Soundbars are all the rage, but this system shows that one-box solutions can still cut the AV mustard
With their cost-cutting designs and compromised performance, all-in-one systems are usually seen as the poor relation of separates. But every once in a while a one-box system comes along that more discerning listeners can get on board with. The Panasonic SC-BTT505 is one such offering. With this 5.1-channel package, Panasonic has taken a more sophisticated approach to speaker design, using a two-way arrangement and aluminium-enhanced cabinets.
The SC-BTT505's styling sees Panasonic in adventurous mood. The speakers look particularly dapper. Brushed black aluminium adorns the front, where the sloping top panel curves gracefully into the baffle. And there’s a surprise on the back of the main unit – instead of springclips or plugs, the SC-BTT505 uses a set of binding posts. Two HDMI inputs and an ARC-output, optical and analogue inputs, Ethernet and two USB ports make up the socket line-up.
The feature list reads like an A-Z of home cinema – 3D playback, 4K upscaling, apt-X Bluetooth, DLNA file streaming, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD audio, internet apps, Miracast and Wi-Fi. The only niggles are limited internet content (still no 4OD or ITV Player available) and fussy DLNA video streaming, which would only display HD files in SD.
Bung in a Blu-ray and you can hear the benefits of the SC-BTT505's souped-up speakers. During the frantic freeway battle in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, this Panasonic all-in-one system’s sound is full-bodied and confident. Effects are cleanly and forcefully dispatched, with a satisfying bite to explosions and shotgun blasts. You'll feel the punches and kicks, and cower when cars smash to the ground. This natural dynamism and impressive power keeps excitement levels high and distraction levels low.
What really sets the BTT505 apart is its ability to avoid sounding brash. It keeps composure when you crank up the volume, not something all-in-one systems are noted for. Dialogue cuts through clearly without sounding hard or overly sibilant.
The subwoofer does a good job, injecting a heavy thump when the Winter Soldier slams into a car roof and a rapid ‘pop’ with every shotgun blast. It needs reining in to curb booming but with careful tweaking it eventually locks tightly to the speakers.
The soundstage is big and weighty and there’s decent scale. A 3D Cinema Surround feature claims to add 31 virtual channels to achieve a fuller sound. It's worth checking out – when Falcon starts swooping around, his movements seem more pronounced and there are fewer gaps across the rear stage.
In all, the SC-BTT505 offers a more satisfying, mature listen than you might expect, and when combined with the extensive features and agreeable styling, it's definitely worth auditioning if you're after a convenient home cinema package.
Price: £600 Approx
Highs: Full-bodied sound; good composure; punchy bass; unusually stylish design; lots of features
Lows: Limited catch-up TV apps; long-winded setup; some niggles with DLNA video streaming
Upscaling: Yes. To 4K
Connections: HDMI v1.4 output; 2 x HDMI inputs; optical digital audio input; analogue stereo input; Ethernet port; 2 x USB ports; FM aerial input
SACD/DVD-A playback: No/No
DTS-HD/Dolby TrueHD decoding: Yes/Yes
Claimed power output: 1,200W
Dimensions (main unit): 430(w) x 65(h) x 326(d)mm
Weight (main unit): 3kg
Features: DLNA media streaming; internet apps; Miracast; Bluetooth with apt-X; NFC; 3D Cinema Surround; iPod/iPhone playback via USB; control app for iOS & Android; USB media playback; H.Bass; Whisper Mode Surround; Centre Focus; picture presets; LincsD amp (2nd generation); 2D-to-3D conversion; FM radio; optional wireless rear speaker kit
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