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Panasonic RP-HT16 Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 89 75.4%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 20 16.9%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 3 2.5%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 6 5.1%

  • Total voters
    118

amirm

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This is a review, listening test, EQ and detailed measurements of the Panasonic RP-HT16. It is on kind loan from a member and goes for US $8 to $10 on auction sites.

Panasonic RP-HT16 cheap headphone review.jpg

I am told this is the headphone that was bundled with likes of discman in the olden days when those products were popular. The RP-HT16 naturally weighs very little and was very comfortable to wear during my testing.

Fitment of the on-ear headphones on a measurement fixture is tricky as there is no clear guidelines for where it should land on the artificial ear. Lack of a sealed enclosure means bass response is not going to be there (same is true for listening). So accept the following measurements as grossly accurate but not in the micro detail.

If you are new to my headphone measurements, please watch this video first.

Panasonic RP-HT16 Headphone Measurements
As usual, let's start with our headphone frequency response measurement:
Panasonic RP-HT16 cheap headphone frequency response measurement.png


Wow, it is hard to miss that massive peak at 2.6 kHz. It stands out like the proverbial sore thumb. You will notice its impact in just about every measurement you are about to see. Outside of that we lack bass as noted and treble energy between 4 kHz and 10 kHz. EQ will therefore be mandatory to pull this headphone out of the gutter:
Panasonic RP-HT16 cheap headphone relative frequency response measurement.png


Clearly this headphone is not meant to play loud:

Panasonic RP-HT16 cheap headphone Relative THD Distortion measurement.png


Even at 94 dBSPL, we have distortion rising to 1% between 1.5 and 3 kHz. Fortunately we will be using EQ to pull some of that region down so that should help.

You can see the correlation of distortion and frequency response quite well in absolute distortion measurements:
Panasonic RP-HT16 cheap headphone THD Distortion measurement.png

Whoever says distortion measurements are not instructive in testing headphones needs to take a look at the RP-HT16.

Our friendly resonance also shows up in group delay:
Panasonic RP-HT16 cheap headphone Group Delay measurement.png


And even in impedance graph:
Panasonic RP-HT16 cheap headphone Impedance measurement.png


The RP-16 was also surprisingly insensitive for this class of headphone:
Best cheap headphone review 2023.png


Still, you should be able to get decent volume out of typical portable device.

Panasonic RP-HT16 Listening Tests and Equalization
I usually stop listening to my everyday music and go to my reference test tracks for testing headphones/speakers. But here, I was in the middle of a nice album and thought I just disconnect my Dan Clark Stealth headphones and switch to Panasonic RP-HT16. I forget the track/album but I will never forget that I heard the worst sound out of any headphone I have tested! Not only was the tonality wrong but there was this streaky/scratchy lower treble that completely ruined any enjoyment to be had out of that track. The measurement foretold a bad response but hearing it was a completely different matter. So out came the EQ tool:

Panasonic RP-HT16 cheap headphone EQ equalization parametric filter.png

The low hanging fruit was that resonance so I installed filter Band 2. The difference was incredible! Gone was the screechy distortion and very odd tonality. You could stop there and congratulate yourself for a job well done. But the the sound was now dull and not exciting. I attempted to pull up the bass and it basically did nothing to help there but add some distortion at higher levels. So changed the shelving filter for band 1 to a PEQ and just rose it enough until I got some warmth and then stopped.

There was a bit of boominess that filter 5 took care of. The sound was made more open using 6.5 kHz filter with 1 kHz band 4 adding a bit of salt to our mix.

Once there, the headphone was transformed with nigh and day difference. You could almost call it high-fi!

FYI the resonance needs content to hit it. In the middle of testing someone sent me a youtube clip to listen to (which doesn't go through my EQ set). That did not hit on the resonance and the sound even without EQ was fine. This is why it is critical to listen to the right material to test speakers/headphones.

And oh, good luck knowing about that resonance at 2.6 kHz by just listening. No way you would know the problem and of course, how to fix it with EQ. In my book, listening to speakers/headphones without benefit of measurements is just wrong.

Conclusions
I can see how the RP-HT16 would need to cost $2 to $3 to make leaving a budget of a few pennies for each driver. Still, I wish a bit of work had gone into fixing that nasty resonance. That alone would have made a dramatic improvement in the clarity and tonality of this headphone. Fortunately we have EQ tools and pulling down a resonance not only fixes the frequency response, but also drastically reduces distortion. Result is more clarity and better tonality. Compliance with our target required a few more filters. Once there, you could sit back and enjoy these dirt cheap headphones comfortably.

Not that you would want to rush and buy these but sticking to protocol, I can't recommend the Panasonic RP-HT16.

---------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

If you have audio gear you want me to review, please read this post: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/we-measure-audio-equipment-for-free.1995/

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

USER

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Amir, thanks for going above and beyond for this review. I was expecting a bare bones one when I sent this in. These were purely a nostalgia purchase (along with the matching discman!) and I hope it brings a smile and good memories to members. There's a whole lot of us who listened to these kinds of headphones as kids and teenagers.

I'll have to try out the EQ to hear the difference for myself!!

Boy do kids have it good today!
 

pianolover

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I think the target markets were regions with low gdp. At least consumers could experience some private listening or use them in language learning school labs.
 

nawfal07

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How many reviewers out there will review a headphone costing less than $10? This is really a unique place to hang out, not just for audio enthusiasts or scientists, but for everyone of us. Thanks again Amir, as always.
 

Maiky76

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Here are some thoughts about the EQ.

Notes about the EQ design:
  • The average L/R is used to calculate the score.
  • The resolution is 12 points per octave interpolated from the raw data (provided by @amirm)
  • A Genetic Algorithm is used to optimize the EQ.
  • The EQ Score is designed to MAXIMIZE the Score WHILE fitting the Harman target curve (and other constrains) with a fixed complexity.
    This will avoid weird results if one only optimizes for the Score.
    It will probably flatten the Error regression doing so, the tonal balance should be therefore more neutral.
  • The EQs are starting point and may require tuning (certainly at LF and maybe at HF).
  • The range around and above 10kHz is usually not EQed unless smooth enough to do so.
  • I am using PEQ (PK) as from my experience the definition is more consistent across different DSP/platform implementations than shelves.
  • With some HP/amp combo, the boosts and preamp gain (loss of Dynamic range) need to be carefully considered to avoid issues with, amongst other things, too low a Max SPL or damaging your device. You have beed warned.
  • Not all units of the same product are made equal. The EQ is based on the measurements of a single unit. YMMV with regards to the very unit you are trying this EQ on.
  • I sometimes use variations of the Harman curve for some reasons. See rational here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...pro-review-headphone.28244/page-5#post-989169
  • https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...pro-review-headphone.28244/page-6#post-992119
  • NOTE: the score then calculated is not comparable to the scores derived from the default Harman target curve if not otherwise noted.
I have generated one EQ, the APO config file is attached.

Score no EQ: 31.5
Score Amirm: 51.3
Score with EQ: 83.1

Code:
Panasonic RP-HT16 APO Score Full EQ Flat@HF 96000Hz
July252023-134059

Preamp: -7 dB

Filter 1: ON PK Fc 38.82 Hz Gain 7.71 dB Q 0.31
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 157.15 Hz Gain -9.29 dB Q 0.88
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 2119.54 Hz Gain 1.82 dB Q 0.83
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 2607.31 Hz Gain -12.73 dB Q 6.08
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 4019.88 Hz Gain -5.28 dB Q 6.97
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 5632.17 Hz Gain 5.91 dB Q 1.39
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 8158.76 Hz Gain 4.10 dB Q 2.46

Panasonic RP-HT16 APO Score Full EQ Flat@HF 96000Hz.png
 

Attachments

  • Panasonic RP-HT16 APO Score Full EQ Flat@HF 96000Hz.txt
    437 bytes · Views: 35

DanielT

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This test turned out to be a little exciting EQ adventure. Thanks for that Amir.

When EQ is done and considering: "The RP-HT16 naturally weighs very little and was very comfortable to wear during my testing." plus the price. Well then, they are still interesting.:)
 

tktran303

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WTH?

Someone must’ve played a prank on you. Why review this? Cheap bundled throwaway headphones.

HeadRoom used to have a list of recommended cheap headphones.
Or at least some send Amir those ubiquitous white earphones that bundled with iPhone (or has that been reviewed already)


If we are trying to appreciate modernity; why not go down memory lane and see how portable music used to sound in 1890:
0D8F891B-A323-4D09-B8A3-F84A50243CC8.png



 
Last edited:

Bleib

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FANTASTIC...amounts of reviews lately!
 

DSJR

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Just what my worn out ears need in fact, but it's a shame the response dips out at 5kHz where I also need a substantial lift without hearing aids! :mad:

I have a pair of similarly cheap JVC equivalents I bought from Amazon UK and they're smooth, maybe dull to my ears but never boomy... I'd never regard them as 'high fidelity' though.
 

solderdude

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THD looks pretty good

When just looking at 1kHz actually ... sure... SINAD would show 42 at 114dB SPL, 54 at 104dB and around SINAD 65 at 94dB SPL :)
That's a lot better than some tube amps !
 

MaxwellsEq

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TonyJZX

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going by the packaging these are older than old... they look like late 80s' early 90's? no?

they would sound like a slew of airline grade freebies ie. acceptable in a pinch but... not really

and if you lost them who cares
 

AdamG247

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I gave it a Poor Score before even reading the review. Then things got worse…..:oops:
 

AndreaT

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The horror, the horror! It would be interesting to review the Discman player that came with them. Once I purchased a Panasonic portable disc player in 1997: it was one of the worst sounding sources ever, even with better HP and when used in my stereo home system.
 
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