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The SC-PTX7 is a novel home cinema system that rips CDs onto a built-in 80GB hard-disk drive, turning it into a music juke box as well as a kick-ass movie machine.
However, with two front channel speakers and a subwoofer it's not a full 5.1-channel system - but it's not really 2.1 either. It's actually a 3.1-channel system, with the two front speakers using clever technology to project dialogue into the space where a centre speaker would be. Meanwhile, Dolby Virtual Speaker is on board in a bid to make up for the lack of proper rear channels.
The system's chunky yet compact main unit will upscale DVDs to 1080p via the HDMI output on the rear. The HDMI output is joined by an Ethernet port, which allows the unit to be hooked up to the Internet to download song and album names from the Gracenote CD database. The Ethernet port also lets you transfer digital music files onto the unit's hard-disk from a PC, or stream them live.
If LAN isn't your connection of choice, then you can also stream music wirelessly using the optional SH-FX570KE Bluetooth USB receiver, available for around £100.
Other connections include an RGB SCART, component, composite and S-video outputs, alongside analogue and digital audio inputs for connecting external sources. When ripping songs from external sources, Gracenote's clever MusicID system recognises songs from their waveforms and tags them accordingly.
Astonishingly, there are even more sockets on the front panel. There's a USB port for flash drives, MP3 players and the like, plus a 3.5mm line input (dubbed Music Port) for hooking up MP3 players in an analogue way. You can even connect Panasonic's optional iPod dock and play music that way - the possibilities are endless.
Songs can be ripped from CD in high-quality LPCM or the more efficient AAC format, and when using the latter they can be ripped in one of three quality settings (XP, SP and LP). Tracks can be converted to a lower quality retrospectively to save space on the hard-disk, which holds roughly 39,000 songs in LP mode.
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