The SC-HTB770 backs up its generous connectivity with built-in Bluetooth, allowing you to play music from phones and laptops completely hassle free.
There’s a range of audio presets EQ’d for different types of material – Standard, Stadium, Music, Stereo, News and Cinema – and Dolby Virtual Speaker for a pseudo surround effect.
It’s backed up by Panasonic’s own 3D Surround mode, which expands the sound field in all directions, and Clear Mode Dialog, which makes speech sound like it’s coming from the screen. These two modes come as a package and can be turned off together.
The SC-HTB770 decodes Dolby Digital and DTS, but not Dolby True HD or DTS HD Master Audio. The HDMI inputs do accept PCM however, so you can still enjoy hi-res audio if your Blu-ray deck does the decoding. Power output is rated at 60W per channel and 120W from the sub (300W total).
Given the variety of installation methods, the system can take a while to set up – indeed, most of the manual is taken up explaining the various configurations. There are loads of bits that need screwing on and plugging in – but once complete it looks discreet and stylish.
Controlling the SC-HTB770 is easy enough thanks to a small credit card-style remote and its sparse but helpful button layout. There are controls for the main volume, subwoofer and dialogue levels, plus buttons for toggling through sound modes and inputs.
The row of lights on the main unit not only indicates which sound mode and input are selected, but it also flashes when adjusting volume, sub and dialogue levels. There’s a range of ‘advanced operations’ that require certain buttons to be held down, which feels old-fashioned – a front panel or onscreen display would have been more helpful.
In action the SC-HTB770 is a powerful performer. Despite its slender dimensions, the soundbar musters an expansive, large-scale sound that easily fills the room. Turned up loud, it handles busy action scenes with little straining or distortion.
We tested it out with The Amazing Spider-Man on Blu-ray, and during Spidey’s scuffle on the bridge with The Lizard, the crashing car effects and tinkling glass sound clean and crisp.
There’s a touch of harshness as The Lizard hurls metal canisters into the tower at the film’s finale but such flaws are fleeting – generally it’s smooth and dynamic.
There’s plenty of detail too – as The Lizard crushes Spider-Man’s web shooters, the crisp crunching sound is clearly audible over the busy score and other effects. Hissing gas valves and pinging gunshots are also reproduced with pleasing clarity.
The SC-HTB770 articulates dialogue with rare authority and detail – the use of a separate centre speaker pays dividends in that respect. The subwoofer steps in for deep voices, giving them richness and body – most notably when The Lizard spits out the words “poor Peter Parker”.
In fact, the subwoofer does a decent job throughout, gelling nicely with the soundbar and outputting tight, quick blasts of bass. So when The Lizard stomps his foot on the floor, the thump makes a telling impact. You can also sense its presence during even the calmest scene, layering the background ambience with thick low frequency information.
It does sound a little bloated and unruly at times, and some may find it a little too warm – particularly with the level set to 3 or 4.
We’re fans of the Panasonic’s wide and spacious sound with the 3D mode engaged, reaching parts of the room TV speakers never could – although it can’t be described as surround sound by any stretch of the imagination. There’s no sense that rear effects are next to or behind you.
In stereo mode, the SC-HTB770 handles music competently, offering a warm and rhythmic sound with audible top-end detail, although it lacks the finesse of soundbars like the B&W Panorama 2 and the Philips HTL5120.
With a variety of installation options, the SC-HTB770 is one of the most versatile soundbar systems on the market. Whether you use it as a soundbar or free-standing separates, on the wall or on a TV stand, it can be integrated into your living room with minimum fuss – perfect if you have limited space to play with.
But even better news is its terrific sound quality – powerful, poised and expansive, it makes movies sound ten times more exciting than any TV. It’s also stylish, well made and offers some tasty features like three HDMI inputs and built-in Bluetooth for easy music streaming. At over £400, you’ll need deep pockets though...