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Panasonic SC-HT95 review:

Panasonic SC-HT95

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The Good Five-disc changer; plays DVD-Audio discs; progressive-scan video outputs; midsized, two-way front sats; healthy subwoofer; remote lets you adjust sub level; AM/FM tuner.

The Bad Noisy disc-changing mechanism; no Dolby Pro Logic II support.

The Bottom Line It may not be your decorator's first choice, but Panasonic's inexpensive midrange system belts out impressive sound.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall

Panasonic's long-standing commitment to the DVD-Audio (DVD-A) format is evident in its ever expanding line of DVD-A-capable home-theater systems. The SC-HT95 also includes a five-disc changer, Dolby Digital and DTS processing, and a six-speaker package. Its sound quality is distinctly above par, although style-conscious buyers may want a snazzier system.Panasonic's long-standing commitment to the DVD-Audio (DVD-A) format is evident in its ever expanding line of DVD-A-capable home-theater systems. The SC-HT95 also includes a five-disc changer, Dolby Digital and DTS processing, and a six-speaker package. Its sound quality is distinctly above par, although style-conscious buyers may want a snazzier system.

Design
The conservatively styled receiver-cum-DVD changer is about the size of a standard receiver--17-inches wide and just 14.5 inches deep. Its power ratings are rather odd: the left/right channels get 46 watts each; the center speaker receives 106 watts; the surrounds wind up with 56 watts apiece; and the subwoofer is fed by 190 watts.

The stealthy remote hides most of the lesser-used buttons behind a slip-down cover, which makes for a simplified layout of the main controls.

Features
The HT95's elevator-style changing mechanism can swallow five discs. This kit is compatible with DVDs, DVD-A discs, Panasonic's DVD-Rs, CDs, hybrid Super Audio CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and MP3 CDs. Surround processing is limited to just Dolby Digital and DTS, along with the usual selection of synthesized disco and hall ambience settings. The subwoofer's five-step level control is accessible by remote control and on the main unit.

Connectivity choices are above average and include progressive-scan video output, along with a smattering of analog and digital connections.

Performance
We started our evaluations with the Fight Club DVD. The intense, fantasized airline collision at the start of chapter 8 unglues most midpriced kits, but the HT95 took that major dose of sonic mayhem in stride. We did notice the DVD player's fast-forwarding to be unusually quick, so it was hard to zero in on exactly the scene that we were looking for.

When we moved on to the sweet-sounding Piano DVD-A disc from jazzman Bobby Short, the HT95's refined and sophisticated sound came into play. Even Short's difficult-to-reproduce grand piano was nicely presented and well balanced. The subwoofer was warm yet well defined, so Frank Tate's juicy stand-up bass came across with real verve.

CD sound was also impressive--with the volume pumped to a healthy level, we reveled in John Lee Hooker's low-down blues. The raw energy and power of the music belied the actual dimensions of the system; the HT95 can easily fill midsized rooms with sound. One snag: The disc-changing mechanism is noisy and clunky and needs 27 seconds to switch CDs, which is an awfully long time.

Fashion-conscious buyers may prefer Panasonic's more lifestyle-friendly and extracool-looking SC-DM3 kit, but the HT95 comes out on top in most performance-related respects. Yes, it retails for $549--just a bit more than the DM3--but it has larger, better-sounding sats; a more powerful sub; a five-disc changer; and progressive-scan outputs. We've seen the HT95 going for less than $350 online, and at that price, it represents a good value. panasonic sc-ht95

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