Panasonic's RP-HC500s are lightweight noise-cancelling headphones and compete with models offered by audio heavyweights Bose and Sennheiser. Panasonic's attractive RP-HC500s can be found for a much lower cost, but does this negatively impact performance?
Wearing the HC500s is a comfortable experience on the whole. The earcups provide a decent seal around the ears and the padded headband is barely noticeable thanks to the very lightweight nature of the cans. Having a good seal around the ears is useful too, since this helps in part to provide the noise-cancelling experience.
Build quality is excellent, and we especially liked the way the AAA battery compartment is concealed by the earcup bracket when the 'phones are being worn. The 70-inch audio cable has gold-plated connectors and is detachable from the headphones, making flat packing easy. An airline adaptor and 6.3mm plug are also included inside the tough carry case.
Noise cancelling scored two very enthusiastic thumbs up on the CNET.co.uk fists. With no music playing, our office environment was severely deadened with cancellation active. The most notable effect was the complete removal of noise from the air conditioner. It was an extremely pleasant to experience even without music. The dramatic exclusion of ambient noise, chattering and keyboard tapping was sublime. Never has silence sounded so good.
For the average user, sound quality will be more than acceptable from the 40mm drivers. Fans of dance and pounding club anthems will especially pleased; bass is clean and powerful, without being overpowering. The slightly reverberated kick drum heard on Infected Mushroom's 'Albibeno' could be felt pounding the very fibres of our medulla oblongata.
On rockier numbers, such as Meshuggah's time signature-contorting track 'Spasm', we heard good detail from the array of cymbals used by the band's drummer, without the powerfully driven guitars taking away any of their sound. Muse's 'Falling Away with You' contains some subtle layering of instruments and sound effects. The panned guitars, walking bass lines, speedy synthesiser, clear vocals, quiet falsetto and multiple guitar distortions came together quite beautifully.