When you cover PC gaming hardware and peripherals for a living, it's quite easy to amass an unhealthy amount of weird tech. It becomes easy to forget what you've stashed away in your closet at any moment, so you can imagine my surprise when I unearthed something pretty wild during a recent spring cleaning. The Panasonic SoundSlayer Wearable Immersive Gaming Speaker System, or SoundSlayer WIGSS for short.
This wearable speaker, which looks like one of those power-dampening doodads the bad guys put on the X-men to take away their powers, was released in late 2021. I didn't get my hands on a review sample until later the following year while I was on paternity leave. So, of course, I never got around to covering it and putting it away for safekeeping in my messy closet the way a squirrel hides away acorns for the winter.
The SoundSlayer is a wild fusion of a PC speaker and a gaming headset, but instead of it sitting on your desk or your head, it lives around your neck. As you'll see, it's an interesting but somewhat flawed experiment of sound and design.
SoundSlayer WIGSS uses the 'Majestic Augement Gaming Environment Sound System' (or MAGESS) to deliver surround sound. Ridiculous acronym aside, it's a system comprised of four 4-channel speakers that wrap around your neck. This means you are technically getting surround sound because the speakers surround your head as opposed to it being some fancy spatial audio tech like DTS or Windows Sonic.
I'll admit, once I got over how silly I looked, and got past the first few hours of having sound blasted at my head from below my neck, there was something oddly satisfying about wearing the SoundSlayer throughout the course of the day. However, after just a few hours, I plopped the SoundSlayer down on the desk because I got tired of wearing sound all day and used it as a desktop speaker. Which kinda defeats the purpose.
When I did wear it, I played a lot of Resident Evil 4 Remake, and it made the game plenty scary with all the ambient moans and groans. They really do feel like they are coming from behind, like something is whispering horrible sweet-nothings into my ears. Horror and adventure games are a better use case of the SoundSlayer's surround sound, really hammering in the immersion.
I did find that the SoundSlayer tends to lack some oomph when the action gets when compared to a set of good desk-mounted PC speakers or premium headsets. That's mostly because the volume on the SoundSlayer doesn't get that high, which becomes noticeable on a video call or watching YouTube videos. I'm assuming this is most likely a safety feature since having the sounds of explosions going that close to your head at full volume can not be good for you. If you're looking for that thumping bass, it ain't here. Dialogue in movies and games is too tinny and distant for my liking. It sounds like the characters are shouting from the bottom of a well and often get buried once the action picks up.
✅ You need an alternative to wearing headphones: If you wear glasses or just work at a desk all day, wearing headphones for hours on end could be very uncomfortable.
✅ You're looking for real surround sound: Its four speakers wrap around your neck providing actual surround sound instead of using software design to emulate spatial audio
❌ You already own a good pair of desktop speakers: For $150-$200 (or waaay cheaper), you could get yourself a feature-rich pair of speakers or a nice soundbar that's a little less hassle that sounds incredible. You also don't have to wear them.
❌ You're looking for a tether-free sound collar: It's still a bit shocking that the SoundSlayer doesn't offer a wireless collar when you can buy a Bluetooth option from different manufacturers for less than $100.
Much like the SoundSlayer soundbar, you have a couple of presets you can cycle through, like RPG, First-person shooter, music, and chat. It's got a serviceable built-in microphone you can use for team chat, too. I even used the Slayer on our daily call, and my colleagues said they could hear me pretty clearly. Though I really couldn't make them out because they were relentlessly teasing me over how ridiculous I looked with it on.
Another disappointing thing about the Sound Slayer is that it isn't wireless. For $200, I expect to become an obnoxious human speaker and wear this thing during a workout or even be able to pace around my house while on a Discord call. Instead, you have a 3.5ft USB cable that keeps you tethered to your PC. It's not like Bluetooth sound collars don't exist either: Monster makes one for $100 that's slightly smaller than the SoundSlayer and looks just as silly.
Who's this thing actually for? Honestly, I'm still trying to figure that out. From an ergonomic standpoint, I see the argument that this is way comfier to wear than a tight headset throughout the course of the day, especially if you are working from home. And from an accessibility standpoint, there's a lot of potential to be had. But otherwise, this feels like a very niche solution to a problem that doesn't exist.
I get the point that Panasonic is trying to make; the only problem is that the Sound Slayer overlooks something crucial, which is pretty much why most people prefer a headset over speakers: Noise. You're not in a private sound bubble like you are when wearing a headset. You might share a space with roommates, coworkers, or a partner who might not appreciate the sound of gunfire, death gargles, and aggressive voice comms from a Call of Duty match blasting out of your neck.
The Panasonic SoundSlayer will cost you $200. There's also a Final Fantasy 14-themed SoundSlayer with the game's logo and exclusive sound mode for $250. Both models are often on sale at a hefty discount, which is still too expensive to recommend over the best gaming headsets which are both really comfy and sound awesome.
That said, I am glad this is an ergonomic alternative to wearing headphones all day. The only problem is that an alternative already exists. Speakers.