Panasonic has just unveiled the SC-HTB490, a slimline soundbar that could suit smaller homes — or just those who’ve never wall-mounted their TV and need a soundbar that won’t get in the way.
The SC-HTB490 saves space by only integrated two forward-firing speaker units, though these are augmented by twin bass reflex ports to boost low-end. It also comes with a wireless subwoofer: a potential advantage over all-in-one soundbars like the Sonos Beam.
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Unlike the Beam, though, the SC-HTB490 doesn’t support Wi-Fi streaming or any built-in smart features: its wireless capability is limited to Bluetooth. Still, it offers a further choice of HDMI ARC, optical or USB connectivity, and the subwoofer’s lack of cables (besides power) could help you move it around to find the perfect spot.
Peak power output comes in at a respectable 320W, split evenly between the 160W soundbar and the 160W subwoofer. But it’s the compact design that Panasonic seems most proud of; the company says the SC-HTB490 can “slot under most TVs, keeping rooms neat and tidy.” It can be easily wall-mounted too, as Panasonic will include the appropriately sized screws in the box. Even the best cheap soundbars can omit these, forcing you to buy them yourself.
The subwoofer also uses a new, smaller circuit board design to help keep its own dimensions down — though Panasonic hasn’t made the sub as small as physically possible, instead leaving space inside “for sound to reverberate and add truly epic tones that transport viewers to the heart of the action.”
Panasonic hasn’t announced U.S. pricing and availability for the SC-HTB490, though it will cost £349 in the U.K. — about $480, not accounting for tax differences. But the Sonos Beam costs £399 in the U.K., so Panasonic’s soundbar and subwoofer combo could still undercut its all-in-one rival as well as our current soundbar top pick, the Yamaha YAS-209.
That said, the YAS-209 also has the added benefits of Alexa smart controls and streaming from Spotify or Amazon Music. For a “dumb” soundbar like the Panasonic SC-HTB490, whether you should buy it will ultimately come down to sound quality and the convenience of that slimline design.
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