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They tempt you in the checkout line with their bold colors and bubble packaging, and they make you wonder if you need an extra pair — just in case. Inexpensive earbuds are a dime a dozen, but the Panasonic RP-TCM125 Ergofit earbuds stand out from the rest. Masquerading in a simple design and bold colors to match much of their competition, the Panasonic Ergofit buds have good sound with strong bass that make them the $10 headphones to beat.
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The Panasonic RP-TCM125 Ergofit earbuds are the type of headphones you pick up in an airport. You've lost your other buds somewhere between home and the terminal, you've got a flight to catch and you're in a frenzy — because who wants to listen to the roar of circulating air for 8 hours?
Bundled in an oval plastic package, the Panasonic Ergofit earbuds' color shines through immediately. My review unit featured a friendly, Barney-purple color with squishy silicone buds attached to conelike backs. A white Panasonic logo adorns the piece of plastic that attaches the buds to the long, thin cord. If you're not into the purple look, you can pick them up in blue, pink, black or white.
There's a tiny inline remote that has a single button on it for controlling the mic, and playing and pausing music. The only thing missing from the remote is a volume rocker. I was happy to see an inline remote at all, since the $39 Sennheiser CX 685 Adidas Sports earbuds don't have one. However, the $20 Brainwavz Delta earbuds have a full inline remote with a multifunction button and a volume rocker.
Comfort and Fit
The Ergofit earbuds come with three sizes of ear inserts. While the medium-size inserts (which come installed on the buds) nearly fell out of my ears, the largest size felt snug in my ear canal and never fell out during my walking commutes to and from work, or during workouts.
They also blocked out most outside noise of people chatting and cars passing on the street. Their fit was similar to that of the Brainwavz Delta, but I appreciated that the Deltas came with a singular pair of foam inserts in addition to silicone ones.
The Panasonic RP-TCM125 Ergofit headphones are little buds with big bass. Jidenna's "Classic Man" featured deep lows that thumped through the entire track, though the vocals seemed slightly faraway.
While the strong bass was a welcome surprise, the rest of the sound was what you'd expect from $10 headphones: decent, with highs and mids that mesh together in an bland but inoffensive way.
Nicki Minaj's haunting rap ballad "I Lied" had highs and mids that were a little too blended. I wanted her signature voice to rise up above the rest of the instruments, but it was just married with them. The track did, however, come through with booming bass and drums.
Patrick Stump's distinct vocals in Fall Out Boy's "Golden" were clear, but the track didn't have the moving effect it normally does. The Brainwavz Delta earbuds did a better job of producing that emotional sound, with deep, resonating pianos and louder vocals that hovered over the rest of the track.
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Next time you need good and cheap earbuds on the fly, pick up the Panasonic RP-TCM125 Ergofit earbuds. They have a thin-and-light design that makes them a no-brainer for commuting, comfortable and secure ear inserts that pull double-duty and block out noise, and decent audio quality to boot. While I prefer the louder, more defined sound of the $20 Brainwavz Delta, the $10 Panasonic RP-TCM125 Ergofit are great earbuds that won't break the bank.
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Valentina is Commerce Editor at Engadget and has covered consumer electronics for a number of publications including Tom's Guide, Wired, Laptop Mag and Ars Technica, with a particular focus on wearables, PCs and other mobile tech.