Panasonic RP-HT21 (Black) review: Panasonic RP-HT21 (Black)

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The Good Panasonic's very inexpensive RP-HT21 on-ear headphones are lightweight, fairly comfortable, seem sturdy enough, and sound quite decent for their low price.

The Bad The headphones have a generic design, don't fold up, and their thicker, reinforced L-shaped plug may not be compatible with certain smartphone cases. They also leak sound.

The Bottom Line As far as really inexpensive headphones go, you're not going to do too much better than the Panasonic RP-HT21s.

7.1 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 5
  • Performance 6
  • Value 9

In the past few months I've been on a minor mission to check out some budget headphones that cost less than $10. I started with Pansonic's sub-$10 ErgoFit RP-HJE120 earphones, and came away pleasantly surprised by their performance and fit. But what about something really cheap, like Panasonic's simple on-ear model, the RP-HT21, which I bought for $4.87 on Amazon, tax and shipping included thanks to my Prime membership? Could they be any good?

Well, in the world of superbudget headphones, good is a relative word. For starters, this model isn't going to win any design awards. It's not totally devoid of aesthetic flare, but it's pretty generic-looking, and out of the box, my first thought was that it was something a flight attendant would hand me on a plane. OK, maybe it's a step up from that, but if it is, it's not a big step up.

Indeed, the RP-HT21 is almost as basic as an on-ear model gets. But it is lightweight, comfortable enough, and has a seemingly durable L-shaped plug (alas, that plug may be problem for those with thicker "tough" cases on their phones). They don't fold up, there's no built-in microphone for making cell phone calls, or anything in the way of extra features. (If you can afford to splurge a little, Panasonic also makes the RP-HT46, which has a folding design and supposedly offers a bit more bass for around $13 online).

From a design standpoint, the HT-21s aren't much of a step up from the headphones they hand out on planes -- but they are lightweight and fairly comfortable.