- Editor's Rating
- Compact design for limited space
- Four angles to deliver sound based on your setup
- Subwoofer lacks power
- Indicator lights near useless
- Sound quality is subpar
Quick TakeThe Panasonic SC-HTB70 will do a better job than your HDTV's speakers, but there are other units in the same price range that will deliver better quality sound.
If you have an HDTV, it’s nice to partner the high-definition picture with quality sound, but not everyone has the space or the budget for a surround-sound system or complete home theater. Enter speaker bars, which are a great option for anyone tight on space or money. The Panasonic SC-HTB70 is an inexpensive option that will deliver better quality sound than an HDTV’s standard speakers with a minimalistic design to boot.
The Panasonic SC-HTB70 has a built in subwoofer with two cone-type speakers that measure just over 3 inches. The entire unit measures about 37 x 2 x 4 inches and weighs around 7.5 pounds. Panasonic states that the speaker bar is best suited for HDTV’s between 42 and 50 inches. It features an optical input as well as the inputs for RCA cables; however, one lacking element is an AUX input. Don’t expect to plug in your smartphone to play music, you’ll have to stick with battery-draining Bluetooth. It comes with an extra IR blaster that can be plugged into the unit and placed nearby. This is useful if your setup requires the speaker bar to be laid flat.
An important feature of the Panasonic SC-HTB70 is that it can be adjusted four different ways depending on your home theater setup. For HDTVs mounted on the wall, the adjustable stand can be attached just below the TV, facing out at a 90-degree angle. If the HDTV is mounted on a wall, but the speaker bar is set atop an entertainment console just beneath it, the 80-degree adjustment will work best.
For a home theater setup with the HDTV sitting on a console, the speaker is best set at the 30-degree angle setting if it is sitting below on a separate shelf; if the speaker is resting on the same surface as the HDTV, lying it completely flat at a zero degree angle works best. No one layout is better than the other, it is simply a convenient way to ensure sound is correctly directed at the listeners… an important element of speaker setup.
The speaker bar features a sensor that tells it what angle the user has it set, which then dictates how it will deliver sound. For example, if the speaker bar is at a 90-degree angle, the sound will come straight out of the speakers; if it is lying flat at a zero-degree angle, the sound wraps up and around the speaker bar into the room. No matter the layout, sound is always delivered straight at the listener, rather than up at the ceiling.
The front of the speaker bar has status lights to indicate different sound modes, Bluetooth pairing, if the unit is on, and more. While it’s great that the front does not distract from watching a movie, it’s impossible to tell the speaker mode from far away. The small LED lights do not indicate much, unless you memorize their order. Since it lacks an LCD screen of any kind, there are no numbers to indicate the volume level, which was frustrating as users have to judge by ear rather than a set number.
The remote is frustratingly small and easy to lose; it went MIA quite few times during testing. There are only a few buttons on the remote, including a power button, controls for dialogue level, the subwoofer, input selector, link mode to pair with Bluetooth devices, and a mode button for music, movies, television.
The sound quality with the Panasonic speaker bar was good when it came to loud sound ranges, but it did not hit the mark when it came time to balance out loud and soft sounds. During movies with action scenes, it was difficult to hear dialogue without turning the volume up and then having to turn it back down when things picked up.
This, even though the speaker bar has a feature that changes the dialogue level, and it’s intended to make it easier to hear conversation without increasing the overall volume. In fact, changing the isolated dialogue level volume did not really seem to make much of a difference, and TechnologyGuide still found there was not one comfortable level to watch a movie without having to constantly adjust it.
This was frustrating because it pulls you out of the movie, and surround sound is intended to immerse the viewer.
TG tested the speaker bar at a zero degree angle as the instructions indicated for the entertainment center in use, but TG also tested it at a 90-degree angle to hear the difference. The sound did seem more natural with it placed at zero degrees, but it seemed to deliver a more consistent sound level at the 90 degree angle; albeit a bit noisy. Even with the speaker bar at the suggested zero degree angle, it delivered a less imposing sound quality, but it never truly felt “surround.”
It’s important to note that with speaker bars, you are never getting a true-to-life 5.1 surround-sound experience. That’s because 5.1 requires, as the name indicates, five speakers and a sub woofer. A speaker bar can only deliver 2.1 channels (two speakers in the one bar and a sub). Speakerbars instead try to trick your ear into thinking it’s getting the real thing. It often doesn’t work.
The built-in subwoofer with “Anti-Vibration” technology was unremarkable. Loud noises, to put it simply, sounded loud; there wasn’t any added depth. Besides, it seems the only real way to get that effect is with a separate sub-woofer, which some other (and more expensive) speaker bar systems do offer. Otherwise, there are other options in the price range that feature more powerful built in subwoofers, but such units also tend to be larger.
If you’ve been relying on the speakers from an HDTV to watch programming, then you’re going to notice a difference with the Panasonic SC-HTB70. This is especially true when watching movies or dramas that are filmed in high quality and have a lot of loud noises and powerful scenes. But when it comes to watching regular programming or movies that include a lot of dialogue it falls flat.
There are certainly other speaker bars in the $200 range that will deliver a better overall experience; in both design and sound quality. It would be hard to recommend the Panasonic SC-HTB70 as an option over others in it class as it had many frustrating design elements and the sound quality did not make up for the minor annoyances of its build.