With so many hardware issues surrounding Blu-ray's HD audio formats, it can be a confusing job putting together a high-definition home cinema system. So if you're keen to avoid all the hassle and expense of buying suitably-equipped separates, then it's worth considering an all-in-one Blu-ray system like this one from Panasonic. The SC-BT100 isn't the first Blu-ray system on the market - Samsung's HT-BD2R and Sony's HTP-BD2RSF beat Panny to the punch - but it is the world's first Profile 1.1 home cinema system, capitalising on the success of the fantastic DMP-BD30 standalone player.
The BT100 is a 3.1-channel system, which may come as a surprise given the eight-channel possibilities of the HD audio formats from Dolby and DTS, but fear not - the system allows you to add two pairs of SB-HS100A wireless rear speakers (as well as SH-FX67 wireless transmitter and receiver) to create a full 7.1 setup. But if you don't have the space, cash or permission to add extra channels, then the 3.1 configuration makes a neat and compact way of experiencing the Blu-ray format.
Style conscious consumers can rest assured that the SC-BT100's main unit is attractive, sporting an all-black finish with some tasteful green lights and flashes of silver. The front-mounted flaps feel a little plasticky to the touch but the middle one conceals some exciting stuff, namely an iPod dock and card slot that supports regular SD and SDHC cards. The wall-mountable front/centre speakers and Kelton subwoofer look unremarkable but feel chunky and robustly built.
The system's HDMI output is version 1.3, and will support Deep Colour should anyone ever decide to release any content, plus Viera Link. The all-digital port is joined by component, S-video and composite video outputs, as well as optical digital audio output and input, the latter enabling you to play back surround sound from a Sky box. Finally there are minijack outputs that connect to the wireless rear channel transmitters and an FM antenna input for the built-in radio tuner.
As with most of its products, Panasonic packs the SC-BT100 with more features than you can shake a stick at, which on paper makes it look like good value for money despite its fairly steep price tag. Aside from its Profile 1.1 spec, which among other things includes the ability to view picture-in-picture commentaries, the most significant feature is decoding of lossless Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks, as well as Dolby Digital Plus, DTS HD, Dolby Digital and DTS.
Also on board are Dolby Pro Logic IIx and DTS Neo:6, which are useful for turning stereo sources into convincing surround sound, and if you don't fancy forking out for the rear speakers then Dolby Virtual Speaker technology is on hand to deliver pseudo 5.1-channel sound.