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Panasonic ErgoFit RP-TCM125 in-ear headphone review: Cost-effective Apple EarPod replacement

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The Good The Panasonic ErgoFit RP-TCM125s are inexpensive and sound decent for their measly price. They also offer a comfortable fit and have a one-button inline remote/microphone for making cell-phone calls.

The Bad The thin cord has a tendency to tangle easily; the headphones don't seem incredibly durable; and they don't offer as much clarity as the step-down RP-HJE120s.

The Bottom Line While the ErgoFit RP-TCM125 doesn't sound as good as the cheaper RP-HJE120, it still sounds respectable for its budget price tag and includes a one-button inline/remote microphone.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Sound 6
  • Value 8

Last year we gave high marks to Panasonic's ErgoFit RP-HJE120 earphones, which can be had for less than $8 and sound surprisingly good with an excellent fit.

One of the minor gripes about that model is that it didn't feature an integrated microphone for making cell-phone calls, as a lot of earphones do these days.

Well, the good news is Panasonic does offer the ErgoFit RP-TCM125, a model that looks very similar to the RP-HJE120 but has an integrated one-button remote/microphone and only costs about $4 more.

The bad news is that while it sounds decent for an $12 earphone, it doesn't sound as good as the mic-less RP-HJE120.

Small design differences
Like the ErgoFit RP-HJE120, the RP-TCM125 looks like a cheap earbud-style headphone, albeit one with a bit of design flair and dash of cheerful coloring if you opt for something other than the simple black version I bought.

The housing for the driver is slightly smaller on RP-TCM125 than the RP-HJE120. Sarah Tew/CNET

As you can see from the pictures, these are sort of a hybrid earphone, part hard earbud like your basic Apple earbud and part soft bud. They come with three different-size silicone eartips. At this price, you're more apt to see a hard-bud earphone, but being able to jam the soft tips into your ears helps with sound isolation and maximizes the bass output. I was able to get a tight seal with the largest of the eartips, and I actually thought the earphones were comfortable (in keeping with the ErgoFit name) and they stayed in my ears well.

Close up of the one-button inline remote/microphone. Sarah Tew/CNET

I wouldn't speak too highly of the cord construction, and the wires leading up to each earbud are pretty thin. The cord does terminate in an L-shaped plug, which is good, although those with thicker "tough" cases on their smartphones may have some trouble getting the plug into the headphone jack.

Comparing the RP-TCM125 to RP-HJE120, you'll notice that the L-shaped plug on the TCM125 is different from the one on the RP-HJE120. It's a bit sleeker and more modern.

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