After gauging community feedback, Drop decided to tweak the tuning of the PM-3 driver to remove some of its perceived treble ‘darkness’, and to help increase its detail-retrieval abilities. Tuning-wise they were looking to strike a fine balance between detail + resolution and ensuring that the voicing is neither grating nor fatiguing. The PM-3’s voicing was further tweaked with the addition of a new pad structure, to increase frequency range extension via a better overall seal.
With driver and amplification technology sorted, Drop then needed to source A1 digital components and technology to help feed the Panda with the best-possible signal, and give it the digital talents required in a premium wireless product in 2020. To ensure that the Panda’s connectivity was as capable as possible and to ensure it remains viable long into the future, Qualcomm’s 5100 series of chipsets has been employed. Straight of the box, the Panda will feature adaptive Aptx Low-latency/HD, meaning a latency of only 40ms, which is good news for gamers and those planning to watch videos. Currently the highest fidelity audio codec available, Sony’s LDAC is the absolute benchmark when it comes to wireless performance. However, LDAC needed to be made compatible with the new Qualcomm chipset, meaning Drop needed to work with Sony to implement LDAC on the Panda and needed to write the libraries themselves.
Will explained that Drop’s goal with the Panda was to create a product whose wireless performance was indistinguishable from its wired performance, and so ensuring the best possible Bluetooth technology was essential. According to Drop’s claim that the Panda is the “World’s first headphone with matching FR +THD measurements in passive and active mode”, and it sounds like they believe they’ve achieved it. Our conversation got even more interesting when I got a sense of some of the features that might make their way into the potential upgrade-path for the Panda, including robust Digital Signal Processing (DSP) capability; the ability to apply loudness + EQ curves; and even (theoretically) using the Panda’s 2 x in-built microphones to compensate for outside noise with an active cancellation effect. Pretty cool – let’s watch this space, but for now let’s focus on what the Panda will give you for your $399 at launch.
Meet the Panda
So with all the community requests, ideas and innovation that has gone into the Panda, what exactly do we have on our hands? Some might think that having to tick so many boxes might result in a Frankenstein-esque creation, reminiscent of Homer Simpson’s Car. Or, have Drop managed to create a ‘Unicorn’ – a wireless closed-back headphone that’s usable, comfortable, portable, and also happens to sounds awesome?
On paper, it certainly seems like it might just be:
- Headphone type: Closed, planar magnetic
- Bluetooth wireless technology: 5.0
- Effective range: Line of sight, approximately 10 m (30 ft)
- Battery life: 30+ hours
- Impedance: 26 ohms
- Sensitivity: 100 dB @ 1kHz / 1mW
- Isolation: -40 dB
- THD: 94 dB SPL @ 300Hz < 0.1%
- THX-AAA-0™ Amplifier: -130 dB THD, 2.6 uV A-wt noise, and 10 mW power consumption
- Frequency response: 10–50,000 Hz
- Driver unit: 55mm, ribbon planar magnetic
- Microphones: Dual
- Weight: 13.2 oz (375 g)
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