To experience cinema-style high-definition television in all its glory, you need more than just a big TV.
A Home Cinema System is a must to hear the action in the way the programme or film’s director intended.
But good audio can be costly, and it can also take up a lot of space. A full 5.1 surround sound system means a speaker under your TV, two either side, two behind you plus the subwoofer.
And if you don’t spend out extra cash for a full or part wireless system, then you’ll have trailing leads across the room too.
So a soundbar like the Panasonic SC-HTB15 is certainly one answer. It aims to provide a surround sound experience from one long slim speaker placed under the telly, paired up with a subwoofer.
It’s fair to say soundbars can’t replicate the full surround experience. But for those with less space and less cash, they’re a sound option.
Look, feel & setup
This Panasonic soundbar is thinner and less wide than most. In fact, you’ll wonder how it even fitted in the box until you open the packaging to find it’s cut in half and needs the left and right pieces to be connected together.
That’s a simple and quick job and with only a few wires to hook up, to the subwoofer and then the TV, it doesn’t take long before you’re up and running and ready for some easy listening.
What is interesting about the Pansonic SC-HTB15 though is because the soundbar is in two pieces, you also have the option of setting it up as two separate speakers placed vertically on either side of your TV, whether that’s on the wall or standing in the bases you’ll find in the box.
The one thing that does restrict you though is the placement of the subwoofer. To avoid wires showing, you’ll want to keep it near to the TV and soundbar.
Personally, I’d opt for the soundbar-style set-up over the two speaker system. It looks more stylish and complements your screen much better.
One extra point to note is the way the SC-HTB15 is connected to your TV. If you have a newer TV made after the middle of 2009, then it should support HDMI 1.4. This means with the right HDMI cable and HDMI Arc compatible port on the TV, you can connect this audio system purely through an HDMI lead.
The 1.4 version of the technology introduced an Audio Return Channel removing the need to use a specific optical sound cable. If you do not have an Arc port, you will need an optical cable.
As a home cinema system, the SC-HTB15 is a budget option but the sound it produces does deliver value for that money.
It uses Dolby Virtual Speaker technology to mimic the effect of having a proper 5.1 system, bouncing the sound around the room to make it feel as if the action is behind you.
Panasonic has also added its own 3D surround effect setting, which it says is more suited to specific 3D TV images, although it was hard to see much of a difference.
The one audio setting that is notable is the Clear-mode dialog. As the name suggests, it is designed to focus on dialog and enhance that above any effects and other sounds. So during football matches for example, it will make the commentary stand out.
It certainly allows you to concentrate on what people are saying making it suited to TV watching rather than movies where you’ll want the Dolby Virtual speaker or 3D surround effect.
Being a budget option, the SC-HTB15 isn’t as powerful as other more expensive audio systems so you may find you need to crank up the volume to get the best sounds.
This – and the size and length of the soundbar – also make it unsuitable for large rooms and larger TVs. It’s probably best paired with a TV under 40 inches.
When connected to a Panasonic Viera television, you also have some extra control option, managed through the HDMI cable, such as turning off the speakers automatically when the TV is switched off and using the same volume controls on your TV remote for the speakers.
Here’s some more articles you might like:
- What sound options are available for my TV?
- How to Set Up a Home Cinema System
- How to Set Up Your PC for Great Surround Sound
- New Sonos Sub Expert Review
- Two different setups
- Easy to connect
- Not good for large rooms or TVs
- Lacks power
- Subwoofer not wireless
As a starter system, this is a good buy.
It won’t make your ears bleed, or have the neighbours banging on the walls because their windows are shaking, but it does the job of enhancing sound from your TV without expense, mess and confusing setup.
Beginners and those with a small room who want a decent audio boost will benefit from its addition to their home entertainment equipment.
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