Judgement: Good set of headphones for not too much money.
My use of headphones is mostly while traveling and I am not too happy to spend too much money on a set of headphones. I prefer to spare the better models of Sony a rough life. The price of this Panasonic HTX90 is still doable, and when sitting on top of them and they break down, the loss is manageable.
That is why the last decennium I lived with the cheaper Panasonic headsets of around 25 Euro with on-ear drivers. They offer a lively sound and the instruments get separated quite well, which I can enjoy a lot and also experience in my Denon amplifier with nice Elac speakers.
This time I wanted to start using active noise-cancelling.
What struck me the most is with drivers that are over-ear the passive noise-cancelling is already remarkably well. When I am sitting in the train and people next to me are talking loud, I don’t really need active NC.
I also notice that with the tightness of over-ear drivers, the audio quality is so much better than with on-ear drivers. In that context I experience the quality of Bluetooth already good enough for my use.
With both of these points I could have gone for the older model, the HTX80. The HTX90 has as extra features the active NC and the possibility to use a cable instead of only bluetooth.
The device has a nice way of using it. The Bluetooth button is on the front. Pairing my phone was easy, a Sony Xperia XA2 with Sailfish OS. An Apple iPhone SE (original SE) was easy to pair as well.
When connecting the cable it switches over to cable immediately and Bluetooth gets turned off.
The active NC can be enabled with a hardware switch at the back. It can be used when using a cable and when using Bluetooth, and also when no music is playing. That last point turned out to be pleasant, I don’t always have a need for music, but cancelling noise will still be a good usecase.
Biggest drawback of the headphones is that when active NC is enabled, the sound quality gets so much worse. In case Panasonic will release an update for the HTX90, this drawback is where the biggest improvement would be.
Personally I notice that passive NC is often good enough already.
There is also the option to turn up the bass. Panasonic doesn’t call this bass-boost nor loudness, but the effect is similar.
One thing that is slightly disappointing is that the bass doesn’t reach very low. With this price I would not want to complain about that any further.
In a review of the HTX80 I read that the mid-tones can sometimes be a bit sharp and irritating. With this HTX90 I don’t notice anything like that.
For the rest there are some buttons for higher/lower volume and next/previous song. I find this kind of small buttons an excercise in searching for the fingers and it’s not for me. I can imagine other people might appreciate these buttons.
I don’t often see headphones by Panasonic being reviewed and I think they are being under-valued, not just in this price-range, but also in the cheaper price-range around 25 Euro.
- Cable and bluetooth are both possible
- Lively sound and good separation of instruments
- Price/quality is fine
- Nice retro design
- Active NC decreases sound quality too much
Update april 2021:
I am still quite happy with this set of headphones. From the earlier text you can easily digest that I am already quite happy with the passive noise-cancelling that the big drivers give.
About the deep bass that I miss, I don’t experience that much now, especially when using a good quality DAC. With Bluetooth the internal DAC will be used and the bass does get distorted somewhat. At home I prefer using a cable, on the road the ease of use of Bluetooth is quite nice.