Drop + THX Panda: First Impressions

INTRODUCTION

Not sure if the “box” I got was a retail box, so I won’t mark this down as a true “unboxing” post.

 

Oppo is probably most famous for their PM3 planar magnetic headphone, one of the first planars on the market that was specifically designed for portable use. It was pretty decent though personally I wasn’t that big of a fan.

And then in April of 2018, Oppo announced that they’ll be ending their line of headphones (also their Blu-ray players, but that’s not really relevant here). So while many mourned for the loss of Oppo in the headphone scene, I was part of the quiet few who shrugged and went on with their lives without a care in the world.

Imagine my surprise when the Panda was… well, dropped. A headphone built by Drop in collaboration with THX that’s very clearly inspired by the PM3 (using the same driver too!), with their own spins and twists on the formula that put Oppo on the headphone map. 

Now to be clear, I have some very personal love towards planar headphones, mostly revolving around their bass presentations. But I’m also insanely picky, with most of Audeze’s lineup doing nothing for me and only a select few Hifimans being my personal recommendations (sound wise, not build wise). The PM3 wasn’t really my thing back when it was popular, but let’s see if Drop can change my mind.

Product pages:
Indiegogo (launched)
Drop.com

MSRP: $400

Driver configuration: Planar magnetic

This Panda was provided by Drop.

NON-AUDIO OPINIONS

My unboxing posts are pretty much the only times I’ll ever talk about build quality, accessories and the like. I’m not really the person to ask about these things as I don’t really care about them that much.

Accessories:

  • Canvas hard case
  • USB-C charging cable
  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable

Connection: seems solid in my short listen with them on active Bluetooth mode, no random dropouts.

Build: some rough aesthetic flaws around the seams but nothing I want to comment too much on since this is an early production unit. Weight in on the slightly heftier side, but still manageable on my end.

Fit: headband does not extend as far as I’d like, especially for my head size. I can barely get it to fit on my head at maximum extension, but ideally it really should be able to extend further.

Isolation: pretty good, more-or-less expected out of a closed-back planar.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

  • Somewhat relaxed tuning (downward-sloping, kinda) with an emphasis on the lower midrange.
    • Depending on your treble sensitivity, the Panda can also sound V-shaped.
  • Bass response is edging on “bloat” to me. Already beginning to creep into the midrange to my ears.
    • I’m a sucker for planar bass myself, but the Panda’s bass isn’t quite clean enough for my tastes.
  • The upper mids sounds be recessed, yet… not? It’s hard to explain what exactly is going on; I don’t think there’s an outright absence of upper midrange in the Panda, but something about it makes me feel like it’s muffled.
  • Treble is pretty decent, carrying enough energy without sounding dark or dull.
    • It could definitely use some extra extension up top, though.
  • Very warm, very rich, very thick.
    • The Panda is a specialist, and while I absolutely love my smooth jazz tracks on them, it completely falls apart in live acoustic tracks with percussive instruments.
  • Bad imaging capabilities. Closed-in staging with not a lot of instrumental separation. Yet, kind of expected for a closed-back planar.

According to Drop, “Panda’s sound is the result of passive acoustic tuning, there’s no DSP in Panda. If there’s enough interest, we may be able to create an EQ app in the future. There’s DSP on the chipset, it’s just turned off, so with user-upgradable firmware, a lot is possible”.

So Drop, consider me one of the few who’d like some EQ-ability in the Panda. 

Experimental EQ profile:

Peak: 200Hz, -7dB, 0.8Q
Peak: 750Hz, -2.5dB, 2Q
Peak: 6000Hz, -1dB, 0.3Q
High shelf: 13000Hz, 8.5dB

Measurements

Passive and Active performance is practically identical, with the measured differences being within placement variation ranges.

Support me on Patreon to get access to tentative ranks! My usual thanks to all my current supporters and shoutouts to my big money boys:

“McMadface”
“Desertscrub”
Rahul
Chris
Denis
Nicholas
Alexander
Galactus

3 thoughts on “Drop + THX Panda: First Impressions”

  1. Crinacle is starting to write headphones reviews? OMG

    Just a curious note, do you mind sharing your preferred Hifiman planar headphone?

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