Panasonic makes some of the best TVs right now. But most TVs come with built-in speakers that leave a lot to be desired especially if you want to enjoy music at higher volumes. A 5.1-channel speaker system with an AV receiver can make a difference if you have the money and are willing to set everything up. A sound bar is a more affordable and simpler option that can also yield exceptional results. The Panasonic SC-HTB370 has an interesting take on sound bars and it can benefit those that want added flexibility when it comes to setting up the home theater system.
Unlike conventional sound bars, the SC-HTB370 comes with several components. The main unit (SU-HTB370) serves as the hub for the 2.1-channel speaker system. It looks fairly simple having 4 buttons on the top (power button, volume controls and input selector) and a row of light indicators on the front. The back of the main unit is pretty basic as well with a pair of speaker terminals, AUX terminals and dual optical digital audio terminals for the TV and media player. The USB port is only reserved for servicing.
The sound bar itself consists of a pair of front speakers (SB-HTB570). You can connect these two speakers together horizontally to form a sound bar that can look good in front of the TV display. Once finished, you can connect the included speaker cables to the main unit and be on your way. You have the option of using the support legs and speaker feet in placing the sound bar horizontally or you can use the leg stands if you need to raise the sound bar a little bit. Since these speakers lack a built-in IR repeater, placing the sound bar in front of the TV may block the TV’s sensor rendering your TV remote unusable. The flexible nature of this sound bar allows you to solve the problem in a couple of ways.
The included speaker bases all you to use the front speakers as separate satellites. This type of table top setup positions the TV on the center in between the left and right front speakers. Rather than connecting the two speakers together, you stand them upright by connecting the speakers to the speaker bases and then connect them to the main unit as usual. Plus, the Panasonic SC-HTB370 comes with all the necessary accessories and screws to mount these speakers to the wall as a connected sound bar or separate pair of upright speakers. The included active subwoofer is easy to set up and position since it wirelessly links to the main unit.
The flexibility of the SC-HTB370 is really the main feature of this budget sound bar and it really helps if you want to change the layout of the speakers depending on the occasion. For instance, the traditional sound bar setup could be ideal if you want a minimalistic look for enjoying your TV programs. Then you can separate the 2 front speakers if you want to broaden the sound field which could improve the music listening experience.
Listening to music with the Panasonic SC-HTB370 is pretty simple thanks to the built-in Bluetooth connectivity. Any laptop, smartphone or smaller portable device that has Bluetooth and the ability play music files can pair with the SC-HTB370. Once both devices are paired, sounds will automatically be relayed to the sound bar wirelessly. The pairing process is easy since the included remote control has a Bluetooth button. This compact remote control also has dedicated buttons for controlling the volume in addition to the dialog level and subwoofer. This is nice since you won’t have to browse through any menus or fancy user interfaces in order to make speaker adjustments.
You won’t get studio monitor performance out of the Panasonic SC-HTB370 but the speakers still sound a lot better than standard built-in speakers no matter how you set them up. The active subwoofer also helps with the bass. The audio quality is also very good when using Bluetooth connections which is good as some sound systems with Bluetooth connectivity are unable to transmit sounds without sacrificing some clarity.
There are also a couple of settings that you can play around with that could improve the audio quality. The dialog level control, for instance can add some clarity to the surround sound experience while clear-mode dialog emphasizes the voices so they sound as if they are coming right from the center of your display. You may also use the Dolby Virtual Speaker feature to achieve a similar surround sound effect that 5.1-channel systems yield. When no sound is dedicated for around 30 minutes, the SC-HTB370 will automatically enter standby mode to conserve electricity.
Priced at $299, the Panasonic SC-HTB370 is a great deal if you really like the flexibility. While setting up the sound bar requires more steps than setting up the average sound bar, all the steps are nicely detailed on the instruction manual and quick setup guide so you can’t get lost. Once you have gotten past those steps, you will be rewarded with decent audio quality and convenient Bluetooth functionality.
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