Design, build and comfort.
The pre-production Panda shipped to me was about “…90% complete” and reflective of the final model according to Drop. It was shipped in a low-key, minimalist cardboard display box that’s par for the course for most Drop shipments. I’m totally ok with this approach, seeing as I tend to either recycle or hide packaging in the cupboard the minute it’s open. Plus, if it means that Drop is able to put resources into product development over packaging, then I’m doubly ok with it.
Inside the packaging, the Pandas come housed securely in their zippered semi-hard clam-shell case which is both light-weight and reassuringly sturdy. Unzip and flip open the lid, and you’ll find the Pandas themselves sitting snugly inside with their cups folded 90-degrees flat, plus a USB-C charging cable and a non-microphonic (thank you!) 3.5mm AUX cable for wired playback are housed inside a small storage compartment inside the case. A very welcome touch is the fact that the Pandas can be stowed inside their case with the headband in a fully-extended position.
Lifting the Pandas out of the box, I was immediately struck with the sense that these are 375 grams’ worth of well-built, and well put-together headphones. Finished in a minimalist all-black scheme, the Pandas look premium, unassuming and potent. The only visible branding feature is a small ‘DROP’ logo inside one of the armbands.
Despite having wireless components as well as that THX amplification technology housed inside them, the cups housing the drivers are made from soft-touch plastic and are surprisingly compact – not much larger than noise-cancelling/commuter headphones from the likes of Bose, Sony and Sennheiser. The cups are also spring-loaded and return to the same position of articulation when not on your head – a feature implemented after listening to the Drop.com community.
The cups are connected to the headband via a cast aluminium yoke assembly with only a single point of contact. The mechanism feels smooth, and the aluminium is both solid and soft to the touch with its matte finish. As well as being only thinly padded, the headband extension isn’t the smoothest in this particular pre-production model, but Drop has communicated that headband is one element that will be upgraded by the time the launch Panda is ready to ship. Thankfully the sparseness of the headband padding doesn’t matter too much when it comes to comfort, as the fairly lightweight of the Pandas is mainly borne by the clamping of the earcups and pads, rather than the headband itself.
One other interesting feature Will pointed out is that the shape of the headband has been designed in such a way so that the Panda remains comfortable even when worn around the neck when not in use – another learning from the Drop community forums.
The earpads are made of soft, supple protein leather that are very soft to the touch, and also happen to isolate tremendously well – both for the user, and those nearby. Using the ‘click-test’, I’m unable to hear my fingers snap when playing music at a low to moderate volume – very impressive, and good to note for commuters. I’m not sure whether it’s quite the -40dB claimed in the spec-sheet, but it’s certainly impressive. On the subject of commuting, it’s possible to wear sunglasses without too much loss of seal or reduction in bass extension.
While the Pandas are certainly circum-aural (over-ear) headphones, there’s not a huge amount of space inside the earcups but my smallish ears manage just fine. Clamp-force is perfect in my books – just enough to ensure the Panda feels securely perched on your head without getting painful nor irritating.
Overall, the Pandas have managed to impress in the comfort and build stakes, and they’re only going to improve between here and the final product which is great news. What’s most interesting about the overall design is that Drop has managed to create a genuinely portable product that doesn’t feel like it’s compromised to make it portable. It’s a genuine day-to-day proposition for commuters and long-haul travellers alike, and it’s also an all-day proposition as well thanks to its comfort and thoughtful design touches.
The article continues on the fourth page. Click here or use the jumps below.