The main control unit (SA-BT735) plays your Blu-ray discs, DVDs and CDs plus it handles the audio processing and amplification. It musters a not unreasonable 1000W of welly – 125W for the fronts and surrounds plus 250W to the sub and centre – and eats Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby Digital Plus soundtracks for breakfast. On the outside it’s a pleasant-looking and functional unit, again sporting the in-vogue black finish and a large, easy-to-read display panel.
Like most of Panasonic’s latest systems, an iPod dock is located on top of the unit underneath a dust flap. With virtually the entire world now owning one of Apple’s portable devices, it’s worth reiterating how convenient it is to find this dock built-in, allowing you to enjoy music without having to faff about with additional hardware and cables. But that’s not the only media portal found on the front of the unit – there’s an SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot that lets you play AVCHD, SD Video and JPEG files, and a USB port that supports DivX HD, MP3 and JPEG files. Not an exhaustive selection of formats, but fine for casual users.
On the rear panel you’ll find a more generous array of sockets than you will on the SC-BT222. Aside from the HDMI (which supports the Audio Return Channel feature but not 3D) the most eye-catching sockets are the second USB port, intended to house Panasonic’s optional Wi-Fi dongle (more on that in a mo) and an Ethernet port that lets you make a wired connection to your home network.
There’s also a slot for the wireless transmitter that comes with the SH-FX71 kit, two optical digital audio inputs and one analogue stereo, composite video output and an FM antenna input. On the left is a panel of colour-coded speaker terminals that correspond to the matching plugs on the end of the speaker cables. Not bad, but it’s disappointing not to find any HDMI inputs, which would have made it easy to run other HD kit through the system.