on November 3, 2012
I did quite a lot of research on my own before I ordered this unit. The item came complete with needed cables, except an optical cable. You may need that cable. I did and had to buy it.
The unit itself is wonderful. The instructions are easy to understand for the average person (me).
It comes with a remote and you are able to adjust volume and mode, bass and treble. The unit is also capable of receiving a blue-tooth signal from your device, such as IPod, and delivering the sound through the speaker bar from up tp 30 feet. A really great feature is the ability to separate the unit into two equal pieces (three speakers each) which I have done, mounting them upright in the provided stand, alongside my 55" Sony led tv. This then delivers better stereo or home-theatre sound reproduction due to the separation. Some reviewers have responded that they were somewhat disappointed in the bass response from the sub-woofer. I believe that not to be a problem
of the unit but of the floor material, carpet, etc. The sub-woofer is a "bottom-throwing" system, meaning that the bass speaker is mounted on the bottom of the sub-woofer, about an inch and a quarter off the floor. So, I have the subwoofer situated either on the hardwood floor or on the slate base of my fireplace and about 16 feet from the TV. This allows the bottom- throwing speaker to do its job. Delivering very solid bass response. The woofer is situated by my easy chair (wood floor and or slate surface nearby) with a small table between me and the woofer. It sound to all that the bass either comes from the direction of the TV or in the case of explosive sounds from a movie, to the right or the left of the TV. You won't, of course, get true surround-sound from any speaker bar set-up, but I did not expect to. The system delivers exactly what I wanted from my purchase. Almost forgot, you are able to adjust the sound to your liking for music or the spoken word. I have found the happy medium for that purpose. So don't expect surround-sound but do expect much better sound reproduction than your current TV delivers.I have found it great for music and movies. You do hear the intended movie special sound effects, such as, car doors closing, fires burning, creaking doors, explosions, marching heals- etc. very well.
on May 1, 2012
I bought this to go with a Panasonic LED TV, which is incredibly thin, and the TVs speakers suffer as such.
So this was a nice addition. The sound is very good, the wireless subwoofer works really well to add to the overall sound while watching TV.
With a Panasonic TV and VieraLink, the TV power turns the sound system on or off as well. This is cool, except half the time, the home theater comes on, but there is no sound. I have to power the home theater unit off and then back on before the sound comes. Need to find time to call Panasonic support on that.
I really liked the multi-position speakers, although you screw them together or the bases on, so it's not easy to move them if you wanted to go from the TV clear channel horizontal setup to say playing music with the speakers apart and vertical. Might have been nice to be able to easily change positions.
For music, these don't sound that great to me, but they work great for TV sound. Of course, this home theater is on the low end of pricing I think when it comes to speaker systems.
The other strange thing about this unit: I love how the receiver box is so small, however it doesn't have any display, so to adjust certain levels, settings and such, you go through a strange combination of holding buttons on the remote and watching lights flash on the unit. Really quirky and not user friendly at all.
One more minor annoyance... laying the speakers flat in front of the TV, it blocks out the remote sensor on the TV. The stand doesn't go any higher for the TV, so I'm going to have to find something to set it on to raise it.
I have tried the bluetooth and was able to easily connect my phone and play music. Again, the subwoofer is great, but the speakers could be better (I'm no audiophile though).
So overall, this met my needs of a compact, easy audio addition for my TV that wasn't too expensive and sounds great with the TV.
on June 15, 2012
I've been an audiophile for 20 years and my current tube-based system retails for over $25,000 (Harbeth speakers + Prism Orpheus DAC + Manley 100W monoblocks and a Roksan Radius 5.2 turntable). I know what live performances sound like and excellent analog and uncompressed digital (on well-recorded material, friends who visit can't keep their eyes shut as it feels as though the performers are inside the room; spooky...I know, but true).
Q. So how does $25,000 audiophile system compare with the $300 Panasonic HTB550?
A. One of the best bargains in home theater !!!
The HTB550 system delivers excellent digital-to-analog conversion, low distortion amplification and crystal-clear dialog. All of this with minimal cabling and obtrusiveness (wife acceptance factor).
I'm not saying that the system can beat high-end products or 5.1 setups, but it punches WAY above its price segment and offers a truly engaging movies & sports listening experience. I really get immersed while watching and I'm able to turn up the volume for hours without listening fatigue (characteristic of good conversion and amplification).
Integrating with my VIERA TV and Logitech universal remote was a breeze. The WDTV Live and Satellite feed DTS and Dolby Digital via HDMI (note ARC doesn't work in DTS and DD; only PCM). With VIERA link the HTB550 switches on/off automatically with the TV (convenient).
So comparing this to my recording studio-grade system, the HTB550 gets the highest praise. I can't believe Panasonic pulled out such a smartly-designed, GOOD sounding product at a reasonable price. A solid 5 stars from an audiophile.
ADDENDUM 28 June 2012:
The volume bar (visual cue) works via Viera Link (Panasonic TVs only). This provides identical volume levels to regular Panasonic TV level. It is smartly labelled as HOME THEATER VOLUME rather than TV VOLUME. I can tell my children to keep Wii volume below 20 and they'd comply ;-)
on October 6, 2012
Some will think this is nuts and some with not agree esthetically,(and it could be just plain old news) however, I have a Panasonic sound bar and yes it blocked the IR sensor on the Panasonic TV. My ultra cheap fix...I strategically placed a small sheet of aluminum foil on the ceiling of the family room. I just point the remote toward the ceiling and the reflected infrared finds it's mark every time. You can always raise the TV but this worked for me and in two years only one person noticed the sheet of foil on the ceiling and ask what it was for. I told them that it keeps aliens from scanning my brain.
on July 2, 2012
As others have said this IS NOT intended to replace a full 5.1 or 7.1 system. My goal with this system was to achieve better sound than the sub par TV speakers. This unit integrated seamlessly especially if you are connecting with a Panasonic TV. Via the HDMI (ARC) port on your TV the TV and receiver in this system play very nice. Volume is controlled simultaneously for the ENTIRE system. No need to disable TV speakers either. It just does it. Also if the speaker system is not on it will default to TV speakers.
The sound is better than I expected for the price. The 6.5" sub does very well and makes a substantial difference.
The ONLY drawback was mounting the speakers to the wall. I mounted in the sound bar configuration. The manual gives you the measurements required, however you MUST be down to the 1/16 if you want it centered. The mounting channels are offset from where the mounting screw goes in. It's hard to explain, but it will take some serious measuing and number crunching to mount. Hope you like fractions.
I would definitely recommend this system to those looking to improve TV speakers, but not to those looking for theater sound.
on October 18, 2013
After doing some research and listening to some similar systems in the same price range, I figured I would try this one. I made sure I had an available ARC HDMI port on my 2 year old Panasonic 42" plasma TV before purchasing this, since I definitely didn't want to add another remote to my mix. Everything works as advertised with a single HDMI cable connecting the main unit to the TV's ARC port. The sound system turns on and off automatically with the TV just as claimed. The numerical volume level displays just like before I added this system, and I can adjust the system's volume with either the original Panasonic TV remote, the original Panasonic Blue-ray player's remote, or the remote provided me, and set up by my cable provider (Time Warner Cable) when I upgraded to the digital package. Both the cable box and Blu-ray player are connected to my TV by HDMI cables also. The sound quality is just fine for me in my 12x16 living room, and the clear voice feature is really great for making the dialogue more understandable. My TV is used primarily for movie watching, and I'm very happy with the upgrade from the TV speakers. Easy assembly for having the sound bars vertical as I do, and no problems at all after 1 month of use. Glad I took the plunge for better TV sound relatively inexpensively, and I'm glad I stayed with Panasonic so everything works automatically without any fuss or bother.
on May 3, 2012
Just got it yesterday - here are my thoughts so far.
The packaging of everything was really good. A lot of gloss finish on everything protected by that plastic wrap. It was pretty straight forward to assemble and looked really nice. It was definitely a noticeable step up in sound quality from the TV speakers. The lack of bass from the speaker bar alone is definitely noticeable when compared to speakers with bigger woofers, but the wireless sub does a really nice job of replacing the missing bass. I'm guessing that a little playing with the placement of the sub will help it mesh together even better. I preferred the sound of setting the speakers up individually on the stands as it gave me a little wider of a sound field. They do attract fingerprints though - I already need to wipe them down after playing with the setup. Stringing the speaker wire through the stands was also a little tricky - I had to bore out the hole slightly in the stand to allow the wire to fit through. Not a big deal though.
The Viera link seems to work just as I'd expect it to work. The sound bar will turn off & on with my TV (Panasonic HT-50PZ80), and my TV remote will control the volume of the sound bar seamlessly. The only downside is that there is no numerical volume value or even a gauge that shows up when you change the volume. This may just be a personal preference, but I will miss having that visual cue. Can't just tell my son to turn it down to 10 when he's watching TV on Saturday morning...
The Bluetooth functionality was really nice. I had no problem pairing it up to my phone. So much more convenient than hooking a cable up to my phone like I used to. I was able to get around 30 feet away with my phone in my pocket before I noticed that the connection started to have trouble.
You can adjust the level of the dialog with the included remote, but I found that it really reduced the overall sound quality if I turned it up too high. It seems that you're sacrificing sound quality for the clarity. Still a nice feature to have though for those times when the dialog level is just too low.
Overall I'm pretty happy with the HTB550. The biggest unknown for me was the sound quality and I think it sounds great for watching TV, a casual movie, and also for streaming music from a phone. It doesn't replicate the surround sound of a 5.1 system, but that wasn't what I was looking for. I just wanted something that could give clear dialog with decent sound.
on November 29, 2012
It is tough to know exactly where to rate this particular soundbar. I am admittedly a bit of a snob when it comes to audio performance. I bought this as the sound system for a laptop in a home office. The laptop has an HDMI output and a decent audio card in it. While I think this is a good system, and better than many soundbars on the market. . .it isn't perfect. The biggest weakness, for me, is the subwoofer. It is just adequate. It mixes with the soundbar very well, but it has no separate controls. Everything is controlled from the central amplifier box, and everything is completely dependent on it. That means when the box fails, all of the speakers will be useless. That is quite different than a traditional speaker system or independently wired sub or soundbar. Considering the poor longevity of so many present day consumer electronics - that is an unsettling factor to consider.
The sound this system produces is above average for a 2.1 system. Panasonic's 3D technology (meant to fake a surround experience) works quite well. If you are running these speakers from a computer, you can further tweak the effect depending on the type of soundcard and software you have. The clear voice option is also cool and works very well. If you have hearing issues or struggle to make out words amidst other background noises you will definitely appreciate that technology. Even the casual film viewer will find it useful at times. For example, if you live in an apartment or house and watch films at a lower level during certain hours, the clear voice technology will definitely make dialogue easier to hear when viewing at low levels. Truly, it is impressive in a relatively inexpensive setup like this one.
On the downside the mid-ranges are somewhat weak. Another reviewer mentioned that fact, and I agree with them. . .and as I said, the sub, while nicely integrated and definitely present in the audio performance, is just adequate. Further, you cannot independently boost it - I even tried forcing additional bass through the system using my soundcard settings. . .it did not work. The little box keeps the sub in line, so if you are like me and actually like making the sub "draw attention to itself" when listening to music or during large movie explosions, etc., I am afraid this system may disappoint you. You simply cannot create a sub-dominant, bass-heavy sound experience . . .at least I have not been able to. That said, the sub sounds good and is integrated well - it just isn't (and cannot be made to be) dominant. While the mid ranges are a little soft and the lows are just adequate, the highs are reproduced very well. . .on pair with a quality set of bookshelf speakers. I pushed this system fairly hard, and you can definitely fill a much larger space with sound than the demure looking speakers suggest.
Recommended, but with the caveats noted above. . .I would give it a strong three and a half stars out of five.
*Update* - 11/30/12 - I continued testing this system. The integration of the subwoofer with the soundbar is very good. If you want sound close to the way it was meant to be heard in films, but through a 2.1 system this is a strong choice. I tested it with the Blu-ray release of Jurassic Park and it sounds great. The mid-ranges were somewhat better represented though still not ideal. The sub did a solid job. This isn't an inefficient subwoofer by any means. For this price range it does its job very well in a well integrated fashion - you just can't crank it up and make it dominant. For many listeners, that will be ok. In fact, if you are not comfortable trying to integrate sound bar and subwoofer performance on your own, this set may be the ideal option.
On the downside, the complete dependence of all speakers on the main amplifier unit is a concern to me and I prefer having more control than this system allows.
*Update* - 12/19/12 - I did end up returning this set. The weak midranges and limited (but again, not bad) subwoofer were my primary reasons. Still, this is not a bad set. I'm switching to a Logitech Z623. The highs are not as crisp, but the subwoofer is more versatile (though perhaps not as tight at very high volumes) and the mid-ranges are stronger. . .and for a lot less, as long as you do not need Bluetooth. It was that or a set of Paradigm Shift or Paradigm Millenia CT computer speakers, and I really did not want to shell out $600-$700 for the room in question.
on November 8, 2012
I used this against a few soundbars to find which one gave an overall good beat.
This was nice. Good to look at, easy connections. The sound was really good compared to the TV and my older HTIB. There weren't enough mid level freqs to satisfy me. Lots of highs and lows, but nothing in the middle.
I also had a Yamaha soundbar I was testing (YAS101). While the YAS didn't have the lows this had, it did have lots of mids. Since I'm a mid guy, I chose the YAS101. I can always get a sub if I want to lower my suspension.
It did connect to my Panasonic TV well, but it wasn't amazing. It didn't open up any new doors for settings between matching products.
I will say though, on another note, the harmony between the sub and soundbar was on spot. Very well done on Panasonics end.
I do recommend this for those who aren't into the mids as it's a good system. Just wait for it to drop a few dollars in price.
on October 29, 2013
My TV sits on a stand, over my fireplace.
Putting a soundbar in, not an option-- it covers the sensor for the TV remote. I'd have good sound, but I'd be back in the 70's trying to change channels.
Other 2.1 systems (like Bose)-- the sub woofer is connected to the speakers. How's that supposed to work over my fireplace?
This system-- Perfect! plugged right into the TV with an HDMI cable and optical cable. A couple of settings in the TV made it turn on automatically when I turn on the TV (you do have to set this up, but it's easy). Everything just works.
I really like that there isn't an LCD screen to distract you while watching the TV. The "code" with the lights is self explanatory actually, you just play with the remote for three minutes and you'll figure it out.
Absolutely thrilled with this setup.