Recognising that soundbars are one of the few growth areas of the home entertainment market, Panasonic has increased the number of models in its 2013 range to form its widest ever selection of living-room friendly sound systems.
The range includes four new models, the most eye-catching of which is the SC-HTB770, a £400 3.1-channel speaker system with a variety of installation options. We got up close and personal with this chic system at Panasonic's 2013 Convention in Nice.
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The HTB770 is also supplied with a wireless down-firing subwoofer, which adds bass punch to movie soundtracks without you having to worry about where it’s placed.
All the components, including the 310mm-wide main unit, are dressed up in a gorgeous brushed aluminium finish with stainless steel mesh covering the speaker drivers – which, coincidentally, include two 57mm woofers, two 25mm semi-dome tweeters and two Piezo type super tweeters. The result is a sumptuous looking system that’ll jazz up any surroundings, although if that don’t float your boat it’s also available in black. Build quality is excellent, with all components boasting robust, firm cabinets.
Unusually, the system comes with a separate box that houses all the connections, which doesn’t make it as compact or convenient as most soundbars, but it means you can hide the box away and minimise cables trailing from the soundbar itself.
The control box offers three HDMI inputs, allowing you to switch between several hi-def sources and pass video signals to your TV through the Audio Return Channel-compatible output. There’s also an optical digital audio input for other sources, but no 3.5mm in, which is a shame. To be honest this isn't the sort of all-encompassing selection we'd expect, but makes up for it with built-in Bluetooth, making it easy to stream music from mobile devices.
The system’s amp musters a quoted 300W of power in total, with 60W from the each channel and 120W from the sub. In terms of decoding, the unit handles Dolby Digital and DTS, but there’s no mention of Dolby True HD or DTS HD Master Audio, which is odd given these formats are now the norm – but it’s no great loss as the unit accepts 7.1 LPCM signals from Blu-ray decks via HDMI.
The dedicated centre channel is backed up by Clear-mode Dialogue, which expands the sound field upwards to make it seem like sound is emerging from the TV screen. You also get four levels of dialogue volume, which helps you hear speech when the scene gets particularly rowdy.
Joining the SC-HTB770 in the range is the SC-HTB570, a premium soundbar with a 2.1-channel vertical speaker option and Bluetooth streaming; the SC-HTB527, a straight-up soundbar for 47-55in TVs; and the SC-HTB170, which offers multi-angle positioning (0°, 30°, 80° and 90°), Bluetooth and a built-in anti-vibration subwoofer.
Read more: Best soundbars to buy