- Editor's Rating
- Quality sound
- Plays CD's wirelessly
- Tons of connectivity options
- Dock has a cheap build
- Docking station only works with iPhone 5 and iPad Mini
Quick TakeIf you have an iPhone 5 or iPad Mini and want to charge it while wirelessly streaming music, the Panasonic SC-NE5 might be a good choice. However, with cheaper options out there, including the Panasonic SC-NE3. Unless you really want the docking station, its not worth the cost.
The Panasonic SC-NE5 speaker system comes with two separate units, one is the actual speaker, and the other is an iOS compatible docking station. The docking station connects wirelessly to the speaker, and is designed for the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini. If you have a regular iPad with an 8-pin lightning bolt connector, it won’t stay balanced on the device; other devices can connect via an AUX cable. Also, in an interesting move, the docking station features a CD player. Most people have probably transferred their CDs to digital files by now, but it makes for a nice addition if you have a large CD collection you would like to get some use out of.
The speaker is sleek looking, but it is large enough to accommodate a 2-channel speaker with with 3 1/8-inch Long Stroke Woofer with Nanosized Bamboo Cone and 1-inch Tweeter. It measures 22 7/16 x 8 1/8 x 3 15/16 inches and weighs 6.17 pounds. It isn’t exactly compact, but its wireless connectivity does allow for it to be moved room to room if necessary. It can be hung on a wall or set on a shelf, but it will definitely take up a bit of space wherever you decide to leave it.
In terms of physical design, the speaker is slightly curved, which according to Panasonic, encourages a steady stream of audio for less distorted sound. There is an LCD screen on the top of the device that, when inactive, isn’t noticeable. When active, the LCD screen’s blue font is easy to read from a distance and helps confirm input, connectivity, volume and more. The speaker is sturdy and high quality, nothing about it feels cheap.
There aren’t many ports located on the speaker, presumably because of the extensive wireless connectivity and docking station. So if you don’t have a wireless network set up at home, don’t buy this speaker. The only ports on the speaker are an AUX input and the power supply port. The speaker can be connected to an HDTV through the AUX, but it is not compatible with an optical cord. This means it will not be a good option for anyone interested in a speaker that can double as a speaker bar for an HDTV. It’s a little disappointing when you consider the fact that most home theater speaker bars will double as a speaker for music.
Docking Station Deign
The docking station looks like Panasonic chopped off a corner of the speaker. When lined up next to the speaker, the docking station blends in perfectly. The dock measures 7 9/16 x 8 1/8 x 3 11/16 inches and weighs 2 pounds, so it’s easy to tote room to room, which is the idea. However, contrary to the build of the speaker, the docking station feels a bit plastic and cheap.
The dock features an 8-pin Lightning connector port for iOS devices and a button on top opens up the vertical loading CD player. It has an AUX output and number of buttons along the right hand side for playback controls in case you don’t have the remote handy.
Sound quality on the Panasonic SC-NE5 is pretty good and music transmission is solid when streaming. It delivers rich tones and dynamic sound, whether playing via Bluetooth, the docking station, DLNA, or the AUX cable. The only noticeable downsides came from the bass and lower sounds, it didn’t seem to deliver bass tones as richly as mid and higher range ones. Panasonic states that its Aero Stream Port is supposed to deliver deep bass, and while it didn’t sound terrible in testing, it wasn’t incredibly impressive either.
Setup is easy out of the box, just plug the speaker in and plug the docking station in and choose the settings you’d like. To hook it up to the wireless network, there are a few different techniques, but Panasonic has an easy-to-use guide to determine the setup you will need to follow. TechnologyGuide was able to configure it using the WPS setting on the router in testing, so it was easy as waiting for WPS to show up on the LCD screen, and hitting the corresponding button on the router.
The docking station is easy to use; just push the button for iOS devices, wait a few seconds for it to connect to the speaker, and you can start listening to music. For devices connected through an AUX cable, it’s the same idea, just put it on the desired setting, and the speaker and docking station communicate on their own. If you have a case on your iPhone 5, unless it’s a pretty thin one, you will have to remove it to get the device to fit on the dock.
This is slightly annoying, as it’s an extra step, and after a while you might just find yourself opting for Bluetooth or Airplay, and plugging your device into a wall charger to charge it. To connect through Bluetooth, you simply select the setting on the speaker and pair it with your device.
Smart devices can connect to the DLNA feature using the Panasonic Music App, otherwise, users can connect to their PC and iTunes through the Wi-Fi network. The Panasonic Music App is available for free for iOS and Android.
The docking station is a bit frivolous, and once the novelty wears off, most users will probably connect via Airplay, the Panasonic Music app, or Bluetooth on their device. It really only proves useful if you want to listen to a CD. It seems Panasonic is aware of this since the Panasonic SC-NE3 is essentially the same speaker, sans docking station. With the SC-NE3 priced at $219.99 at the time of review, it makes it hard to see how the docking station makes the SC-NE5 worth $379.99 at the time of this writing.
Since the speakers are Airplay compatible, any PC with iTunes on it can connect the speakers to their iTunes library wirelessly. The same goes for any iOS device with AirPlay, the feature works as easily as any other Airplay device. Simply change the speaker output setting under the Airplay symbol in iTunes or on your iOS device. Panasonic states that the speakers allow for transmission of uncompressed audio through Airplay and iTunes, which helps deliver clearer and richer sound.
Devices without Airplay (or even with) can opt for a Bluetooth connection, which delivers seamless playback. Panasonic states this is due to its Bluetooth Re-Master feature built into the speakers, which compensates for any loss in sound during wireless transmission.
Overall, if you are looking for a speaker to stream your music to from multiple sources, or from your iPhone 5 or iPad Mini, this is the speaker for you. But TG finds it difficult to rationalize the $379.99 price tag, when the speaker is sold without the dock for $179.99 at the time of review. For the price of the SC-NE5, you could probably find a speaker bar that can double as a home entertainment system. If you really can’t see yourself using the docking station, it might be a better option to go for the Panasonic SC-NE3. It will get you the same quality speaker for a far more reasonable price.