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Panasonic SC-HTB350 2.1 Channel Home Theater Audio System - Review

Sound Bar or Speakers - Your Choice

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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Panasonic SC-HTB350 2.1 Channel Home Theater System with Accessories and Documentation

Panasonic SC-HTB350 2.1 Channel Home Theater System with Accessories and Documentation

Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
Panasonic is well-known for its Plasma TVs and Blu-ray Disc players, but they also have a line of practical audio systems that can add to your TV viewing experience. The SC-HTB350 is an audio system that combines an innovative "multi-positional" speaker system with a wireless subwoofer that provides consumers with a way to get better sound for TV viewing without a lot of hassle. For more details on how to setup the SC-HTB350 and how it performs, keep reading this review. After reading the review, also check out my Panasonic SC-HTB350 Photo Profile.

Product Overview

Features of the SC-HTB350 Main Unit:

1. Power Output: 25 WPC x 2 (measured from 120hz to 20kHz, 6 ohms, 1% THD)

2. Inputs: 2 Digital Optical, and 1 analog stereo audio input. The SC-HTB350 also features wireless input capability for accessing audio from Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as some smartphones, digital audio players, and PCs.

3. Audio Decoding: Dolby Digital, DTS, and PCM.

4. Audio Processing: Dolby Prologic II, Dolby Virtual Speaker, Panasonic 3D Sound, Clear Mode Dialog.

5. Wireless Transmission: Bluetooth 2.4 GHz Band

6. Dimensions: 12-7/32in (W) x 1-23/32in (H) x 7-11/16in (D).

7. Weight: 2.4 lbs.

Features of the SC-HTB350's speaker system:

1. Drivers: One 2 1/2-inch midrange drivers and One 1-inch tweeter for each channel (two midrange and two tweeters total for entire speaker assembly).

2. Frequency Response: 120Hz to 20kHz

3. Speaker Dimensions (sound bar configuration): 37-5/8in (W) x 2-15/16in (H) x 1-3/8in (D).

4. Speaker Dimensions (separated with stand configuration - with stands): 5-13/16in (W) x 20-25/32in (H) x 5-23/32in (D).

5. Weight: Sound Bar Configuration - 2.5 pounds, Separated Configuration with Stands - 1.98 pounds, Separated Configuration with wall mount - 1.76 pounds.

Features of the Wireless Subwoofer unit:

1. Driver: Bass-reflex design with 6-1/2 inch Nanosized Bamboo down firing speaker with port.

2. Power Output: 40 watts (8ohms, 1% THD)

3. Frequency Response: 60-120Hz

4. Wireless Transmission Frequency: Bluetooth 2.4GHz.

5. Wireless Range: 30 feet - line of sight

6. Subwoofer Dimensions: 7-3/32in (W) x 16-1/16in (H) x 12-1/16 in (D)

7. Subwoofer Weight: 11.47 lbs.

8. Suggested Price: $299.99 - Compare Prices.

Additional components used in this review

Panasonic SC-HTB350 2.1 Channel Home Theater System - Connections

Panasonic SC-HTB350 2.1 Channel Home Theater System - Connections

Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
Blu-ray Disc Player: OPPO BDP-93.

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H.

TV/Monitor: Westinghouse LVM-37w3.

Software Used

Blu-ray Discs: Art of Flight,Ben Hur,Cowboys and Aliens, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Megamind, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol.

Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.

CDs: Al Stewart - Sparks of Ancient Light, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.

Set-Up

When opening the box containing the Panasonic SC-HTB350 system, there seems to be a lot to unpack. However, there are really only four key operational components: the main unit, two speaker sections, and the wireless subwoofer. The other items in the box are also important, such the speaker wire, detachable AC power cords, and remote control, but depending how you set the system up, you may not need all of the additional stand and wall mounting hardware that is also provided.

After unboxing everything, you need to decide whether you want to use the sound bar configuration, or the two separated speaker configuration. Also, make sure you save all of the accessories supplied in the box, just in case you want to change the speaker setup options later (See photo and explanation of included accessories).

If you decide to use the sound bar configuration, you just attach to two speaker sections together using the provided hinge insert and then you can place the sound bar above or below the TV either on a shelf or table, or attached to the well using the provided hardware.

If you decide not to combine the two speaker sections into a sound bar configuration, you just place each section a few inches (or more) on either side of your TV and either mount them on the wall or place them on a table or shelf using the provided attachable speaker stands (See photo example of speaker setup options).

After you decide the speaker arrangement, then place the subwoofer on the floor, preferably to the left or right of the TV/sound bar/speakers location, but you can experiment with other locations within the room.

Now find a spot for the main control/connection/processing unit and connect the speakers and your source components to that unit. One convenient part is that the main unit does not need to be connected to the subwoofer via a cable. All you have to do is turn on the subwoofer and the main unit and they will synch up via Bluetooth wireless technology.

To check to see if the subwoofer/main unit link is working, turn on a source device and play a CD or DVD that has lots of bass and see if the wireless subwoofer responds. If it does, you are all set - If it doesn't, first check the subwoofer volume control on the remote and, it needed, press the ID set button on the back of the wireless subwoofer (for more specifics - consult the troubleshooting section of the user manual).

Once you have confirmed that your speaker(s) and subwoofer are producing sound, you can then use the remote control to make any additional adjustments to suit your listening preferences. However, the remote control operation can be confusing if you do not take the time to read the user guide. For instance, the Mute button also serves to access other audio processing functions. Although the main unit has LED indicators, it does not have an actual alphanumeric status display to give you visual status information when accessing some of the audio processing functions.

Performance

Panasonic SC-HTB350 2.1 Channel Home Theater System - Remote Control

Panasonic SC-HTB350 2.1 Channel Home Theater System - Remote Control

Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
The first thing that I noticed when listening to SC-HTB350 is that dialog and vocals are prominent and can be brought forward somewhat independently from the rest of the soundtrack, even though the SC-HTB350 does not have a dedicated center channel speaker. This is great for those DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, and TV programs where the sound effects seem to overwhelm the center dialog.

Also, in the sound bar configuration, the sound field is actually pretty wide - sound is projected well beyond the sound bar's physical borders, although it doesn't project towards the rear, as it would if you had dedicated surround speakers, the effect is definitely effective, given the sound bar setup.

When splitting the sound bar into a two-speaker setup, the sound stage can be widened further, resulting in an improved surround effect that projects somewhat to the sides, but still not as immersive as a having dedicated surround speakers.

On the other hand, there is a lack of brightness on high frequencies, which results in a dampening of detail of musical instruments, such as piano passages, and the surround effects (such as breaking glass, splintering wood, as well as subtle transient sounds). Also, while the subwoofer provides adequate low frequency response for this type of system, there is slight boominess in the mid-bass frequencies. In addition, the subwoofer has a modest power output which reveals itself when it tries to reach down into the very low frequency range. This limits it effectiveness somewhat in soundtracks that have really deep low frequency elements, whether it be in movies or music.

Final Take

Although SC-HTB350 doesn't produce the extra sparkle in the high frequency range, blow-your-socks-off bass, or immerse you in a true surround sound environment, that you may get in a 5.1 or 7.1 channel speaker home theater audio system, it definitely does provide a listening experience that is a major improvement over having to put up with inadequate TV speakers, without taking up a lot of extra space.

The provided "multi-positional" speakers, whether used as a sound bar or separately, complement the thin profiles of the today's LCD and Plasma TVs, especially if you prefer having your TV and speakers mounted on the wall.

If you are looking for an inexpensive audio solution that can enhance your TV viewing experience, the SC-HTB350 is a good value, especially for its $299.99 suggested price. This system would a be good option for a smaller room setup, such as an apartment-sized living room or as a second bedroom system.

For a further look at the Panasonic SC-HTB350, check out my supplementary Photo Profile which includes more details on both the speaker setup options, the subwoofer, and connections, as well as how to operate the remote control.

Compare Prices for SC-HT350

Also, if you are looking for a system that has the same design and speaker setup options, but want more connection options, then consider the step-up Panasonic SC-HTB550, which adds HDMI input and output connectivity, with 3D pass-through and Audio Return Channel compatibility. The SC-HTB550 has a suggested price of $399.99.

Compare Prices for SC-HT550

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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