Described by Panasonic as a ‘speakerboard’ (they really should agree on a name for these things) the Panasonic SC-HTE80 is designed to improve your slim TV’s lacklustre sound. It’s basically a flat soundbar that allows you to plonk your TV on top, taking up less space than a regular speaker system.
The SC-HTE80 faces some stiff competition in this burgeoning market, with companies like Denon, Bose, Cambridge Audio, LG and Maxell impressing us with similar under-TV speakers. But given Panasonic’s penchant for smart design and cutting-edge features, we reckon it’ll give its rivals a run for their money.
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The SC-HTE80 is the only silver-coloured speaker base we’ve tested so far, giving it a more glamorous appearance than its rivals, but there’s also a black version if you prefer. We love its smart, attractive styling, which is glammed up further by a brush-effect top panel and speaker mesh that curves round the front corners.
It’s a little plasticky to the touch but the bodywork is generally solid, supporting loads of up to 30kg. It measures just 60mm high and the top surface comfortably accommodates TV stands measuring 460 x 280mm. You don’t have to use the Panasonic as a base for your TV though – it’s equally at home slotted into a shelf below.
A discreet panel of buttons on the right-hand side covers power, volume and input. Unusually, large dot matrix letters shine through the front speaker mesh, displaying inputs, menus and the volume level. Very few speaker bases include one of these, but it’s useful when changing sound modes or switching inputs.
The rear panel sports a single HDMI input and output, which pass signals from a Blu-ray deck or TV receiver through the Panasonic to your TV. The output also supports Audio Return Channel, accepting sound signals directly from a compatible TV, which is useful when using your set’s built-in tuner.
It’s great that Panasonic has included HDMI inputs but if you want to connect more kit then it’s worth bearing in mind that Maxell’s sound bases (the MXSP-SB3000 and MXSB-252) offer three inputs for a similar price.
Alternatively you can hook up devices using the optical digital or analogue stereo inputs. There’s also a USB port but disappointingly it’s for service use only.
Most sound bases are no-frills affairs, but that’s not in Panasonic’s DNA. The SC-HTE80 has built-in Bluetooth with NFC technology for easy pairing with Android or Windows phones, but you’ll need to install Panasonic’s streaming app beforehand.
There’s also a wide range of sound modes including H.Bass and six EQ presets – Standard, Stadium, Music, Cinema, News and Stereo. Clear-mode Dialog and Dialog level control lend extra clarity to speech frequencies, while Auto Gain Control and Low Volume Mode help when listening at quiet volumes.
There are two integrated subwoofers with 60W of amplification, plus 2 x 30W for the full-range front speakers (120W in total). It also features built-in Dolby Digital and DTS decoders, Pro Logic II and Virtual Speaker processing and even handles up to 7.1-channel PCM via HDMI.