Purchase now £349, Johnlewis.com
- Dimensions: 80cm x 5.6cm x 10cm
- Speaker configuration: 2.1
- Connections: Bluetooth 4.2, HDMI 2.0, ARC, optical, USB-A
- Sound codecs: Dolby Digital, DTS
- Dolby Atmos? No
- Voice assistant? No
- Subwoofer? Included, wi-fi
- Ranking: 7/10
The SC-HTB490 isn’t flashy in any sense of the phrase. As with many Panasonic soundbars, it’s fairly utilitarian: all darkish colors and sharp edges. And that’s type of what you need from a soundbar – it shouldn’t actually stick out and take away from the motion taking place on the display.
Cloaked in cloth, you gained’t discover any graphical show – only a sequence of blinking LED lights, that are supposed to face for various issues when particular choices are chosen or pressed on the management.
On the rear, you’ll discover a USB port, an HDMI ARC port and an optical port. It’s all very easy to make use of, though we did get a bit confused by what every corresponding mild meant, plus it wasn’t useful that some capabilities on the distant management share the identical button, that means it’s typically tough to tell apart what sound profile you’ve simply toggled on.
Within the L-shaped packaging itself, you’ll discover a distant management and a few wall mount brackets, permitting you to simply safe it to the wall and have it lie flush beneath your telly. As talked about above, it’s designed with Panasonic’s 2021 LED line of TVs in thoughts. They’ve versatile toes which carry up so that you can slot the soundbar beneath seamlessly, however we weren’t in a position to check how properly this labored in observe. It does sound like a reasonably sensible design selection, although.
Sound and options
Now, to crucial a part of any soundbar – the audio. The SC-HTB490 totes a 160W energy output on the soundbar itself and two forward-facing 4.5 x 12cm directional drive models. There’s additionally a 160W wi-fi subwoofer included, which is arguably the most effective half concerning the SC-HTB490.
Not solely did it pair with the soundbar nearly robotically – no fiddling round within the settings to get all of it working collectively – however the quantity was ear-splittingly loud and the bass fats, regardless of being on a comparatively tame quantity. Altogether, 320W of energy is fairly spectacular for a soundbar on this worth vary.
You’ll be able to management the depth and the quantity of the subwoofer through the use of the included distant management, which additionally has a number of nifty preset choices for various modes, relying on the kind of content material you’re watching or listening to. Annoyingly, not each button press was registered – you actually must level the distant instantly on the soundbar to get it to clock a click on.
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Watching Six Underground with the subwoofer turned on was merely heart-pounding, and it reminded us why compact soundbars, which don’t include a subwoofer within the field, usually sound a bit meek within the bass division. It did, general, wrestle a bit bit with a few of the decrease sub-bass frequencies, with some slight distortion and sharpness to the audio. On the entire, although, we undoubtedly loved the sound that the subwoofer produced.
As for the soundbar itself, properly, typically it performs extremely properly and at different occasions, it may very well be higher. The sound doesn’t prolong to each nook of the room, creating a reasonably slim soundstage, however it’s actually loud. There’s additionally an absence of readability in the case of any type of dialogue, with voices both sounding muffled, like somebody’s carrying a face masks, or excessively shrill, which you’ll be able to typically really feel pinching your ears.
As talked about above, there are 5 sound profiles to select from – customary, cinema, music, sport and information – and in nearly each case, customary delivered the most effective, most constant listening expertise – even when watching a number of of the above classes. The one exception was cinema mode.
The bass is already spectacular with out cinema mode turned on, however as soon as toggled, it frankly booms. The shrillness we had been speaking about earlier than, nevertheless, turns into much more pronounced when watching information on the information sound profile. It boosts voices, however this isn’t all the time a great factor. We needed to attain for the distant to change it again over to plain for some respite.
The sports activities sound profile wasn’t too shabby, typically boosting the sound of the gang and the soccer match itself, making the entire stadium soar. However once more, there’s an absence of readability in the case of the commentators. Listening to Emma Raducanu bash the ball throughout the online within the US Open match was fairly crystal clear although.
As for music, you’ll get a reasonably impartial sounding expertise: it’s well-rounded, and never too heavy on both aspect. We’d nonetheless reserve music for a special set of audio system, however listening to tunes on this soundbar wasn’t terrible.
There’s no Dolby Atmos – that three-dimensional sound characteristic remains to be reserved for the marginally pricier SC-HTB600 (£369, Johnlewis.com) and the much more costly SC-HTB900EBK, with built-in Chromecast (£699.99, Panasonic.co.uk). It does imply that the sound is much less immersive than others, however the wi-fi subwoofer does assist with that.
The decision: Panasonic SC-HTB490 soundbar
The Panasonic SC-HTB490 soundbar is a reasonably highly effective speaker. It usually delivers some deep, booming bass and its subwoofer is great. It produces a particularly loud listening expertise that betters some soundbars in the identical worth vary. Movies are a pleasure to look at with the bar and subwoofer pumped as much as electrical ranges.
Its main downfall, nevertheless, is it’s missing in readability in the case of any type of dialogue. Voices sound muted, muffled and even shrill. Whereas the decrease frequencies are typically good, you possibly can’t assist however need some extra crispness.