There are many high-end LED televisions being launched in the market, which boast of some pretty impressive specifications. These range from Smart TV capabilities to 3D playback options. However, in an attempt to pack these HDTVs with features, sound quality took a backseat. This is not just restricted to one brand, but across a variety of television manufacturers. This is also not to say that all the HDTVs in the current crop have poor sound quality, but sadly, most of them do.

Full gloss exterior

Full gloss exterior

The solution to this problem is a sound bar and many speaker manufacturers have launched their iteration of the product that can be extremely useful to get the best out of a home theatre experience. Panasonic, a well known brand for AV products have launched the SC-HTB520, a 2.1 channel soundbar that features a wireless subwoofer and HDMI connectors.

Design and Build Quality
As for looks, the SC-HTB520 does not drop many points, as it is slick, stylish and has a gloss-filled exterior. One may tend to be wary about placing soundbars near their televisions, as it may sometimes take the look away of the beautiful looking HDTV. But, if placed accordingly, the SC-HTB520 can actually compliment the TV. It measures at 1018 x 75 x 44mm and is ideal for televisions measuring between 42-inches to 50-inches.

Apart from being placed in front of the TV, it can be wall mounted as well ensuring that there is a reduced amount of clutter. The speaker comes bundled up with wall brackets, which reduce the worry of purchasing separate brackets just to mount it. Speaking about clutter, this soundbar has a very minimalistic design with all connections slotted in niches at the back. The connectors located at the rear include an HDMI out for the TV, an HDMI input for a Blu-ray or DVD player, an IR blaster terminal, an optical in and a wireless terminal for connecting to the subwoofer.

Simple and stylish subwoofer

Simple and stylish subwoofer

Moving back to the design, this soundbar has a full glossy finish, which although looks appealing, does retain a lot of fingerprints when handled. The front panel is devoid of any controllers and using the same minimalistic approach, Panasonic have placed the drivers on either ends, underneath a grill, which the brand terms as a mirror coated stainless mesh. The drivers featured on the soundbar, include a two way, two speaker, bass reflex placement. There is no display on this, instead, the different commands sent to it are denoted by LED indicators, which are located on the upper portion of the front panel in the centre.

Coming along with the soundbar is a wireless subwoofer that gets connected using the VIERA link. This subwoofer, like the soundbar has an entire gloss finish and the driver featured with it is downward facing. The only button featured on the woofer is the power button located at the back. With the speakers, a remote control also comes along that is quite tiny. It is quite lightweight and features basic controls, such as switching between the different inputs, adjusting the volume, etc.

The small and lightweight remote control

The small and lightweight remote control

Summing up this bit, the SC-HTB520 is quite stylish and is extremely light in weight. The build quality is pretty sturdy as well and it appears that it could withstand some accidental bumps.

Features
The main feature of the SC-HTB520 is that it can be an ideal home theatre solution when coupled with the subwoofer. If space is a concern, this slim speaker set can be just the thing required, instead of pairing the television with a 5.1 channel speaker set. The design plays a big role in this home theatre set-up and Panasonic have done well in incorporating it. With the subwoofer that comes along with the soundbar, one can get a 3D like sound as well. However, this depends on the location of the woofer.

HDMI ports at the back

HDMI ports at the back

Panasonic claims that with this speaker system, they have used their Clear Mode Dialog technology where vocals are clear and words are crisp. The soundbar also supports Dolby Pro Logic II for surround sound and Dolby Digital Decoder. A neat feature is that it has ARC (Audio return channel) capabilities wherein sound can be passed from the TV to the speakers as well as sending the signal to the TV using the same HDMI cable. Simply put, it means that when paired with a Blu-ray player and a television using separate HDMI cables, the audio signal can pass from the player to the television using the soundbar and back from the TV to the soundbar using the same HDMI cable connected to the TV. Panasonic rates the speakers on the soundbar at 60W RMS for both speakers and 120W RMS for the subwoofer.

Performance
The performance was tested by connecting our in-house Philips Blu-ray player to the Panasonic SC-HTB520 and then connect it to a 55-inch HDTV. The remote control is responsive and we faced no problems in that area, whatsoever. We ran ‘The Dark Knight’ Blu-ray to test the audio quality and gauge the overall performance of this speaker set.

Digital transmitter that helps connect to the subwoofer

Digital transmitter that helps connect to the subwoofer

The speakers are very loud and for a medium-sized house, it should be more than sufficient to wake the neighbours. The subwoofer has a fair amount of thump and we were quite impressed with its performance. The downward firing driver of the subwoofer makes the sound resonate and it is felt especially during loud scenes like crashes or bombs.

The speakers do well handling subtle tones. These sounds can be heard easily, which may not usually be like the rustle of money. Shrill sounds like glass breaking are quite crisp as well, giving one the feeling of being in a theatre. Voices are audible and there were no issues with this. However, the only problem was that the surround sound feeling was missing here.

Perfect for an 42 - 50-inch HDTV

Perfect for an 42 – 50-inch HDTV

Verdict
The Panasonic SC-HTB520 is available in India for a street price of Rs. 26,900. This is an ideal solution for those who do not have very large houses and who do not want a 5.1channel speaker set. It is a very stylish looking speaker and does quite well performance-wise as well. However we had a few issues with it. Soundbars have been designed as a solution for home theatre systems that offer surround sound capabilities. This speaker set does not perform that well in this capacity. Another issue we had with it is that it has only gone digital by including just HDMI ports as the main mode of connectivity. Though they have allotted two HDMI ports, one is just for input. So if a person has multiple devices, such as a gaming console and a Blu-ray player, they have to disconnect one to enable the other option. The brand has not added any analog ports, thus limiting the connectivity options, further. Other than this, it is an ideal choice for those willing to buy a soundbar or if not, one can get an all-in-one home theatre system complete with a Blu-ray player and a 5.1 channel audio system for a few thousands more.

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