We were really excited about getting the Panasonic SC-HT880W out of the box to see what it could do. After weeks of assembling and dismantling wired home theatre systems, we were looking forward to the chance to test a wireless setup, something we could open up and have running in a matter of minutes. Thus it came as a disappointment when we broken open the seal to reveal nothing less than a tangle of wires.
- Great sound, avoids hassle of cross-room cables, looks good
- Not properly wireless, poor functionality
A great sounding system that won't break the budget. With the transmitter and freestanding speakers, it would be a worthwhile addition to many homes, but look elsewhere if you seek a fully functional, totally wireless system.
Price$ 1,299.00 (AUD)
Upon inspecting the manual, we discovered that the wireless connectivity referred to on the box merely meant the back speakers were not wired to the front speakers. Instead they connect to a wireless transmitter, which sends the signal to the receiver. While this does avoid some hassles with running cables across your room, the fact remains that it has no less wires than a fully wired system, and it actually takes up more space, as you must find somewhere to put the rather bulky wireless rear speaker receiver.
Once we got it going, the SC-HT880W performed quite well. We fired up Desperado to be greeted by an incredibly powerful, resonating surround experience. The bass in particular was fantastic, rumbling across the test centre, and prompting more than one "Shhhh!" from our colleagues. We did notice a tendency for the bass to overshadow the treble a little, making it difficult to hear some of the vocals, but overall it was quite impressive--definitely a system suited to action movies.
The system also looks very sleek. Styled in brushed silver, all four main speakers are on stands, with optional wall mounting. We found this look appealing, but it would be less attractive for more space-conscious people. The receiver is a different story. Panasonic has managed to incorporate a DVD player into it and still shrink it to a size that beats most competing models that utilise external players. We loved how it took up so little space in our test setup.
There is a price to pay for the small build of the receiver in that Panasonic has taken a very minimalist approach to inputs. The SC-HT800W comes with some basic audio and video inputs, a single set of component connections and a single S-Video input port. We would have liked to see a second set of component connections, a digital audio connection, DVI and probably an additional set of composite inputs. As the system already has a DVD drive, the lack of inputs won't bother many users, but it could be a problem for hard-core AV users who may have VCRs, set-top boxes, games consoles and other systems they wish to channel together.
The SC-HT880W offers basic Dolby, Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS surround options, as well as six preset surround modes including soft, heavy, live and hall. However, these did not seem to make much of a difference to the sound field, and several sounded virtually identical in our tests. We were excited about the voice-boosting function, which purported to increase the volume of people talking, but all it seemed to do was increase the volume of noises at a certain pitch, and so was as ineffective as the preset sound options.
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