Fitting 5.1 speakers into a poky living room can be like squeezing toothpaste back into the tube. But the B&W Panorama soundbar crams all six into a single unit that you can plonk under your TV, giving you home cinema sound without bulky boxes at the back of the room. Read our full B&W Panorama review to see whether it can really replace your mighty surround sound system.
A manual inspection of the B&W Panorama reveals impeccable build quality – this is the Rolls Royce of soundbars, but then at a wallet-bothering £1,500 we’d expect nothing less. With its glossy aluminium top panel and curved rear end, the B&W Panorama is classier than Joanna Lumley in a top hat.
Inside the B&W Panorama are no less than nine speaker drivers – two for bass, two for midrange, two pairs for the surround channels and a metal dome tweeter for high frequencies. They’re fed by six amps that kick out a 175W of audio power, which is more than enough to wake the neighbours.
Blu-ray is big right now, but no-one told B&W – the Panorama decodes plain old Dolby Digital and DTS instead of the more exotic hi-def formats, Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio. And even if it could there are no HDMI inputs to accept the signals. Pah.
However, you’ll find a healthy selection of other sockets round the back of the B&W Panorama. Three digital inputs accept raw bitstreams for decoding and two sets of analogue ports cater for everything else. Sound setup’s a bit tricky due to the diddy LED display on the front, but the egg-shaped remote lets you control everything from the comfort of your sofa.
And once up and running, the B&W Panorama’s sound quality is a revelation, blasting out action scenes with the sort of wanton power and energy you’d expect from a proper 5.1 system, but with the masterful control and finesse typical of B&W speakers. And you don’t need to pair it with a separate sub – the built-in bass is solid and punchy enough.
The Panorama’s Achilles Heel though, is surround sound. The beams are pinged off the walls to the listening position but rarely hit the target. There’s some width, but you don’t get the cocoon of sound offered by real rears. The sad truth is that’s pretty common among soundbars.
The B&W Panorama is a stunning performer but that still doesn’t fully justify that £1,500 price tag, particularly given the lack of support for the latest audio formats.