Bottom Line The Drop + THX Panda Headphones are one of the best sounding pair you can buy today, thanks in part to the collaboration with THX. You'll love the build quality of these exceptional cans, too. But if you're looking for lightweight headphones or extra features like noise cancellation, then you'll need to look elsewhere.
- Beautiful sound
- Incredible build quality
- Easy to use
- USB-C charging
- 3.5mm input jack
- Heavy at about 350 grams
- No ANC
- Average passive noise cancellation
You can spend a lot of money on headphones if that's your thing. But as phones shift towards wireless audio instead of offering a headphone jack (no, it's not coming back), that bit of extra money usually means more features and functionality like ANC or a featherweight build rather than delivering over the top audio quality.
That's where Drop's (formerly Massdrop) partnership with THX differs. The Drop + THX Panda headphones lack some basic features you might expect from other models in its price range and instead focuses on being the best sounding pair of headphones you'll find. And the company gets it mostly right.
Drop + THX Panda Headphones: What I love
Drop, formerly Massdrop, is no stranger to audiophile gear. The company is well known for its partnerships with companies like Sennheiser to produce some very high-quality equipment at very competitive prices. These headphones are no exception.
The first thing you might notice is the resemblance to the Oppo PM series of headphones, which the Drop + THX Panda's are based on. They are similar in more ways than just the exterior look and legendary build quality, too. Inside you'll find planar magnetic ribbon drivers that deliver when it comes to the perfect sound. What puts them over the top, though, is the THX AAA linear amplifier.
The Pandas are the first headphones to use a THX AAA class amp, and I already hope other companies quickly follow suit. The amp is designed to limit harmonic and crossover distortion, as well as address intermodulation at all volume levels, and that's just what it sounds like it's doing; music through the Pandas will sound exactly like the original recording to most everyone.
Almost exactly, anyway. What I love the most about these headphones is that instead of keeping with a 100% reference monitor sound where there is no special tuning, the Pandas sound tweaked ever so slightly in a way that makes music sound better through a pair of headphones.
Bass is smooth and powerful without being overwhelming, while mids and highs sound sharp and crisp without being shrill or screechy. Chances are if you did buy a pair of reference headphones, you would adjust an equalizer precisely the same way — music can sound pure when it's flat, but pure doesn't always equal great.
The best thing of all is that these headphones sound amazing both wired and via Bluetooth, thanks to the adoption of aptX HD and LDAC. If you have high-quality source files, the right local music player, and a phone that supports LDAC (like the Pixel series or Galaxy S20) or aptX HD (like the LG V50 ThinQ or Razer Phone 2), you'll get wireless music that sounds as good as it would over a wire.
That's something I never thought I would say, but I sure am glad that I am able to say it. I also dig the long battery life I'm seeing, and the convenience of a USB-C charging port. But mostly, I'm in love with the sound these headphones offer over a Bluetooth connection.
Drop + THX Panda Headphones: What I don't love
If you were a fan of the now-defunct audio equipment team at Oppo and had a set of PM headphones, you know exactly what I'm going to say here: These are heavy.
Checking in at slightly over 350 grams, they're about 75-100 grams heavier than comparable models from Bose or Sony. That's because of just how much planar magnetic ribbon drivers weigh, and there isn't anything Drop could do except choose not to use the tech. I'm delighted Drop made the decision it did.
I'd be even happier if there were a slight design tweak that took all the weight off the headband, somehow. Give yourself a few hours wearing these, and you'll notice that you're wearing a substantial pair of headphones. Having said that, these don't clamp or feel tight across my ears, and they also fit a more petite head.
What most people will care about is the lack of ANC. When you pay this much for Bluetooth Headphones, you have been conditioned to expect Active Noise Cancellation and other features like a dedicated app or touch controls. The Pandas offer none of that.
Controls are done with a small joystick-like paddle on the right earcup and are simple to use: volume is up/down, track choice is forward/back, play/pause is a single click, and power is a click and hold. I really can't say that these need any sort of touch control or an app to do what comes naturally after a few minutes of use.
Noise cancellation is another matter. I don't care for ANC because I do not like the hiss it can inject. But I do like a bit better passive noise cancellation/separation that comes from a good seal around the earcup when I'm out and about, and the Pandas are a little lacking here. The fit is comfortable without being tight on my ears, and since they aren't tightly sealed, noise leaks in and out just a smidge.
In any case, if you aren't going to offer ANC, it's probably a good idea to provide a passive solution for everyone that travels. If that's you, you might be better served by the Bose 700 series (opens in new tab).
Drop + THX Panda Headphones: Should you buy them?
The planar ribbon drivers and the THX AAA amplifier paired up with the latest lossless codecs mean Bluetooth headphones can sound just as good as a pair that's wired (and almost as good as exceptional headphones played through audiophile equipment). It's amazing just what you can do with a phone today.
4 out of 5
You can't directly buy the Drop + THX Panda Headphones anywhere just yet, though the campaign at Indiegogo is still taking backers until March 30, 2020. We are looking at the release version here, so don't expect any surprises when they officially launch. When that happens, the expected retail price should be $399 at the Drop.com website.
When they do come up for sale, I plan on buying a pair and advise anyone who cares more about music quality than anything else to do the same. If you're looking for features or amenities and value them as much or more than audio quality, you'd be better served by headphones from Bose or Sony (opens in new tab).
Drop + THX Panda Headphones
Big on sound quality, but has some shortcomings
If you're looking for the best sounding Bluetooth headphones, you've found them. But if you want more features or functions, you might look elsewhere.
Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.
They finally addressed the last issue: The amps inside the headphones. Alright Jerry, because it's YOU, I'm gonna go for these!
It may be tough to save up due to the current situation, but I think it will be worth it. PS: I can't say I've experienced hiss with ANC, but the only ANC ones I use are HTC's. They sound better than most over ear headphones plugged into pro audio gear, so I never bother looking further for an ANC solution. It will be interesting if these sound better.
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