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Panasonic SC-DT300 review:

Panasonic SC-DT300

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The Good Beautifully styled, compact components; high-gloss, black sats; tiny sub; progressive-scan DVD player with DVD-Audio capability; DTS, Dolby Digital, and Dolby Pro Logic II surround processing; AM/FM tuner; way-above-average sound quality.

The Bad Display is too small to be informative.

The Bottom Line Panasonic's dreamy kit looks and sounds great in small to medium-sized rooms.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall

Panasonic's spiffy new kit, the SC-DT300, is the very first home theater in a box (HTIB) on the market that can play those amazing sounding DVD-Audio (DVD-A) discs. This Panasonic's full-chrome, compact components deliver remarkable sound quality that's miles ahead of most other pip-squeak HTIBs. And though the SC-DT300 carries a list price of $899, you can find it online for less half that. For that amount of cash, this Panasonic's combination of high style, high-tech engineering, and high performance are tough to beat. Panasonic's spiffy new kit, the SC-DT300, is the very first home theater in a box (HTIB) on the market that can play those amazing sounding DVD-Audio (DVD-A) discs. This Panasonic's full-chrome, compact components deliver remarkable sound quality that's miles ahead of most other pip-squeak HTIBs. And though the SC-DT300 carries a list price of $899, you can find it online for less half that. For that amount of cash, this Panasonic's combination of high style, high-tech engineering, and high performance are tough to beat.

Tantalizing technology
The DT300's understated, European look is a refreshing break from the more typical silver-plastic HTIB aesthetic. The two jewel-like, 7.5-inch-wide components are fully chromed--even the tops and sides are mirror-finished. Panasonic squeezed advanced digital-amplifier technology inside the A/V receiver, with the front and rear channels each getting 27 watts while the sub and center enjoy 35 watts apiece. Surround processing is limited to everyday DTS, Dolby Digital, and Dolby Pro Logic II.

Since the DT300 is working with size constraints, connectivity options are limited. Despite that fact, this little kit that could offers component- and progressive- (Y, Pb, Pr) video outputs for use with compatible TVs. Audio connections are sparse, and digital-audio jacks are nonexistent, which means that you won't be able to hook up a MiniDisc recorder via an optical connection. The DVD player is compatible with most DVD-Rs and DVD-A discs, plus DVDs, CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and MP3 CDs.

The left/right sats are rather substantial two-way speakers with 3-inch woofers and 1-inch dome tweeters. Unusually, these speakers use a biwire connection: the tweeter gets one set of connectors, and the woofer receives a different set. Panasonic provides all of the wires, and the owner's manual devotes an entire page to explaining the speaker-hookup procedures. The center and surround speakers each employ a single 2.5-inch driver. As noted, all of the sats are decked out in a classy, gloss-black finish. The pint-sized, 8-by-10-by-11.50-inch sub is sheathed in a black-wood veneer and boasts a 6.75-inch woofer.

Ease-of-use issues cropped up here and there--the receiver's display is just too small to be informative, for example. The remote has itsy-bitsy buttons that were impossible to locate in the dark, but it allows you to adjust the subwoofer level from your easy chair.

Serenaded by the DT300
The DT300 kicked out the jams with the Rolling Stones' tasty 12x5 CD. Bill Wyman's extrafunky bass lines jumped out of the frisky sub, and the band's overt R&B shadings still sound fresh today. The audio quality was even better when we popped in the DVD-A version of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now. We compared the DVD-A to the CD and noted the former's heightened sense of clarity and transparency. The surround mix on this disc is subtle but effectively puts the listener in the room with the orchestra and Joni herself.

Once we settled into watching the magnificent Lord of the Rings, it was hard to remember that we were in the midst of a miniature speaker array. The sound was quite vivid, and the sats handily coped with the soundtrack's pin-you-back-in-your-seat effects. Dialogue was articulate and nicely balanced, and the sound was pure and natural. Yes, there were times when the thunderous score overtaxed the sub and the bass turned thumpy; the small sub isn't very powerful, but we certainly wouldn't call it thin or lightweight. It'll do fine in small to midsized rooms.

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