Panasonic SC-EN9 review: Panasonic SC-EN9

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Confusingly, the speaker wires are not colour-coded to match the colours of the binding on the rear, so you may well end up accidentally reversing the phase on your speakers -- this will change the sound they produce. The consequence of mis-wiring speakers is not drastically noticeable on lower-end systems, but it is good practice to code the wires to match the bindings. Consulting the manual reveals that the negative bindings connect to silver wire, and the positive bindings connect to the copper wire.

The DAB tuner on the SC-EN9 works like most others we've tested. Stations are scanned and stored in memory, and can then be quickly recalled using the bundled remote or the controls on the top of the system.

The integrated DAB on the SC-EN9 covers all digital broadcasts in the UK, and the unit lists them alphabetically as they are autotuned. Though it covers Band III broadcasts, it doesn't cover L-Band, but these are not currently available in the UK anyway. As with most DABs, the SC-EN9 can display extra station information on its scrolling text display. Legibility on this LCD is not great from a distance, but it is backlit for night-time or early morning.

The chassis on the SC-EN9 boasts a 'Live Virtualiser' and an 'Extra D. Bass Circuit'. These weight equalisation in favour of lower frequencies, but do little to improve the sound quality. It's entirely a matter of taste, but most music has been mixed by professional engineers who labour for days over the tone of the end result. A good stereo will reproduce this sound, changing as little as it can. Bass enhancement on systems like this may compensate a little for the shortcomings of cheaper speakers, but you're certainly not hearing what the band intended, and in most cases you're simply not getting a good sound.

The CD player on the SC-EN9 is easy to operate with normal CDs, but if you want to play back MP3 CDs on your stereo you will need to follow a special file structure as outlined in the manual. You will also need to make sure you're burning CDs that use the ISO9660 format.

Listening to Do It Again by Nada Surf revealed the problems inherent in plastic-shelled speakers. Although the sound output was fine for general listening, the CD format is capable of so much more than the SC-EN9 can deliver. The speakers give a noticeably hollow performance that can't hope to compete with even a low-end wooden-speaker enclosure. Speakers often perform better as the density of the material they're constructed from increases. The more dense the material, the more neutral the colouration of the sound. The thin plastic used in the SC-EN9's speakers does no justice to CDs, a situation which, though disappointing, is to be expected at this price.

DAB radio is less encumbered by the SC-EN9's speakers. DAB broadcasts don't have the same fidelity as a CD and place fewer demands on the amp and speakers. Often their shortcomings are concealed by the lower quality of radio, which is compressed and broadcast at a fairly low bit rate. For DAB listening, the SC-EN9 is far more capable -- as an occasional radio for the kitchen it performs excellently. For teenagers on a budget looking for a decent all-rounder to provide background music for homework, the SC-EN9 fits the bill. For more quality-conscious listeners, the money may be better spent saving up for a more capable system, or opting for a less extensively featured but better-sounding DAB-only radio.

Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide

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