Customer Review

461 of 496 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must be fitted properly to hear bass frequencies, April 23, 2012
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This review is from: Panasonic RPHJE120D In-Ear Headphone, Orange (Electronics)
If you've been wondering how such a highly-rated product like this can also have one-star reviews stating these earbuds have "absolutely no bass whatsoever" and sound "horribly tinny", I'd like to offer an explanation.

These Panasonics are not designed to be placed in the ears and worn like standard earbuds. If that's how you wear them, you'll get nothing but tinny sound at relatively low volume (think 1960's pocket transistor radio.) These earbuds are specifically designed to fit snugly into the ear, forming an airtight seal. If you choose too small of an earpad and/or don't push them in far enough, you won't hear any low-end frequencies. It's only when you get an airtight seal that the earbuds will instantly come alive with full-range sound and volume.

Here's a quick analogy: Tightly plug both ears with your fingers, close your mouth, and hum the lowest note you can. Now take your fingers away, and notice how almost all of the low end and volume drops out. That's the difference between a proper fit and an improper fit with these earbuds. Although the acoustic principles are different, these earbuds must literally plug your ears in order to give you the full frequency spectrum. Otherwise they'll sound absolutely horrendous.

Unfortunately, Panasonic wasn't very forthcoming on their product's packaging about how to wear the earbuds, and I'm quite certain some unwitting consumers are throwing away perfectly good pairs.

As an audio engineer, I can assure you these earbuds, when properly fitted, sound great. They're not audiophile-quality earbuds with the sonic transparency of a $200 pair of studio-reference headphones, but for the price, they are an exceptionally fantastic bargain -- arguably one of the best product bargains I've ever run across on Amazon. Do they have a lot of bass? They're not deficient in any of the low frequencies, but they're not bass-enhanced earbuds, either, which some of you may be used to. They have a relatively nice, flat bass response as is, but if you want extra bottom end on your music, you'll want to boost the low end of your MP3 player's EQ. Fortunately, boosted lows, even the deepest of lows, are handled very well by these Panasonics.

As a result of how these earbuds are designed to be worn, they could be uncomfortable for some people to wear for extended periods of time. The earpads are very soft and pliable, though, and I personally don't experience any discomfort wearing them. Since these earbuds are designed to be wedged into your ear, there are two unique, negative issues to point out:

1. Be very careful not to drop your MP3 player, because having earbuds ripped out of your ear canal is not a pleasant experience.

2. These earbuds will amplify the sound of your heartbeat when it's racing during an intense workout. The incessant "tick tick tick" is loud enough that it becomes extremely annoying during quiet passages in the music you're listening to.

In summary, the audio quality of these earbuds, when properly fitted, will satisfy 99.9% of the general population. I would not recommend them for bike riding or street running since they block out ambient noise, or for intense workouts due to the amplified heartbeat problem, but if you need some quality earbuds to tune out the world for a while, these Panasonics are an excellent choice and a phenomenal value.
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Comments

Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 20 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 10, 2012 10:36:11 AM PDT
Thank you for explaining that, I was having the same issue. I needed a pair to use at work and generally I don't push them in all the way for exactly that reason, so I can still hear the people around me. That explains the lack of bass.

Posted on Mar 6, 2013 4:05:37 PM PST
Jae Jae says:
Thanks for pointing out that bass frequencies can be amplified by switching to the bigger rubber pad that the headphones come with. With a snug fit there is such a huge difference in bass!

Posted on Jun 12, 2013 3:36:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 12, 2013 3:38:19 PM PDT
G. Nicholas says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2013 7:09:32 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 15, 2013 8:42:21 AM PDT
EasyTiger says:
I'm sorry you did not find my review helpful (but it can't be all BS if it helped other people, right?)

If someone were to complain that these earbuds don't have quite as much bass or clarity as some other buds they've tried, that's an opinion I could understand, since not all earbuds sound exactly the same. But when anyone describes these earbuds with superlatives, claiming "horrendous", "tinny treble", or "no bass whatsoever", then it's pretty obvious what the problem is; they tried to wear them like traditional earbuds. I know this because I've been there myself.

When I first tried them, I thought they were the most awful-sounding earbuds I ever heard. The sound was so bad, I knew right away that something must not be right. I thought to myself... how could any earbud on the market actually sound THAT bad? An audio engineer by trade, I looked at the design of the earbuds and figured they probably require a seal around the ear canal to work. So I wedged them into my ear like foam hearing protectors, and boom, that was the ticket. They instantly came alive with full-range sound.

I don't berate you or anyone else for not knowing how to wear these earbuds. I actually blame Panasonic for not being more upfront about how they are designed to work. (Panasonic kind of shot themselves in the foot on that one.)

They key to making these earbuds work properly is not how far you push them in. The key is using a proper-fitting pad and pushing the buds into your ear canal just enough to obtain an airtight seal. It's the seal -- a solid, leak-proof seal -- that makes these earbuds work. Without that seal, you can push the earbuds in as far as you want and you'll still get nothing but "horrendous, tinny treble".

Try a larger-size ear pad. Also try slightly rotating/twisting the earbuds because it can help the pads conform to the shape of your ear canal. If you're used to wearing standard earbuds in the traditional way, wearing these Panasonics will feel really weird at first, but you'll get used to it.

Posted on Dec 23, 2013 7:19:08 AM PST
E. Cheng says:
Your analogy is prefect. People can also test it by pushing it while plugged in and can hear the difference.

Great review.

Posted on Dec 27, 2013 6:45:57 PM PST
Very helpful review. I tried what you suggested and the music sounds MUCH improved. The bass is richer and the sound more full! Thank you

Posted on Mar 2, 2014 11:31:11 AM PST
Billy says:
"Must be fitted properly to hear bass frequencies" Great intro and I hope ANYONE and EVERYONE who writes an in-ear earphone review reads and understands this. I think the lack of understanding that a proper seal with the eartips is paramount to sound quality in general as well as a requirement for getting proper bass response is why many earphones that are capable of producing good lower bass response get reviews that say the bass is weak or non-existent. The fit between the nozzle and the eartip is just as important as the fit to your ear. Eartips that fit one model/brand may have leakage on another.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2014 11:35:24 AM PST
Billy says:
"Shove them in your ear through to the other side"

Oh My!!!! Did you try this?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2014 6:09:57 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 3, 2014 7:52:52 AM PST
EasyTiger says:
Thanks for your comments, Billy. Your points are right on the money.

As someone who develops websites on the side, one thing I've learned is that obnoxiously simple directions which seem ridiculous to some people are sometimes necessary for others. Just one of many examples is the lady who emailed to chastise me for leaving important contact information off a listing of music venues. I emailed her back with: "Please use the scroll bars in your browser window to view the rest of the web page." Many of my websites still have buttons that say "Click here" because I'm tired of receiving "How do I get there?" emails.

Most people will either know or quickly figure out that these earbuds require a snug fit in order to sound the way they're designed to sound, but some will not. Panasonic should have known that and provided the most basic of earbud fitting instructions in bold letters right on their product's packaging. If they only would have done that, they surely would have avoided quite a few negative reviews.

Posted on May 1, 2014 5:14:29 PM PDT
Dan S. Tong says:
Thanks for an excellent review.
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