Panasonic SC-HC3 micro hi-fi system

This slim hi-fi system from Panasonic packs a surprisingly powerful aural punch

Panasonic SC-HC3
  • Panasonic SC-HC3
  • Panasonic SC-HC3
  • Panasonic SC-HC3
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Well-rounded sound, iPod dock, looks good

Cons

  • Uneven sound at maximum volume level, display is too small

Bottom Line

Panasonic’s SC-HC3 micro hi-fi is a great product. It’s attractive and has an integrated iPod dock. It has especially good sound quality considering its slim design.

Would you buy this?

The Panasonic SC-HC3 is an attractive and slim micro hi-fi system that has an integrated iPod dock . It delivers good sound quality for a small system, although it probably doesn't have enough power for party duties.

Unlike the majority of micro hi-fi systems on the market, Panasonic has elected to give the SC-HC3 a minimalist look. A dark translucent plastic and brushed aluminium face is flanked by the two integrated stereo speakers; all the buttons are located on the top of the system. The fascia is motorised, sliding to the left to reveal a vertically mounted CD tray, and sliding to the right to allow access to the cavity in which an iPod can sit. Pushing the eject button for either the iPod or the CD tray slides the door in the appropriate direction.

When an iPod is playing, you’re able to see its display through the translucent section of the door. Inserting an iPod is easy thanks to a pivoting dock connector, although the connector itself is flimsy and allows the MP3 player to move slightly while seated.

We were expecting a credit card-style remote control, but Panasonic has included one that looks like a scaled-down version of the remote used by its current plasma and LCD televisions. The remote's navigation buttons are able to control the iPod’s menu system.

The Panasonic SC-HC3 has a bright, single-line monochrome display. We would have liked it to be significantly larger and to display more lines of information; it will be almost impossible to read from the other side of a medium-sized room. It also doesn’t show any iPod information, so if you’re searching for a specific song you’ll have to get up close.

As well as the iPod and CD playback options, an AM/FM radio tuner is also built in. We found reception generally good with the bundled antenna, and it has 30 presets. A 3.5mm auxiliary input is also included for connection to an external audio device.

The Panasonic SC-HC3 has a great design and plenty of input options, but what surprised us most was the sound quality. Usually slimline speakers have acceptable treble and mid-range performance but suffer when it comes to simulating lower frequencies. The SC-HC3 is different: Panasonic has engaged in some clever enclosure design, with two passive radiators at the rear of the speakers creating a warm and rich mid-bass sound. Combined with the strong treble performance, the sound emanating from the SC-HC3 is pleasant and warm.

An adjustable equaliser, several presets and virtual surround options allow tailoring of the sound to suit different musical styles. One small short-coming is the player’s low maximum volume before distortion creeps in; despite the 40W RMS rating, at higher volume levels bass becomes bloated and booming and treble tends to be harsh. It’s not a patch on a proper hi-fi setup, but the Panasonic SC-HC3 has impressive sound quality given its slim design and small stature. At medium volume levels, we’d say it’s the best micro hi-fi system we’ve heard.

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