Tangled Up in Bluetooth Page 4

Panasonic SC-HC05

$179 panasonic.com
Best for: Goldman Sachs offices, designer kitchens, iPod diehards
Worst for: travelers

MANY BLUETOOTH SPEAKERS seem like they’re designed for 18-year-old girls, but the SC-HC05 would look right at home on Timothy Geithner’s desk. Panasonic’s new micro-perforated stainless steel grille and the unit’s sleek, simple chassis (available in black or white) give it an “adult” look suited to a demographic that might never consider jazzy designs like the Creative D100 or the Jawbone Jambox.

The SC-HC05’s features also put it in a different category. In addition to Bluetooth streaming, it has a fold-down iPod/iPhone dock. It’s the only unit here that comes with a remote control. The driver complement easily outclasses that of most other Bluetooth speakers. It’s got two 2.5-inch woofers, two 0.6-inch tweeters, and four passive radiators for bass reinforcement. The top has just three controls: on/off and volume up and down. It plugs straight into the wall — no wall wart required — and it’s clearly not designed for portable use.

The SC-HC05 is the only one of these systems with enough oomph to replace a small conventional stereo. The midrange detail made the piano, guitar, and voices in “Lu” from Laura Nyro’s Eli and the 13th Confession stand out in the tune’s somewhat confused mix. Although the SC-HC05 looks too reserved to play Mötley Crüe’s “Girls Girls Girls,” it did it damned well. The soft spot is the treble, which, despite the presence of the tweeters, sounded soft and uninvolving.

After I tested the SC-HC05 but before I knew its price, I had it pegged at about $300. The fact that this handsome, good-sounding system costs just $179 makes it the best bargain I’ve found in a Bluetooth speaker system.

Measurements

With a fairly smooth midrange from 200 Hz to 2.5 kHz, the SC-HC05 delivers admirable response for this product category. While there’s a huge treble peak at 11 kHz, the depression in the treble from 2.5 to 9 kHz is far more audible, and certainly the cause of my complaints about the SC-HC05’s slightly dull sound. Aggressive bass tuning gives the unit a large output peak at 68 Hz, but it also gives the unit a subjectively fuller sound.

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