If you’ve invested in a decent sized HD-ready television, picking up a decent set of surround speakers is a vital addition to get the most from the high quality digital audio available with modern equipment.
Something like Panasonic’s PT850 5.1 surround sound setup should fit the bill, and includes a 1080p upscaling DVD player combined with a 1000W output amplifier.
The setup comprises of four tower speakers for the front and rear right and left channels, a smaller front centre speaker and of course a sub for bass impact. Setting things up is fairly straightforward, you have a choice here of either mounting the towers onto the base stands provided to place on the floor or mounting them to a wall.
This offers the advantage of not forcing you to drill holes around the room if you’d prefer a more manoeuvrable floor-based setup, although most people will probably have their hand forced by the layout of the room.
You’ll find component and Scart connections for porting video to a television, an HDMI AV-out and dedicated optical and auxiliary composite ports for audio. We’re a little disappointed not to see a bit more in terms of connectivity here, at least in the form of a couple of spare auxiliary ports for additional components.
One nice touch is the audio-in jack on the front, which allows you to connect an external device like an MP3 player. This also doubles up as an entry point for the setup microphone, the most straightforward way of initially calibrating up the system.
To perform a quick setup in this way you simply plug in the microphone and place it at typical ear level for the listener. You can then run a setup routine that’ll automatically adjust the volume levels of each speaker to optimum conditions for this position.
Most users will want to fine-tune their experience after this point though, you’ll find a range of sound effects and adjustments that’ll help you do so including centre focus for dialogue enhancement, a surround enhancer for stereo setups, subwoofer level and a handful of environment presets. You can also adjust the volume of each speaker manually to apply any final touches.
In addition to the unit’s audio capabilities you’ll find the DVD player upscales to 1080p if your television allows it and is compatible with all the modern disc standards and encoded media formats.
Overall this is an excellent setup for the price, particularly when you taken into account the upscaling capabilities of the player.
Audio is consistently sharp and clean, though you really need to utilise the higher quality A/V connections to get anywhere close to the system’s potential. Those looking for their surround setup to form the hub of a large collection of A/V equipment might bemoan the lack of additional connectivity, but most will find the PT850 to be the perfect accompaniment to an HDTV and it’ll certainly help you get the most from your digital audio and video.
This is a great way to add a powerful surround sound arrangement to your high definition video, and if you happen to be looking for an upscaling DVD player at the same time you’ve got your hands on an extremely well priced package.