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(Pocket-lint) - The Panasonic SC-HTB490 soundbar-and-subwoofer combo pairs simplicity and affordability in an effort to easily boost the sonic attributes of your TV - without breaking the bank.

It's a fairly basic offering that only has a single HDMI-ARC connection, and lacks Wi-Fi connectivity, but at this price point you can't expect miracles. So is it any good for the asking price?

Our quick take

The Panasonic SC-HTB490 is a simple but generally capable 2.1-channel soundbar that delivers an affordable boost to your TV's audio. The overall design may be fairly basic, but at least the soundbar and subwoofer are well made. The features are a bit limited, especially when it comes to connections, and the remote is disappointing, but given the price point it remains competitive.

The important thing is that the HTB490 delivers where it matters: in audio capability. There's good stereo imaging, an uncluttered midrange, dialogue that's clear despite the lack of a centre channel, and some deep bass thanks to a separate subwoofer. The soundstage could be wider, and there's no surround presence, but this 'bar-and-sub combo is an inexpensive and accomplished sonic upgrade.

Panasonic SC-HTB490 review: An affordable soundbar with big bass presence

Panasonic SC-HTB490

4.0 stars
  • Great two-channel delivery
  • Excellent bass reproduction
  • Decent amount of power
  • Easy to setup and operate
  • Fiddly remote
  • Limited connections
  • Sound lacks a degree of width



  • Soundbar: 800 x 56 x 101mm; 1.9kg
  • Subwoofer: 171 x 382 x 363mm; 5.7kg

The Panasonic SC-HTB490 isn't going to win any design awards, with a simple cabinet that's the definition of prosaic. It's basically a rectangular box, with a slightly angled shape and fabric stretched across the top and front. The entire 'bar is finished in black, with glossy endplates and a matte strip along the top, along with two lights at the front in lieu of a display.

Panasonic is obviously building to a price point. Given that a soundbar shouldn't draw attention to itself that's fine, and at least the top doesn't reflect whatever's on the TV screen unlike various competitors.

Pocket-lintPanasonic SC-HTB490 review photo 7

The matte strip is where you'll find some basic controls: power on/off, volume up/down, and a button for cycling through the inputs (which also pulls double duty for Bluetooth pairing).

The HTB490 sits 56mm high, which shouldn't block your screen, but Panasonic also includes optional feet designed to raise it above any inconvenient TV stands. While these can be useful, they do increase the height to 72mm, so bear that in mind. The soundbar is also wall-mountable - and you'll even find brackets included for this purpose, further adding to its value for money prospects.

Connections and control

  • HDMI output with eARC
  • Digital input, USB
  • Bluetooth 4.2

The Panasonic SC-HTB490 houses all its connections in a recess on the underside, where you'll find an HDMI-ARC output, an optical digital audio input, and a USB port. There's also Bluetooth 4.2 for a wireless connection, but there's no Wi-Fi support. While the connectivity is limited, this is a fairly standard selection for a soundbar in this price range.

Pocket-lintPanasonic SC-HTB490 review photo 2

The included remote is the kind of credit card-sized controller that's fiddly to use and has a habit of getting lost down the back of the sofa. The situation isn't helped by multi-purpose buttons that have both a main function and a secondary one activated by holding the button down. If your TV supports ARC - that's audio return channel, for piping along audio through HDMI - you're better off using its remote for basic control of the HTB490.


  • 2.1-channel configuration
  • Dolby Digital and DTS
  • 5x sound modes

The Panasonic SC-HTB490 isn't designed to deliver sonic pyrotechnics, its primary purpose is the raise the audio quality of your TV by adding superior speakers and a separate subwoofer. It's a simple ambition, but one this soundbar achieves with mannered professionalism. It's also very easy to setup: simply attach the soundbar to your TV via HDMI-ARC and you're good to go.

Pocket-lintPanasonic SC-HTB490 review photo 5

The soundbar itself houses a pair of full-range 120 x 45mm speakers with bass reflex ports for added low-end extension, and each is powered by 80W of Class D amplification (totalling 160W).

The included wireless subwoofer is styled in black to match the soundbar, and sports a 160mm driver with a bass reflex port and 160W of amplification. The inclusion of a separate sub will help the system reach the sonic depths, and a combined 320W total provides sufficient grunt.

Sound quality

  • 2x 120x45mm cone speakers
  • Separate subwoofer with 160mm driver
  • 80W per channel: 160W soundbar, 160W sub; 320W total

This is a solid performer, with the two speakers producing a clean and detailed delivery, combined with good stereo imaging. The mid-range is clear and free of any muddiness, while the treble is never sibilant or harsh. The sub plays its part as well, laying a foundation of well-integrated bass that digs fairly deep without swamping the rest of the soundstage.

Pocket-lintPanasonic SC-HTB490 review photo 6

The main criticism with the HTB490 relates to its two forward-firing speakers, which lack width and thus make this soundbar better suited to screen sizes below 55-inches. There's also no dedicated centre channel, although dialogue during our testing was generally delivered with a focused clarity that never sounded muffled or difficult to understand.

Where the Panasonic really impresses is in terms of what's under the hood, with sufficient power to deliver some pleasing dynamic range and an ability to go loud without losing its composure. The lack of spatial width does rob this system of a degree of scale, but the amplification and added depth of the sub ensures a modern blockbuster sounds suitably epic.

There are five adjustment levels for the subwoofer, and five sound modes: Standard, Cinema, Sports, Music, and News. The Cinema and Sports modes apply virtual surround processing.

The Standard sound mode works best as a general setting, using the 2.1-channel system without applying any processing, which makes it ideal for watching TV and listening to music. The dedicated Music mode just sounds weird and is best avoided, though, but the News mode is good for emphasising dialogue. The Cinema and Sports modes apply virtual surround processing, which gives the audio a bit more space but also robs the soundstage of some of its front focus.

Pocket-lintPanasonic SC-HTB490 review photo 4

A Quiet Place is a movie with a carefully designed soundtrack that's used to help tell the story. It's full of small sonic details that, during our watch through for testing, the HTB490 was able to tease out of the mix and render with good definition. The sudden changes in volume were also handled well, the subwoofer ensuring the scary moments had real impact. There's no real surround presence, though, but given this soundbar's inherent limitations it produces a solid overall performance nonetheless.

To recap

This 2.1-channel soundbar combines simplicity and affordability in an effort to easily boost the sonic attributes of your TV without breaking the bank. It's a fairly basic offering that only has a single HDMI-ARC connection, and lacks Wi-Fi, but at this price point you can't expect miracles. Good for the budget.

Writing by Steve Withers.