Every now and again I get a piece of tech to review that really sparks joy, one that sets my tech-loving brain off like a firecracker and makes me really excited about, frankly, something that probably doesn’t mean much to the average person. Such is the case with the Panasonic SoundSlayer Gaming Speaker, or “neck speaker”.
The Panasonic SoundSlayer is a wonderful alternative to headphones, PC soundbars and speakers, uniquely existing in its own lane with very few direct competitors. The speaker doesn’t reinvent the rules of gaming sound, nor does it improve upon any fundamental features of other gaming-oriented sound systems, but it’s not trying to.
Although there are other neck speakers on the market, Panasonic’s SoundSlayer is simply trying to be an alternative to what we’re used to.
The Pansonic SoundSlayer Gaming Speaker
WHAT IS IT?
A gaming neck speaker.
Great sound quality, awesome bass, nice microphone quality and nice build quality.
It's a bit quiet, cable isn't removable from the headset and it has a steep price.
The Panasonic neck speaker doesn’t disappoint as a gaming sound solution, nor should it at such a steep price point.
When reviewing the Panasonic SoundSlayer, I swapped out my Logitech Pro wired headset, which offers terrific sound quality, and constantly switched back and forward between the products, to see how they stack up in similar circumstances.
Immediately I’ll confirm what you’re likely thinking: having the headset on makes you feel more engaged and less removed from the action than the experience the neck speaker provides: it’s a tried and tested audio solution that we’ve become accustomed to over several decades.
But the Panasonic SoundSlayer has a red hot go, providing the expected directional sound of a gaming headset (for example, you’ll hear a gunshot behind you if one is fired in that direction), some great sound quality and some, quite frankly, impressive bass.
@gizmodoau Would you use the Panasonic Soundslayer Gaming speaker? #gaming #headphones #tech #au #australia ♬ original sound – GizmodoAU
Let me just harp on about the bass for a moment: when playing The Division 2 with a shotgun, firing said shotgun made me feel the gunfire through the bass as the headset rumbled on my shoulders. It was hardly an intended feature, but it was surely cool.
Back to sound quality, the headset has several presets available for what you’re doing, including FPS, RPG and cinema modes. Using these modes in the appropriate contexts enhanced the experience, or at least I think it did, as levels were brought up and down to fit the environment. Additionally, the microphone worked perfectly well with the “voice” mode on.
The build quality is also really nice, and it feels good to have a “headset” that doesn’t press against the sides of your head. The top of the device is all speaker, bar the rubber at the back which touches the back of your neck. The underside of the device includes soft plastic pads that sit on your shoulders comfortably.
Buttons feel appropriately tactile and the only bad thing I can say about the hardware is the cable (more below).
Much of the Panasonic SoundSlayer is, unfortunately, not so great, to the point where it becomes difficult to justify, compared to a cheaper (and better sounding) headset from Logitech, Razer or another established gaming headset maker.
Firstly, it’s a bit quiet. The maximum sound on the SoundSlayer is about 30 per cent lower than what I would have liked it to be. This wasn’t an egregious problem, though it was unfortunate when watching things on YouTube or Netflix.
Secondly, the USB-A cable isn’t removable from the headset. I don’t know what compelled Panasonic to design the SoundSlayer this way, but it’s more annoying than it’s worth, severely limiting its portability, increasing annoyance on the off-chance that it’s pulled from a socket, limiting what cables can be used with the headset and, of course, making the product much more difficult to repair if you require a replacement cable.
This device is a perfect fit for wireless functionality. I’m not sure why Panasonic didn’t offer a wireless version. A disappointment, to be sure.
It’s safe to say that this headset won’t topple the market share of headset manufacturers anytime soon, but it’s a pretty cool piece of tech.
I think the Panasonic SoundSlayer will struggle to keep up with the devices it is aligning itself against. I don’t think it’s better than a headset, a soundbar or a set of speakers, but I do think it fits into an incredibly small niche.
What is that niche? Sound-loving gamers who don’t like having headphones on? It sounds likely to me, in fact, the headset has now led me to think about my gaming sound system and how I could use devices that aren’t headsets.
But I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a follow-up device, or a rush of competitors to the market with similarly designed neck speakers.
I applaud your work here Panasonic. We love a weird piece of tech.