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Panasonic SoundSlayer GNW10 Review – The Strangest Gaming Audio Solution I’ve Ever Used

Slay your enemies, not your eardrums.

In all my time trying different gaming audio solutions, be they external speakers, earbuds or all manner of headsets, never have I experienced something like the Panasonic SoundSlayer, which is somehow a combination of everything else but also unlike anything else. It bridges the gap between external and personal audio while also aiming to protect your hearing, by essentially draping a set of gaming speakers around your neck like a sports towel. It’s weird, and although it’s not without flaws I’m kinda into it.

For something dubbed the “SoundSlayer,” first impressions from the box the SC-GNW10 (the version I reviewed) comes in are far from that of a gaming product. Maybe it’s a brand association thing but at a glance you’d be forgiven for thinking this was some kind of neck massager. Opening it up, it’s still quite unassuming with the unit itself, a small black audio transmitter and a couple of cables making up the contents. If you were worried about the idea of a wearable gaming speaker being some Razer-esque angular lightshow, fret not.

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The actual ‘Slayer you get here is essentially a U-shaped gadget that sports four 38mm speakers housed across its left and right prongs, and with a pair of rubber feet on the underside is meant to sit around your neck and sort of prop itself on the front of your shoulders. Naturally everyone’s fit is going to be different but I was surprised at how stable it sits on my shoulders, and I can comfortably walk around with it on and barely have it move at all.

Actually setting up the SoundSlayer was shockingly simple, with the little wireless transmitter box doing all of the heavy lifting and requiring no prior configuration. It’s advertised to work with 

PC, PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch (in TV mode), and it does all of those with just a USB-C connection (a USB-C to USB-A cable is provided) and then a 2.4GHz signal to the actual speaker unit. Because it’s a 2.4GHz signal, there’s no need to pair anything, it’s low-latency and just works. There’s also a 3.5mm connection on the “headset” in case you wanted to plug it into a handheld device, Xbox controller or something else but there’s sadly no Bluetooth option which does limit the potential uses quite a bit.

Once you’ve turned it on and laid it across your shoulders, the SoundSlayer is a very different experience to wearing a set of headphones, which is entirely the point, and almost immediately on starting to use it I forgot it was even there. Even once it was all up and going and I was playing games, after adjusting to a different quality of sound to what I’m used to from my external speakers or current headset of choice (the PlayStation Pulse Elite), my brain stopped thinking about the fact that all of the sound was coming from something I was wearing around my neck.

That’s not to say this is a flawless setup, though. While the speakers in the SoundSlayer are pretty powerful and do a better-than-expected job with positional audio, the actual sound is pretty hit-or-miss. There are a few different presets to select from using a dedicated button on the left arm, labelled things like RPG, FPS, Voice, Cinema and Music, but while I was using the SoundSlayer to play things like Dragon’s Dogma 2 and the Stellar Blade demo, or watch Sand Land on Disney+, none of these presets really felt right. Highs typically sound great, but mid and low-end audio is significantly muddier than what I’m used to from a set of headphones. The 3D audio effect, whether from the source itself or the speakers’ virtual solution, is pretty convincing, though. I could really pinpoint where my pawns in Dragon’s Dogma 2 were chattering at me from, even if their voices were a touch too muffled for my liking.

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Panasonic also provides a dedicated PC app for the SoundSlayer which you can use to do quite a bit of tinkering with the sound, including separately equalising the front and rear sets of speakers, changing the balance between them, boosting the bass response and tweaking some basic power and lighting stuff. You can save up to three extra audio presets to the unit, which is handy if the provided ones aren’t suited, but nothing can really save the fairly-average sound overall.

It just comes down to the size of the speakers and the fact they’re not pressed up against your ears – so you’re basically choosing between top-notch explosions and sword swings blasting your ear drums or hopefully having working hearing in 30-40 years (I feel I need to point out that this isn’t medical advice). For a $450 price tag though, the gimmick might not be worth it for most. The best possible application I can think of is someone with flatmates who wants an upgrade from their TV speakers, but can’t go for a loud external system and also doesn’t want the potential discomfort of headphones. It’s a niche market, for sure, but one I’m sure Panasonic sees growing with the state of ~gestures at everything~.

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Something the SoundSlayer does do surprisingly well is chat audio. It’s packing two microphones – one on each side – with “AI” powered noise filtering, which I’d usually dismiss as a buzz term but actually works here. Despite simultaneously pumping the game audio out while trying to listen to my voice, the result on the other end comes through clear and clean, which I reckon is a pretty impressive feat. My friends’ voices being beamed to the unit is also kind of neat in that it almost feels like there are little versions of them sitting on my shoulders, except instead of trying to convince me to do right or wrong they’re berating me for being a terrible Helldiver.

Battery life on the SoundSlayer is also pretty good. Panasonic puts it at around nine hours and while I didn’t measure it out myself, I definitely got a full public holiday of gaming at a decent volume out of it before I needed to bung it on charge for the very first time, so I’m confident that’s pretty accurate. As a glasses wearer with an ugly head, it was also far longer a session than I would ever dare to do with a headset, so I’d say it’s mission accomplished on the whole angle of this thing.

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Conclusion
The Panasonic SoundSlayer does a thing that I'm sure many hadn't even considered a need for, but it does that thing about as well as you could hope. The ease of setup, overall comfort and reliability and fantastic microphones are big positives, but they're balanced out by just-okay sound and the fact that you may be perceived by other human beings while wearing a gaming speaker around your neck. If you can't deal with wearing a "regular" headset but those couple of knocks won't bother you, then maybe this is exactly what you're looking for.
Positives
Easy set-up across a number of devices
Sits comfortably and reliably
Microphone input and output are both great
Decent battery life
May protect your hearing vs a headset
Negatives
Sound quality could be better
No Bluetooth support feels like a missed opportunity
$450 gets you a pretty decent gaming headset