So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- Great sound quality, easy setup, good looks
- Minimal video inputs, irritating menu system
An attractive package for converting just one or two devices to surround. It looks great and offers wonderful sound, but for combining the control of four or five devices, there are better alternatives.
Price$ 659.00 (AUD)
In the SC-HT15, Panasonic offers a simple receiver and speaker combination that allows you to upgrade your existing input devices (DVD, VCR, CD player and so on) to a surround sound setup, with minimal cost and without the hassle of having to replace anything.
The system comes with a standard 5.1 speaker setup: two front speakers, two rear speakers, a centre speaker and a subwoofer. The two front speakers look very stylish; they're large, contoured and sit on top of metal stands. They also have an option for wall mounting, which is useful in small spaces, but the package does not include all the necessary tools and components for this.
The rear and centre speakers are smaller, but not so small as to inhibit sound quality. All the speakers plug directly into the subwoofer, which then connects to the receiver, rather than each manually plugging into the main unit--which keeps the back clear for swapping and changing devices.
The unit itself is slim, sleek and reasonably stylish. Initially we were amazed at the size, as the SC-HT15 is less than 4cm thick, but upon closer inspection we realised how this was possible, and also discovered one of the big weaknesses of the system. The receiver is exclusively an audio receiver. This means it does not take video input of any kind. A basic setup with this system involves plugging your DVD player's video output into the television, and its audio output into the receiver. Using multiple devices (CD players, VCRs, game consoles and the like) requires elaborate combinations of video and audio inputs. Most other receivers concentrate control over all one's entertainment devices into a single box, so it seems remiss not to include this sort of functionality.
It's a pity, because the sound quality is excellent. We were particularly impressed with the centre speaker, which sounded fantastic. The subwoofer produced a great rumbling with little distortion, and the back speakers had just enough presence to create a proper surround environment without being overbearing. We picked up almost no distortion, regardless of the volume used or the pitch of the sound.
The menu system left something to be desired. Navigation was unnecessarily difficult on the console, and the remote was not self-explanatory. It took a good while poring over the manual before we had much idea of how to manipulate the sound field. That said, there were plenty of options to control the levels of the individual speakers as well as a bass boost function.
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