Last year Panasonic launched all sorts of weird and wonderful soundbars, including models that can be split into separate speakers and used as 2.1 or 3.1 systems. But the Panasonic SC-HTB65 is a more straightforward affair, packing everything into a single speaker bar that you can plonk in front of your TV or mount on the wall.
At £150, it’s an affordable way of improving the thin, uninspiring sound from your TV, plus its slim, compact form factor takes up minimal space – the perfect solution for anyone who hates the thought of speakers and cables cluttering up their living room.
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The SC-HTB65 is elaborately described as having a 'two-way multi-angle position layout', which basically means you can lay it flat or mount it upright on the wall. The unit automatically detects which way up it’s placed and switches the speakers’ directional characteristics accordingly. It’s not a new idea, but a good one nonetheless.
The bar looks stunning. Finished in eye-catching silver (or black if you prefer), the Panasonic SC-HTB65 exudes contemporary charm and will look terrific next to Panasonic’s silver-styled TVs and AV kit. The front of the bar is taken up by a mesh with rounded edges, while the brush-effect panels add glamour. Build quality is impressive, if not exactly luxurious.
On top of the bar (on the front, depending on its orientation) is a row of lights that indicated the current status (input, sound mode and layout). The lights are clearly labelled so you shouldn’t need the manual to work it all out. Our only bugbear is that when you lay the unit flat you can’t see the lights from the sofa. On the right-hand side are a few buttons to control volume, input selection and power.
At 950mm wide, it’s most suitable for use with TVs between 42 and 50-inch, and when laid flat it measures 66mm high, which shouldn’t interfere with most TVs’ infra-red receivers.The SC-HTB65 sports optical digital and analogue stereo inputs, but no HDMI ports. It’s primarily designed to be connected to a TV and play whatever sound is passed its way, which explains this simple connectivity. Alternatively you can connect your Blu-ray deck to the Panasonic’s optical or analogue input (indeed, the latter is labelled ‘BD/DVD’).
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The SC-HTB65 musters 90W of power (RMS), with 30W per channel for the two-way bass reflex front speakers and 30W for the integrated subwoofer. It also boasts built-in Dolby Digital and DTS decoding alongside Dolby Pro Logic II and Virtual Speaker, which lend a surround-like effect to stereo content.
Panasonic has added its own 3D surround effect to Virtual Speaker processing, designed to expand sound in all directions. Clear-mode Dialog projects the sound upwards to make voices sound like they’re coming from the TV screen. You can turn these modes off if you prefer by selecting the ‘Stereo’ preset.
Panasonic provides five other audio presets to suit different types of material – Standard, Stadium, Music, Cinema and News. Auto Gain Control is on hand to prevent any nasty spikes in volume.
Not a bad feature list overall, but those looking for frills like Bluetooth and HDMI inputs will be disappointed.