I bought my S400 in January 2011. Our room layout was not conducive to a multi-speaker system, and I liked the idea of getting all the components off the floor. The FM tuner and (albeit limited) inputs on the S400 allowed me to retire the old Technics AV receiver and Jensen floor speakers. Our U-verse DVR and Panasonic Blu-ray come into the S400 via HDMI, while the TV audio comes in on optical. The TV audio is only sourced when we play Wii. I used the analog input for my MP3 player.
After listening to U-verse Dolby Digital and a variety of favorite DVDs over the first few months, I was able to lock in on the best settings for our room and listening preferences. Those settings are:
- Subwoofer level +2
- Center level +4 (I found dialog could get lost or "muddy" at any level much below this)
- Surround level +1 (I could go higher for Blu-ray movies and lower for broadcast shows, so this is an acceptable middle ground)
- Bass level +2
- Treble level +4
I did a LOT of research before buying the Blu-ray, since I wanted a player that would let the S400 get the maximum out of all the various surround formats. As other owners know, it will decode Dolby Digital and DTS, but the HD audio must be fed in as PCM. In this configuration, the S400 can take up to 7.1 channel sound. In short, Panasonic did the best job of providing PCM to match the source audio (caveat: the player, a DMP-BDT110, limits Dolby HD audio to 5.1). The comparison between the Dolby Digital sound on the DVD for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1" and the DTS-HD on the Blu-ray really proves how much richer the HD audio can be, even on a soundbar.
As others have said, the Air Surround Extreme processing in the S400 doesn't deliver true surround, but it provides a noticeable amount of depth and spatial separation. Our soundbar sits in front of the TV, just below eye level. The sweet spot for the sound encompasses both our sofa (directly facing the TV and soundbar) as well as the loveseat, which is perpendicular to the sofa.
As far as the surround modes go, our S400 is on Movie 90% of the time. I do use Sports for football and basketball, because it seems to bring the announcers' voices out better. I like the Music surround setting when watching a concert, but in the end, the difference among these modes can be fairly subtle.
Last but not least, we love the Univolume setting. It's only active on the U-verse input, but it does a great job of removing the annoying blasts that accompany so many commercials. It's nice that the S400 remembers this setting by input. It would be nice if the other settings (see list above) could be tailored for each input or surround mode.