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Panasonic SC-BT230 review

Panasonic SC-BT230
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 450
inc VAT

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.

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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.

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Details

Price £450
Rating ***

Connections

HDMI outputs 1
Component inputs 0
Component outputs 0
Output resolutions 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
Total SCART sockets 0
SCART socket type N/A
S-Video input 0
S-video output 0
Composite inputs 0
Composite outputs 1
Stereo phono inputs 0
Stereo phono outputs 1
Coaxial S/PDIF inputs 0
Coaxial S/PDIF outputs 0
Optical S/PDIF inputs 2
Optical S/PDIF outputs 0
Multi-channel input no
Headphone output none
Speaker configuration 5.1
Main unit end speaker connection type proprietary
Speaker end speaker connection type spring terminals
Other connections Ethernet, USB, wireless speaker
Wired network ports 1x 10/100
Wireless networking support optional 802.11n

Playback

Surround sound formats Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, DTS-HD HRA, DTS-HD MA
Optical drive yes
Supported playback disc formats Blu-ray
Audio format support MP3, WMA
Video playback formats MPEG-2, DivX, AVCHD
Image viewing formats JPEG
Radio FM

Speakers

Speaker configuration 5.1
RMS power output 1000W
RMS power centre 250W
RMS power front 250W
RMS power surround 250W
RMS power subwoofer 250W
Wall mountable yes
Centre speaker cable length 2.0m
Front speaker cable length 2.8m
Surround speaker cable length 7.6m

General

Extras remote control
Size 430x287x54mm
Subwoofer dimensions 145x258x290mm
Centre speaker dimensions 145x72x85mm
Front speaker dimensions 80x68x119mm
Surround speaker dimensions 80x68x119mm
Power consumption standby 0W
Power consumption on 34W

Buying Information

Price £450
Warranty one year RTB
Supplier http://www.play.com
Details www.panasonic.co.uk