With the number of amateur DJs increasing by the day, plenty of audio brands are now offering fashionable headphones with rotating earpieces for the one-eared listening position that's a prerequisite of the DJ stance.
Clearly targeted at the young hipster market, Panasonic's RP-DJS400 DJ headphones have been designed as a fashion statement and are available in a choice of three colourways - white with green accents, black with orange and orange with grey. The idea is that they look just as cool when they're hung around your neck as when you're wearing them. We're not entirely sure if that's what really counts as being cool these days, but we're happy to play along for the benefit of our review. And in fairness, the vivid combination of white and green on our review sample really does look pretty snappy.
On closer inspection, the glossy white plastic finish on the earcups looks a little cheap but we can't really complain too much as the headphones only cost £40.99. Both earcups can be swiveled around by 90 degrees so that they fold flat and can also be used for DJ-style, one-sided listening. This is made even easier by the fact that the earcups are pivoted so that they can be swung round to face outwards. As well as being a boon for all the amateur DJs, this is also a useful feature that enables you to share the headphones with a pal for a few minutes, say if you wanted to play them a new track.
The RP-DJS400 certainly aren't full-sized cans, but the slightly smaller earcups do make the headphones that bit more portable (they weigh just 135g). Their compact size also means they sit comforatably round the neck when you're not using them, unlike some bigger headphones which can be quite uncomfortable and restrictive when worn in that way.
However, this is also where our main gripe with the headphones comes in - as the earcups are a bit on the small size, it means that they sit on the ears, rather than resting around them. We found this caused our ears to get quite warm and they started to feel a bit squashed after a while, too. We actually had to take them off for a few seconds every 20 minutes or so to give our ears a breather.
The headband is reasonably sturdy although it does look a little cheap and the extendable ends look a little flimsy. There's no padding of any kind on the headband, so it seems that comfort was quite low down on the list when the headphones were being designed.
The cable measures 1.2m - you wouldn't want it any shorter, but it's just about enough to give you room to move, although the fact that the wires are attached to both earcups means that the wires meet in the middle in a Y shape, which can get in the way a little bit. We tend to prefer headphones where the cable is wired to just one side, but we suspect that not everyone has such strong feelings on the suject. Although the RP-DJS400 are pitched as DJ headphones, the inclusion of a 3.5mm jack on the cable and the lack of any adaptor for a larger AV input strongly hints towards the iPod earphone replacement market. If you do want to use the headphones with your decks you'll have to get yourself kitted out with a separate adaptor.
The earcups offer a good, solid sound - something that we can vouch for after accidentally forgetting to lower the volume before plugging them into our laptop. While not the best we've heard, the mid-range is reasonably clear and certainly good enough for everyone but the most fussy of audiophiles, particularly at this price point. Panasonic has obviously paid a fair bit of attention to getting the bass performance right, as it sounds great. In fact, it's so strong that we heard low bass loops on some tracks that we'd never even noticed before. Having said that, if you turn the volume up too high then the enhanced bass tends to overwhelm the mid-range and destroy the balance somewhat.
If you're after a pair of swish-looking headphones to team with your music player then the Panasonic RP-DJS400 offer plenty of good points at a decent price. The no-frills plastic finish is given a boost by the striking colours and while the audio performance isn't the best around, it's certainly decent enough for headphones in this price range. What's more, the bass is very impressive indeed and the headphones also have the added advantage of rotatable earcups. The only real downside is that we found the headphones to be a tad uncomfortable. But, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for and if it's extreme comfort you're after then you'll need to shell out a bit more cash.