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Review: Panasonic SC-HTB490

Fully adequate at the price

The test's cheapest soundbar will provide a clear sound improvement, but also shows that it pays to put a little extra money on the table.

Karakter
Panasonic SC-HTB490
forfatter
Published 2021-06-27 - 8:00 am
Our opinion
The Panasonic soundbar is easy to place and comes with a compact wireless subwoofer.
We miss a better display, and the sound could definitely have been clearer and more dynamic.
Specifications
  • Width corresponds to screen size: 40″
  • HDMI: 1 x in (2.0), 1 x out (ARC)
  • Digital input: Optical, USB-A
  • Network: –
  • Wireless: Bluetooth 4.2
  • Voice control: –
  • Analog in: –
  • Subwoofer: Yes, wireless
  • Audio formats: Dolby Digital, DTS
  • Dimensions: 80 x 5.6 x 10 cm
  • Finish: Black fabric
  • Web: panasonic.com

The Panasonic SC-HTB490 is a relatively small and compact soundbar made to match the Japanese manufacturer’s own TV models. With a fabric-covered exterior and glossy plastic sides, it should be able to slide into most interiors. It can be placed directly under the TV or hung on the wall with the included mounting brackets.

The SC-HTB490 has HDMI ARC for easy connection to the TV, but can also play audio via Bluetooth or from USB memory. On the operating front, Panasonic has a flat remote control in credit card size, which can disappear a little too easily between the sofa cushions.

The soundbar itself does not have a real display, but instead uses colored LEDs to indicate the status of sound setting, volume, input selection, etc. It takes some time to understand what the different colors mean, and a graphic display would probably have been more user-friendly.

The subwoofer has a 5″ side-mounted woofer . (Photo: Panasonic)

Sound quality

The Panasonic SC-HTB490 is set up with a 2.1 speaker configuration in stereo, which consists of two full-tone units in the soundbar itself plus a wireless subwoofer to handle the deepest bass tones.

In terms of sound, the Panasonic soundbar is clearly a boost compared to regular TV sound, with a warm, rich and pleasant sound on music and entertainment programs. That said, the sound could have been clearer.

When we see the scene from The Irishman where Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci discuss their next assassination attempt, the voice acting does not seem as distinct and present as we might wish. This may be because the Panasonic soundbar lacks a dedicated center speaker for the dialogs and therefore has to mix them into the stereo channels.

The relatively simple speaker solution also makes its mark on the surround effects. When we challenge Panasonic with shooting scenes from the Netflix series Easy Money, it sounds clear and distinct, but also a little flat. It clearly bounces from various firearms, but it does not feel as if the bullets are flying around the heads of us. The SC-HTB490 fails to create the illusion of surround channels behind us.

It is also noticeable on music that the sound image is a bit tame and not very dynamic. Dua Lipa’s vocals sound a bit stuffy, and Roddy Ricch’s hip hop rhythms don’t really swing. In addition, there are some inconvenient sounds from the subwoofer: It does not go particularly deep and has an easy time distorting a bit on challenging bass tones.

(Photo: Panasonic)

Conclusion

Panasonic provided the cheapest soundbar in the test, and the SC-HTB490 can certainly be a capable sound improvement in a simple TV setup.

That said, it does not stand out in terms of usability or sound quality. We miss a proper display that could say something more about the settings, and the sound may seem a bit woolly and stuffy compared to the best in the test. You get what you pay for!

Also in this test

TCL TS8132EU

Atmos surround sound on a budget

TCL has one of the cheapest soundbars that can offer "real" Atmos sound with built-in height channels. And considering the price, it sounds really nice!

The TCL TS8132 sets a large soundstage with a fine surround feel. Points for good remote control and easy-to-read display.
The subwoofer lacks in power and can distort at high volume.

Yamaha ATS-2090

Enough oomph

Yamaha's soundbar entertains on film with clear dialogues and reasonably powerful sound. But is it just as good for music?

Great sound with good punch. Decent sound balance.
Coloured bass. 3D surround effect gives a hall-like reverberation. No display.

Klipsch Cinema 600

Bone-hard bass

With Klipsch at the helm, the room comes to life whith bullets flying and explosions booming. This must be the most intense thing we have heard at this price!

Top-notch sound - and a powder keg of a subwoofer! Impressive quality impression.
Lacking Dolby Atmos, and the big subwoofer might be hard to swallow for the interior-conscious.

Samsung HW-Q610A

Impressive soundstage

The Samsung HW-Q610A is an excellent soundbar with great, three-dimensional sound, and the Atmos effects are palpable.

Samsung's soundbar paints a clear and distinct sound stage with precise dialogues and well-placed surround effects.
Samsung HW-Q610A lacks Wi-Fi connectivity. There are solutions with even stronger, more hard-hitting bass.
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