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Although I am generally quite happy to listen to music from my MP3 player via simple in-ear bud-style phones, when it comes to listening at home for an extended period I find them rather uncomfortable, and in any case the lead on mine is nowhere near long enough for comfortably plugging into a hi-fi system, computer sound card or the like. Since I also find full-scale closed-back headphones rather heavy and claustrophobic after a while, the obvious answer is a pair with an open-back design.
These straightforward open-back headphones from Panasonic tick nearly all the boxes for me. Although they are not of the very highest quality, and would probably be ignored by the real hi-fi buffs amongst us in favour of something posh and expensive by the likes of Sennheiser, for the uses to which they are likely to be put, they are surely perfectly adequate. I mostly use them for listening to music on my PC, which (unlike many these days) has a dedicated sound card, and I wouldn't really like to do that with ultra-cheapo headphones. They also seem fine for listening to CDs on the middle-of-the-road hi-fi.
The 030s, as I'll call them for the sake of convenience, are not by any means a new design. Actually, I'm on my second pair now, and the first one was bought well before I got my current PC about three years ago. I'd probably still be using the first pair had I not sat on, and thereby broken, them! On that score, I do have to admit that these headphones are not the most sturdily constructed you will ever come across. They're lovely and light, and comfy to wear for a couple of hours at a stretch, although the plastic headband flexes an awful lot, and you wouldn't want to put too much strain on it.
The padding on the earpieces is quite well thought out: not so thick that you think you've got cotton wool in your ears, but not so thin that you get jabbed by the plastic within. Another piece of pleasing design is in the way that each side piece is hinged, allowing you to fold up the whole unit into a pretty small space for storage; this also helps in terms of avoiding breakages. The overall looks are fairly average, though: mostly dark grey, with the outsides of each earpiece being silver and bearing fairly discreet Panasonic logos. These things certainly won't stand out, which given their likely use is probably a pro rather than a con.
It's excellent to be able to say that sound quality is very pleasing indeed. I'm sure that those with more cultured ears than me will be able to detect flaws in these headphones' sound quality, but personally I'm delighted with them. I'm no expert in this field, so have no real knowledge of what tracks I "should" use to test sound quality, but to give an idea, I listened to The Beatles' "A Day In The Life", which goes all over the place, and bass and treble both seemed very clear with no distortion. I also had a listen to Mozart's Symphony No. 40, and that was very smooth and pleasing too, with a nice "wide" sound. I don't do much gaming these days, but I had a quick spin with Far Cry, and I have no complaints about the 030s' sound there either.
As of the time of writing, these headphones were available from an Amazon seller for just over £15, allowing for postage costs, and I think that's a very good price indeed. If I happen to sit on this pair too (which I shall try not to!) I'd be very tempted simply to replace them with more of the same. If I had one complaint, it would be that the 1.3 metre lead is a little too short, and for some purposes you may need to purchase an extension cable. That aside, I suspect it would be pretty hard to do significantly better the 030s without adding substantially to the price. Recommended.
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