Review TV manufacturers are keen to push the merits of picture quality on the latest sets, but unfortunately sound quality seems to have been lost somewhere along the way due to the tiny speakers manufacturers cram into their slender frames. It seems as if most expect you to twin their sets with surround sound systems. If you haven’t got space for a full home theatre set-up, a soundbar may be more suitable audio upgrade.
Raising the bar: Panasonic SC-HTB520
Panasonic’s latest offering consists of a soundbar that houses three speaker drivers on each side and works in conjunction with an active subwoofer. Together this is enough to kick out a racket that equates to a full 240watts of RMS sound – easily enough to fill a front room with neighbour-bothering levels of sound.
The subwoofer is wireless so you can place it pretty much anywhere you like in your room, while the main soundbar can either be sat in front of your TV on its short, rubber legs or wall mounted using the brackets that are supplied in the box.
Unlike a lot of soundbars, this one has a very low profiles design, so it’s unlikely to block your TV’s remote control IR sensor when it’s sat in front of it. However, if it does, Panasonic has cleverly include an IR relay system, where the front of the soundbar registers your TV remote control commands and then passes them on to the telly via a small IR blaster. It’s this type of attention to detail that separates this model from many of its competitors.
Integrating the soundbar into your system is pretty straight forward. There are two connection options on the rear: HDMI and optical digital audio. In a typical set up you’re likely to run an optical cable from your TV’s digital output to the optical input on the soundbar.