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Panasonic SC-PTX7 DVD Home Cinema System - Panasonic SC-PTX7
As for sound, the so-called Twin Centre technology does a fine job of projecting dialogue in between the two front channels, though Dolby Virtual Speaker mode fails to generate anything approaching surround sound - but at least it lends the soundstage a greater sense of space and width than regular stereo playback.
As a result, Sith's opening space scrap doesn't immerse you in the action like it does on a 5.1-channel system, with no real sense that the action is taking place all around you. But the system makes up for it in other ways - the sub delivers well-controlled bass that injects drama into the proceedings, and the front speakers' output is sharp, direct and undistorted at loud volumes.
And as a music player the SC-PTX7 excels. Songs ripped in LPCM sound every bit as detailed as they do when played from CD, and compressed AAC files are equally enjoyable. It does its best with DVD-Audio too, reproducing the extra sonic detail with ease - but once again our enjoyment of 5.1-channel discs is curtailed by the lack of rear speakers.
Under normal circumstances, a 2.1-channel system for over £450 would be considered expensive (some sites are even selling it for as much as £800, and don't confuse the SC-PTX7 with the lower-specced SC-PTX5), but with so many unusual value-adding features on board that amount of cash feels strangely justified, especially if you don't have the space (or permission) to install a full 5.1 setup.
We're particularly keen on the jukebox feature, which is a godsend for those who use their home cinema system to play music as much as movies. Having network capability and Gracenote access on board makes ripping and organising music a hassle-free experience too.
Performance is also pleasing, with top-notch 1080p picture quality and a pseudo centre channel that sounds convincing. Only Dolby Virtual Speaker lets the side down, failing to generate the promised ‘5.1-channel effect' - but then again, we've yet to hear a virtual surround mode that does.
Scores In Detail