Panasonic has come a long way in the soundbar industry since the Panasonic SC-HTB1 – its first soundbar – which was launched just over a year ago. With the Panasonic SC-HTB520 home cinema soundbar we have their latest product which has three speaker drivers on each side and an active subwoofer that works alongside it to get you excited. With TVs growing bigger in screen size but not so much in terms of audio performance, it is time we find out if this soundbar is able to provide you with the audio improvement you need.
The soundbar is really short measuring less than 8cm which means you do not have to have too much space under your TV to be able to place it without disturbing your view. Panasonic SC-HTB520’s surroundbar is however more than a meter wide which might make you just want to mount it on the wall and with the two brackets provided for this purpose that shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. The subwoofer can be wirelessly connected to the main unit thus allowing you to place the 120W subwoofer wherever you feel comfortable. However, there is no LCD display on these units so it might take you a while before you manage to balance the subwoofer’s volume to the soundbar’s volume. The front of the soundbar is covered by a non-removable grille and just underneath it you can spot the two-way, two-speaker, bass reflex layout. So if you decide to just put the main soundbar unit under your TV, it will almost surely not block your TV’s IR sensor, but if it still does the Panasonic SC-HTB520 home cinema soundbar comes with an IR relay system. It is a smart system as the soundbar identifies the IR signal from your TV remote control and relays it to your TV thanks to the built-in IR blaster. Now that definitely sets this soundbar apart from the rest. The soundbar offers quite a few connections however none of them are of the analogue kind. There are two v1.4 HDMI inputs and also a digital optical audio input. What you can do to connect your DVD player to this set for instance is by connecting the player’s sound and picture to the HDMI inputs and then use the optical connection for you TVs digital output. Nevertheless, if your TV comes with support for Audio Return Channel (ARC) then you could save one of the HDMI ports on the soundbar as all you only need one HDMI port if ARC is present.
The Panasonic SC-HTB520 has a decoder to go together with it and it’s capable of dealing with DTS and Dolby Digital signals. These signals are then output in the form of pseudo-surround Dolby Virtual Speaker. What’s more, you can go up to 7.1-ch linear PCM with this unit. |
The remote control that goes with the Panasonic SC-HTB520 soundbar system is small and fits perfectly in your palm. It is also very basic but it gets the job done as it has buttons for switching between active inputs as well as controls for volume. Speaking about switching inputs, you might have to do it quite often as we found out that the Panasonic SC-HTB520 starts up on TV input which means you will have to select the HDMI input time and again. You can adjust the volumes for both your soundbar and the subwoofer from the comfort of your couch as the remote control offers separate controls for them. Panasonic have also integrated the soundbar controls into the remote control of Panasonic VIERA TVs, so if you own one of those TVs then that’s one less remote control to worry about.
Setting up the Panasonic SC-HTC520 Home Cinema Soundbar
Setting up this soundbar is pretty easy. As we mentioned earlier, every time you turn it on just be sure to select the source that you want unless you want it to go to the default TV input. Then all that’s left is to pick up that remote and adjust the volume levels of both the soundbar and subwoofer until they sound heavenly to your ears.
The Dolby Digital Virtual technology does a great job at broadening out the stereo soundstage although if you have used the Yamaha YSP-2200 previously, you would realize that the Panasonic SC-HTB520 lacks proper real channel. That is just a minor blip as thanks to this soundbar unit, background music you hear on movies are more enveloping when compared to built-in TV speakers. Thanks to the subwoofer there is also good bass. However the main unit might carry a bit too much bass as you might find when listening to music. Panasonic SC-HTB520‘s subwoofer and soundbar unit however still do a great job as they sync together well and get those dialogues in movies to be heard clearly and not drowned out by movie soundtracks. The unit is also from our tests better suited for music as rock and electronic music could be heard very clearly. In all, we found this soundbar system to be great in an average sized room but when you move it to a large room however, we lose some of the detail.
Pros and Cons
Although the Panasonic SC-HTB520 is already short enough to not come in the way of your TVs IR sensor, we still like the fact that it comes with that IR blaster technology which will definitely avoid such issues if any. The set up process was really easy and the subwoofer is wirelessly connected to the soundbar which means you get flexibility in the placement of the subwoofer. It also has a simple and straightforward remote control.
No LCD display to show your volume or other audio settings makes it a hassle to adjust those settings to that ideal level you are looking for. The Panasonic SC-HTB520 soundbar is bass heavy. Another odd thing is how the soundbar goes straight to the TV input every time it’s turned on.
Reasonably priced, good audio quality and sleek design makes the Panasonic SC-HTB520 something you would want to have to complement your TV.
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