Panasonic has a good track record for user-friendliness and simplicity, but the SC-PMX7DB isn’t the slickest system it has ever made. It’s no disaster, just a little confusing in places.
Setup is easy enough. Connect the supplied speaker cables to the secure binding posts and away you go. It takes no time to tweak the sound with the front-mounted bass/treble dials and toggle through the presets using the dedicated buttons on the remote.
Bluetooth pairing is quick and painless – the PMX7 appeared instantly in our device lists, and the system remembers paired devices when you skip to another source or put it in standby. The setup button on the remote lets you dim the LED display and turn on the Auto standby mode, while sleep and play timers are easy to access.
But having just tested the Denon CEOL Piccolo and its slick three-line OLED menus, the SC-PMX7DB’s one-line readout feels inadequate by comparison. Certain operations feel like guesswork and some of the text is too small to read comfortably from the sofa.
Our biggest bugbear is that you can’t browse the menus of an iPod Nano 7G using the Panasonic’s remote, when docked or connected to the USB port. The ‘iPod Menu’ button will take you back to the previous menu but you can’t move up and down or select tracks. The result is that we actually had to get up off the sofa (shock horror) and search on the device itself.
Luckily iPod Nano has built in Bluetooth, but we were disappointed that we couldn’t just dock it and use the Panasonic’s remote. We presume this isn’t the case with the iPhone 5 or the iPod Touch, but we didn’t have either to hand.
As for DAB, the automatic scan mode finds stations quickly (you can also search manually). It’s easy to flick through stations using the << >> scan keys on the remote, or you can store your favourites in up to 20 presets. But the limited display space means only part of the station names are displayed, and there’s a slight delay before it starts scrolling – not helpful with so many stations that begin with ‘BBC Radio…’
The remote is classic Panasonic with its large buttons and no-nonsense labelling. There’s a thoughtfully placed direction pad surrounded by frequently used keys, while the crucial playback keys are clearly marked. The volume buttons are a bit small but otherwise it’s easy to master.
The SC-PMX7DB makes up for its operational deficiencies with terrific sound quality. Its sound is rich and hearty, beefed up by waves of bass that inject warmth without making everything sound muddy. But the system also digs out plenty of musical detail and texture, making this a more refined and natural performer than you might have expected from a mass-market brand.
These qualities permeate the distinctive folk-soul of Michael Kiwanuka’s Home Again album, played from a docked iPod. Opening track Tell Me A Tale sounds open and organic, with airy flutes and perky percussion, while the lilting guitars on I’m Getting Ready are sweet and inviting. It picks out the delicate background shuffle of cymbals and the slight rasp of Kiwanuka’s voice.
It’s all presented within a spacious stereo stage – even more so when you select the Surround widening mode – and there’s a lovely balance across the frequency spectrum.
Switch over to faster dance music – in this case Audio Therapy by Nathan Adams – and the pulsating house beats are tight and accurate. The speakers display good agility and drive, with that three-way driver arrangement ensuring crisp highs and solid bass.
We’re not entirely convinced it quite has the chops to entice audiophiles, who might find the sound a little too warm, but to everyone else the SC-PMX7DB’s sound is sure to please. What’s more, voices and music on DAB radio are uniformly clear and crisp.
If you’re looking for a one-box system that plays music from a variety of sources – without the complication of network streaming – then the SC-PMX7DB is a decent purchase.
It looks stylish and the iPhone 5 dock and Bluetooth support are killer features, but more importantly it makes for an entertaining listen, reproducing tunes from any source with plenty of warmth and detail.
However, a few shortcomings deny it top marks. It’s clunky to operate at times, you can only play MP3 from USB devices and it doesn’t support menu browsing from all Apple devices. And at this price, you could argue that it should offer network streaming, which is found on similarly priced products like the Denon CEOL Piccolo. But as all-in-one systems go the SC-PMX7DB is still an enticing proposition.
Attractive features, stylish looks and assured sound quality make Panasonic’s hi-fi system a solid purchase, but it’s not the slickest system we’ve tested