Top positive review
215 people found this helpful
Bottom Line: EXCELLENT System for the money... Best bang for your buck!
on December 1, 2012
Alright, here's a completely honest review from a guy who's been shopping around for a good entry level system. I am in my 20's, newly married, and not able to afford an elaborate home theater system at this stage in my life. If you want a fancy system with every last up-to-date bell & whistle, then I would say search elsewhere, but if you are looking for great sound for a really low price, then look no further. For the $200 I paid on Amazon.com, I couldn't be happier. Following are some things I would like to comment on, and even though this is a long-ish review, I sincerely hope it is helpful to you or that some of the tips make this item even better! Just know that I am so pleased with the value I got from this system that I felt compelled to write a lengthy review, so that should be a testament to its quality! :)
1. This system is a Home Theater In-a-Box. Therefore the speakers plug directly into the blu-ray player itself. No need to worry about buying a separate receiver. That said, because this is an entry level system not designed to be a big receiver, the input options are very anemic; there is only one optical input and no HDMI inputs. This however, is not necessarily a problem as some people complain it is. My TV has enough HDMI inputs for the player, my DirecTV satellite box, and my Xbox 360. From the Xbox and the DirecTV cable box, I have an optical Toslink cable plugged into a separate optical cable switcher I got for ~$5 at Monoprice, and this is wired directly into the receiver. This way, I preserve the 5.1 surround sound output from each device. This is the ONLY way to do this if you want to preserve your 5.1 output. Simply plugging HDMI's into your TV, then having one optical cable run from your TV to the 5.1 system will not work as TV's can't strip the 5.1 sound from the signal and pass it through. You will get sound, but not 5.1 surround sound. So if you are buying this for use with more than one other peripheral, I would recommend picking up a couple optical cables and a switcher. Cables are only $2-3, and the switcher is only $5 as I said before.
2. Sound: It is INCREDIBLE for this price. I have a mid-sized loft where everything is set up. Despite it not being an enclosed room, the speakers still fill the room with tremendously rich, full sound. I can't even turn the volume up over 50% for fear my ears would burst. And this is coming from a 20 something year old guy who most of you probably thing would stereotypically play music too loud. I have my equalizer set to "heavy" which doesn't make things louder, just more full, and I have the 3D cinema surround sound feature turned on. It is truly AMAZING. NOTE: I have seen others complain that this device doesn't come with all the speakers working, or that they don't work all the time. Well, respectfully, there is a good reason for that. To take advantage of a 5.1 system, your blu ray, TV show, game, or whatever, needs to be coded with a 5.1 soundtrack. If your media only has a stereo source, sound will only come out of the side speakers, not the front, and depending on your settings, it will only be quiet coming from the back. Make sure you have a 5.1 source! This item has the latest decoders, and will support media with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Pretty awesome.
*One confusing thing in the product description is that it says it has wireless back speakers. This is a bit confusing, as the back speakers are indeed wired. What it means is that there is an extra accessory you can buy to make them wireless, if you wish.
3. Picture: Again, the picture, on an HDTV of course, is incredible! I don't have a 3D TV, so I can't comment on that aspect of this system, but the colors are sharp, blacks have good contrast, and images really pop out at you. Not to mention, the blu ray discs themselves load VERY fast. The player is also able to upscale DVDs to near 1080p, and the effect, while not as good as a BD movie, is excellent. Not much else I can describe about it, you need to experience it for yourself!
4. Network: This is a WIRED system, so if you are looking for wifi, you'll either have to buy an adapter or look for a different model. For me, this is no problem. My home's wireless router sits right next to the television, so I don't mind having a wired system. Again, if you are looking for more features, you'll need to spend more money, but for what you pay for this system and what it gives you, it's incredible. I would like to mention I'm not a huge fan of the Viera Connect interface, which you use to stream internet content. It feels sluggish to me, and a lot of the apps need a facelift, ESPECIALLY the Amazon Prime Video app. It would be really nice if that app would stream 5.1 sound too. (Are you listening Amazon?? haha). But each app does however do what it is supposed to do, and this system makes good use for streaming Netflix or MLB.tv etc.
5. Set-up: Took me only a 1/2 hour. It's a simple as plugging in wires to their correct spots. I set up the front/surround speakers on stands I bought for only $10/pair from Monoprice. The speakers have really nice slots in the back that make mounting on screws really easy. I did have to buy some extra 16-gauge speaker wire, because even though they do give you a lot of wire to work with, my room had an awkward shape that required extra length of wiring so I could place the speakers in the proper spot. But overall, didn't take me long at all to get everything going.
6. Remote: A little frustrating that I can't get the supplied remote to work with my Samsung HDTV, but I was easily able to use my universal DirecTV remote with the system. My DirecTV remote now can control my TV, DirecTV box, and the Panasonic system. So when I'm watching DirecTV, I don't need a ton of different remotes to control everything. I simply use the volume on the same remote I would have used anyways to control DirecTV, and I can control the volume on the entire surround system. The only thing I need the Panasonic remote for is when I initially turn the speakers on. It is annoying that every fresh boot up of the system takes you to the main menu by default; I wish it would remember your last setting. But all you have to do is push ONE button (the input selector labeled "iPod" after the system turns on and you will hear your television. That's what you'd have to do for a typical surround sound system with a separate receiver anyways. Easy as anything.
7. OTHER ITEMS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER BUYING WHEN PURCHASING THIS: This may be obvious to some, but if you are a newbie, here's an easy list of what else to buy:
-HDMI Cord (to hook into your TV)
-16-gauge speaker wire (for extra flexibility in wiring)
-Speaker stands/wall mounts
-Optical cord switcher
-One optical cord for every other peripheral you plan to connect + one extra to run from the switcher to the box.
This may sound like a lot extra, but each is very cheap on Amazon.com, or you can look at Monoprice which is extremely inexpensive.
Like I have said from the beginning, if you are looking for more options or flexibility, you may want to look elsewhere. But if you are like me and don't have a lot of money to spend on something like this, the Panasonic SC-BTT190 truly is the best bang for your buck. It does everything some of the more expensive systems do and then some. I am very VERY pleased, and can't believe I got something this quality, brand-new, for only $200. If you see a higher price, maybe it'll come back down, I don't know, but either way, I would have been willing to pay more. Please take my word for it, I am extremely satisfied!
UPDATE (12/27/13): Someone commented on my review, so it brought my attention back, and I'm glad to see this review has been so helpful! Just as an update, I've been using this system for over a year now and I feel it is still worthy of my original 5 star review. I've had no problems whatsoever and am very happy with how it has served those rare moments when I can enjoy being a couch potato. And the price is even better now than when I bought it, so while I obviously haven't looked into the newest or comparable systems , for $170, this is a great buy!