Panasonic SC-HTB65 – Operation
As we found with the Panasonic SC-HTB570
, the SC-HTB65 is a little clumsy to operate. You’ll get used to it, but we can’t help feeling it would benefit from a nice, clear dot matrix display like the Panasonic SC-HTE80
For example, to enable/disable certain sound modes or check audio formats, you have to hold down combinations of buttons on the remote and/or the unit itself. Using the row of LEDs on top to indicate volume levels isn’t ideal either, particularly when you can’t see them from the sofa, but again you’ll get used to it.
The dinky remote bears only a few buttons, including dedicated controls for dialog and subwoofer volume. Each one has four levels, represented by four LEDs that light up incrementally. All of the buttons are clearly labelled, but on the downside the zapper’s size makes it awkward to hold.
Panasonic SC-HTB65 – Performance
On the whole, the Panasonic SC-HTB65 musters an enjoyably dynamic and rambunctious sound, packed with crisp detail and engaging midrange effects. It’s a massive leap in quality from any TV’s speakers, offering greater levels of volume and excitement.
But as we noted in our review of the SC-HTE80, the SC-HTB65 is lacking in deep, hard-hitting bass. The built-in sub does its best to fill out the low frequencies, but there just isn’t enough oomph during action-packed movie scenes to really satisfy. It’s no disaster, but lacks the deep, bassy quality of soundbars like the Pioneer SBX-N500
and Roth Sub Zero II
We played The Fellowship of the Ring on Blu-ray, and when the Fellowship comes under siege from a Cave Troll in the Mines of Moria, the scene falls flat – the troll’s big stomping footsteps and menacing roar lack depth and solidity, likewise the stomping kettle drums in the urgent score.
Bass notes are soft and hollow, even with the subwoofer volume level pushed the maximum. As a result midrange and treble dominate the soundstage, making the action seem bright and unbalanced.
But this does have its benefits elsewhere. Throughout the movie the Panasonic does a fine job with the minutiae of Middle Earth – chirping birds, trickling water and rustling fields are wonderfully lucid, and there’s a generally spacious, open sound. This is aided further by Virtual Speaker and 3D processing, which expand the soundstage nicely – although you couldn’t really describe it as surround sound.
Dialogue is clear and intelligible too, whether it’s tackling gruff Uruk-hai growls or high-pitched Hobbits, while Clear-mode Dialog makes speech that little bit easier to hear. And when listening to TV programmes, which aren’t quite so dependent on deep punchy bass, you get a clear, lively sound.
Should I buy the Panasonic SC-HTB65?
The SC-HTB65 is a simple and attractive soundbar, blessed with a chic, discreet design and a clever two-way layout. And in most respects sound quality is enjoyable – it’s louder and more dynamic than any TV’s speakers, and makes speech and detail sound clear and crisp. If TV forms the majority of your viewing diet, the Panasonic could be a good choice, particularly at such an affordable price.
But movie fans hoping for deep, room-filling bass will be left disappointed. Action scenes lack punch, and as a result you might be better off checking out rival soundbars and soundbases from the likes of Pioneer, Cambridge Audio and Roth as found in our round-up of the best soundbars
Simple, convenient and affordable, the Panasonic SC-HTB65 is an attractive audio solution for clutterphobes, but the lack of bass makes movie listening an unfulfilling.experience.
Also consider our pick of the 5 Best Surround Sound Systems
Score in detail
Sound Quality 7
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