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Bowers & Wilkins Panorama Soundbar
Soundbars can be found across a wide range of budgets, but at £1,500 B&W's debut effort is a strictly high-end affair. It crams a full 5.1-channel speaker system and Dolby Digital/DTS decoding into a single unit, which can be wall-mounted or plonked on top of your AV stand.
Pricey it may be, but the care and craftsmanship that went into its design is immediately apparent. It's heavy, flawlessly constructed and adorned with a glossy aluminium top panel, which curves round at the back. If there's a better looking soundbar out there, we're yet to see it.
Set into the front speaker mesh is a display panel with large red digits. On either side are LEDs indicating the selected sound modes and audio formats, plus there are standby, mode and volume keys for up-close control.
The rear sockets are better suited to DVD players than Blu-ray decks. Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams can be fed using any of the three digital audio inputs (two optical, one coaxial) and there are also two sets of analogue stereo inputs plus a subwoofer output if the on-board sub doesn't satisfy. But the lack of HDMI inputs and Dolby True HD/DTS HD Master Audio/LPCM support is disappointing for the money and will no doubt cause the Blu-ray brigade to look elsewhere.
Panorama uses speaker technology developed for B&W's much-loved 800 series, and inside the unit are two 90mm low-frequency drivers, two 75mm midrange drivers, two pairs of 75mm drivers for the surround channels and a centrally-placed 25mm metal dome tweeter, which uses B&W's Nautilus Tube Loaded technology. They're powered by six class D amplifiers which muster a combined power output of 175W.
Installation is easy. In the box is a bracket for those who want to wall-mount the soundbar below their TV (it's designed for sets 37in and up) but alternatively you can place it on a flat surface with or without the supplied feet screwed onto the bottom. Audio configuration is a little tricky due to the constraints of the small display panel, but there's a decent amount to play with. The Sound mode lets you set the bass and treble levels, optimise internal bass performance and configure an external sub. You can also select from three room presets (or set the parameters yourself) and alter the gain and delay.