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It’s no surprise that the number of Blu-ray home cinema systems on the market keeps on growing, because people are crying out for convenient and relatively inexpensive ways of upgrading to Blu-ray and getting a complete sound system at the same time.
And now that the Blu-ray format is the finished article, we’re starting to see loads of neat features creeping in – a great example being the 3D-capable, Wi-Fi equipped Samsung HT-C6930W system we looked at last week.
Now it’s the turn of Panasonic to show us what it can do. The SC-BT330’s feature list isn’t as comprehensive as the Samsung system above (there’s no 3D, for starters) but like Samsung, Panasonic always packs its systems full of the latest techno-tricks and more often than not delivers pleasing performance.
What sets this system apart from Panasonic’s cheaper SC-BT230 package is the inclusion of tall column speakers for the front channels, as opposed to the BT230’s diddy satellites. These speakers come in three parts that you have to screw together – the speaker itself, a stand with a built-in cable and a circular base – and they can be attached to a wall if you prefer.
But the build quality of these front speakers leave a lot to be desired, with each section feeling hollow and plasticky, a clear attempt to drive down costs. When assembled, their shape and styling is about as elegant as a drunk dad on the dance floor, and at just over a metre tall they’re quite imposing too. If it’s style you’re after, try an LG or Samsung.
The accompanying satellites boast much better build quality. The rears are so small you can almost fit them in your pocket, while the use of a gloss black finish on top adds a touch of glamour. The centre is the same but turned horizontally to fit under your TV, while the Kelton subwoofer’s glossy front panel and compact size makes it a surprisingly stylish addition to the line-up.
These speakers can be arranged in the traditional way with the rears at the back of the room, but if you prefer you can put them all at the front and activate the Cinema Surround mode. All of the speakers use cones made from bamboo to deliver a sound that Panasonic describes as ‘more responsive’ than regular cones.
And if you’re feeling flush, you can add an optional SH-FX71 wireless transmitter/receiver kit for around £100, which lets you install rear speakers without having to run cables to the back of the room. If you can afford two SH-FX71s and have two extra speakers to hand, Panasonic says you can even upgrade to a 7.1-channel system, although with only 5.1 amplification on board you’ll have to settle for virtual 7.1-channel surround.
Blu-ray playback, audio decoding, amplification and all other functions are carried out by the slim, stylish main unit, which looks just like Panasonic’s standalone Blu-ray players. Inside, the amp musters 1,000W of audio power and it’ll decode Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD Master Audio or any of Blu-ray’s other audio formats.
The Blu-ray section includes many of the features and picture tech found on the company’s standalone decks, including P4HD processing, PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus and High Precision 4:4:4 colour reproduction. And because it’s Profile 2.0, you can use it to access BD Live content, although you need to insert an SD card to store downloads.