The SC-ALL70T is Panasonic’s top-of-the-line soundbar, equipped with 350W of movie-boosting power and multiroom music streaming courtesy of Qualcomm’s AllPlay platform.
Sound quality could be better, but mod-cons such as Bluetooth, a wireless subwoofer, HDMI ports and NFC make the £400 price tag look very reasonable.
The SC-ALL70T is a stylish soundbar with a discreet, low-profile design. It’s wrapped in a pleasant black cloth and book-ended by chrome trim and gloss-black panels. The back-end feels cheap, but overall build quality is good. At 950mm wide, it’s best suited to larger living room TVs from 50-inches upwards.
The soundbar’s low-lying design means it’s unlikely to block your TV’s remote sensor, but if it does then you can take advantage of the supplied IR extender. Touch-sensitive buttons at both ends control power, volume, input and Bluetooth pairing, but "sensitive" is the right word – I lost count of how many times I accidentally turned it off during installation.
A large LED panel displays inputs, volume levels and setup options. As displays go it’s a good one, but because it faces upwards on a flat surface it’s difficult to read from the sofa. As a result, I had to keep craning my neck and – shock horror – getting up from the sofa just to check which input was selected. It faces forward when mounted on the wall, which you can do using the supplied brackets and screws.
Flip it over and there’s a decent selection of sockets on the bottom. If you’re pairing the SC-ALL70T with an Ultra HD Blu-ray deck, rest assured that the HDMI input and output support 4K/60p and HDCP 2.2. Other inputs include optical and a 3.5mm mini-jack, plus an Ethernet port for music streaming, which I’ll come to later.
The wireless subwoofer is tastefully styled in gloss black and its compact size makes it easy to accommodate. Build quality could be better, but that’s hardly unusual for a soundbar sub.
The SC-ALL70T is a 3.1-channel soundbar that employs three 6.5cm full-range drivers across the front, each one receiving 70W from the digital amplifier. The subwoofer’s 16cm driver is fuelled by 140W of power.
There’s a range of sound presets to play with, including Movie and Music modes, Clear-mode Dialog and H.Bass. Dolby Virtual Speaker is on hand to expand the soundstage, ably assisted by Panasonic’s own processing mode, 3D Surround. Dolby Digital and DTS are decoded in-house, but there’s no support for TrueHD or Master Audio.
With built-in Wi-Fi and multiroom playback (courtesy of Qualcomm’s AllPlay platform), you can stream music to the SC-ALL70T on its own or transmit to multiple ALL speakers on the same network.
Using the versatile Music Streaming app (available for iOS and Android), you can play the same song through all speakers or send different sources to each one.
Even more impressive is its ability to "re-stream" devices connected to the SC-ALL70T to other speakers on the network, including Bluetooth and Blu-ray. Buy two of Panasonic’s SC-ALL2 wireless speakers and you use them as rears in a discrete 5.1 system.
If this all sounds rather complicated, don’t worry – it’s as easy as dragging and dropping icons on your smartphone screen.
The app also provides access to music stored on PCs and NAS drives (MP3, FLAC, ALAC and WAV up to 192kHz/24-bit), as well as services such as Spotify, Napster, Aupeo! and AllPlay radio. Not a bad selection, but there’s certainly room for more services.
As you’d expect from a soundbar, the SC-ALL70T is easy to install. Once you’ve routed all your cables, the subwoofer pairs with the soundbar automatically when you power them up.
The multiroom/streaming features are configured using a step-by-step wizard in the smartphone app. It searches for AllPlay speakers on your network, and once connected it lists them in a sidebar menu. Here you can create groups by dragging differently coloured icons on top of each other, or choose a source to re-stream.
The Home page is split into two parts: Browse, which lists NAS drives, PCs and online music services; and Queue, where you can view the current playback list. Elsewhere, clear settings menus provide detailed control over every function.
As mentioned in my reviews of other ALL speakers, this is one of the best multiroom apps around. It’s slick, stylish and easy to follow, thanks to its uncluttered layout and clever use of icons. It searches through large libraries of music quickly, plays tracks without delay, and poses no problems when linking up other speakers – in this case, the SC-ALL05 and SC-ALL7CD.
You can control volume and playback using the app, but there’s also a physical remote in the box should you want to make quick adjustments, without having to wake up your phone. With its fiddly size and plasticky build, it isn't one of Panasonic’s better efforts, but good labelling and sparse buttonry make it fairly easy to use.
With its powerful sound, lively tone and a decent sense of scale, the SC-ALL70T is an enjoyable performer, but doesn’t quite scale the heights of other soundbars in this price bracket.
Its presentation isn’t particularly refined or subtle, and it loses composure when you turn up the volume. Play the beginning of Man of Steel on Blu-ray and the destruction of Krypton has plenty of energy, but the explosions and roaring creatures have a hard, spiky tone that can become tiring after a while.
Perhaps it’s too much to expect audiophile sound at this price, but soundbars and bases such as the Q Acoustics M4, Denon Heos HomeCinema and Canton DM55 manage a smoother and more mature sound for a similar amount of cash.
The subwoofer certainly adds depth and weight to the soundtrack, but there isn’t a great deal of variation as it rumbles. It could do with more slam, agility and control; I found myself constantly fiddling with the bass controls as the film played.
None of this is particularly disastrous, however. In fact, most people will hear the Panasonic’s enthusiastic performance and be impressed, particularly when stepping up from a TV or cheap soundbar. But having heard what some of the competition has to offer, it didn’t blow me away to quite the same extent.
With the bad stuff out of the way, let’s concentrate on the positives, of which there are plenty. Provided you’re judicious with the volume, the SC-ALL70T’s attacking character works in its favour. Effects are snappy and vigorous, which makes action scenes suitably exciting, while dialogue is clear and prominent. That really helps when watching TV shows over the hubbub of a chatty living room. Speech cuts through the ambience in a way my TV’s speakers simply can’t.
Also impressive is the feeling of width and expansion afforded by Panasonic’s 3D Surround mode. As the camera pans across Krypton’s landscapes, you can hear swooshing missiles and explosions populating the spaces on either side of the soundbar.
And although the sub doesn’t deliver the tightest or most nuanced bass I’ve heard, it adds body to voices and helps convey scale as huge spacecrafts loom overhead. In short, despite its flaws the Panasonic delivers the sort of depth, punch and room-filling scale that simply isn’t possible through flatscreen TV speakers. For many buyers, that’s all that matters.
The SC-ALL70T does a decent job with music too. There’s crisp detail, a bold mid-range and a spirited reproduction of basslines from the sub. If you’re having friends over for dinner, or just want some background noise, it’s absolutely fine; but more discerning listeners won’t hear much to get excited about.
With an excellent array of features, slick music streaming and a low-key design, the SC-ALL70T has plenty going for it. The Qualcomm-powered multiroom system works brilliantly with the terrific phone app, affording you effortless flexibility when it comes to whole-house music listening.
But in terms of performance, there are better soundbars on the market. There’s a slightly brash tone at high volumes and it generally lacks the refinement and composure that separates a good soundbar from a great one.
But its performance with movies, TV and music is still enjoyable, bringing a sense of excitement and scale that no TV can match. So if you can find it for a good price and like the low-profile design, then it’s worth considering.
Sound quality is a mixed bag, but Panasonic’s top-end soundbar offers slick multiroom music streaming and a lovely low-key design.