprecedented; quite frankly – it’s unheard of. When you compare these to the headphones that are two and three times the price – do they sound three times better; not really. We don’t know what would compete with these, but whatever it is it better be prepared for a surprise. Panasonic’s RP-HTX7 can be purchased directly from Panasonic for $59.99 (excluding the RS model) or on Amazon for a little over $30. We like these headphones a lot and for a lot of reasons. When you are reminded of the price, the mids are instantly forgiven. Any person we give these two seems to think they are golden. Continually people are shocked that these: aren’t noise-canceling, are so light, sound so good and cost little. Quite frankly, that’s exactly how we feel.