The Panasonic SC-NE3 wireless music speaker looks set to give the Cambridge Audio Minx Air 100 (and 200) a run for its money as the most well connected wireless speaker. With AirPlay, Bluetooth and DLNA streaming, the SC-NE3 looks a treat for a competitively priced £250. But our high hopes were quickly dashed once we started streaming…
We’ll be honest: there’s not a whole lot we can say in favour of the Panasonic SC-NE3’s sound. While its large build means the sound travels far and wide in a room, the sluggish delivery, poor detail definition and lack of composure means there’s hardly any engagement no matter what you listen to. Whether streamed via Bluetooth or AirPlay, voices sound muffled and restricted, while instruments are muddled — there’s no clear separation between notes and the listless timing does nothing to move the song forward. Despite having the capacity to go loud, it strains at higher volumes, and what little composure it has starts to unravel.
Better with wires
Predictably for wireless speakers, the 3.5mm auxiliary input offers a more solid and clearer sound, with a hint of cohesion creeping in to make songs more listenable. Amanda Palmer’s Guitar Hero has more weight and drive, but the midrange is plagued with low detail levels and doesn’t convey the raw power and emotion behind her vocals.
A touch of liveliness is afoot when playing WAV tracks from a laptop, with Oasis’s Roll With It charging ahead with a touch more clarity and better timing.
In its attempt to show a bit of vigour, though, the SC-NE3 can end up sounding rather shouty.
It’s a good thing there’s scope to tweak the sound: there are four EQ modes along with bass and treble controls. We suggest you set it on ‘Flat’ for clarity and the best balance; the default ‘Heavy’ setting makes the Panasonic sound even more sluggish and bass-heavy, while ‘Clear’ is sharp on the ears.
Panasonic has designed the SC-NE3 to be wall-mounted. However, we’d strongly advise against placing the SC-NE3 close to a wall or corner, as the sound loses its openness and sounds boomy and closed-in. Give it space and vocals are livelier and clearer.
Yes, it’s a large and bulky bit of equipment, but the SC-NE3’s build quality is solid and the display is a useful size. There’s no USB port to charge your mobile device, though.
The SC-NE3’s main attraction is, of course, its streaming options. There’s AirPlay and Bluetooth on board, you can connect DLNA-compatible storage devices over your home network, and stream directly from an iOS device or iTunes without a wireless network.
Setting up AirPlay is a bit more complicated than the quick Bluetooth pairing, and you’ll need the Panasonic Stereo System Network Setup app to connect the unit to your home network. You’ll be fine as long as you have a stable home network connection (and a bit of patience).
Alternatively, you can set up direct streaming without the hassle of Wi-Fi connection by turning ‘D Connect’ on in the SC-NE3’s menus, and simply inputting the displayed password on your smart device when prompted.
It isn’t up to the mark
We’re rather disappointed with the Panasonic SC-NE3. The breadth of streaming options at hand did excite us, and its logical connection set-up makes it relatively easy to live with. However, its poor sound quality makes it very difficult to justify spending £250 on this speaker when there are far more talented and enjoyable wireless options to be found around the same price.
• Power 40W • AirPlay Yes
• Bluetooth Yes • Dock No
• Aux in Yes • Radio No
• Remote Yes • Dimensions (hwd)
21 x 57 x 10cm • Weight 3kg
FOR Good variety of streaming connections (AirPlay, Bluetooth, DLNA); useful display
AGAINST Poor sound quality; lack of detail and excitement; design leaves a lot to be desired
VERDICT: Plenty of streaming options, but the poor sound makes it impossible to recommend
NEED TO KNOW
Consider if you want several ways to stream
Make sure you set the EQ settings to ‘Flat’, and tone down the ‘Surround’ level Avoid Placing close to a wall or corner as it sounds closed in, muffled and boomy You’ll need A stable network and a bit of patience to set it up Highlight The variety of streaming options: you get AirPlay, Bluetooth and DLNA
Living with it Remote gets it right
The supplied remote may be small, but it’s responsive and much nicer to hold than most tiny, credit-card types. It’s vital when setting up AirPlay, and to access the menu for other operations and software