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Panasonic SA-BX500 review

Kat Orphanides
7 Jul 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
380
inc VAT

With a fiddly configuration and a bright sound that can become harsh on the wrong speakers, the SA-BX500 is overpriced.

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Panasonic's 7.1 SA-BX500 is the most expensive receiver here, but it's also the only model with a multi-channel analogue input. This makes it a good choice for use with a PC.

There are only three HDMI among the many inputs on the back, but that should be enough for most people. The three optical S/PDIF inputs are locked to certain component and composite video inputs, and one coaxial S/PDIF input for an external CD player.

This amplifier supports bi-wired front speakers, but you have to turn on this option in the SA-BX500's menus to use it. You can also feed audio to rear speakers wirelessly if you buy the digital transmitter (around £100).

Acoustic optimisation wasn't triggered when the provided setup microphone was connected, so we had to refer back to the sometimes confusing manual, which told us to press and hold a button on the clumsy remote control. Unfortunately, this is typical of the SA-BX500's configuration options: few are immediately obvious and the limited menus and poorly designed remote make life hard.

After minor setup complications, we were pleasantly surprised by a powerful, bright and vibrant sound. Treble and mid-tones are sharp and intense, although the bass can sound underpowered. This is most obvious when it's used with speaker systems that also have an emphatic treble, and can result in a harsh, brittle sound. Stereo and 5.1 music were well balanced, and movie explosions had plenty of volume and impact but lacked booming depth.

Directional surround sound was good, particularly with moving sounds. Subtle details and background sounds were also produced clearly. The receiver supports all the usual audio standards, including the lossless codecs used on Blu-ray soundtracks. Stereo CDs were automatically upscaled to surround sound using Dolby Neo:6. Music purists will be glad to know that this can be disabled via the remote control. Unfortunately, although it sounds vivid, the SA-BX500 sounds a little too bright for our tastes, and Onkyo's cheaper TX-SR577 is a better choice for most people.

Details

Price£380
Rating***

Connections

HDMI inputs3
HDMI outputs1
Component inputs3
Component outputs1
Output resolutionsPAL (576i), 720p, 1080i, 1080p
Total SCART sockets0
SCART socket typeN/A
S-Video input6
S-video output2
Composite inputs6
Composite outputs2
Stereo phono inputs7
Stereo phono outputs1
Coaxial S/PDIF inputs1
Coaxial S/PDIF outputs0
Optical S/PDIF inputs3
Optical S/PDIF outputs0
Multi-channel inputyes
Headphone output1/4in
Speaker configuration7.1
Main unit end speaker connection typebinding post terminals
Speaker end speaker connection typeN/A
Other connectionscalibration mic input, subwoofer phono output, Panasonic digital transmitter port, analogue eight channel in

Playback

Surround sound formatsDolby Digital EX, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Surround Pro Logic IIx, DTS Decoder 2, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, DTS-HD Low Bit Rate, DTS ES, Neo:6, DTS 96/24, Dolby TrueHD
Optical driveno
Region freeN/A
Supported playback disc formatsN/A
Audio format supportN/A
Video playback formatsN/A
Image viewing formatsN/A
RadioAM/FM

Speakers

Speaker configuration7.1
RMS power output910W
RMS power centre130W
RMS power front260W
RMS power surround520W
RMS power subwooferN/A
Centre speaker cable lengthN/A
Front speaker cable lengthN/A
Surround speaker cable lengthN/A

General

Extrascalibration mic
Size145x430x300mmmm
Subwoofer dimensionsN/A
Centre speaker dimensionsN/A
Front speaker dimensionsN/A
Surround speaker dimensionsN/A
Power consumption standby0W
Power consumption on57W

Buying Information

Price£380
Warrantyone year RTB
Supplierhttp://www.buy-at-sap.co.uk
Detailswww.panasonic.co.uk