Jan 18, 2020
Summary (TL;DR) The Drop Pandas are, based on other competing products I've heard, the best wireless headphones on the market at the moment (or they will be when released). Mids and highs are fantastic (smooth, clear, and detailed), and bass is good but not as good as the higher frequencies - I attribute this to the size and type of transducer used (circular ribbon). Volume levels are more than adequate (I didn't have a SPL meter with me, but I would guess peak volume is in the 105-110dB range which is enough to cause hearing loss over long periods of listening) as long as you don't have volume limiting enabled on your phone or otherwise have the device volume turned down. These are IMO now the go-to headphone for office or travel use as long as you don't require ANC (in which case you are really not looking for an audiophile product), and as dedicated headphones, these would be the ones I would buy if I wanted a wireless, audiophile headphone. At $399, there is honestly nothing to complain about. Recommendations to Drop (this product)
  • Move the ribbon driver forward in the housing and perhaps angle it to improve imaging/soundstage (similar to Drop Elex)
  • Increase the diameter of the ribbon to get better low frequency response without EQ
  • Offer an angled earpad to further help with imaging/soundstage and provide more room around the back of the outer ear (the inner foam covers touched my outer ears, which might become uncomfortable with extended use)
  • Offer a velour/suede earpad option to control heat/moisture buildup

Recommendations to Drop (THX AAA) In my recent experience, any amplifier based on the THX AAA technology quickly becomes best in class regardless of price (lots of good measurements with Audio Precision equipment on a particular site I can think of bear this out.) The Drop THX AAA™ 789 and Benchmark AHB2 are great examples. I would love to see Drop produce even more products based on this technology including, but not limited to:
  • A TH-X00 or TR-X00-based wireless product with THX AAA and similar wireless
  • A THX AAA MM/MC phono preamplifier (this would be a *KILLER* endgame product with the resurgence of vinyl and could be sold for under $1000 and would best products well over the $3000 price point). Adjustable resistance and capacitance loading (really a must for MC) would increase the cost a little, but not much.
  • A THX AAA stereo amplifier (50-100 WPC)
  • A THX AAA multichannel power amplifier (50-100 WPC x 5-8 channels)
  • A DAC with THX AAA output stage
  • If THX has exclusive deals with Benchmark on power amp products, Hypex NCore-based amps would be a good alternative

Reference Equipment (compared to Drop Panda) I've listened to quite a few headphones and DAC/Amps over the years, and currently own/use the following:
  • Headphones
  • Massdrop Fostex TH-X00 Mahogany
  • Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX
  • Focal Elear
  • Koss ESP-950
  • Beyerdynamic DT 990 Premium (250 ohm)
  • Shure SE535
  • Grado SR60
  • Apple EarPods with Lightning Connector (models that came with iPhone XR)
  • DAC/Amps
  • SMSL SU-8 Version 2 DAC
  • Topping DX3 Pro (non LDAC version)
  • Massdrop + THX AAA™ 789 Linear Amplifier
  • Chord Mojo
  • Koss E/90 Electrostatic Energizer
  • Stax SRM-1/MK-2 Electrostatic Amplifier

Observations I have never owned any wireless headphones because I always found the sound quality unacceptably inferior and the battery life too short. I have experimented with FiiO MMCX cables compatible with the Shure SE535 and found both the sound quality and battery life to be unacceptable. Right from the start, the Drop Pandas produced sound that was clearly what I would consider Audiophile, and many levels above the sound quality of any other wireless headphone I've heard to date. I listened to the Pandas with:
  • Tidal MQA sources from the provided iPads and Macbook pros
  • 256k AAC Sources from my iPhone
  • Tidal sources amplified through the provided Chord Mojo DAC/AMPs
  • Tidal sources amplified through the provided by the provided Grace SDAC+THX AAA™ 789
The best sound was produced by the embedded DAC+THX AAA amp over bluetooth to the Drop Panda. When using outboard amplification, the sound was sometimes more detailed/bare (especially with the SDAC+THX AAA combo). I get the impression, though I did not get a chance to verify with the Drop staff on hand, that the Drop Pandas have some internal EQ to bring up the bass a little and normalize the response curve of the ribbon driver. I also think that the SDAC, though very good, may not be able to keep up with the high performance of the THX AAA 789. Though I have a Chord Mojo myself, I think its performance has been eclipsed by many better+cheaper DAC/Amps, including the excellent Topping DX3 Pro available from Drop. I would have recommended the DX3 Pro over the Mojo as I think it would have produced better results based on better measured performance. Comparison to very good wired headphones with very good amplification The only places I can fault the Drop Pandas in bass quality and extension (probably below 120Hz) and absolute resolution. In bass response, the ribbon driver may not have enough surface area to provide low distortion bass down to the lowest registers. In this area, the bass response is not as good as that of the excellent Massdrop Fostex TH-X00 or the Elear. In absolute resolution, the DAC+AMP+Circular ribbon loses out to headphones like the Elear (and Elex) and the Koss ESP-950 (and Drop Koss ESP/95x) when driven with a quality DAC (like the SU-8, Topping D70, or DX3 Pro) and a great amplifier (like the THX AAA 789). These are really nit-picks, though, because at $399, the Drop Pandas are much, much more affordable than any of the configurations mentioned above.
Jan 18, 2020
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