This Panasonic RZ-S500W review is aimed at those looking for a pair of the best cheap headphones but who don't want to make sacrifices on sound quality or extra features.
With excellent overall sound performance, noise-cancelling and a sleek design, the Panasonic RZ-S500W aren't playing around.
Admittedly, there are a couple of flaws worth knowing about like the fact that the touch sensors are far too sensitive, the app looks dated and connecting them to your phone can be a faff. But they are also much cheaper than the very best true wireless earbuds you can buy. Considering their price these are an exceptional pair of true wireless earbuds. Read on to find out more.
Panasonic RZ-S500W review: price and availability
The Panasonic RZ-S500W wireless earbuds are available to buy from a number of retailers, you can pick up a pair starting from $100 in the US, £100 in the UK and AU$200 in Australia. Take a look at the widgets to see the most recent prices from across the web.
Panasonic RZ-S500W review: design and fit
Simple in design, the Panasonic RZ-S500W wireless earbuds are small, discreet, and come in either black or white. They’re circular, covered in smooth rubber and the outside edge is framed by a number of small holes. Each earbud has an LED light on it which will let you know when they are in pairing mode. I would describe the design as grown-up and discreet.
In the box, they come with a matching charging case measuring 74 x 39 x 30 mm with Panasonic written across the top and three LED lights which let you know how much battery the case has left. On the back, there’s a USB-C port to charge it. The case looks good although the lid feels a little flimsy and the buds don’t magnetically snap into place, so you have to fiddle around getting them back in.
Alongside the buds, you get five sizes of silicone ear tips, that's more than you would get elsewhere so you’re very likely to find the right fit for your ear. They feel comfortable and secure in the ear which means they'll be a good choice for watching videos on a long commute or even for working out.
The earbuds are IPX4 water-resistant so they’ll be fine in light rain or with a lot of sweat, although I wouldn’t be so sure they’ll survive a dunk in a deep puddle.
To control the music without getting your phone out, there are touch sensors on the surface of each bud. You tap once to pause or play the music, twice on the left bud to turn the volume down, twice on the right to skip forwards, three times on the left to turn the volume up and three times on the right to skip backwards. You’ll also be able to answer calls or touch and hold to turn the noise-cancelling mode on or off and switch to the Ambient Sound mode. It's a lot to remember but the basic controls come quite naturally.
One problem I found was that the touch controls are far too sensitive, the buds switched noise-cancelling modes when I moved my hand near my ear, and my hair brushing past the sensor managed to pause the music which was frustrating when the music kept stopping on my commute.
From a single charge, the buds will last about 6.5 hours of playback and you get an extra 19.5 hours of music from the case. That’s not the best battery life you can get from earbuds at this price but it’s good enough.
If you do run out of juice, the headphones take about 2 hours to fully recharge or you can get over an hour of music from a quick 15-minute charge. The case will take about 2.5 hours to recharge from empty to 100%.
Panasonic RZ-S500W review: performance
When it comes to sound performance, the Panasonic RZ-S500W true wireless earbuds are solid and accurate with plenty of bass. Considering the price, these sound fantastic. They produce audio that is full and powerful with crisp highs, without being over the top. You can make the bass even richer if you wanted to thanks to the Bass Enhancer.
Vocals come out clearly for the most part too, especially when you switch to the Clear Voice sound enhancement mode. You can hear every lyric although admittedly without that switched on the low end can sometimes take over in certain bass-heavy songs. Overall though this wasn't a huge issue and the audio is balanced across most types of audio content.
In the Panasonic Audio Connect app, there are manual equaliser settings as well so you can make very precise adjustments to the sound to suit your preferences.
You can manually adjust the level of noise-cancelling through the app which is a great feature to have, allowing you to block out more or less noise depending on where you are and what you're doing.
The noise-cancelling does a good job at keeping your focus entirely on the music although I could still hear my keyboard taps and the office chatter to some extent. It’s not the best noise-cancelling on a pair of in-ear headphones but I would still say it's quite effective. You can’t really complain because a lot of headphones at this price don't have ANC at all.
The Ambient Sound mode lets in some noise while cutting out others, balancing outside noise better with the music. That’s useful for when you want to hear conversations around you or if you’re out walking by the road. There is a noticeable difference having it switched on, although it does mean there’s a slight hiss when the music cuts out.
As well as switching between noise-cancelling modes, the Panasonic Audio Connect app lets you choose a sound enhancement mode, access Amazon Alexa, see the battery level of each bud and adjust the volume. If you lose one of the headphones, you can also use the Find My Headphones feature which will play a loud noise from the buds to help you find them, it’ll only work if you are in Bluetooth range, though. The app has a load of features, but it does look a little dated.
You can use the Panasonic RZ-S500W to talk to your smartphone’s voice assistant, and they’ll even work with Amazon Alexa as long as you have the app installed on your phone. To call it, you just need to hold the touch sensor down for 2 seconds.
Connecting to the earbuds in the first place could be a bit of a hassle, especially when you go to connect them to a different device from the one you started out with. You’ll have to leave them in the case for a few seconds, then take them out and hold down the touch controls until they flash red and blue, and then try to connect. It sounds quite straightforward but it took me a few attempts each time to get it to work. Similarly, the app doesn’t stay hooked up to the buds and sometimes struggles to find them even when the phone was connected through Bluetooth.
Panasonic RZ-S500W review: verdict
You get a lot for your money when it comes to the Panasonic RZ-S500W true wireless earbuds. That includes impressive sound quality, effective noise-cancelling and a few different sound modes to choose from as well as manual equaliser settings.
Okay so they hardly compare to the likes of Apple Airpods Pro but it’s their price that makes them convincing up against other buds on the market. At less than $100 / £100, you won’t find a more accomplished pair of wireless earbuds with this many features.
That’s not to say they are perfect because there are a few significant flaws like the sensitivity of the touch sensors and the dated app, but I could look past those concerns given how good they are in every other way.
Panasonic RZ-S500W review: also consider
Another excellent pair of wireless earbuds around this price are the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ which may not be as feature-heavy as these but they do sound incredible and they offer slightly more battery life.
If you’re not so concerned about the price then the very best true wireless earbuds you can buy are the Sony WF-1000XM4 which are ‘profoundly impressive across the board’ - that’s saying something. You get everything you could possibly want from expressive sound to impeccable call quality. It will cost you though as these are very pricey in comparison to the Panasonic RZ-S500W.