The Panorama comes with a small oval-shaped remote, with just seven buttons arranged in a cross formation. It’s a bit fiddly but hats off to B&W for trying something different and the gloss black/sliver combo is extremely fetching.
For sheer aural excitement, few DVDs can match The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’s DTS ES soundtrack, and its spellbinding audio design provides the perfect test for the Panorama’s capabilities. The great news is that its sound quality is incredible, but the bad news is that like many other soundbars it lacks the necessary surround separation and precision to make it a viable substitute for a proper 5.1-channel system.
The unit’s reliance on walls to bounce surround effects to your ears means that the shape of your room and the unit’s position play a big part in the end result. Placed in the corner of an average-sized, rectangular living room, the sweet spot was ambiguous and rear effects never really sounded like they were emerging from behind the listening position. The soundstage is certainly expansive but won’t have you whipping round to see where that arrow came from.
Panorama does, however, deliver sensational sound quality in all other respects. Most impressive of all is its ability to generate bass levels on a par with a decent separate subwoofer, which completely knocked us for six when our test disc kicked into life.
Rich, full-bodied low-end underpins the action from start to finish, bulking out the big action scenes but also lending subtle depth to gentler ones. The rumble of the river as the Fellowship leaves Rivendell, the pounding percussion of Howard Shore’s epic score and the potent thuds as Gandalf battles with the Balrog are all delivered with the sort of muscularity you’d expect from a full separates system. It’s quite a feat.