The Panasonic RP-HC55 earphones get the best reviewer response for active noise-canceling earphones. These earphones both physically block sound waves and generate white noise inside the ear, which blots out other unwanted ambient sounds. User comments indicate that the HC55s have a relatively comfortable fit. However, some reviewers note that the heaviness of the noise-canceling unit makes it necessary to clip it to a shirt to avoid pulling out the earpieces.
The noise-cancellation unit is powered by one AAA battery with good battery life, but the earphones won't work without it like the RP-HC55's competitors, the AKG K390 NC (*Est. $200) and Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 (*Est. $80) . Noise cancellation is effective for earphones at this price. However, most reviewers say they've heard better sound quality in other in-canal earphones, including value choices such as the Klipsch Image S4 (*Est. $70) . Though the Image S4s don't have active noise reduction, their design is fairly effective in passively blocking outside sounds.
Australia's Choice magazine, New Zealand's Consumer magazine and Britain's Which? magazine all conduct comparative tests in which the Panasonic RP-HC55 earphones score highly. What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, a British audio-enthusiast publication, is less impressed. User feedback at Amazon.com is plentiful and useful.
1. Which? magazine
This British consumer magazine gives the Panasonic RP-HC55 model a Best Buy award for good sound quality and good noise cancellation at a great price. Editors warn, however, that it needs to be clipped to a shirt to avoid yanking out the earpieces.
Review: Headphones, Editors of Which? magazine
2. Choice magazine
This Australian publication, similar to ConsumerReports.org, rigorously tests seven noise-canceling earphones. Only the Panasonic RP-HC55 cancels noise to a significant degree, beating out models from Sony, Philips, Koss, Digitech and Audio-Technica. Testers also say the HC55's sound quality is superior to the other brands.
Review: Test: Noise Cancelling Earphones, Editors of Choice magazine, Feb. 7, 2009
3. Consumer magazine
This New Zealand consumer-advice publication tests five noise-canceling earphones under controlled conditions. Among noise canceling earphones sold in the U.S., the Panasonic RP-HC55 gets the highest marks for sound quality.
Review: Noise Cancelling Headphones, Editors of Consumer magazine, March 18, 2009
4. What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision
This British site evaluates a wide range of headphones and earphones. The reviewer isn't impressed with the sound quality of the Panasonic RP-HC55, describing it as "compressed and tired." Noise cancellation, coupled with a good seal, makes the RP-HC55 effective in noisy environments, however.
Review: Panasonic RP-HC55, Editors of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision magazine
The Panasonic RP-HC55 receives more than 250 user reviews on Amazon.com. Despite a lackluster overall rating of 3.5 stars, most reports are positive. However, a significant number of owners say that they were hoping for even better noise-canceling capabilities. Users confirm that fit and price are among the earphones' advantages, while the bulky noise-canceling unit and sound quality are among its drawbacks.
Review: Panasonic RP-HC55-S Noise-Cancelling Earbud Headphones (Silver), Contributors to Amazon.com