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Panasonic RP-HC100 review: Panasonic RP-HC100

Panasonic RP-HC100

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.
Panasonic's over-the-ear noise-canceling RP-HC100 has a sort of '70s retro look. Compact and just 5 ounces, it's far less bulky than Bose's QuietComfort 2, and it folds into an even tidier package for storage. A single AAA alkaline battery supplying 50 hours of noise reduction is housed in the right earcup, thus relieving you of the hassle of lugging around a separate battery case and its attendant tangle of wires.
This set's comfort level was quite good over long- and short-term use, thanks to the soft, form-fitting ear cushions. They also seal out a lot of noise, even before the noise-cancellation circuitry works its magic. And better yet, switching on the circuitry didn't overtly affect the sound quality--a rare feat.
It's too bad the RP-HC100's sonics are subpar to begin with. They come across as hollow or canned, and we experienced a fair amount of ear fatigue over the course of a few hours. Overall, the sound was fuzzy and harsh. And the bass response was too muffled for listeners who value lots of tight bass, though it beat out that of the MDR-NC5, Sony's comparably priced noise-canceling model.