Review: Panasonic SoundSlayer SC-GN01E neck speaker is fantastic - but only on PC

Panasonic thought wearing a speaker around your neck was a good idea. Were they right?
Panasonic thought wearing a speaker around your neck was a good idea. Were they right? Photo credit: Newshub

In my 47 years on this revolving rock I've owned, broken and tried so many different kinds of audio output systems that I can't even begin to count.

From the earliest days of the orange foam-covered headphones distributed with the first Walkmans to luxury audiophile devices that cost most of a month's salary, they've all delivered me life-affirming sounds of varying quality.

Well, all except the speaker I bought for use in the shower so I could sing along to some banging tunes while cleansing myself of my daily sins. Turns out it wasn't as waterproof as I thought - but that's another story.

Anyway, I thought I'd seen and done it all; then Panasonic offered me the chance to try out a wearable neck speaker.

I was keen for two reasons. Firstly, its name: The SoundSlayer. Wow, that's some badass branding.

The second? The idea of wearing a big speaker around my neck sounds like the most ridiculous thing ever. Who on earth wants to do that when you can have tiny little earbuds offering the best quality possible?

So is a wearable neck audio device going to be the next breakthrough product for gaming or is it destined to be the Segway of speakers?

I've been using the Panasonic SoundSlayer SC-GN01 for a couple of weeks now and here are my thoughts.

The good

Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way before anything else: Wearing this neck speaker is ridiculously comfortable.

It's very light, sits easily and doesn't interrupt the head support on my gaming chair.

I had envisaged a large block of heavy plastic slowly grinding me down during hours of gameplay, but this is unquestionably more comfortable to use over an extended period of time compared to just about any set of headphones or earbuds I've ever worn.

All of that doesn't matter if the performance isn't up to scratch, however. And on the PC it sings. I wish I could say the same about consoles - but more on that in a minute.

There are four speakers in the SoundSlayer, two at the rear and two at the front, giving a virtual surround experience that you don't typically get while gaming on a PC.

The generous 3m long USB cord also means there is plenty of manoeuvrability and you don't have to sit too close to your computer to enjoy it.

Panasonic SoundSlayer
Photo credit: Newshub

There are a number of different audio options available at the touch of a button, allowing you to maximise the experience based on what you're doing and even what type of game you're playing.

Music, stereo and cinema modes are all pretty straightforward to understand, with cinema delivering the best overall experience to my ears.

The three gaming modes are voice, first player shooter (FPS) and role-playing games (RPG).

With voice, human audio is enhanced and worked well on my favourite genre of games: Point-and-click adventures that don't require me to move too quickly.

The RPG option has been optimised for Final Fantasy XIV Online and is designed to create a sense of reality and intensity. I don't have that particular game and don't play enough RPGs that I was able to say I got any additional benefits out of that option.

FPS is designed for those who like going around virtually shooting people, which is not something I'm good at. My reflexes are so bad that even if the speaker shouted 'THERE'S SOMEONE BEHIND YOU SHOOTING, TURN AROUND AND SHOOT THEM' it would still take my sluggish synapses too long to respond and I'd be dead.

But if you're someone who enjoys that experience, the accurate highlighting of directions that footsteps or reloading guns are coming from may give you a distinct advantage.

There are four buttons on the speaker: Two on either side that allow one-touch switching of modes, muting the microphone, muting the audio and a volume up and down button.

They're all quickly and easily found, and are responsive so your hand is away from the controller for the minimum amount of time.

The biggest surprise for me, however, was completely unrelated to gaming. It was the performance while listening to music.

It was only by a happy accident that YouTube happened to play Ozzy Osbourne through the SoundSlayer - and it sounded great.

I immediately switched it to music mode and I loved the heavy bass and full virtual surround experience listening to heavy metal.

Panasonic SoundSlayer
Photo credit: Newshub

Even better was when I put on a classical music playlist while I worked as background noise. It enveloped me in an orchestral bubble that kept my brain quiet and allowed me to concentrate on my work. I will be doing this on a regular basis from now on.

I don't tend to watch many movies or television shows on my PC thanks to my big screen television and soundbar system.

But on the odd occasions I'm banished from the living room and am forced to watch something that way, the SoundSlayer on cinematic mode definitely offers a decent experience compared to my monitor's sound output.

The bad

Unfortunately I found the microphone performance less impressive than that of the speakers.

I tested the microphone via a number of different methods and recorded it via Skype, Zoom and on a Windows 11 audio recorder. All sounded less than brilliant, with varying levels of audio distortion and volume differences.

This isn't a massive deal to me, as I prefer gaming by myself - but if trash-talking some random 12-year-old on the other side of the world (or, indeed, being trash-talked to) is your thing then this might be an issue.

The SoundSlayer is also compatible with Sony's PlayStation 5, Microsoft's Xbox Series X and Nintendo's Switch consoles.

With the exception of the latter, it took me some fiddling to ensure it worked.

Initially I couldn't get it to work on the PS5 via USB and so ended up plugging the 3.5mm audio jack into the audio port in the television instead. The television also powered the device via USB.

Unfortunately there was an annoying background hum that proved distracting - even more unfortunate considering it's a Panasonic television.

Panasonic SoundSlayer
Photo credit: Newshub

During Assassin's Creed Valhalla there were moments when it was silenced as I took out a group of bad guys and there was background noise and yelling. But when I was in stealth mode and creeping up behind people it proved too much to enjoy and so I didn't persist.

It turns out that had I plugged it into a rear USB port on the console this issue would have been avoided. My PS5 sits where those ports aren't easily accessible so they're never used and other audio devices I've trialled have worked in the front port.

The Xbox had a slightly different problem. I connected it via the 3.5mm port in the controller - but struggled to get really good volume. Even with the volume turned all the way up it wasn't loud enough to get any kind of enjoyable experience out of.

Again, it was relatively simple to solve. I plugged the SoundSlayer into a USB wall socket and this delivered sufficient power to make the performance better.

The verdict

I'll admit I went into the experience with less than an open mind and it's to Panasonic's credit that not only did this SoundSlayer win me around, I see myself using it a lot.

That won't be while I'm playing on next-gen consoles, however. The set-up to use it with both the Xbox and PS5 wasn't intolerable, I just didn't think it elevated the experience in any way, particularly as I have a soundbar.

The same cannot be said for having it plugged into my Switch. I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around my Animal Crossing: New Horizons island, talking with the inhabitants and hedging my bets on when to sell my massive stash of turnips.

Panasonic SoundSlayer
Photo credit: Newshub

On the PC, however, it's a premium experience. I hide myself away in my home office when I'm gaming on my desktop - and with headphones on I'm always taking the chance I'm going to end up with sore ears and missing something happening in the house because I can't hear anything but the game.

With the SoundSlayer I get the best of both worlds. I get really great sound, my ears aren't being covered up and so there's no chance of pain and I can hear when my name is called.

Throw in the added bonus of a really enjoyable experience while listening to music and suddenly the $289 cost doesn't seem outlandish.

If the SoundSlayer takes off, then my hopes are the next generation will be wireless and work flawlessly with all devices, making it a true must-have.

Until then, if you spend a lot of time PC gaming and don't like wearing earphones, then this is a really good option to deliver great quality audio with pretty much zero discomfort.

Me? I've learned my lesson about prejudging what seems like a crazy idea and I'm off to play the brilliant point-and-click adventure Trüberbrook with a whole new audio experience.

Newshub was supplied with a Panasonic SoundSlayer SC-GN01E for this review.

Addendum 27 October 2021

Panasonic offered some troubleshooting advice and I was able to get the SoundSlayer working with both the XBox and PS5.

To ensure enough power was getting to the SoundSlayer while using the XBox I plugged the USB cable into a wall socket and again pushed the volume as high as possible and this gave a much better experience.

Using a rear USB port on the PlayStation 5 also delivers enough power to function without the need to resort to the 3.5mm audio jack. There was no audible humming and it worked as advertised.

The text has been updated to reflect this.