Freelance contributor, TechHiveFeb 25, 2021 3:00 am PST
At a Glance
Cleanest sub-bass we’ve ever heard
Excellent overall sound
aptX, aptX HD, and LDAP codec support
Could use a bit more headband padding
The sub-bass on the Drop + THX Panda is stunningly clear and flat. These headphones are a tad heavy and we encountered the occasional Bluetooth dropout beyond 10 feet of the source, but they’re sonically excellent.
The Drop + THX Panda headphones are top-tier in overall sound, but distinguish themselves from the pack with absolutely the cleanest sub-bass reproduction I’ve heard. I’m talking about the frequencies below 60Hz that emanate from the 18-inch woofer in the trunk, the rumble of earthquakes in a movie theater, and so on).
They’re pricey at $399, and I didn’t find them to be the most comfortable to wear with a short haircut, but that sub-bass. Wow.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best headphones, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.
Note that there have been reports of the loss of Bluetooth connectivity. Check out Drop’s forums for more info.
Design and features
The basic black-on-black Drop + THX Panda feature 55mm planar ribbon drivers. This is my first dance with this technology, and it works quite well. Fellow reviewer Theo Nicolakis was equally impressed when he reviewed Oppo’s planar ribbon implementation in the since-discontinued Oppo PM-2 (which were even pricier at $699).
I have no way of checking the 50kHz top-end frequency response Drop claims, as I have no equipment to measure anything above 24kHz. As the best young ears top out at around 21kHz at best, I wouldn’t worry about these types of claims. I can and did check the 50Hz spec, and you can read more in the performance section below, though I gave most of the story away up front.
Drop also touts the THX AAA amplifier onboard, which promises uber fidelity and a super low noise floor. Claims and numbers aside, it sounds very good. If I have any issue with the Drop + THX Panda, it’s the comfort factor. They’re a tad hefty at 13.2 ounces, and the thin padding on the headband wore on me and my crew cut over time. My thick-haired roommate, of course, wondered what I was on about. I also found the fit of the swiveling cups over the ears quite snug, though the padding there is far more abundant and effective. My ears never grounded out against the speaker grills, a phenomenon that’s the kiss of death when it comes to long mixing or listening sessions.
The Drop + THX Panda use a tiny multi-function joystick/button for all operations, including on/off, next track/previous track, answer/hang up, and so on. I like having one tactilely obvious control for everything, it’s far better than searching for, and trying to remember, which button is which.
There are dual microphones for voice quality during phone calls. And while there’s no active noise cancellation, the materials and tight fit of the Drop + THX Panda go a long way towards lowering the ambient noise level. These cans use Bluetooth 5.0 and support aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC for higher-fidelity listening. They paired quickly and reliably with several phones, TVs, and PCs.
Drop includes a carrying case, a USB-C cable for charging the headphones and a 4.5-foot, 3.5mm auxiliary cable for wired analog listening. The company also sells a $49 boom mic that plugs into the 3.5mm jack, which might be of interest to gamers or folks working from home. One was thoughtfully provided with my review unit and I found that it works quite well.
I’ll give another shoutout for the indicator lamp: I’ve been startled during movies by flashing indicator lights that are simply too large and bright. Someone at Drop must have had the same experience and made this one suitably tiny and dim. It’s a nice touch.
If you want sub-bass (60Hz/C2 or lower), the Drop + THX Panda delivers it big time—better than any other headphones I’ve ever heard. Indeed, it was startlingly effective when I fired them up with Young Jeezy’s “Put On” and heard that super low-end kick in without distorting the rest of the bass register. I immediately thought back to when the movie Earthquake introduced subwoofers to movie theaters. Yes, a dated reference. I certainly appreciated it when viewing other movies, as well.
Other aspects of the Drop + THX Panda’s sound include a nicely balanced high-end, and mid-range definition that’s not overbearing or tiring to the ears. The normal low-end is punchy enough, but as I said, it’s the sub-bass that really sets these headphones apart. I find it far more usable and relevant than Sony’s Extra Bass and other subwoofer-emulation technologies that all sound a bit floppy in comparison. I figure it’s got to have something to do with the planar drivers, though that THX amp might be a contributing factor, too.
As I mentioned, the Drop + THX Panda fit very snugly, and again, Drop could have doubled up on the headband padding and I wouldn’t have complained. Still, as is my habit, I’m wearing them as I write, and they’re not killing me. Nor did they during a short 10-foot binge of the sci-fi/Western mashup Firefly.
Alas, it was during that binge that I started experiencing occasional Bluetooth dropouts. The dropouts were not frequent, and making sure the right cup was on the right ear minimized the phenomenon, but most Bluetooth headphones work fine for me at the same moderate distance.
Update 03/01/2021: A new pair of +THX Panda’s solve the dropout issue, which may have been also influenced by a very low charge state on the original pair.
The sub-bass just might be worth it
The Drop + THX Panda sound excellent overall, but you can get headphones that are excellent in the normal registers for a lot less than $400. What you can’t get for less in consumer headphones—at any price, as far as I know—is this kind of clean, smooth, natural-sounding sub-bass.
If you’re producing cinema, I’d love to hear about your experience mixing the low-end with these puppies on your head.
Jon Jacobi is a musician, former x86/6800 programmer, and long-time computer enthusiast. He writes reviews on TVs, SSDs, dash cams, remote access software, Bluetooth speakers, and sundry other consumer-tech hardware and software.