The Panasonic SC-HTB254 is a 2.1-soundbar from the cheaper segment that comes with a subwoofer. Soundbars of less than 200 euros are often supplied without a subwoofer, so this can work to the advantage of this Panasonic.
Many soundbars, especially in the higher segment, are now supplied with their own wireless subwoofer. This subwoofer automatically connects to the wide speaker at the moment you plug in the mains. Cheaper soundbars usually do not have a wireless subwoofer, so the price can be printed somewhat. Panasonic has decided to do this, but does this benefit the listening experience or did the manufacturer of image and sound products cut costs on other aspects?
Panasonic SC-HTB254 – design and specifications
The Panasonic SC-HTB254 consists of two parts: a soundbar and a subwoofer. Both speakers have a thin and compact size, so they fit into all kinds of living room configurations. The soundbar itself is not very wide and therefore probably fits well in front of the television, although that does not always have to look good if you have a large screen. With smaller TVs, the device looks more attractive. The subwoofer is narrow and thin and fits perfectly in a cabinet or somewhere underneath.
The plugs of both devices are not that long, so you have few options for installing the equipment. This does not have to be a problem for the soundbar; as long as it fits the TV. However, if you want to place the subwoofer elsewhere, for example under a couch, you have to make sure it is in the vicinity of an outlet. In practice, the (too) short plug often means that you put it next to a television cabinet, as we have done. But the idea of a subwoofer out of sight is fine.
On the sides there are some buttons with which you can operate basic functions on the soundbar. That is always nice, because there are situations where you are closer to the soundbar than the remote. There are also a few lights on top of the bar, which indicate which sound mode you have now switched on. You can also see here which source you have selected. Panasonic also supplies a small remote control that gives access to all functions; with your own remote control you can operate the basic functions.
Very often it is the case that cheaper soundbars are only provided with an optical connection and no hdmi opening. However, recently we see that this idea is slowly changing, since the Panasonic SC-HTB254 is also equipped with both connections. That means you can connect the speaker in two ways. However, some modern televisions no longer have an optical connection, so it is always a good idea to give a soundbar an HDMI input. This gives the consumer more freedom and options.
Panasonic SC-HTB254 – installation
Installation is done in this way, whether you use the optical or hdmi connection. You use the cable you need and connect the soundbar to the television. Then there is a good chance that you have to indicate on your TV that you use external speakers in the future, so that the sound is delivered via the right path (usually when you connect via hdmi). You then turn down the soundbar, plug in the power socket and start listening almost immediately; the clutch is automatic.
Panasonic SC-HTB254 – in use
The Panasonic SC-HTB254 is fairly easy to install, because it is also a relatively simple device. The same applies to using the soundbar. There is support for hdmi-cec and hdmi-arc present, so you can operate the soundbar with your own remote control. However, if you want to have access to all functions, such as setting the sound mode, you really have to use the included remote control. This is a good thing in itself, but for big hands maybe a little too small.
On the back of the soundbar is also a USB connection. Unfortunately you can not use that as a means to play music (for example by connecting a USB disk with music). The opening is meant for updating the device, provided of course that is necessary. A handy option, since there are no network possibilities and you can not connect the Panasonic SC-HTB254 to the internet. Too bad, but in the end you do not have to be very sorry – you do not pay the main prize.
The subwoofer can also be adjusted. You will find plus and minus buttons on the remote control. There is no screen present that indicates at what level the subwoofer is, but you can tell by the lights on the subwoofer. There are four levels in total. At the lights that light up when you adjust the setting, you can see at what level the woofer is. That is an elegant and smart solution: Panasonic uses the things that are there, and introduces functions that previously appeared to be absent.
What shines in absence is an extra hdmi-in connection. Such a connection would not be out of place on a subwoofer in general, because you obviously lost an HDMI port on your TV the moment you connect it that way. More expensive models have such connections, but you pay for that. There are, incidentally, few cheap subwoofers with such an extra connection, so it is not a big criticism. It is more of an inconvenience that you have to take into account.
Panasonic SC-HTB254 – audio quality
Surprisingly good and clear customers from the Panasonic SC-HTB254 come. By pressing the Sound button on the included remote control you can slightly adjust these customers for what you want to watch or listen, but there are not many options. You can simply amplify the sound by not turning it on or you can choose the movie or music mode. By not switching on any of the two modes you simply get a fuller sounding sound than you normally get from your TV. There are no further details.
If you choose the film mode, the voices are moved slightly backwards in favor of the effects. They come out much better. It can therefore sometimes become a bit of a mess when it gets too crowded in a movie or series (or game), so that sound effects sound too sharp and conversations are less easily understood. But at times that are not crowded, it sounds nice and understandable, but we still prefer the normal mode above the movie mode. Simply because the normal mode keeps the sound the same.
The sound mode sounds a little better, but it is noticeable that the higher notes are cut off. There is a clear limit to the capacities of the Panasonic SC-HTB254, which comes out well when you listen to for example Nothing Compares 2 U from Prince. The saxophone does not come into its own and you really feel that you are missing range. Simpler pop songs or not so complicated music sounds great, but of course do not expect miracles. In a small environment it all sounds fine in the end.
And that is probably the most important thing to remember for the Panasonic SC-HTB254, or small soundbars in general. The larger the room where the soundbar is, the worse it performs. In other words: use it in smaller rooms, then it better comes into its own. Then it is not so noticeable that the sound is not broadly sent into the room, because that room is not that wide at all. The format is not the only thing that is compact, the sound also sounds compact. But within that compactness it sounds pretty good.
Panasonic SC-HTB254 – conclusion
Whether you like the design of a soundbar or not, that’s a matter of taste. Panasonic has in any case released a sleek and compact soundbar on the market that is perfectly capable of bringing the sound of the TV to the next level. In addition, we place that you can not place the device in any room and that it is the best to come into its own in smaller environments. The sound generally sounds, regardless of the room, fortunately clear, intelligible and fine – except for a few situations.
That’s okay, since Panasonic has chosen to supply a subwoofer. As a result, the bass is much better and you notice that when you’re in the right place. It is a pity that we can not use the USB port for our own music sources, that there are no network possibilities (but then you will undoubtedly go to another price range, but it is still worth mentioning) and that the remote control is a bit small is. But in the area of sound, the soundbar scores well.