First impressions PAN SC-HTB20 - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 4 Old 05-17-2012, 12:09 PM - Thread Starter
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I was looking for something to improve the sound quality for my mother's Panasonic GT-20 Plasma. She's had it for a few years and lived with the built-in speakers, but on moving to a new house wanted something that would make it "easier to hear without having to turn it up so loud and sound better"

My #1 priority in making a selection was ease of operation. I didn't want a second remote for my mom to deal with, so the Panasonic sound bars that support the audio return channel (ARC) on HDMI seemed like the way to go.

Setup was simple, the Tivo is plugged into the TV's HDMI2 port and the Blu-Ray into HDMI3. The HDMI 1 cable goes to the SC-HTB20's sub / processor. Then by selecting either the HDMI2 or HDMI3 input (or any other input that's added) the audio is sent down the ARC path of the HDMI 1 to the speakers. (they provide two inputs on the sub, but using this method would require switching inputs on the sub, something I didn't want to teach my mother how to do) This arrangement also allows the TV power to power the speakers on and off when the TV is turned on and allows the TV remote volume to control the speaker volume. (This is a VieraLink control option, your mileage may vary with other brand TV's) If the speakers should fail to turn on, or stop working, the TV switches over to internal speakers automatically. Everything can be controlled with the same remote - no extra steps required! Pick the desired input and like magic your sound comes out of the new speakers. Nice and easy.

The only issue we ran into was that in the horizontal configuration when placed in front of the TV, the speakers block the TV IR port, so the TV's remote control doesn't work unless you hold it up and point it over the speakers. Luckily splitting the speakers into two vertical pieces and using the supplied stands to place them to the left and right of the TV solved that problem with no impact on sound quality. Also, the IR receiver for the speakers is on the sub, which we have tucked behind the TV in the corner. So if we ever need to use the remote to adjust the speakers (should be rare) we have to point it into the corner behind the TV. Just something to keep in mind if you plan to use the speakers provided remote control to adjust volume or switch inputs.

Overall the sound is a nice rich room filling sound. There is a subwoofer level control and we set it to 2 out of 4. With the sub behind the TV in the corner there is MORE than enough bass. Dialog was easy to understand and the dialog enhancement does actually seem to do a good job of pulling out the dialog and making it easy to hear.

For the price, I think it's a great solution for someone that wants a nice clean, ,full bodied sound and easy to control options. It's no surround sound system by any means, but for day to day TV watching and even the occasional movie, it's a nice fit. Especially when combined with a Panasonic TV.

Overall I give it 4 stars out of 5
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post #2 of 4 Old 05-18-2012, 02:49 AM
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That's good. I am still looking for my sound bar, so any impressions or personal reviews help a lot.
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post #3 of 4 Old 05-24-2012, 03:29 PM
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Thanks for the review. I've got one on order since end of April but haven't received it yet.

It sounds like your application matches mine so I'm hoping to good results with it as well.
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post #4 of 4 Old 01-06-2014, 12:37 PM
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This review is probably not what anyone shopping for a Panasonic soundbar (or for that matter, most others) is searching for, but I will relate this for the benefit of any who may find this of interest.

After reading several positive reviews of the HTB-20 last year, I purchased, on sale at Best Buy for about $ 160 last February. This was a stop gap replacement for a JVC TH-BA1, still one of the better bars from the last four or five years.

The Panasonic had decent sound for both audio and video sources plus being so low profile, my remote to the TV would aim over the soundbar and allowed me to be rid of my infra-red extender system that seemed to work only occasionally with the DVR from Comcast. The sound from the soundbar itself was quite good, nothing terrible. The supplied woofer was a little loose or muddy. Nothing like the crisp, fast bass that I had become accustomed to with the JVC (which incidently is still one of the best woofers I have encountered).

The Panasonic was replaced in September with the arrival of my Andrew Jones designed SB-23 speaker bar and woofer and resided until December 23 in a dark corner of the master bed room closet. At that time, I wanted to setup Christmas music from our sun-room. The music should be heard, but not the primary focus when family and friends were dining and opening presents.

I decided to setup the Panasonic with the woofer between two arm-chairs about 20" from the rear wall. The speakers were place on small tables behind the arm-chairs about 8' apart with the tweeters about two or three inches above ear-height and about 18" from the rear wall. This would be pretty much the setup for a pair of full range tower speakers in this room if not for the arm chairs already using this spot. I connected an old Panasonic DVD player for my output, burned a CD with about 160 Christmas songs, started everything, it worked and sounded okay, so I went about the business of assisting my wife with Christmas preparations.

The following morning, after tiring of the same Christmas songs by a dozen different artists playing in a loop, I placed a copy of Handel's Messiah peformed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir accompanied by the Philadelphia Philharmonic conducted by Eugene Ormandy. The CD of this performance replaced the vinyl copy that I had owned since 1968 as this was truly a marvelous performance. So good, it spoiled me for all future iterations (so far) of "The Messiah". I cranked up the volume and started doing cleaning, vacuming and other chores as directed by my better half.

At lunch, we sat on the sofa, across (about 10') from the arm-chairs and ate ham sandwiches. However, at this time, we were presented with a true revelation.

These tiny speakers, I believe 3, 2 inch drivers per side, with a woofer moved far enough away from the wall to rid itself of the usualy sonic anomolies associated with placement too close to a wall, came alive and sounded wonderful. I did no audio testing, but heard nothing terribly out of place. What was so revealing about these tiny speakers was the sound stage. The tiny speakers literally disappeared. The sound stage seemed to extend at least five or six feet beyond the sides of the two small speakers and at least six or eight feet in depth. Based on what I had heard with the two units connected to form a single speaker or soundbar, this was both unexpected and delightful. Also, the muddy woofer, while still a little lacking in attack and detail was much more listenable than when set up next to a wall and cabinet in the family room and used for video duty.

If anyone still has this unit sitting around your house, you have a much better speaker than I would have ever thought. If you have the opportunity to place these similarly to what I have noted above, you should listen to these and enjoy.

Sorry for the boring story. Sometimes you discover hidden treasures in your own home and this was one of those experiences for me.

David Freeman
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