Some sacrifices have to be made if you pick a 2.1-channel sound bar instead of a standard 2.1-channel speaker system. Range becomes limited since you are more restricted in terms of placement and audio quality isn’t as great especially if the sound bar has a thin profile. But if the sound bar can sound better than the TV’s built-in speakers, there can still be appeal. The Panasonic SC-HTB65 has this kind of appeal but it offers a little bit more freedom when it comes to placement so you can still attain full range sound if you install it properly.
The SC-HTB65 is a fairly standard sound bar measuring 37 inches wide and around 2 and a half inches high. The front panel has a row of indicators which negate the need for an info display. This allows you to easily change speaker modes or input sources while knowing exactly what the active input source and mode is. You can change the input source or adjust the volume from the side of the sound bar. Other adjustments can be made using the compact remote control that is also included and is very simple to use.
Panasonic also released SC-HTB70 which is a similar but slightly higher-priced sound bar that comes with extra stands so you can position the sound bar at different angles. The Panasonic SC-HTB65 simply lacks these stands so you are forced to position the sound bar upward at 0 degrees which is still capable of projecting decent audio quality. However, that isn’t your only limitation since the included wall mount brackets allow you to position the sound bar at a 90-degree angle. The package also includes a pair of safety holders to make sure that the SC-HTB65 is securely mounted to the wall. Adding the optional fall prevention cord which is sold separately even adds more safety. What the Panasonic SC-HTB65 doesn’t have is the detachable design that models like the SC-HTB370 and SC-HTB770 boast.
Installing the SC-HTB65 is pretty simple as it involves attaching the included power cord to the sound bar and then plugging it directly to the outlet. After you found the right position and mounted the sound bar if desired, you can connect the sound bar directly to the TV using the optical digital audio cable. If you have a set top box, there are also audio inputs available. You don’t have to worry about connecting a subwoofer or linking a wireless subwoofer since the subwoofer is already integrated. No HDMI ports are provided since the sound bar can work with any components directly connected to the TV.
As for portable devices, the built-in Bluetooth really helps because many kinds of low-end and high-end devices have Bluetooth. This means modern portable media players, ordinary feature phones, smartphones and even laptops can easily pair with the Panasonic SC-HTB65 and wirelessly stream music without requiring any fancy apps. The remote control has a special Bluetooth button for linking and unlinking.
Because the SC-HTB65 only costs $180, the overall sound quality is a bit below average if you compare it directly against other higher-priced sound bars. However, the Panasonic SC-HTB65 will still feel like a healthy upgrade if you find the built-in TV speakers too limiting. The integrated subwoofer isn’t as powerful as a separate subwoofer but it still provides some bass. Mounting the sound bar may also help with the range and the sensor detects the layout automatically so the directional characteristics are automatically switched.
Regardless of the sound bar’s position, you can still play with some controls which may improve the overall audio quality. The remote control features dedicated plus and minus buttons for adjusting the subwoofer and dialog levels so you don’t have to crawl through menus. Raising the dialog level simply adds more clarity to vocals which can help a lot if you are watching movies or TV programs. You can also experiment with certain combinations depending on the content you are watching. For instance, you may be able to reproduce a rather natural sound from movies if you keep the dialog level low while the subwoofer level is high. There is also a Clear-mode Dialog feature which simulates that effect of vocals coming out of the center of your TV.
Movie lovers can also try switching the sound mode to Cinema as it may improve the audio quality. There are other sound modes to try out for other occasions like Stereo, Stadium, News, Music and Standard.
The SC-HTB65 is an attractive $180 deal especially if you consider how decent it sounds. But you can spend $20 more for the same kind of power along with a few more stands allowing more positions along with an IR blaster which should have been included with the Panasonic SC-HTB65. Other than that, the SC-HTB65 is a nice 2.1-channel sound bar.
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