It's packed full of features and supports all of the latest sound and image standards, but the surround-sound is a little flat and underwhelming.
While all of these things are nice extras to have, what will make or break the SC-BT230 is its performance in movies. Things certainly look promising flicking down the spec sheet, when you see that both Dobly Digital True HD and DTS-HD MA lossless formats are supported. These sound much cleaner and more vibrant when compared to DVD’s lossy audio codecs.
While both of these standards support up to 7.1 channels of sound, the SC-BT230’s 5.1 speaker configuration isn’t a problem: most living rooms don’t have enough space for the extra speakers and you need to be in a large room for 7.1 systems to sound any different.
We fired up some test DVDs to see how they sounded. In fairness to the system, the micro satellites do a fairly good job. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire we managed to hear all of the subtle noises of the tiles being ripped from Hogwarts in the Dragon scene. Switching to the Helicopter chase in Shara, the bullets ricocheting could be heard clearly.
However, we felt that the speakers lacked punch and vibrancy and made movies feel a little flat. The bigger issue here is that the passive subwoofer just can’t deliver those heart-stopping thumps we’d expect in a film. Overall, Panasonic has made sure that the sub is balanced against the speakers, so that bass doesn’t overwhelm everything, but it us wishing for a little more rumble and punch to low noises, such as explosions.
There’s not much you can do to try and balance the sound the way you want it, as there are only four preset sound equaliser settings to choose from (Flat, Heavy, Clear and Soft). The only configuration options for the speakers are to control the rear and centre speakers’ delay and volume, in order to get the best surround effect.
There in is another minor problem: we weren’t overly impressed by the sound envelope. Objects moving from left to right (front or rear) were handled well, but objects moving from front to back, or vice versa, didn’t do so that smoothly. In effect, it was more like there were two sound fields – one in front and one behind – rather than a smooth envelope.
It’s by far a poor surround sound set, but it just doesn’t produce the thrills and excitement we like to hear in movie sound tracks.
There’s nothing wrong with the image quality at all. Blu-rays can be played at Full HD 1080p resolutions at 24fps, while DVDs are neatly upscaled. The player supports the 4:4:4 Y’CbCr chroma subsampling, which is used in high-end film scanners and cinematic post production. It should help produce more accurate colours, although the overall effect will depend heavily on your TV’s capabilities.
Still, if you’re thinking about upgrading your telly soon, it’s good to know that this player will be able to produce the highest quality picture when you need it.
That said, it’s difficult to whole heartedly recommend this product. It’s pretty good value considering all of the features and it is incredibly easy to set up. However, we just didn’t feel that excited by the sound it produced, leaving us feeling a little flat. Buying a separate amp and speakers with an active subwoofer will get you way better results, but you’ll have to be willing to pay more.
|576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
|Total SCART sockets
|SCART socket type
|Stereo phono inputs
|Stereo phono outputs
|Coaxial S/PDIF inputs
|Coaxial S/PDIF outputs
|Optical S/PDIF inputs
|Optical S/PDIF outputs
|Main unit end speaker connection type
|Speaker end speaker connection type
|Ethernet, USB, wireless speaker
|Wired network ports
|Wireless networking support
|Surround sound formats
|Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, DTS-HD HRA, DTS-HD MA
|Supported playback disc formats
|Audio format support
|Video playback formats
|MPEG-2, DivX, AVCHD
|Image viewing formats
|RMS power output
|RMS power centre
|RMS power front
|RMS power surround
|RMS power subwoofer
|Centre speaker cable length
|Front speaker cable length
|Surround speaker cable length
|Centre speaker dimensions
|Front speaker dimensions
|Surround speaker dimensions
|Power consumption standby
|Power consumption on
|one year RTB