May 12, 2008
| by Marshal Rosenthal
Panny has one more introduction up their sleeve: the SC-BT100 Wireless Home Theater System with Integrated Blu-ray Disc Player (yes it’s a Home Theater in A Box). HTIB’s don’t have much cred, because they’re usually cheap in price and execution. But I won’t complain about the ‘100’s all-in-one surround system with a pop-out iPod dock (music and video), and an SD slot for digital photos and playing camcorder HD video (the Viera link too).
The SC-BT100 comes with a $999 retail price tag. But as Panasonic Marketing Manager Paul Sabo points out, what’s inside justifies the steep price: a Blu-ray player with all the video processing power and functionality of the DMP-BD30 (minus BD-Live as it’s sans the Ethernet port). This includes full decoding of those high-def audio formats for 5.1 and 7.1 channel surround, a “whisper” mode to moderate volume and an optical input to use with a cable box, etc.
Instead of some cheap, flimsy wired speakers, Panny has gone an interesting route; from a subwoofer design that promotes a clean bass with minimal vibration and “noise” to the front and center channel vertical speakers using a bamboo diaphragm in the woofers and tweeters rather than paper (more rigid and eco-friendly too). The rears are wireless and receive their signal from a transmission card (2.4 GHz) popped into the back. This provides a hassle free way of setting up 5.1 surround, aided by “virtual” 7.1 if you want - but we’d say go with the optional wireless kit that adds another pair of speakers for true 7.1. Of course how well the wireless will hold up under normal conditions with cell phones and home networks isn’t something you can find out till you try, but in our experience with wireless systems in the past, the odds of getting good results are high. And after listening to jazz in straight stereo before switching to the battle scenes of “Master and Commander,” we found the wireless performed without incident, nor was there anything to fault with the audio or video presentation.
Sabo says the whole idea behind the 1250 watt ‘100 is to create a family-friendly HTIB that offers a real home theater which can be set up quickly and easily. Having ranted against all the problems with running wires throughout a room (i.e., pets, small children, detriment to the decor), I whole-heartedly agree.
Now as we walk back out into the California sunshine, should I be accused of having some kind of love-fest with Panasonic, just consider how rare it is to see some consumer electronic products that go the extra mile rather than just parroting what everyone else is doing. For that alone they deserve respect, and maybe a big bite out of our rebate checks too.