This feature-packed streaming soundbar also has multiroom aspirations
It’s safe to say that Panasonic’s soundbars haven’t exactly set the world alight in terms of performance, but the Japanese behemoth can never be accused of short-changing its customers on features or spec. That’s certainly the case with the range-topping SC-ALL70T, a 3.1-channel affair with a claimed 350W of power under the bonnet. It comes equipped with multiroom functionality, music streaming, a wireless subwoofer, Bluetooth and much more, all for £400. On paper it looks like a sweet deal.
It’s a good-looking soundbar too, wrapped in silky black cloth with snazzy chrome trim at both ends and glossy end panels. The plastic-fantastic back end is a reminder of Panasonic’s mass-market nature but on the whole it feels like a well-made speaker.
Lay it flat on a TV stand and the unit slopes down elegantly towards the front, and helpfully its low-profile design is unlikely to block the path of your TV remote’s infrared beam. If it does, Panasonic supplies an IR blaster.
However, there’s one glaring problem with the design – laid flat, the LED display faces upwards and can’t be seen from your sitting position. Of course, it’s visible when you mount the soundbar on a wall (all the brackets and screws are supplied) but that’s no good for the majority of users who just want to place it in front of their TV.
At just under a metre wide it’s a large soundbar and therefore better-suited to big living room TVs than smaller bedroom sets. The touch-sensitive buttons at both ends are annoyingly easy to press accidentally but cover all bases; at one end are volume, input and Bluetooth pairing, while the other end sports an NFC touch point.
Connections include a single HDMI input and output – offering full 4K and HDCP 2.2 support – plus optical digital audio, Ethernet and 3.5mm minijack ports.
The wireless subwoofer is a typical Panasonic affair – vertically-aligned, rectangular and finished in gloss-black plastic. The budget build doesn’t exactly scream ‘high performance’ but at least the compact size makes it easy to accommodate. It doesn’t require any installation either as it pairs automatically.
Spec-wise the SC-ALL70T uses a trio of 2.5in full-range drivers for left/centre/right duties, each fed 70W of grunt, while the sub employs a 6.25in woofer and draws on a suggested 140W of juice.
As a package, this Panasonic brims with features, but the highlight is Qualcomm’s AllPlay multiroom system, managed by a likeable smartphone app called Music Stream. There are plenty of systems like it but this one is particularly reliable and easy to use – an advantage of adopting Qualcomm’s tried and tested platform. It allows you to stream music from DLNA devices and Spotify and Napster, with internet radio from AUPEO! and AllPlay Radio. A few more services wouldn’t go amiss but Spotify support will suffice for many. You can play music through the soundbar solo or play the same thing through other Panasonic ALL speakers. And you can add wireless speakers (the SC-ALL2) as rear channels to create a full 5.1 system.
Another particularly nifty feature is the ability to re-stream any source from the SC-ALL70T to other ALL speakers around the house, be it Bluetooth, Blu-ray or TV.
The app’s straightforward layout and glitch-free operation makes it easy to carry out potentially complicated tasks like speaker grouping – just drag and drop the icons onto each other. The re-streaming feature works brilliantly too and the app had no trouble exploring huge libraries of music on my NAS drives and laptops. The AllPlay system supports MP3, FLAC, ALAC and WAV (up to 192kHz/24-bit).
The app controls simple functions like volume and playback, but if you’re in a hurry there’s a physical remote in the box. This is small, plasticky and fiddly to use; for the money it should be better. Hit the Sound button and you can toggle through a selection of presets, Clear-mode Dialog settings and H.Bass. The ALL70T decodes Dolby Digital and DTS, while Dolby Virtual Speaker and Panasonic’s 3D Surround processing expand the soundstage.
So far so good, but let’s get down to brass tacks: performance. Does the SC-ALL70T deliver the goods? Well, during Man of Steel it’s certainly an engaging, enthusiastic performer with no shortage of poke in the movie’s epic moments, although it needs more composure and refinement to really make them fly. As Jor-El soars through a crumbling Krypton to get his son to safety, the relentless bangs and crashes are suitably vigorous and underpinned by big dollops of bass.
The subwoofer rumbles almost constantly with little or no variation in intensity, but manages to convey the scale of the planetary destruction well. It also imbues male voices with a good sense of depth.
The percussive score drives hard and the soundstage is vast. 3D Clear Dialogue opens it up nicely; as Jor-El surveys Krypton, the scene has an expansive scope. Spaceships, creatures and fireballs sweep smoothly across the front of the room and beyond the edges of the 'bar.
It’s a lively listening experience with enough puff to fill a big room – there probably isn’t a TV on Earth that musters this sort of power. Trouble is, it’s all a little superficial. The loud, raucous presentation makes a good first impression, but over time more discerning listeners might take exception to the 'bar’s brash, fatiguing tone. It’s not as bad as some previous models, but not up there with the best.
It could also do with a bit more finesse and insight. Zesty high-frequency reproduction adds crispness, but subtler details get lost amid the chaos. And bass can be rather heavy-handed too. Without careful tweaking of the subwoofer level and H.Bass mode, low frequencies can end up stifling the other elements.
Music playback is much the same. Beats have plenty of bite and the subwoofer gives basslines presence, but the midrange and top-end lack nuance and sparkle. It does a decent job for uncritical listening, though.
As a music streamer or multiroom component, the SC-ALL70T is a slick, flexible operator, taking full advantage of Panasonic’s well-designed app. It’s also packed with features and looks nice. But while its sound
is a definite improvement on earlier Panasonic soundbars, it lacks the added je ne sais quoi to trouble the best products in this class.
We say: The SC-ALL70T is a superb soundbar in many ways, offering slick multiroom operation and powerful sound, but lacks the wow factor sonically
Drive units: 3 x 2.5in full-range drivers Amplification (claimed): 350W Connections: HDMI input; HDMI output (ARC); optical digital audio input; 3.5mm minijack input; Ethernet Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD MA: No/No
Separate subwoofer: Yes. 6.25in bass driver Remote control: Yes Dimensions: 950(w) x 55(h) x 120(d)mm Weight: 2.5kg
Features: Qualcomm AllPlay multiroom system with Panasonic Music Streaming app; Spotify, Napster, AUPEO!, AllPlay radio; Dolby Virtual Speaker; 3D Surround; 3D Clear-mode Dialogue; Standard, Stadium, Music, Cinema, News and Stereo presets; four dialogue and subwoofer settings; H.Bass; wall-mounting; wireless sub; MP3, FLAC, ALAC, WAV (up to 192kHz/24-bit); Bluetooth with NFC; Dolby Digital/DTS decoding
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