Panasonic’s first truly wireless earbuds recently went on sale in Europe. The RZ-S500W offers premium noise cancellation, while the RZ-S300W focuses on size and comfort. While we haven’t tried the S300W yet, we got a quick demo of the S500W earlier this year at CES and what we saw left us impressed.
The RZ-S500W earbuds are Panasonic’s first foray into the world of true-wireless ANC earphones. And what a triumph they are. With 6.5 hours of continuous playing time and a great design, they certainly look and sound like premium earbuds. The noise-canceling function is one of the best I’ve heard on a pair of truly wireless earbuds, and they are certainly the equal of the excellent Sony WF-1000-XM3. The sound signature is big and bold, but sophisticated enough not to color or swamp the music.
The Bluetooth dual channel signaling works well, and I didn’t experience a single dropout during the entire time I was testing them. The only downside I can see is the absence of support for Qualcomm’s apt-X audio codec. Support for AAC is included, which means both iOS and Android devices are catered for. All in all, this is a brilliant first shot from Panasonic and the company has clearly learned a lot from the mistakes of its competitors in this burgeoning sector of the earphone market.
The buds are stored inside a plastic case with three LEDs under the hinged top that show the state of charge. Fitting the earbuds inside is a little fiddly, as they don’t seat quite as easily as Apple’s or Sony’s offerings. Once in place, they’re magnetically held down, and the top securely closes over them. On the back of the case is a USB Type-C charging port. The RZ-S500W has a simple, no-nonsense design and a functional case, neither of which will be attracting admiring glances but will do the job for which they are intended very well.
Sound is delivered through an 8mm driver with a neodymium magnet in each earbud, and the resulting audio quality is bold, bright, and very enjoyable. Panasonic has chosen to tune the RZ-800W more neutrally, meaning the bass has not been artificially boosted and the vocals are further forward in the soundstage than headphones with a brand-specific tune like Beats.
Panasonic uses a Dual Hybrid Noise Canceling system for the RZ-S800W, mixing feedback and feedforward microphone systems to eliminate unwanted noise from inside and out of the earbuds. I found it was great for general use, but didn’t find it isolated as effectively as the best models. Even without the Ambient mode active, I could still hear myself talk with ANC on, but traffic and general sounds around the house were effectively muted.
Panasonic says the playback time with ANC on is 6.5 hours, with a total use time with the charging case of 19.5 hours. It takes about 2 hours to charge the earbuds using the case. A battery meter can be found in the app, which shows individual battery levels for each earbud. Handily, a 15-minute charge provides 70 minutes of use.