Having been mightily impressed with Panasonic’s SC-BT200 Blu-ray-in-a-box-system, we thought it only right that we ran its loftier sibling through its paces, too. As the main receiver unit remains the same, we had high hopes.
The change comes in the form of the speakers, with the four compact satellites substituted for four floorstanding speakers – and at little extra cost.
The centre channel is fairly slight and sits on its comfortable feet with a reasonably slim profile, while the four identical floorstanders are a more substantial affair.
Coming in three parts, they require a few screws each to connect the circular foot to the bottom part of the speaker and again to join the two parts of each speaker.
It’s fair to say they don’t feel particularly robust or look overly alluring – the subwoofer has a chipboard ‘finish’ on the rear – but thankfully they make up for it in terms of sound quality.
Box of tricks
The engine of all these systems, and indeed much of their appeal, lies in the multi-talented receiver box. There's Blu-ray and DVD playback, an integrated iPod dock compatible with music, video and photo playback, a USB input, and an SD card for starters.
The list is almost endless, but it doesn’t include HDMI inputs – there’s just the one HDMI output for HD pictures and sound (it can decode all HD codecs). Two digital optical inputs will take digital audio from other sources, and Panasonic’s proprietary Viera Cast feature allows access to some online content via Ethernet.
In our eyes the more important business comes in the shape of Blu-ray playback. Here the SC-BT205 quickly sets itself apart.
The level of insight with both audio and video is a step above, the system producing a poised, balanced sound capable of punch, power and subtlety. DVD images are similarly crisp and clean.
Top it all with fine usability – it boasts an auto-set-up with a calibration mic – and you have the ideal all-in-one introduction to Blu-ray surround sound.