A good speaker can perk up your game console or PC with bigger, more immersive sound, which is precisely the idea behind the Panasonic SoundSlayer (SC-HTB01). This $299.95 mini soundbar is a potent one-piece speaker system for your desk or small entertainment center, with a wide sound field, an audio balance tuned for gaming, and Bluetooth connectivity. It’s a simple soundbar that puts out plenty of power for its size, but it’s on the pricey side compared with what you can get from competing models.
The SoundSlayer is a simple black slab of a speaker measuring 2.1 by 17.0 by 5.2 inches (HWD). It’s built solidly and is easily strong enough to sit under even a large monitor, but that depends on the size and shape of its base. The speaker is deep enough to make it a bit inconvenient to place directly in front of your monitor if desk space is at a premium, but it’s not quite deep enough to completely cover the footprint of my 34-inch ultrawide model. Paradoxically, Panasonic should have made the speaker a bit bigger so it could sit under any monitor.
The front of the SoundSlayer holds two full-range drivers and two tweeters, covered with black grille cloth. A trapezoidal cutout near the top of the cloth reveals four indicator LEDs. An additional up-firing subwoofer sits inside, hidden from view.
The right panel features a power button, a volume rocker, and a combination input and Bluetooth pairing button. You can also control the speaker with the included remote, a flat black plastic card covered in rectangular buttons. The remote has the same power button and volume rocker, separate buttons for input and Bluetooth pairing, a set of subwoofer adjustment buttons, a mute button, and several other dedicated buttons for changing the speaker’s sound modes.
The back of the speaker holds an HDMI input and HDMI output, plus an optical audio input, a USB port for service, and a port for the included power adapter. HDMI is the recommended way to connect your computer or game console to the SoundSlayer, but optical is available as an alternative, and you can also use Bluetooth. No analog audio connections like 3.5mm or RCA are available.
As mentioned, the ideal way to use the SoundSlayer is with the HDMI pass-through, though there’s a slightly frustrating factory default you’ll want to change. The speaker automatically powers off after 20 minutes without an audio signal, and whenever it turns on or off it interrupts the HDMI feed for a few seconds. This means if you spend time at your computer without any sound going through it, the speaker will periodically power off, turning your screen dark for a few seconds before resuming the pass-through (which functions when the speaker is off).
To fix this, press and hold the volume minus button on the speaker and the subwoofer plus button on the remote at the same time, for at least four seconds. The Clr Dialog light will glow, indicating the mode. Release the volume minus button and press subwoofer plus once more and the light will switch to GN-Game/AV Or-TV, which means the automatic shutoff feature has been disabled.
The SoundSlayer’s small size belies a surprisingly powerful sound. It can easily fill a room, or at least ensconce anyone sitting in front of it with a full, robust sound field with solid simulated surround, with support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and DTS Virtual:X. You won’t get the sense that there are satellites behind you, but you’ll get some good room-filling resonance and occasional bouts of directional audio bouncing off of nearby walls, giving the impression that the speaker is much larger than it is.
For music, on our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the SoundSlayer produces a full sound with enough thump that the kick drum hits result in a palpable vibration on my desk. The small subwoofer driver doesn’t have the size or space to really shake the walls, but it makes an admirable attempt. The speaker doesn’t distort at maximum volume, but it might rattle any loose objects nearby.
Yes’ “Roundabout” sounds good on the SoundSlayer, with the opening acoustic guitar plucks getting plenty of resonance and a strong sense of string texture. When the song properly kicks in, the vocals take center stage and sound nicely layered, while the guitar strums and drums come through clearly. It’s not the most accurate sound, but it’s well balanced with strong lows and high-mids.
The Crystal Method’s “Busy Child” also sounds good on the SoundSlayer. The opening percussion gets a surprisingly large sound field, with hits sounding like they’re coming from well past the width of the speaker. The bassline gets solid presence, though the drums don’t receive quite enough high-frequency response for their attack to sound particularly crisp against the thump. The vocals come through nice and clear, though.
The SoundSlayer was designed in collaboration with Square-Enix, with Final Fantasy XIV specifically in mind. In fact, the speaker features three Game modes, the first of which is for RPGs like Final Fantasy XIV, the second of which is for shooters, and the third of which is intended to enhance dialogue. These are in addition to the Cinema, Music, and Standard sound modes.
Final Fantasy XIV indeed sounds excellent on the SoundSlayer. The swelling orchestral soundtrack is full and powerful, and the endless clash and spark of different moves in combat comes through clearly. The dialogue in cutscenes sounds clean, and the speaker does a nice job of filling my gaming space with sound, providing an exciting soundtrack when questing.
Fortnite also sounds very good on the SoundSlayer. While the wide sound field of the speaker doesn’t translate into a tactical advantage like good simulated surround from a gaming headset can, it still sounds very full, with good low-frequency response to make distant gunfire come through with plenty of presence.
A Pricey Soundbar for Gamers
The Panasonic SoundSlayer adds plenty of power to your PC gaming experience, and can offer a nice boost over your TV’s speakers. It isn’t as powerful as a full-fledged soundbar, however, and that’s worth keeping in mind since it costs $300. For the same price, you can get the fantastic Harman Kardon SoundSticks 4, conventional stereo PC speakers with a striking design and excellent sound quality. Or for $229.99, you can get the Razer Leviathan, another mini soundbar with a subwoofer for more bass power. Ultimately, the SoundSlayer is a solid speaker that’s priced about $100 too high.
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