Bowers & Wilkins Panorama Soundbar Speaker Reviewed

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The Downside
At this price point, I would like to see one more optical input. Once I had used the two optical inputs for my DVR and DVD player, that left my Xbox 360 out in the cold, as the only option for 5.1 Dolby Digital on the older version of the Xbox is optical. That said, the problem can be solved by connecting one of your other components using a coaxial digital cable. In order to access the inputs, you need to remove the rear cover, which is easy enough. Where I ran into a bit of trouble was trying to replace the cover once the cables and power cord were connected. This is solved by simple trial and error in terms of routing the cables, or the terrifying act of actually reading the manual.

Another minor gripe came with adjusting the volume level, which could stand to be a bit more precise. It would have been nice for Bowers & Wilkins to allow volume adjustments in half increments.

Conclusion
Reviewing a piece of gear that is this well designed and engineered is a blast. I kept trying to decide whether I preferred listening to music or movies with the Panorama, finally coming to the conclusion that it's equally adept at playing both. Let's face it, $2,200 is rich for most people's blood, especially when talking about soundbars, which can be had all day long for less than half that price. But you won't get the sort of detail, dynamic range and uncanny surround sound the Panorama provides. One of the things you're paying for with all Bowers & Wilkins products is trickle-down technology, which means you get a taste of their top of the line engineering in their more affordable products. The end result of a manufacturer using this technology is that you end up with a trustworthy name. Those manufacturers who avoid using trickle-down technology tend to have wide-ranging product offerings, running the gamut from amazing to utter crap. In each case that I've been exposed to Bowers & Wilkins gear, be it their iPod speakers, their flagship speakers or their new headphones, I've been impressed with the sound quality. The Panorama is no exception.

There are a lot of uneducated and, more importantly, inexperienced groups of buyers convincing themselves that a home theater in a box is good enough, or that the speakers built into their TV sound just fine. They're not and they don't. Products like this exist for a reason; it's to give you a better sense of what was recorded in the studio. If you're a music and/or film buff and you're using the speakers in your TV, you're cutting the experience in half. You don't necessarily need to drop $2,000 for a soundbar, but for those who want the best, the Panorama is your huckleberry. Is the performance of the Panorama twice that of $1,000 soundbars? You bet.
Additional Resources

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HTR Product Rating for Bowers & Wilkins Panorama Soundbar Speaker

Criteria Rating

Performance

5

Value

4.5

Overall

5

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