Panasonic SC-NT10 Rugged Portable Bluetooth Speaker Review

Panasonic has found a cool niche with their line of "tough" products: normal electronics with a little extraness so they'll survive some decent wear and tear.

This idea has found its way into a Bluetooth speaker. The SC-NT10 is fairly rugged looking, sports some decent outdoorsy specs, and has the added benefit of looking not quite unlike a flying saucer.

And if that doesn't entice you to read, know that I actually went out of doors to test this thing. Outside! Where there's sunlight! And things! It was terrifying!

About the size of a CD (remember those?), the SC-NT10 is a fairly beefy thing, weighing in at 0.73 pounds. Which may not seem like much, but it's heavier than you'd expect. Most of the metal-looking parts are actually plastic, but it feels sturdy. Inside is a 2-watts-per-channel amp feeding two 1.375-inch drivers. Instead of a port, there's a 2-inch passive radiator. The rechargeable battery lasts about 8 hours, while streaming Bluetooth, in normal mode. In "Boost" mode (more on this in a moment), it lasts a claimed 1.5 hours. There's also a microphone so you can use the SC-NT10 as a speakerphone.

On the rugged side, here's what the SC-NT10 claims it can handle: Splashproof (to IPX4 of the IEC 60529 spec), dustproof, shockproof (dropped from a 30-inch height), freezeproof (down to 14 degrees), and heatproof (up to 122 degrees). These are their words, and having been in temperatures below 14 and above 122 myself, these seem less "proof" amounts and more "resistant" amounts. But then, I never tried to run a speaker outdoors in the Hoth-like wasteland of upstate New York, or the Devil's crotch of the San Fernando Valley.

The SC-NT10 is the first product I've reviewed with NFC, or Near Field Communication. This is a pretty cool technology that's becoming more common. Instead of going through all the pairing steps normally associated with Bluetooth devices (which on my old phone, never seemed to work), you just tap the two devices together.

With my HTC One, I tapped the icon on the top of the Near-Field Communications with the top-back of the phone, and a message popped up directing me to the Play Store (ok, technically to the web browser, which redirected me to the Play Store). This was to download the Panasonic Music Stream app.

The Music Stream App is a little odd, acting as a sort of go-between for the audio on your phone, and the SC-NT10. It streams music from your phone OK, but there's no option for other audio apps like Pandora. Thankfully, it doesn't seem to be required after the initial pairing (and possibly not even then, if you just pair without NFC). Once connected, I could close the app and use the SC-NT10 just like any other Bluetooth speaker.

Sitting on my desk, the sound quality is quite good. Not quite as loud or a rich as a foxL, but fuller than you'd expect from two 1.375-inch drivers. Treble was a little more coarse than I'd like, but then, my face was right on top of it. I doubt most people would listen to it this close.

The Boost mode aims to "to maximize midrange sounds. Ideal for lowering distortion while also reinforcing the softer tones and vocals often lost in surrounding outdoor noise" It does this, but not to the shouty effect you'd expect. In fact, it seems to have more bass, though that could just be because it's noticeably louder.

Louder, perhaps, but not "loud." Taking it outside, the SC-NT10 fared OK, but not great. On a picnic table, or in a tent, it would probably be fine. But in any loud enviroment, it's going to get rather drowned out. The Boost mode helps, but can't work miricles. With a few extra watts, it would probably be quite impressive. But as it is, it's merely "OK."

Bottom Line

I like the idea of a more rugged Bluetooth speaker, though I never felt that the foxL was particularly fragile. While the sound quality of the SC-NT10 isn't up to the same level either, it is $50-$100 cheaper. So it's good, but not great, less expensive than most, and definitely one of the coolest-looking Bluetooth speakers.

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