All-in-one systems are a real problem-solver if you’re on a tight budget or hate the thought of shopping around for individual components.
If that applies to you, Panasonic is your knight in shining armour, offering a wide range of convenient one-box systems that find the right balance between affordability, features and sound quality.
The Panasonic SC-BTT460 is a 5.1 affair, which comes with a Blu-ray receiver, a pair of front tower speakers, compact rear/centre speakers and a passive subwoofer. It sits below two more expensive systems in the range, the SC-BTT880 and SC-BTT560.
Design and connections
The SC-BTT460 is a great-looking system, styled in Panasonic’s customary gloss-black finish.
This year’s main unit features sloping edges that give it a more dynamic look, with a glinting silver strip lending a touch of elegance. It’s also remarkably slim and build quality is decent.
On the fascia you’ll find an SD card slot and USB port in the middle (not hidden under a flap like on previous models) with an LED display and disc tray to the left and right respectively.
On the back are fewer sockets than I expected, primarily because Panasonic has reserved HDMI inputs for its higher-end systems. That’s a blow if you were hoping to boost sound from a Sky box or games console using a single cable.
You’ll have to settle for the optical digital or analogue stereo inputs instead, plus the HDMI output supports Audio Return Channel. An FM aerial input and Ethernet complete the limited line-up – you’ll need the latter to connect your router, unless you buy an optional Wi-Fi dongle for around £80.
The speakers’ gloss black finish gives them a funky, modern look, and the angled joint where the front speaker meets the base is a lovely touch.
But when assembling the towers, I found their build quality disappointing – the bottom section is light and hollow, plus they aren’t as rigid and stable as I’d like.
Build quality for the rears is much better, and with their super compact dimensions (143mm high) they can be placed discreetly on shelves or furniture at the back of the room.
Pleasingly, they’re two-way speakers with a midrange driver and tweeter, as opposed to the single full-range driver that you’d normally find on speakers this small. But if you want larger rears, the SC-BTT560 comes with two pairs of towers (and supports wireless rears too).
The compact centre speaker is horizontally shaped and sports two Piezo super tweeters and a full range driver. The subwoofer is passive, connecting to the main unit via the pre-attached speaker cable. It’s slim and attractively styled in gloss black.
No wholesale changes or radical innovations to report here – Panasonic has kept the spec sheet pretty much the same as last year’s SC-BTT490. So while that’s disappointing in some respects, it’s great news in others because it’s a decent feature list.
Viera Connect heads up the system’s network functionality, offering a range of Internet apps. They include BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Netflix, Acetrax, Skype (with an optional camera), Facebook, Twitter, iConcerts, CNBC, Dailymotion, SHOUTcast, AUPEO! and Euronews, alongside a couple of newbies (USTREAM and MySpace).
Not bad, but we’re massively disappointed not to see Demand 5, 4OD and ITV Player here – and there’s no plans to add them this year.
The SC-BTT460 will pull media files from connected DLNA servers (and other types using the Network Drive feature). It supports a wide range of formats, including AVCHD, WMV, MP4, PS, TS, JPEG, MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC and LPCM. It’ll also play MKV, WAV and MPO from USB devices, plus the USB port lets you play music from an iPod or iPhone.
On the home cinema side, the SC-BTT460 supports 3D and decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. According to Panasonic there’s 1,000W of power in the tank.
3D Cinema Surround mode adds 25 virtual speakers to the real ones to expand the soundstage both vertically and horizontally. It’s joined by other modes like 7.1 Virtual Surround and Dolby Pro Logic II, plus Panasonic’s usual lineup of audio tweaks – H.Bass, Centre Focus, Whisper-mode Surround and EQ presets.
It’s easy to put all the bits together and connect the speakers, with colour-coded speaker terminals making life easy. On-screen setup is equally simple thanks to Panasonic’s straightforward setup menus, while a helpful wizard performs a sound check and configures the network when you first fire it up.
The Home menu is the same as last year, using a grid of nine brightly coloured icons that cover all the core functions. It’s quick, responsive and the submenus follow a similarly logical layout. You can even customise the Home page for different users.
On the flipside, it’s a shame Panasonic hasn’t improved the Viera Connect layout this year – I’m not a fan of the way it spreads apps across several pages, making it a chore to find certain content.
You can call up the Options menu while watching a movie and access picture adjustments (contrast, brightness, sharpness, colour, gamma and noise reduction) and change sound settings.
The remote is classic Panasonic – big rubbery buttons, massive lettering, neatly separated sections and an sensible layout, although the volume keys should be more prominent. Alternatively you can control the system over a network on your iOS or Android device using Panasonic’s superb Theater Remote app.
The SC-BTT460 delivers a very enjoyable audio performance for the money, sidestepping many of the usual one-box system shortcomings without reaching the sense of finesse and authority you’d get from more expensive setups.
It goes enjoyably loud and has an excellent sense of scale, expanding the soundstage well beyond the confines of the speakers.
During busy action scenes like the epic finale of Avengers Assemble, the BTT460 lays down the law with crisp, forceful effects as the aliens blast their way round the city, joined by tight, thumping bass notes as Hulk pounds into buildings and alien spaceships. Invaders whoosh between speakers quickly and cohesively, dialogue projects clearly from the centre speaker and the system’s rich, energetic reproduction of the score drives the scene along at breakneck pace. The speakers tease out lots of detail too, giving the sound a crisp, airy feel.
The most pleasing thing, however, is how effectively the SC-BTT460 keeps harshness at bay, even at loud volumes. Granted you lose a little of that fine detail but the Panasonic shows admirable composure for a budget system.
If there’s a weak link it’s the subwoofer, which requires trial and error to get it working in harmony with the satellites – turn off H.Bass, take the Subwoofer Level setting down to 1 and fine tune the volume – but once that’s done it sounds reasonably deep and tight.
Activate 3D Cinema Surround and the sound feels fuller and wider, making it more immersive in the process. Surround effects lose their accuracy slightly but the effect is impressive.
Picture-wise, the SC-BTT460 serves up more of that luxurious, super-detailed picture quality that Panasonic is known for. There’s a depth and sharpness to its images that will make movie fans very happy indeed, but the colour accuracy and lack of motion artefacts really seal the deal. This continues when watching 3D pictures, which are quite simply spellbinding.
The word that springs to mind when summing up the Panasonic SC-BTT460 is ‘solid’. It does a dependable job in every area without ever pushing the boat out or doing something we haven’t seen before.
Viera Connect is decent enough, although the limited catch-up TV content leaves it trailing in its rivals’ wake and the menu is in dire need of a redesign. On the plus side it’s easy to use, sound quality is surprisingly assured for a one-box system and picture quality is superb, but it’s definitely worth checking what rivals have to offer before taking the plunge.
Manufacturer and model
Component video output
Composite video output
Digital audio inputs
3.5mm minijack input
Analogue stereo input
Dolby True HD decoding
DTS HD Master Audio decoding
Dolby Digital decoding
DLNA media streaming
Size (front speakers) W x H x D
270 x 1,185 x 270mm
Size (rear speakers) W x H x D
80 x 143 x 75mm
Size (centre speaker) W x H x D
280 x 86 x 78mm
Size (subwoofer) W x H x D
145 x 289.5 x 258mm
Size (Blu-ray receiver) W x H x D
460 x 47.7 x 265.4mm
Audio Return Channel support
3D Cinema Surround