While I wasn’t yet old enough to purchase things for myself, I do have some fond memories of Panasonic tech. The VCR I grew up with had Panasonic on it and my very first video camera ever was also made by the company. Still, the company always seems to be missing from consumer headphone conversations, at least until the recently released RZ-S500W true wireless earbuds which had some serious noise cancelling capabilities. Now we’re looking at the Panasonic RB-M700B which are an over-ear pair of active noise cancelling headphones. So do they hold up?
Who are the Panasonic RB-M700B for?
- Bass heads. If you like bass, then these are for you. They even have extra controls dedicated to pumping the bass even more.
- People who want noise cancelling. While these aren’t the best noise cancelling headphones we’ve tested in this price range, they’re not bad at all. If you find yourself wanting a comfortable pair of headphones that will get rid of outside sound definitely give these a shot.
What’s in the box?
The packaging here is pretty standard and the box itself just has a picture of the headphones along with some tech specs and fancy graphics. Inside you’ll get the headphones, some warranty information and the instruction booklet, a 3.5mm audio cable, and a USB-A to USB-C charging cable.
What’s it like to use the Panasonic RB-M700B?
You know when you think you know something, but then it turns out that you don’t know what you thought you knew? That confusing mess is pretty much my experience with these headphones. There were certain assumptions I made going into this review that ended up being false, while other aspects that I overlooked ended up being pretty fun.
Take the build quality and the design, for example. The Panasonic RB-M700B headphones look fairly hefty and tough at first glance, but they’re actually made of a smooth plastic that feels much less durable. That’s not to say that these are cheaply made, but they don’t feel like they’d survive being at the bottom of a backpack for too long. What does feel extremely cheap are the buttons and the active noise cancelling switch on the right earcup. Using them produces an audible “click” sound in the headphones, not to mention that the playback controls are basically flush with the earcup—makes it difficult to intuitively know which button you’re pressing.
Another real downside for me is the lack of folding hinges in the headband. While the earcups do rotate a full 90-degrees so you can wear them around your neck when not in use, the lack of hinges means you can’t fold these down to a smaller size in order to save some space in your bag. Then there’s the design which my first impression was also wrong about. When I took them out of the box I found myself thinking, “Sheesh, these look terrible.” However, after using them for about two weeks I think I was a little too harsh on them. I’ve come to really like the minimal design and the grooves on the outside of the earcups makes me think of a turbojet engine or something similarly futuristic.
These are also very comfortable to wear so even if the padding makes the earcups look huge, they’re very effective. I wore these for many hours and never felt any uncomfortable clamping force or ear fatigue. The padding is reflected in the headband which results in a firm fit that doesn’t push down too hard at the crown of your head which is always something I’m on the lookout for when it comes to over-ear headphones. Unlike true wireless earbuds I usually wear over-ears for hours at a time, so comfort is important. In short, the design is practical. These aren’t the sleekest pair of headphones I’ve ever reviewed but they still look pretty cool.
The built-in Bass Reactor is actually cool
One feature that I felt was a gimmick right from the start was the inclusion of what Panasonic calls a bass reactor. This acts as a subwoofer for your headphones increasing clarity in the 20Hz-100Hz range. While I was right to assume it’s a gimmick (it is), it’s a fun one that I actually found myself using from time to time.
While listening to pop music and hip-hop I found it was entirely too overbearing, but I found it really shines with classical sounding music and movie scores. The bassline while listening to the Merry-Go-Round of Life by Joe Hisaishi was just easier to feel as the earcup gently vibrated along with it. It also added another layer to videos I watched on YouTube which might not be everyone cup of tea, but it was definitely effective.
How to pair to the Panasonic RB-M700B
Pairing to the Panasonic RB-M700B is simple. You just need to power the headphones on by pressing the middle button on the right earcup. Once powered on, they should automatically enter pairing mode, if not you can force pairing mode by holding down the button for a few extra seconds while turning them on. Once in pairing mode simply navigate to the Bluetooth section in the settings on your device and select the RB-M700B headphones.
Do the Panasonic RB-M700B have multipoint?
We have an entire article explaining what Bluetooth multipoint is and why you should care about it, but the short answer is that multipoint is the ability for a pair of headphones to remain connected to two source devices at once. Why is this important? Well, if you’re like me, then you’re probably listening to music on your computer while working at your desk. However, if I get up to go to the kitchen: my headphones will usually remain connected to the computer even after I’ve paused the music.
Let’s say you wanted to watch a quick video on your phone while pouring yourself some coffee in the kitchen, the audio won’t play through the headphones because you’re still connected to the computer at your desk. That isn’t the case with the Panasonic RB-M700B. As long as I paused the music on my computer I was able to pull out my phone in the kitchen, press play, and begin watching a video with the audio coming from the headphones.
Since I paired the Panasonic RB-M700B with both my headphones and my computer they’re able to switch between two pretty seamlessly to give me the audio I need. This worked perfectly here and the only pair of headphones I’ve used recently that did a better job are the Surface Microsoft Headphones 2 which means the RB-M700B are in excellent company.
How is the connection strength of the Panasonic RB-M700B?
The Panasonic RB-M700B are rocking Bluetooth 5.0 and while connected to both my Huawei Matebook X Pro and my Google Pixel 3 smartphone I was able to get around my entire apartment pretty comfortably without any significant skipping. There were some occasional stutters when I was a few rooms away from a source device but considering there were multiple walls in the way and the connection still never completely dropped I would say the range is overall pretty solid.
We try to make it a point to always tell you which Bluetooth codecs are supported by a particular product, and that’s pretty easy to do here as there aren’t many. The only two you get are the standard SBC that all Bluetooth products have and AAC. So if you’re after higher quality codecs like aptX or LDAC you’re out of luck with these. Still, that doesn’t mean that AAC is bad. It’s the same codec that the popular Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 use and I didn’t have any noticeable audio lag while watching YouTube videos or anything like that. Sure, AAC might not offer the highest data transfer rates out of all the Bluetooth codecs, but if you’re using a standard streaming service like Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube Music then this likely won’t be an issue for you anyway.
These also have a 3.5mm input on the left earcup.
If you’re trying to connect to a device that doesn’t have Bluetooth you can also just plug in the included audio cable as these have a 3.5mm input on the left earcup. Playback controls also work as advertised with the middle button allowing you to pause or play the music. On either side are the volume buttons which adjust the volume when clicked once and skips between tracks if you hold them down. Again, the buttons are definitely not my favorite part of the experience but at least they work well.
How good is the active noise cancelling?
Active noise cancelling headphones are all the rage, and the previous true wireless earbuds from Panasonic that we recently reviewed are seriously impressive, so I was expecting the RB-M700B to be just as great. In reality they’re just okay. They did a good job at removing the low hum of the motor in my air conditioner but I could still hear the actual air pretty clearly.
This makes sense if you look at the graph above. When the active noise cancelling is switched on there’s a pretty big jump in the amount of frequencies getting cancelled between 100Hz and 1000Hz. It isn’t as strong as some other options from Sony but when you combine it with the plush earpads, these get the job done. My roommate even had to text me from the other room because I couldn’t hear what was going on outside of my headphones.
What’s battery life like on the Panasonic RB-M700B headphones?
Panasonic claims that these will last you about 20 hours of constant playback with active noise cancelling turned on. To test this I subjected them to our testing method of playing music on a constant loop at 75dB until they die. Doing this test I found that these lasted me exactly 25 hours and 50 minutes before needing to be charged. That’s pretty impressive, especially considering that I had active noise cancelling turned on. Keep in mind: you can also get the headphones to last you a little longer if you turn off the active noise cancelling or don’t use the bass reactor.
How good is the microphone?
Microphone quality is something that’s often overlooked with headphones but a bad microphone can often make a huge difference in the experience. You’ll never hear anyone compliment you on how good you sound, but you’ll never hear the end of it if you have a terrible quality mic. I found the microphone sounded fine for phone calls and I even used it for a Zoom call or two and had no issues.
Panasonic RB-M700B mic demo:
How do the Panasonic RB-M700B sound?
We should get into how the Panasonic RB-M700B headphones actually sound. In my experience, these were heavily geared towards bassheads which, to be fair, should be apparent based on the dedicated bass buttons on the headphones. While I did enjoy pumping up the bass every now and then, I made sure to turn it off for my critical listening. Still, I found the bass to be strong even without it turned on and the frequency graph above confirms this.
The steady bassline in Howling at Nothing by Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats was easy to pick out and follow along with but there were times when the main vocals ended up getting masked a bit. It mainly showed itself during the chorus when it sounded like the vocals dipped in volume slightly whenever the bassline poked through.
Vocals in the mids were also low in general, something that I noticed listening to the song Vanish in Our Sleep by Rob Roy. The powerful, exaggerated bassline becomes almost overbearing taking clear precedence over the vocals throughout. Not a bad deal if all you want is some strong bass, but if you (like me) enjoy a more balanced approach then this probably isn’t going to be for you. As far as the high end goes I had few problems here as it sounded like cymbals and hi-hats were emphasized enough to be heard over everything else going on.
Should you get the Panasonic RB-M700B?
If you really, and I mean really want a pair of headphones with the particular combination of strong bass and respectable active noise cancelling then you should definitely give the Panasonic RB-M700B a good look. They have good range, are comfortable, and also don’t look half bad either. Still, at $179 USD they’re a hard sell for the average person. Not everyone is a big fan of a strong bass and these are lacking any other significant features that make them a must-have. There are other options at the sub-$200 price point, but none of them let you bump up the bass quite like these. So if that’s your goal then these are for you.
What other options are there?
If these didn’t really do it for you and you’re still after a good pair of active noise cancelling headphones for less than $200 then definitely make sure to check out the Sony CH710N headphones as well. While they’re also only rocking AAC and have a similar build quality to the Panasonic RB-M700B, they do offer an ambient mode that lets you hear what’s going on around you. They also have similar noise cancelling capabilities to go along with a somewhat more neutral sound than you’ll find on the Panasonic headphones.
If you want something a little less expensive, then absolutely check out the AKG N700NC. These are typically slightly above $200 USD but have been fluctuating recently to as low as $120, so if you’re patient you can snag a really good deal. These have a better build, folding hinges for easy storage, a unique design, and much better active noise cancelling to keep disruptive outside sounds from leaking into your headphones.