It's subtle, stylish and sounds great
What is the Panasonic SC-HTE80?
Panasonic were amongst the first to embrace the concept of this new kind of product when it officially launched the HTE80 at IFA 2013, towards the end of last year.So what is it? Essentially it's a soundbar only one that's designed to sit underneath your TV, rather than in front of it, thus providing the last word in stylishness and simplicity whilst also bolstering your TV audio experience. Or so the manufactures would like you to think.Since Panasonic announced the SC-HTE80 we've seen almost countless numbers of similar style speakers, from all and sundry, so it needs to provide the right blend of performance, features and value to stake its pace. Let's find out if it does.
Panasonic SC-HTE80 Design & ConnectionsUnobtrusiveness is the key quality when it comes to the sound plinth and Panasonic has succeeded with the HT80 speaker board. That is to say it's a fairly plain box which is slimline and compact at only 6cm in height, and thus won't raise your TV to uncomfortable altitudes.
There's a subtle blue LED display to the centre giving you input, menu and volume level feedback but it can be dimmed but not turned off altogether. That might bother some but it is very dim and shouldn't distract most during those darkened-room viewing hours.
Panasonic gives you two colour options for the SC-HTE80, in either modern sliver or traditional black so you can elect to blend or go two-tone and we must say it's an attractive little unit with very solid build quality.Measuring 46cm across and 28cm in depth, the unit should accommodate the majority of HDTVs in circulation but those with larger TVs, or those possessing stands which span their entire screen width - or further - are out of luck. Panasonic rates the HT80 as capable of holding up to 30Kg, in weight, so again most should sit safely upon it but do check your TVs specifications before parting with your money and potentially creating a bit of a mess on your living room floor.
Connectivity options are good, with one HDMI in and one out to allow you to take advantage of HDMI's ARC (Audio Return Channel) functionality but, again, you will need to check if your TV supports it. There's also an S/PDIF digital audio out and a 3.5mm aux jack available. There is an opportunity to stream audio via Bluetooth with the added bonus that a connection can be established immediately via your NFC (Near Field Communication) capable device.
Panasonic SC-HTE80 Set Up and OperationIn the Audio/Visual world it doesn't really get much easier than hooking up a sound plate (yes, we do keep calling it different names - blame the manufacturers) but it's probably a smoother experience if your TV does have ARC functionality via one of its HDMI inputs, as it will allow you to use your TVs remote to control the volume. During testing we hooked up the SC-HT80 to a Toshiba L4353 we were reviewing and found operation faultless over ARC, although we can't 100% vouch this will be the case for all TVs as we've seen some shoddy implementations. What we can say is that there's certainly nothing wrong in the way Panasonic is implementing ARC so it will be your TV to blame if things are going pear-shaped.
Despite the presence of a HDMI output, there are no on-screen menus for set-up so you will need to learn how to navigate the options using the visual display on the front of the unit. It's actually a very straightforward process that involves using the remote controls' directional and OK buttons and there are two distinct sets of menus.
The Sound Menu allows one to select from various Sound Modes including Stadium, Stereo, Music and Cinema and there are further levels to choose governing dialogue, the subwoofer(s), H(armonic) Bass feature and low volume level modes. There is also the opportunity to check on what audio format the speaker board is receiving by holding down the Sound button for a minimum of 4 seconds. For reference, the SC-HTE80 can accept Dolby Digital, DTS, both multi-channel and stereo PCM as well as SBC (sub-band coding) when in Bluetooth mode.
A quick note on said remote - it looks like an upturned gravestone and is fairly small and lose-able but it feels well crafted and the speaker unit responds quickly to its commands.
The other Menu available allows for various Setup options including the dimmer for the display, auto power off, allowing the unit to connect to paired Bluetooth devices when in standby (genuinely useful) and a choice of link modes for Bluetooth connections. There are two link modes, one has the emphasis on connectivity whilst the other maximises audio quality. Needless to say we opted for the latter but we didn't experience any drop-out issues when streaming from our enabled Windows 7 PC.
No on-screen menus but it's easy enough to control
Panasonic SC-HTE80 FeaturesThe days when an audio product could just go about its business of making a noise are numbered and, as such, the HTE80 has a number of additional lifestyle enhancing features on board.
Probably the most used of these will be the Bluetooth streaming, which supports the A2DP profile and proved very robust in our tests with a Windows 7 PC and a Nexus 7. The latter of those also allows you to establish a connection using NFC, even if it isn't a whole lot easier than delving in to the settings of your Bluetooth enabled device.
Bluetooth and NFC proved very reliable
Panasonic also provides its ‘Music Stream’ app available for both iOS and Android. As we often find with these things, Apple users have the better version but both will provide swift connection to your WiFi network, allowing streaming of audio from your DLNA server(s).
Panasonic SC-HTE80 ListeningWhat first struck us about the sounds coming out of the SC-HTE80 was how similar in character it sounded to the SC-PMX9 we reviewed. OK, both are made by Panasonic so you would expect some kinship but since the speaker board will set you back some£350 less, it's no mean feat .
Audio is rich - almost chocolatey - and both warm and smooth with dialogue very nicely anchored to the middle of the screen. Panasonic certainly weren't shy about extolling the virtues of their Clear-Mode dialogue processing and we have to say it's a definite success, even when used in mild doses.
The subs are subtle but very well integrated
There's quite a lot of DSP (Digital Sound Processing) options to play with, in fact, although most of the Sound Modes aren't wildly different from one another. There's an emphasis on the low notes in the Cinema mode and the Stadium option is loud and echoey but there's not much to distinguish between Standard, Music and Stereo but we mostly favoured Music, for all disciplines with its slightly brighter timbre which seemed to reveal just that bit more detail.
There are two in-built down-firing subwoofers that whilst they couldn't exactly be classed as room shakers, they certainly do bring a welcome touch of impact. We have found, with other competing products, that the subs could be too dominant and even cause unwanted vibrations and rattles, so we think Panasonic has been wise to err on the side of caution and has produced something quite restrained but very well integrated with the rest of the system.
Bar that slight lack of bass slam, there's really not very much to fall out with and whether you're listening to a movie, some music or a TV programme, the HTE80 will bring it a welcome lift.
- Great Styling
- Excellent connectivity
- Decent mobile app
- Some good DSP modes
- Sounds great with movies, TV and music
- Subwoofers may be too subtle for some
- Android app crashes a lot
Panasonic HTE80 (SC-HTE80) Speaker Board ReviewThe Panasonic SC-HTE80 is a very stylish little package, even if you'll rarely get to glimpse it from beneath the stand of your TV. Dimensions are such that it will accommodate the majority of flat panel TVs out there but those with larger and heavier TVs will need to either consider another solution or place it on their rack.
Connectivity options are good and include HDMI, digital optical and stereo as well as the (almost) obligatory Bluetooth support and there's the added bonus of NFC for your capable device. Despite the presence of an HDMI output, there are no on-screen menus available so all setup procedures are taken care of via the compact remote and visual display on the front of the unit. We certainly don't mind this approach and it becomes second nature fairly quickly.
Naturally Panasonic provides a control app for both Android and iOS which is more successful on Apple devices, as the former version seems to crash a lot. When it is working as it should, Music Stream allows you to access music on any DLNA servers on your network as well as audio stored locally on your mobile device.
Panasonic includes quite a lot of processing options and features aboard the HTE80 and most of them actually work quite well, so you'll need to experiment to see what suits you best. Whichever you choose, the audio performance will generally be on the warm side with excellent clarity of both vocals and dialogue and very nice sense of detail.
The matching dual subwoofers won't exactly shake the rafters but they never lose control either and always remain well integrated with the rest of the frequencies delivered. In actual fact, we think Panasonic has showed admirable restraint with their implementation as, given where the unit will likely be placed, it will cut down on unwanted reverberations and rattle.
The SC-HTE80 delivers exactly what's needed in this product sector. It has subtle and sophisticated looks, cutting edge connectivity, a plentiful feature-set and - most important of all - it sounds really, really good to boot.
Ease of Use8
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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