Panasonic SC-HTE80

More affordable than most and with excellent connectivity, this is a great all-round option

With a footprint of 46 x 28cm the Panasonic SC-HTE80 looks (colour differences aside) like a slightly shrunken version of the Canton DM 50, with largely unadorned surfaces and a dot matrix display hidden behind the cheese-grater grille across the front. Build quality is similar, too, but its smaller capacity can only withstand a maximum 30kg.

Two downward-firing woofers are complemented by just two forward-facing full-range drivers. Further differences become apparent upon making a rear inspection, with the provision of dual HDMIs; although decoding is limited to Dolby Digital and DTS, the SC-HTE80 will accept 7.1 PCM from a Blu-ray deck. Direct connection to a TV can be made by optical means or HDMI as the output socket is ARC-compatible.

Bluetooth is onboard, with the benefit of NFC pairing, but apt-X is absent. Power output is a claimed 30W per channel plus 60W for the sub.

The supplied remote control is flat, compact and lightweight, but not cluttered and it works well in combination with the display behind the grille. Calibration options include six DSP sound modes, dialogue and subwoofer level adjustment, auto gain control and a harmonic bass boost. 

Despite its lowly power output claim, the SC-HTE80 compares favourably with its rivals, capable of delivering a satisfying soundfield, especially if you choose the right DSP mode. Tony Stark’s chatter in Iron Man 3 is muffled when 3D Clear Dialogue mode is off, switch it on and even all of Selina Myer’s aides in Veep are distinguishable. Disparate effects in the snow-scene crash and barfight in Iron Man 3 are clear and the dynamic range remains nicely balanced. Music reproduction with Bluetooth-streamed MP3s feels a little thin in the higher registers and is dominated by the bass response.

Panasonic SC-HTE80, £250,

Verdict: 4.5/5