Panasonic will release two new soundbars this year, namely the SC-HTB600 and the SC-HTB400. The first model has a wireless subwoofer, while the subwoofer is built into the SC-HTB400. In this review we look at the Panasonic SC-HTB400.
What is Panasonic SC-HTB400 Soundbar?
The Panasonic SC-HTB400 is an interesting soundbar with the two built-in subwoofers and an accompanying price tag of 279 euros. According to Panasonic, this soundbar should offer a simple solution to allow people to understand dialogues better and to enjoy films more. Virtual Surround, bluetooth, HDMI (arc) and a Bass Boost option should help with this. Unlike previous Panasonic models, WiFi is missing on this model.
According to Panasonic, the SC-HTB400 with its integrated subwoofers delivers a total output of 160 Watts (2.1-channel). This is divided into two times 40W for the speakers and 80W for the built-in subwoofer. The company uses neodymium magnets that must be able to produce an accurate sound. The two cone-shaped subwoofers are fully integrated. These two 8 cm subwoofers together deliver an output of 80 watts. The front of the soundbar has an angle of 7 degrees. As a result, the speakers point slightly upwards. For example, Panasonic wants users to not only make the sound heard, but also make it sound around you.
Design of Panasonic SC-HTB400 Soundbar
The soundbar has a compact beam design and is 96.2 centimeters long, 56 centimeters high and 12 centimeter wide. The whole weighs 3.5 kilograms. The black bar has a neutral design and will therefore fit well within your interior. You will also find some physical buttons at the rear right of the soundbar. The front and a large part of the top consists of a kind of grill with fine holes. At the front we find a clear display that shows all the information. You can change various settings via this display and the accompanying remote control. The design is compact and neutral, but also modern. As a result, this soundbar fits well within many interiors.
You won’t find many connections on the back. That is unfortunate, but common in this price category. You have one HDMI connection (arc) and an optical input. In addition, there is also a USB port, but according to Panasonic, this is reserved for service use and updating customer software. You will not find more connections on this model. You can choose to place the soundbar in front of your television or to mount it on the wall. Please note that the soundbar is quite a dust nest. The grill in combination with the smooth sides make every dust visible.
Installation of the soundbar
Installing the soundbar is extremely easy. You connect an HDMI (or optical) cable and plug the plug into the socket. Dive into the options of your TV and put the sound on external speakers and you’re done. Wifi is missing on this soundbar, so you will have to do it with bluetooth. Panasonic has an optional app available for this soundbar. This app called Panasonic Music Control is basically a media player to play music from your phone, tablet or music server. You don’t have to use these. You can also use alternatives.
Panasonic SC-HTB400 in use
The included remote control matches the soundbar’s design well. However, using this remote control takes some getting used to. To adjust an option, for example, first press the button for Sound, then keep pressing until you reach the desired setting. Then press OK to select this setting and then use the arrow keys to turn an option on or off. It is all rather cumbersome and it takes a while before you know exactly how Panasonic came up with this menu exactly.
Fortunately, Panasonic has proven that it can be simpler with the button for input. With the remote control you can easily change the input with one push of a button between TV and Bluetooth. Bluetooth 4.2 is supported and it is a pity that Panasonic has opted for this older version of Bluetooth. The range and speed of an older version of Bluetooth is somewhat less than that of the latest version, but you will hardly notice this in practice. You will be able to listen to great music from the couch.
Sound wise, Panasonic has done quite well, but it is up to the user to get the most out of it. Especially the Virtual Surround option on this compact model impresses. If a soundbar actually lets you look to the left when something actually happens outside the image on the left during a series, then you know that the Virtual Surround option works well in any case.
Still, the Virtual Surround is option not usable in all cases. Especially during action-packed scenes the distinction between different keys gets lost. This is partly due to the built-in subwoofer, which is quite present. As a result, the sound no longer sounds clear and voices can no longer be heard at all. However, the Panasonic SC-HTB400 also has an option for Clear Dialog. This draws voices more to the fore, so that explosions and other deep sound effects are no longer overpowering. Unfortunately, the Clear Dialog again produces unnatural sounding voices, as if you were listening to robots.
The built-in subwoofer is a bit hit-and-miss. On the one hand, you sometimes really feel that an external subwoofer is connected to it. Unfortunately, you notice during other fragments that you do not have a large and freestanding subwoofer. During the landing on Normandy beach in the movie Saving Private Ryan, you can clearly notice that the explosions sound distorted, making the sound one big mess. Fortunately, Panasonic lets you adjust many options in the subwoofer menu. And luckily you can still get pretty good sound from the soundbar.
The virtual surround option works fine if you’re not watching an action movie. If you do watch an action movie, switch it off. The same goes for Clear Dialog if you don’t want to hear robot voices. In addition, there is also a Bass Boost option available. By default, the Bass Boost option is turned on, but this sounds a bit forced when deep bass is required. It lacks the real depth that a separate subwoofer can bring you. If you switch off the Bass Boost option, the bass will be less present and it will also sound less forced. This makes the sound more balanced. Fortunately, you can further adjust the built-in subwoofer to your liking and choose between five different levels. However, this is also advisable, because the bass continues to significantly drown out the rest of the sound.
Panasonic shows that you don’t always need a subwoofer to get a good bass at home. However, the bass is too present and as a user you will have to dive into the settings yourself to bring the sound more in balance. You can also choose five different presets such as Cinema, News, Voice, Standard and Music, but here too you will want to adjust some things yourself.
Many modern televisions have such ‘ n minimalist design that the sound is often neglected. With a soundbar you get much better sound than the built-in TV speakers will give you. The Panasonic SC-HTB400 certainly succeeds in this, but it is not the very best model in this price category. Panasonic is commended for bringing a compact model with an integrated subwoofer to the market. For people who do not want a separate subwoofer in the living room, this model can certainly be a solution. Unfortunately, due to the use of space in the soundbar, the bass sometimes sounds too forced. You will get better sound with a soundbar with separate subwoofer.
However, that does not mean that the Panasonic SC-HTB400 is a bad soundbar. Despite the predominant bass at the standard settings, you as a user can dive quite far into the depth to adjust the sound completely to your liking. That is undoubtedly nice for the enthusiast, but a normal user just wants a good-sounding soundbar out-of-the-box. The Panasonic SC-HTB400 is a great purchase, but in this price category there are slightly better options available. Panasonic itself may provide a better option, namely the SC-HTB510. This model with subwoofer and WiFi convinces just that little bit more.