There's nothing worse than having lots of spaghetti at the back of your TV set.
I previously had more than you would find in an Italian restaurant thanks to my BluRay player, Sky Plus box and (the worst culprit of all) my home cinema system.
When I moved and lost the Sky box, I decided perhaps it was time to find a piece of kit which would kill two birds with one stone - and get a BluRay home cinema system. My search became more complicated than I had imagined however as I had to get a multi region home cinema system to accommodate my Region 1 DVDs.
After much searching online, I found the Panasonic SC-BT222 being sold at the website www.mrdvd.com, an online trading name of Paul Taylor GPA Ltd, in multi region mode, although it should be noted that it only plays region B BluRay discs. The home cinema system cost me £344 plus £15 delivery.
What also appealed to me about this player was the fact it gives 7.1 sound but only has two speakers and one subwoofer, thus further reducing the spaghetti at the back of my TV.
The first thing that impressed me about this home cinema system was the sleek black box. The system box is quite large in comparison to my Samsung BluRay player (which my daughter has now) but it's not particularly heavy.
The subwoofer is incredibly light in comparison to my old home cinema system - not to mention about half the size. The bamboo speakers are small and I must admit I wondered how effective they would be - despite the system guaranteeing 7.1 sound from a system which looked 2.1. However the attendant wires from seven speakers was too much for me to contemplate.
Along with the DVD player, the subwoofer and two speakers, you also get a remote control, a video cable, an FM radio antenna, a speaker cable and an AC mains lead in the box.
What you don't get is a digital optical audio cable. In fact there are no audio cables included at all.
The player links up easily via an HDMI cable (which again is not included) and attaching the speakers and the subwoofer is an easy step.
The instruction manual is clear and explains different permutations for connections using different cables but I would definitely recommend you use a digital audio cable for optimum sound - especially if you want to use the system for your TV sound.
Once you have the home cinema system connected you just use the Easy set up which will tell you what to do using onscreen prompts and enables you to choose the language, TV aspect required, check speakers, set up TV audio to feed through the sytem and activate a quick start up.
You can also reprogramme your remote control so it works with any other linked Panasonic device. This is highly recommended if, like me, you have a Panasonic TV - you can use the Viera Cast features too.
~~What the System Plays~~
Apart from the aforementioned B region BluRay discs and any region DVD, you can also play media on CDs and SD cards or USB memory devices with a maximum capacity of 128 GB.
The machine can cope with a myriad of different file formats on the media which is compatible with the machine including mp3, JPEG, DivX and AVCHD.
Finally, you can play your iPod through the system, with a docking station located on the top of the player, which will also charge your iPod.
~~Ease of Use~~
As I get older I find it harder to get to grips with some new technology - but Blu-ray fortunately hasn't been a problem for me and I have enjoyed the improved sound and picture quality it brings.
The Panasonic SC-BT222 is fairly straightforward to master, and the instruction manual is clear and easy to follow.
One of the first things I noticed was that the home cinema system has an energy saving device installed which switches the system off when not in use so expect to have to switch this on every time you need it as it won't be in standby.
The remote control can be used in conjunction with the TV and can be used to select menus from your Blu-ray discs, what you want to listen to (be it TV, audio or your iPod) and the menu systems are simple and easy to follow. In fact my only gripe about the remote control is the fact you can't use it to open or close the disc tray as there isn't a button for that - you have to use the switch on the system box itself.
Another feature which I really like about this system is load time of the Blu-ray discs. On my Samsung player it could take several minutes for a disc to load and be ready to pay - on my Panasonic it's a matter of about 20 seconds.
Be warned however that when you turn the system on it takes about a minute to load up properly so if you have your television's sound feeding through here you will find yourself with a soundless picture for a brief period before the sound comes on once the system has booted up.
I have a full HD Panasonic TV which I unfortunately cannot watch HD programming on due to the wrong aerial having been installed when I moved to this rented house and lack of a satellite dish. Before I moved I did sample HD on it and was mesmerised by the picture quality, and it's just as sharp when I play Blu-ray discs on this little beauty, with the full 1080p being a joy to watch.
I have read several people say that the home cinema system works best with a Panasonic TV and I cannot confirm if this is true or not, but certainly with my Panasonic HD TV it offers unrivalled picture quality with a crispness of detail and colour that is a joy to watch.
The Panasonic SC-BT222 also upscales regular DVDs so you will get a significantly better viewing experience using this system over a normal DVD player. It goes without saying that it can, as promised, easily cope with DVDs which are not Region 2.
I must admit I did wonder if sound quality would be compromised due to this system only having two speakers, despite the promises of 7.1 sound reproduction. My fears, however, have been unfounded.
Panasonic claims that bamboo, which the speakers are constructed from, is more environmentally friendly and also offers a more extensive sound range. I was a bit dubious about this - having enjoyed the surround sound my old Panasonic 5.1 system gave me I found it hard to believe that these small speakers could possibly be as good.
But in reality the bamboo speakers offer a fantastic sound quality which packs a punch with a total output of 500 watts. You can also use the "whisper sound surround" function which will ensure that if you need to turn the volume down, you won't lose the quality of sound - in particular the bass - when doing so.
I have found the sound levels are lower when playing Blu-ray discs on this system as opposed to just playing the television through this but it's worth cranking the volume up when doing so to really appreciate the cinematic sound experience.
The bamboo speakers also seem to highlight speech clarity better than my older system - certainly I find dialogue much easier to follow even when there is background noise present.
Of course one has to be realistic here - this system is never going to be as powerful as a full 7.1 system with more powerful output but if, like me, you want good audio without speakers dotted around your living room and the attendant wiring, then it's a price worth paying.
I don't play CDs on this as I tend to put all my music on the computer or on my iPod, and the iPod dock is how I listen to music on this little beauty.
You are advised to use the plastic docking station protector which comes with your iPod when you use this system but when I put mine on I found that the system didn't recognise my iPod Touch - whereas if I place the Touch directly on to the docking station without the protector it works perfectly.
What I really like about the docking station on the home cinema system is how you can choose your music using the Panasonic remote control, which brings up the iPod information on to your TV screen.
The one thing I have not been able to master is playing videos on my iPod through this system however. I have contacted both Panasonic and Apple about this and received conflicting information. Apple suggested (after their operative searched Google) that I should buy a £39.99 lead from the Apple Store to use with my system but I don't need to watch videos through my system THAT much so I haven't taken it any further.
I have also viewed photographs on SD cards and USB flash drives on this system and have been amazed at the clarity. I used to make up memory discs of photos and always felt the pictures lost something in translation when being viewed on a larger screen. Using a pictures which have been taken with my Panasonic DMC-LZ7 camera and stored on an SD card I have been staggered at how clear they are on my 37" TV screen, even though the camera is only a 7.2 mega pixel one.
If you are short of space or hate clutter, then this Panasonic Blu-ray Home Cinema system could be the answer to your prayers.
The system's capabilities mean you could quite easily dispense with a separate hi-fi system and have this one box under your TV to deal with DVDs, Blu-rays, Cds, mp3s and your iPod, never mind to improve the sound from your television set or have the family over to see your holiday snaps.
It's an easy to set up and easy to use system which simply put offers fantastic quality without taking over half your living room and even better, without having wires from numerous speakers taking up floor space. So when a wireless system is out of the question, this one is a great alternative.
I really cannot think of much in the way of disadvantages with the system either - although if you are wanting true cinematic surround sound then this will probably disappoint slightly due to the fact there's only two speakers, meaning sound is never going to be as full and as rich as through seven - but it comes pretty close in my opinion.
Overall this is a great system and one I can heartily recommend to both film buffs and music fans and it's certainly removed any need for a hifi system in my house now!