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Panasonic RZ-S500W earbuds evaluate: higher late than by no means

Panasonic RZ-S500W earbuds review: better late than never

“The Panasonic RZ-S500W offers excellent sound, which is supported by a solid battery life and an attractive price.”

Nice, neutral sound

Good battery life

Comfortable to wear for a long time

Good everyday noise cancellation

Competitive price

Bulky, bar-like design

Spotty call quality

When you talk about Panasonic, you might think of TVs or cameras rather than headphones. However, this will change with the RZ-S500W, the company’s first pair of true wireless earphones. Yes, we know. This is another pair to consider and a fairly late entry into the game. So what makes them tempting?

Currently available in the UK and soon available in the US, they are priced at £ 169 or an estimated $ 199. This is a strong value considering that they have active noise cancellation on board, while rivals like the Sony WF-1000XM3 cost $ 239 and the AirPods Pro from Apple $ 249. Then the question arises whether they have the audio chops to take them over.

The Panasonic RZ-S500W have been in my ears for about a week (not permanent, but you understand my meaning), and so are they.

design

It is very difficult to make real wireless earphones attractive. Sony hasn’t really accomplished this feat, and Apple shares the opinion with the AirPods. Panasonic has gone the way, “let’s make them look like bolts,” and while they’re not exactly pretty, they’re definitely comfortable.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Most of the RZ-S500W sits outside of your ear, rather than forming around your inner ear like the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, and relies on the tip to hold it in place. The balance is excellent and the 7 gram weight means they don’t pull your ears or feel like they’re falling out. Five sets of different sized silicone tips are included to help you find the best fit for your ears.

If they’re in your ears, don’t expect them to be subtle. Everyone around you will notice that you are wearing the RZ-S500W, not least because it sticks out of your ears at some distance, but also because the blue LED in the left bud flashes. They don’t look more ridiculous than most other real wireless headphones, but they don’t drive the industry by also introducing a chic new design.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The buds are in a plastic housing with three LEDs under the hinged lid, which indicate the state of charge. Attaching the earphones inside is a bit of a hassle, as they are not as easy to fit as the offers from Apple or Sony. Once attached, they are magnetically pressed and the top closes securely over them. There’s a Type C USB charging port on the back of the case. Although it’s smaller than the Sony WF-1000XM3 case, it’s not as compact as the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus case or as wonderfully high quality as the shiny metal case from Master & Dynamic for the MW07 Plus.

The RZ-S500W has a simple, no-nonsense design and a functional casing, none of which attract admiring glances, but do the job they are designed for very well. This may reflect the reasonable cost, but that’s fine because the money went where it belongs: the audio.

sound

The sound is transmitted through an 8mm driver with a neodymium magnet in each earphone. The resulting audio quality is bold, bright and very pleasant. Panasonic has decided to tune the RZ-800W more neutrally, which means that the bass has not been artificially amplified and the vocals in the sound stage are ahead of headphones with a brand-specific piece of music such as Beats.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Don’t consider this a lack of bass, as it’s the opposite. The bass is precise and controlled and deep if need be, but it never overwhelms mids or vocals. The earbuds will not be overwhelmed by the deep bass during the opening of KLF’s What Time is Love, the Tokyo Tower remix that has more than enough subbass to feel. However, the RZ-S500W sounds best when you play songs that rely on strong vocals.

In Keyakizaka46’s Hiraishin, the earphones wonderfully capture the group’s voices as they circulate the soundstage without becoming too bright while delivering the track’s strong bass line. Some headphones lose the main voice in Gang Parade ‘I need you, I love you, I want you to be on the beat, but that’s not the case with the RZ-S550W, which balances it very well.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Band Maids Choose Me focuses on the lead singer’s vocals, but never lets up on the lead and bass guitar, which makes for exciting listening. Jidenna’s Long Live the Chief and Moses Mayfield’s Fall Behind are treated the same way as Choose Me, with focused vocals and hard bass. While still a great listening experience, it’s clear that the Panasonics love women’s pop and rock.

The RZ-800W sounds great, but it can’t keep up with the wonderful, involved and perfectly balanced Sony WF-1000XM3. They come much closer to Master & Dynamic’s MW07 Plus, but focus more on the vocals. I found that they came closest to the over-ear ATH-M50x of the Japanese audio brand Audio Technica in terms of sound and soundstage, which is respected for its studio-like neutral sound signature.

The only disappointment is the lack of codecs. Panasonic has only added AAC to the RZ-S500W, which means they can be used with most mobile devices, but does not offer the additional quality advantages that some expect from AptX or AptX HD or a low latency connection with AptX LL.

Noise cancellation, app and control

For the RZ-S800W, Panasonic uses a dual hybrid noise canceling system that mixes feedback and feed-forward microphone systems to remove unwanted noise from inside and outside of the earphones. I thought it was great for general use, but didn’t find it to be as isolated as the best models. I could still hear ANC speaking even without the ambient mode active, but the traffic and general noises in the house were effectively muted.

Panasonic RZ-S800W with appAndy Boxall / Digital Trends

Panasonic RZ-S800W with noise cancellation in appAndy Boxall / Digital Trends

Panasonic RZ-S800W with app equalizer functionAndy Boxall / Digital Trends

The noise cancellation settings are adjusted via the touch-sensitive control panel on the right earphone, which is switched between on, off and ambient mode by a long press. You can also play and pause music with the touch controls, and they’re decent too. I was concerned about using multiple gestures this way, but I’m happy to say that they didn’t mess up, and for the most part I responded the way I wanted to. A long press on the left bud activates Siri or Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa is also available with a software update.

Download the Panasonic Audio Connect app and control the noise cancellation effect through 50 different levels. I found it made little difference to my use – I either want noise cancellation or not – and when more outside sound was required, the ambient mode served the purpose better. The sound quality is slightly affected by the ANC because the music takes on a warmer, bassier tone. The app also has a Bass Enhancer setting, which was not essential when the ANC was on, but helped to round off the sound when it was off. A five-band equalizer completes the range of functions.

The RZ-S500W doesn’t expect the world’s best noise cancellation because it can’t keep up with the amazing isolation of the Sony WF-1000XM3, but it’s great for everyday city life and traffic. Due to movement restrictions, I was unable to test them with public transportation or airplanes.

Battery and connectivity

According to Panasonic, the playback time when the ANC is switched on is 6.5 hours, with a charge of 19.5 hours, a total usage time. Charging the earphones with the case takes approximately 2 hours. There is a battery measuring device in the app that shows the individual battery levels for each earphone. A 15 minute charge offers a usage time of 70 minutes.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

At the time of my review, I have no reason to doubt these numbers, but I doubt the accuracy of the battery meter. For most of the review period, I had a longer listening session of at least 4 hours. During that time, the app still indicated that 90% of the battery was left, making it more difficult to estimate performance accurately.

However, the case was empty after at least 20 hours of operation until the last LED light, which means that battery life is an important reason for buying the RZ-S500W. The battery life is longer than that of the AirPods Pro and roughly corresponds to that of Sony. This allows them to commute easily for at least a week and occasionally listen before they need to be fully charged. This is a huge advantage.

I used the earbuds connected to an iPhone 11 Pro and the Bluetooth 5.0 connection was solid with no interruptions or jerks when I was within 10 meters of my phone in my apartment. Panasonic has introduced an independent connection system for each earphone that is more stable and efficient. I had no problems with delays or interruptions between the earbuds.

The connection was also stable during a call, but the sound quality for the person called was not particularly good. I have been told several times that it sounded like my head was in a pocket, but I can confirm that I never carried a pocket during one of the calls. However, the call quality for me as a caller was great.

Price, guarantee and availability

The Panasonic RZ-S500W cost £ 169, which is $ 213, and has been announced in the UK and Europe. A release in the U.S. is likely in the near future, where the price is expected to be $ 199. Panasonic grants a one year warranty on its audio products and offers free repair or replacement.

Our opinion

Given that the RZ-S800W is Panasonic’s first widely used real noise canceling wireless headphones, it is an outstanding achievement. The excellent neutral sound makes it very easy to hear, especially for those who love singing. Overall, the experience isn’t particularly detailed, but it’s fun, engaging, and helps you enjoy your music. Noise cancellation may not be the best, but it is still effective for general daily use. Add the competitive price, and the Panasonic RZ-800W is an enticing purchase.

Is there a better alternative?

You’re spoiled for choice when you watch real wireless headphones today. We recommend spending a little more to get the $ 230 Sony WF-1000XM3, which has a warmer tone, smarter design, and the best noise cancellation system available. Apple’s $ 249 AirPods Pro are also worth considering.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus for $ 149 doesn’t offer noise cancellation, but it offers great value for money in terms of sound quality, compact design, and long battery life. There are so many different models that you should also check out our list of the best real wireless headphones you can buy to find more alternatives.

How long it will take?

The Panasonic RZ-S500W is IPX4 waterproof, so they are protected from rain and sweat. In addition, the plastic housing feels durable and strong. The lifespan of all real wireless headphones is determined by the battery inside, which deteriorates and ultimately returns less useful life. However, this is unlikely to be a problem for several years. Panasonic is an established, trustworthy brand and these headphones meet expectations in terms of quality and workmanship.

Should you buy it

Yes. The competitive price, decent noise cancellation, and wonderful neutral tuning make it easy to overlook the slightly dorky design.

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