The complete system that's not quite all there
What is the Panasonic BTT560?
There was a time when an all-in-one system, such as this, would have been considered a lifestyle audio product.But that was before the idea of the soundbar came along, which trounced even these relatively user-friendly products in terms of ease of set up and convenience. The market has shown a relative distaste for multi-channel audio these last few years, and that holds true for a package like this one and the dear old AV receiver. You need to forget about soundbars, however, no matter how good some of them are, if you want an in-home audio experience that can get close to that which you have at your local cinema.The SC-BTT560 is top of Panasonic's current crop of all-in-one 5.1 systems, ahead of the SC-BTT500, SC-BTT460 and SC-BTT400 and, as such, packs in a whole host of enticing features. That it can currently be picked up online for well under £400 probably speaks volumes about the state of the market and if it can get close to fulfilling our expectations, that's an awful lot of features and functionality for your hard-earned. So let's put it through its paces and find out if it can breathe some life back in to the product sector.
Panasonic BTT560 Setup and ConnectionsThe fairly hefty box in which the BTT560 ships has all the wiring, screws, stands and speakers you need to get going as well, of course, as the main unit which doubles up as the disc player and amplifier. Given all that's in there, the player/amp is remarkably slimline and compact - not much bigger than your average Blu-ray player, in fact, and the rest of the package is similarly lightweight but we guess corners had to be cut, somewhere, to reach this price-point.
Somewhat confusingly, Panasonic markets the BTT560 as having wireless rear speakers which, whilst technically true, ignores the fact an additional Wireless Receiver & Transmitter kit is needed to make this an actuality. Since that's going to cost you £100+ for the privilege it's somewhat disingenuous of Panasonic to do so and competing packages from the likes of LG and Samsung do include their own transmitters.
Hooking up the speakers is a simple matter of matching the colour coded plugs at the ends of the thin speaker wire to the corresponding coloured terminal on the main unit and then placing the speakers in the appropriate positions, or at least the best that your room will allow. Accommodatingly, Panasonic caters for smaller rooms by allowing for the rear surrounds at the front and then applies some processing to give you a psuedo-surround effect. In all honesty, if you're faced with this scenario, you might as well spend your money on a decent 2.1 system but we can't fault Panasonic for giving us the option.
The SC-HTT560 has a healthy set of connections at the rear, including 2 HDMI Inputs, I HDMI out that will ideally be hooked up to your ARC (Audio Return Channel) enabled HDMI input in on your TV. There is also a solitary S/PDIF digital optical and RCA Stereo jacks plus a terminal for an FM antenna for radio reception. Most unusually, the HT560 also has a push-in/push-out Lightning dock for your iPhone 5, iPod Touch (5th generation), and iPod Nano (7th gen) but it's not big enough to support an iPad 4 or iPad Mini.
Panasonic BTT560 MenusThe new Menu interface Panasonic has adopted in its Blu-ray player & all-in-one system ranges is certainly attractive and presents a windowed experience to the end user. We actually think it works better in this product than the BD players but that's by the by really so we'll just run through some of the more important items here.
Menus are split into nine separate tiles with most having self-explanatory headings such as Photos, Videos, Music and Network. The Sound Menu contains options for governing the output of the Valve amplifier with choices including Clear, Heavy, Soft and Flat to suit your tastes but there are some more involved audio settings available from the ‘Others’ tile on the Home Page.
From ‘Others,’ there is a Setup sub-menu which has a number of other options over both video and audio output, including the 3D settings. The Sound sub-menu has options for various Surround & Sound Effects but, in all honesty, none of them really brought much to the party. In fact, we’d say Panasonic has provided far too many DSP options that will do nothing but confuse the average punter. Our advice would be just to go au naturel and let everything pass-through. In fairness to Panasonic, that is the default configuration.
From the Picture Menu one can access a choice of Picture Modes – again leave at the default ‘Normal’ setting for non-tampered-with output and the same goes for the Picture Adjustments, unless you’re an advanced user or trained calibrator. The Chroma Process option is probably the only one worth engaging fom the front page of the Picture Menu and if you’re TV is a model that is reasonably up to date, Panasonic’s upsampling technologies are very good. Finally, for the most faithful output of your Blu-ray collection, head to the HDMI Output settings and enable 24p playback. Oddly, that is switched to Off by default.
Panasonic BTT560 FeaturesThe Smart TV platform aboard the BTT560 is nowhere near as comprehensive as that of the VIERA TVs but it still has some worthwhile services. There is the obligatory Netflix and YouTube support and, we assume, the BBC iPlayer. We say assume because Panasonic provided us with a European model which whilst functionally identical version, can’t access all the UK apps. There’s also Skype , Twitter and Aupeo internet radio services amongst the highlights
Whilst the media player is pretty comprehensive in its promised file support, using it could certainly be more intuitive. Playing media from USB/SD storage is straightforward enough; select required Media type from the Home Page and away you go but to use the DLNA facility requires heading in to the Network Tab and then connecting with the DLNA server on your home network. It’s curious they do it like this when some other Panasonic devices don’t. No matter, we guess, you soon get used to it and the promised support for popular file types including MKV, MPEG2, MP3, MPEG4, JPEG, WAV, FLAC, MPO and AVCHD held good in our tests.
Panasonic BTT560 Video PerformancePanasonic has long been capable of producing Blu-ray players that achieve near faultless performance and, as we said above, provided you leave the player in its Normal Picture Mode, you will get flawless 1080p Blu-ray output in both two and three dimensions.
There is, in fact, more opportunity to add value with both 1080i and standard definition content, both of which the SC-BTT560 handled very well. The player was able to correctly deinterlace without introducing artefacts and it passed all the import film cadence tests. Scaling of standard definition is also very good indeed, without any noticeable haloing and full details being preserved so it’s a good bet for those with large DVD collections.
Panasonic BTT560 Audio PerformancePanasonic claims a total output of 1000w for this system and we have to say that figure looks even more fanciful than the manufacturer hyperbole usually does. In fact, we actually think it is quite lacking in the volume stakes. Sure, it is enough to fill the averagely sized living room with sound but it rarely moves the earth, even when the soundtracks are supposed to do just that.
We gave it a run through with Oz the Great and Powerful as well as Battleship, each of which pack in some serious low-end but we found ourselves a little underwhelmed with the performance of the dual ported subwoofer. It’s a bit of a mystery as previous Panasonic audio products have proved very good in that regard. You can, of course, increase the volume of the .1 channel in the menus but that comes at the expense of convincing integration with the front and surrounds.
The sub felt lacking in impact
Said satellite speakers were more impressive, with well localised effects and clear and well anchored dialogue throughout our tests but it doesn’t get you away from the feeling that something is missing. For comparison, in the not too distant past, we’ve tested very similar systems from LG and Samsung – with the same material – and each was more impactful than the Panasonic.
Musicality also isn’t an impressive trait of the BTT560 with a somewhat ear-tiring sharpness leant to acoustic tracks and the lack of bass presence affecting just about everything. It is possible to improve things by experimenting with the various DSP options inside the menus but we’d much prefer a one-size-fits-all setting that could be just left alone.
We definitely expected more dynamism from this system, given Panasonic’s track record. It’s not that it isn’t good because it’s certainly creditable for the money asked, we just hoped for more.
- Nice styline
- Very easy setup
- Decent connectivity
- Lightning Dock
- Excellent video output
- Audio lacks presence and dynamism
- Cheap feeling speakers
- Some over-complicated menus
- Too many DSP options could confuse
Panasonic BTT560 (SC-BTT560) All-in-One System ReviewThe Panasonic SC-BTT560 is attractively styled in silver, although there’s a certain undeniable flimsy feel to the speaker components of the package. We obviously have to bear in mind that it’s far from an expensive item so we can forgive them that and, as multi-channel systems go, ease of installation can’t be faulted, thanks to the colour-coded speaker terminals.
There are a good set of connections to the rear of the main unit which acts both as the disc player and amplifier, including 2 HDMI in and 1 out that can utilise the ARC functionality of your modern day flat panel. More esoterically, the facia houses a lightning dock that can be used to playback audio from your most up-to-date iPhone or iPod, as well as charging them, in to the bargain.
The menu system is reasonably easy to follow although there are some duplications in Sound settings and the majority of the key settings are hidden away under the ‘Others’ tile. To be fair, most of the default configurations will be suitable for most set-ups but it is somewhat curious Panasonic doesn’t enable 24p playback, by default. Amongst other things, this is a Blu-ray player after all.
And Blu-ray performance was excellent in 2D, 3D or 1080i, meaning every disc you own will be portrayed exactly how it was intended, provided you don’t switch out of the Normal Picture Mode. Not only is it good with HD sources, the BTT560 is also great with standard-def so your old DVD collection will be treated with due reverence.
The only part of this package that really disappointed us is, undoubtedly, its most important duty. Audio output is rendered a little flat and lifeless by an underperforming subwoofer. You can increase its volume but that comes at the cost of it losing convincing integration. It’s a shame because the surround and centre channels all convince but, overall, we were left feeling slightly underwhelmed by the sounds the SC-BTT560 threw out. And that goes for music, TV and movies.
For the current internet price of around £400, the Panasonic Sc-BTT560 definitely presents good value but you may just want to hang fire and see what the new ranges have in store.
Ease of Use7
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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