Televisions are becoming larger, thinner and more beautiful than ever before. With the improved visual experience has been a less impressive audio experience. As a result, manufacturers are turning to seperate audio devices – usually sold separately. Home theatre systems were the main option years ago, surrounding your room in speakers, running wires and standing up towers to the left and right of the TV, all to help deliver improved sound.
Today it is all about soundbars. A single panel of speakers, designed to look good under your TV or wall mounted, a simple connection and with enough oomph to provide the audio “wow” to match your TV visuals. All the big brands are doing it, some premium audio companies like Sonos are leading the field, and today we’re looking at a soundbar from Panasonic that you can afford.
The Panasonic SC-HTB688 is a soundbar with a wireless subwoofer. Both require power but no direct link to one another. The soundbar takes a connection from the TV via optical or HDMI. It doesn’t only work with Panasonic televisions, it’ll work with even older TVs and from any brand. Connecting the soundbar is simple and plugging the subwoofer into power is also easy. They pair to one another without much intervention. We set the TV to only send sound to the audio output so that we can just experience the soundbar on its own and then use the new remote to control the audio.
This is something we didn’t love. The TV and soundbar operate independently from a remote perspective. There is no way to use your TV remote to control the soundbar volume. We’re now left with an extra remote which adds clutter to the living room. The remote however also offers a method to switch audio modes (cinema, voice, news etc) as well as inputs. While we mentioned HDMI or optical input we should tell you that the soundbar can be used as a serious bluetooth speaker. Pair your phone to it and anything you watch or listen to on your smartphone can be blasted out of the Panasonic soundbar and sub. Handy.
In terms of performance this sleek soundbar takes audio from the TV and gives it the oomph it deserves. The subwoofer adds the depth and strong bass when required while the soundbar takes the acoustics and sends them around the room. It won’t fool you for a surround sound system but it’ll certainly provide a neat and good looking solution to your audio woes. Why have a lovely 4K TV if the audio experience sucks?
The impressive piece to take this further is the price, an RRP of $549 however we’re seeing it below the $500 mark in stores. If you consider how much TVs can be haggled on lately and the deals being run in stores, we suggest adding around $500 to your budget to accommodate a soundbar. If you’re making a large investment in a new TV and ignoring the audio then you’re simply making a mistake.