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Pretty good for a 42" Panasonic TV
on 16 November 2013
The clue is in the title "pretty good" - visually, this soundbar is a good accompaniment for many Panasonic 42" TVs because it is the right width and its silver finish is consistent in appearance with current models. This is certainly the case with the Panasonic Viera TX-L42ET60B or TX-L42ET61B (exclusive to John Lewis) and it fits under the screen perfectly as well as being spot-on width wise. You can install this soundbar either in the flat position or vertically. In the flat position no additional fittings are really required but safety cords and wall brackets are supplied if you want them. A sensor in the soundbar optimises the sound output for whichever position you choose.
This is an entry level soundbar which claims a 90W output and includes a woofer with two smaller wide range speakers - the SC-HTB65EB-S doesn't claim to, and won't shake your walls, but what it will do is replace the rather thin sound of an average LED TV's internal sound system. Additionally, this soundbar has a dialogue feature which makes speech considerably clearer, this will be welcomed by people whose hearing may not be what it used to be. There are also a range of sound modes built in ranging from "Standard" through "Stadium" "Cinema" and "News" "etc. Given its profile of just over 2" high when deployed in the flat mode the SC-HTB65EB is slim, however, the sound is good representing a vast improvement on that from the TV and, in my opinion, the more you listen to this soundbar the more you appreciate its clarity and overall quality. It also sports Auto Gain Control to level out the difference in volume that is now common between programmes/films and adverts - this feature works well. I note some other reviewers have referred to lip-synching issues - I have have seen no evidence of that when using this soundbar.
However, where the SC-HTB65EB-S lets itself down a bit is that the soundbar does not have Viera-Link or HDMI connectivity - it only has a single optical audio connection and audio plugs. A consequence of this approach is that control of the soundbar is completely independent of the TV remote and you get no "on screen display" when you change the volume or effect etc. However, virtually every function has an LED indicator on the soundbar which flashes away to indicate any change in setting. Also, if you install the soundbar in the flat position once you sit down you may not easily see the LED indicators but this depends on height and isn't a showstopper. A bonus is that although smallish overall, the remote is simple with largish buttons (it uses a button cell for power rather than an AA or AAA cell).
This soundbar is also available in black as the SC-HTB65EB-BK and, remember, both versions only come with a mains lead - the optical and/or phono leads referred to are not supplied.
On balance, I think the SC-HTB65EB-S is a good buy for the user who simply wants to significantly improve the quality of sound from their flatscreen LED TV rather than enter the true home cinema arena. If you are in the former niche and you accept the lack of on-screen information from this soundbar it will probably suit you well because it offers clear, quality sound plus minimal physical or visual intrusion - there's no siting of sub-woofers etc to worry about. In fact, I think the soundbar's sleek looks actually enhance the appearance of the TV, plus, it obscures any wires that may be visible between the stand and TV.
In summary, a pretty good product from Panasonic that will satisfy the needs of its intended niche, although, integration of controls with the TV could have been a bit better. Recommended.