Subscribe to Radio Times
Try 10 issues for £10!
Look past the unlovely design, and you’ll find a reliable and long-lasting set of affordable earbuds.
They're a bit of an ugly duckling, but behind the lacklustre design of the RZ-S300W is a set of earbuds marked by a solid sound quality and impressive 30-hour lifespan. Since dropping the RRP, Panasonic have established these as a big-hitter among the budget-friendly earbuds crowd.
An interesting turn of events took place while we were reviewing these earbuds from Japanese brand Panasonic. When we started testing the RZ-S300W, they had an advertised RRP of £109.99. And being honest, we weren't sure if they justified that asking price. But since we put the RZ-S300W to the test, they've since dropped on the Panasonic website to £69.99.
That's a major price drop and one that completely changes what the Panasonic RZ-S300W are as a proposition. What were formerly mid-range true wireless earbuds are now a decidedly budget-friendly option: an increasingly busy end of the price spectrum, as companies like Skullcandy and up-and-coming brand EarFun, start to target what's clearly a lucrative end of the market.
We’ll never complain about a reduction of this magnitude – and in fairness to Panasonic, it makes the RZ-S300W a far more appealing purchase. These are earbuds with undeniable strengths but a few flaws, too.
Read on to find out more about what we made of the RZ-S300W. And if you want to look at a range of excellent budget options, be sure to read our pick of the best budget wireless earbuds.
The Panasonic RZ-S300W are a pair of reliable if imperfect earbuds. We loved the sound quality and the EQ control offered in the app; we didn’t love the cheap-looking design of the case or the aesthetic of the earbuds themselves. But they’re redeemed by their new double-digits price point and a sensor-based UI that’s far smoother than that of its competitors.
These are a set of earbuds that are best for audiophiles who want to keep their spending out of the Airpods/Galaxy Buds zone of the price range.
The RZ-S300W are Panasonic’s cheaper set of earbuds. To a certain extent, they’re characterised by what they don’t have, which is the noise-cancelling tech offered in the Panasonic RZ-S500. But that, of course, explains the £30 price difference.
The Panasonic RZ-S300W offers the following features:
The Panasonic RZ-S300W have a newly updated RRP of £69.99. That’s not a price we’re seeing reflected across every retailer – some are asking for £99.99 – but we doubt those prices will stay that high for long.
In terms of sound quality and sound control, they most certainly are. But we also have to say that they look a little cheap with it, with rival sets like the EarFuns Free Pro looking more upmarket. But hey, looks aren’t everything, are they?
Here’s where we were most disappointed by the RZ-S300W: as we say, they’re not the prettiest earbuds out there. And more to the point, they’re not the prettiest among those of their prices or even those that are cheaper still.
The sample we tested are billed as white, but in reality, they’re a kind of pale grey. The earbuds themselves are characterised by metallic ribbed edges that give them the look of a medical instrument. The green version, too, is kind of like the colour of mint ice cream: if that’s something you want stuck in your ears, well – we won’t judge.
In the RZ-S300W’s defence, they’re also highly compact, with a height and width of 17mm and a depth of 28mm, weighing just 4g apiece. The matt plastic case is similarly small – but it also feels a little on the cheap side.
It’s in sheer function that the RZ-S300W really come into their own. We were hugely impressed by the sound quality offered by a pair of earbuds in the sub-£100 price category. Bass-heavy tracks like Moderat’s ‘A New Error’ sounded every bit as rich and substantial as they deserve, while the subtle layers of ‘33 God’ by Bon Iver came through with a clarity that we’re used to associating with far pricier earbuds.
The RZ-S300W also offers an Ambient Sound feature that relays the content of your surroundings over whatever you’re listening to. This is a feature you’ll typically find in earbuds with ANC, so we were happy to see it here. But, while it did work on loud, clear speech from those within the vicinity, we wouldn’t suggest you rely on it for, say, eavesdropping (just a suggestion) – our feeling is that after a few more years of R&D, features like this will really start to amount to something.
At their original RRP of £109.99, we were ready to bemoan the lack of noise-cancelling tech in the RZ-S300W. But since that price drop, we’re feeling more forgiving – especially when weighed up against the other audio-based strengths of these earbuds.
Now, on to the RZ-S300W’s UI. Like many earbuds on the market, Panasonic has dispensed with any push buttons or toggles in favour of sensors that operate via a series of quick and long taps. If you’ve ready our Skullcandy Indy ANC review and EarFun Free Pro review, you’ll know that we at RadioTimes.com find these Morse Code-like series of commands complex at best and near-impossible at worst.
But Panasonic has over-performed against those brands: whilst you’ll certainly have to memorise the assorted commands, we didn’t run into nearly so many hiccups as we’ve done in the past.
Curiously, Panasonic says nothing of its Audio Connect app in the RZ-S300W’s instructions – which is a shame since this will open you up to controlling the earbuds via your smartphone. We were pleased to discover that not only will it tell you the battery level of each earbud and let you switch the Ambient Sound mode on and off, but there’s a whole EQ panel for you to tweak your sound’s lows, mids and highs: something that audiophiles will no doubt appreciate.
In total, you’ll get reported 30 hours of playback with the RZ-S300W – that’s 7.5 hours from the earbuds alone and another 22.5 hours from their cases. Those stats did indeed match our experience of using the earbuds over a few days. Panasonic has designed the RZ-S300W so that audio data is sent to each earbud independently, which consumes a lot less power than in earbuds, where this data is transmitted in a relay-type fashion.
A lifespan of over a day is a pretty impressive stat for a set of earbuds of this price – by comparison, the Skullcandy Indy ANC, which have an RRP that’s £30 higher, will only last for 19 hours.
The sample we received came with a full battery, and thanks to there being no pairing issues with our iPhone, we had these earbuds playing music within the space of a minute.
If only Panasonic would try a bit harder to present these earbuds with a little bit more pizzazz: they come in some rather cheap packaging, the earbuds and case each nestled separately in a foam tray behind a layer of transparent plastic. We don’t expect the luxe-level ceremony of, say, the Airpods Pro or Powerbeats Pro – but come on, Panasonic: hype your products a bit more!
Think carefully about what’s important to you. If you value your sound and having control over the mids, highs and lows via the app, these are a real bargain. But if you want something a little more fun and funky in your ears, we would point you in the direction of the similarly priced EarFun Free Pro.
Some categories (sound quality and features) are weighted more heavily.
Features (average): 3.5/5
Sound quality: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5
Overall rating: 3.5/5
Looking for home audio too? Don’t miss our best smart speaker list.