I needed a system that would work in a tiny space in a room in a townhouse with not exactly ideal soundproofing in the walls. Small and underpowered were therefore the top priorities, well beyond sound and picture quality. I bought this system largely on the strength of Panasonic's general reputation, this review and another lengthy online review. To be honest, having previously had a Marantz/Kef setup I expected something that in comparison would just about suffice, and nothing more. How wrong I was ...
In my system, the picture is fed into a 50 inch Pansonic plasma. Rear speakers are wall mounted, the front L and R speakers on the provided floor stands and the centre speaker on a shelf below the TV. Set up is simplicity itself. The speakers are a little plasticky in appearance, but nothing too offensive. They passed the 'non-home theatre appreciating spouse test' with flying colours, because they are small and about as inconspicuous as hi fi kit can get.
Incidentally, according to the instruction book that came with the system, you can add two more rear speakers to make up a 7.1 system, but the two speakers would have to be wireless. Or, if you want to stick with 5.1, you can replace the two wired rear speakers with two wireless ones. This requires buying optional parts that slot into the rear of the unit.
Okay, on to performance. I'll take sound first. I cannot speak for how this system will sound in a bigger room, but in mine (a mere 2 x 5 metres) it is SUPERB. At the sort of volumes I normally will be listening at, it's detailed, superb soundstage (yes, even in a room this small), works like a charm, etc, etc. When I know the neighbours are out I've tried the system at higher volumes and it still sounds good. The bass starts to sound bloated if pushed, but no more than you'd expect in any system in a small room. Stereo sounds very agreeable as well - something that isn't always the case with home cinema (and in any price bracket). As mentioned in the What HiFi review, the sound is relaxed rather than analytic. In short, it's very akin to the sound from Marantz amps - it veers towards the musical rather than the big bangs and edge of your seat sound. There's no right or wrong in this. Some like one, some like the other. I'd sooner have a slightly reined-in controlled sound, but your mileage may differ. However, it's sonly a relative thing - this system will tackle all the usual flash bang wallop action films you can throw at it and give you quite enough aural thrills to keep you happy. Indeed, anyone thinking of dipping their toe into home theatre could do a LOT worse than this.
The picture quality from the blu ray player is very acceptable and certainly up there with any of the basic blu ray models at around the 150 pound mark. However, I have an Oppo which is plugged into one of the HDMI sockets and the Oppo is better. But having said that, the Oppo can blow away any opposition on the market anyway, so this is perhaps an unfair comparison. The other HDMI input is take up with Sky HD and again, this works absolutely fine. The signal passes through when the Panasonic box is off, which is handy if you just want picture and the TV sound.
Now I am not a newbie to either hi fi or home theatre. I've owned expensive kit in my time and have a couple of filthy rich friends who have the sorts of systems God would buy if He had the money. I am well used to what a good home theatre system can do. I'd stick my neck out and say that in terms of bang per buck, this is the best value system I have *ever* encountered. And teamed up with a top notch blu ray player, I'd need a *much* more expensive system (as in maybe five grands' worth of kit) before I think I'd reach a really noticeable difference. But the kit in question would look very stupid in the small space I've got available.
Team up the SC-BTT590 an Oppo or top of the range Denon and I doubt if there's anything on the market that could better it for the price and size.
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It has its drawbacks, but this Panasonic is easy to live with and has an insightful and dynamic picture performance – it’s a great set
The AVR-X2000 brings Denon back to the AV receiver top table in this ultra-competitive price category
A decent, affordable effort from Otone but sound quality is tainted by a distracting brightness
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