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Panasonic SC-HC3 Compact Stereo System review: Panasonic SC-HC3 Compact Stereo System

Panasonic's attractive SC-HC3 combines CD and iPod playback with excellent audio quality, although iPhone owners should shop elsewhere.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
2 min read


The SC-HC3 will arguably sell as much for being an iPod dock as anything else, and in the vast and competitive field of iPod docks, it stands out for being big. Quite big, in fact — with dimensions of 195x500x102.5mm it'll struggle to even fit on some desks. This is at least partially due to its dual-iPod/CD support, which is managed via a motorised sliding window on the front of the dock. Hit the iPod button and it'll slide to the right to reveal a pop-out iPod dock. Hit the CD button, and it slides to the left to reveal a vertically mounted CD tray. At each side sits a speaker, with controls managed from the top or via the same kind of remote control that Panasonic uses for just about every product it releases in the AV realm. It's quite busy, but for the most part easy to understand in quick order.


Panasonic SC-HC3 Compact Stereo System

The Good

Includes iPod, CD, radio and auxiliary inputs. Sliding case design.

The Bad

No DAB+ compatibility, just FM. Not shielded for iPhones.

The Bottom Line

Panasonic's attractive SC-HC3 combines CD and iPod playback with excellent audio quality, although iPhone owners should shop elsewhere.


The SC-HC3 is a combination micro system with support for iPods, FM radio and CD audio. It'll also handle MP3 files burnt directly onto CD-R/CD-RW. We can't help but feel that this is a feature that time has distinctly passed by. Handy to have, but not exactly vital. The SC-HC3's specifications sheet claims 40W RMS speaker power, which isn't exactly eardrum blasting, but arguably adequate for most small room use.


The motorised door on the SC-HC3 is a great party piece, and it's easy to impress people with this alone. Audio quality was on the whole very good with distinct tones that you often don't find in smaller speaker set-ups like this. At absolute top volume there's a little distortion, but that's to be expected in any case.

We were disappointed to note that in a system that sells for this kind of price Panasonic hasn't bothered to include shielding for iPhone models. That won't stop an iPhone working within it, but you will have to tell it to either switch to aeroplane mode or put up with some electronic distortion each time a call comes in. Equally, the LCD display is pretty small and a bit tough to read, which means you'll generally have to be quite close to read it.

FM radio reception was decent in our tests, but again there's a technology we'd love to see in a unit like this that is notably absent: DAB+ radio compatibility. There's precious few really good DAB+ units with stereo speakers, and the SC-HC3 feels like a bit of a missed opportunity in this regard.

There's no doubting that the SC-HC3 is a quality unit where it really counts — audio quality. It's not an inexpensive unit, however, and really only justifies itself if you do split your listening between iPod and CD a lot.