With a fiddly configuration and a bright sound that can become harsh on the wrong speakers, the SA-BX500 is overpriced.
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.
|Output resolutions||PAL (576i), 720p, 1080i, 1080p|
|Total SCART sockets||0|
|SCART socket type||N/A|
|Stereo phono inputs||7|
|Stereo phono outputs||1|
|Coaxial S/PDIF inputs||1|
|Coaxial S/PDIF outputs||0|
|Optical S/PDIF inputs||3|
|Optical S/PDIF outputs||0|
|Main unit end speaker connection type||binding post terminals|
|Speaker end speaker connection type||N/A|
|Other connections||calibration mic input, subwoofer phono output, Panasonic digital transmitter port, analogue eight channel in|
|Surround sound formats||Dolby 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|
|Supported playback disc formats||N/A|
|Audio format support||N/A|
|Video playback formats||N/A|
|Image viewing formats||N/A|
|RMS power output||910W|
|RMS power centre||130W|
|RMS power front||260W|
|RMS power surround||520W|
|RMS power subwoofer||N/A|
|Centre speaker cable length||N/A|
|Front speaker cable length||N/A|
|Surround speaker cable length||N/A|
|Centre speaker dimensions||N/A|
|Front speaker dimensions||N/A|
|Surround speaker dimensions||N/A|
|Power consumption standby||0W|
|Power consumption on||57W|
|Warranty||one year RTB|