Panasonic SC-HTB600 Sound Bar Review
Panasonic SC-HTB600 Sound Bar Review
PAT PILCHER discovers a soundbar that not only makes a great fist of three-dimensional sound but also renders dialogue spectacularly clearly.
Is it just me, or are an increasing number of TV shows and movies terribly mixed on the audio front? It’s exquisitely annoying to find murky dialogue made incoherent thanks to over-the-top surround effects and jarring soundtracks. Thank goodness for the folks at Panasonic. They may have the solution with their latest soundbar, which sports a Voice Mode that enhances speech, making movies just that much more watchable.
The Panasonic SC-HTB600 soundbar delivers a faux Dolby Atmos to give a surprisingly convincing 3D sound stage in the lounge of my home. The virtual surround magic is thanks to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support.
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I’d become increasingly jaded with soundbars/phones/coffee makers all claiming Dolby Atmos support. It must surely be one of the most over-used and abused sound enhancements of the moment. My expectations were understandably low when I connected and powered on the SC-HTB600.
Yet TV shows, movies (and some games) seemed to crank out audio that felt like I was inside a 360-degree sphere. The cinematic experience really did feel a lot more immersive than with the bog-standard audio cranked out by my old TV. The sound I encountered during this Panasonic Sound Bar review appeared to come at me from everywhere. The Voice audio mode also helped lift actor dialogue, which was a capability that even my significantly more expensive home theatre amp lacked.
How Panny worked this ear magic is beyond me – the HTB600 doesn’t have the up-firing drivers that bounce sound off the ceiling of my lounge. Instead, it uses virtual surround-sound via forward-facing speakers (and a large degree of Panasonic sorcery). The upshot is that gaming and viewing were greatly enhanced.
Faux surround effects – even if they are as brilliant as those supplied by the SC-HTB600 – are next to useless if the audio sounds like it is delivered by my nana’s transistor radio. Thankfully, the soundbar comes with a wireless subwoofer. Not only did being wireless make it easy to install, but it also delivered added oompf to my viewing. Bangs boomed, making movies feel all that more cinematic. Simultaneously, the music sounded rather good – something that many soundbars struggle with. Getting the subwoofer set up was also a complete doddle. Being wireless, I merely had to plug it in and wait for it to find and connect to the SC-HTB600.
The soundbar is angled upwards, which helps project its sound field to my noggin and into my ears. It also has adjustable feet, so its tilt can be tweaked if you’re locating it underneath your TV. Because the rear of the soundbar is angled, it’ll also achieve the same effect if you decide to wall-mount it (Panasonic handily includes wall mounting brackets).
In terms of connectivity, you’re well covered. The SC-HTB600 supports Bluetooth, which handily allowed me to stream music from my smartphone.
For connectivity to your telly, the SC-HTB600 has an HDMI 4K HDR passthrough. This means you can watch 4K Dolby Vision content. An HDMI eARC port also means your TV/set-top widget can hand over Hi-Res Audio to the soundbar. For older TVs, there’s also a SPDIF port. Its USB port appears to be primarily for software updates.
Pairing the soundbar with my phone was also an easy undertaking. I was able to pair up to eight devices. I tried a 9th device, but it would forget whichever Bluetooth connected gadget I’d used least.
While a soundbar can never hope to match the audio output from a dedicated amp/atmos speaker setup, it’s miles simpler and a far more convenient option. Getting a full home theatre amp/speaker setup configured is a fiddly and tedious process requiring a decent amount of space and time. I was able to unbox and get up and running with the SC-HTB600 in under 30 minutes.
For those who are space constrained (e.g., living in an apartment or townhouse) or just not wanting the complexity (or cost) of a dedicated home theatre setup, I found in my Panasonic Sound Bar review that this SC-HTB600 is a solid option that can still deliver the goods sonically. That and its versatility makes it a perfect 10/10.