Audio docks have become fairly common and the features they provide tend to be similar from one model to the next. Where these devices differ is in the quality of the sound they put out — a direct result of the engineering of the chassis combined with the type of speakers and amplification used. Panasonic is known for their engineering skills, so an audio dock with their name on it better perform a whole lot better than one of the “no-name” brands. After having spent time listening to their SC-NP10 Wireless Speaker System, I can affirm this to be true. But is it enough to become one of the best wireless speakers?
The SC-NP10 is a universal model in that there is no specialized connection dock at the top. The weight of the unit is barely 4 pounds which makes carrying it from one room to the next a non-issue (part of the weight being the result of having the power supply built inside as opposed to an external “brick”). I placed the SC-NP10 on my desk so that there was room to access the two USB sockets in the back, which can be used for charging devices. NFC can be used to stream music, but as I’ve iOS devices I used Bluetooth. All this took was to turn the SC-NP10 on, press the pairing button and select it from my iPad’s Bluetooth setting.
I pulled a top-loaded tab to create a back-stand for a tablet or smartphone, which goes into a horizontal groove (the 21 watt subwoofer is directly beneath). I decided to take advantage of the SC-NP10’s “glitz” factor and pressed the button to illuminate the blue circle of light that now surrounded the iPad. It could make for a cool nightlight if the SC-NP10 is placed on a night table, and provided just enough light to see the buttons at the front right lip which control volume.
I sat down in front of the wireless speaker’s two front mounted 7 watt speakers and began listening to music. The SC-NP10 presented a solid bass while playing Men At Work’s “Overkill” but did not thwart the vocals coming from the front speakers (mid-range came through clearly as did the higher registers, for example the clarinet). But I would have liked a bit less bass during this song and had to make all the changes from the iTunes app since the SC-NP10 can’t make any adjustments itself.
After playing “Always Look at the Bright Side of Life” from Spamalot, where the horns got a good play even with the volume raised and at my distance of less than 5 feet, I put on The Cars’ “All Mixed Up” to see how good the stereo separation was. I moved in and away and found out that once you exceed about 8 feet, stereo separation was fairly nil. However, if you stayed close in and pretty much dead on (the “sweet spot”), stereo separation was quite good.
Next I pressed the D.Surround button whose function is to create a “surround” effect when playing movies.
I streamed two movies, one of which was heavy in dialogue (Identity Thief) and the other, Side Effects, being more inclined to music and sound effects mixed in with the voices. The first thing I noticed was that the overall volume seemed to “increase” — actually I guess the impression was that the sound field had been widened so that the audio was coming less from the front and more from the sides. The overall effect didn’t inhibit the dialogue, which remained clear and understandable, but did tend to cause the bass to be somewhat overwhelming when music was playing. This didn’t happen in every case, and was less noticeable when seated closer than 5 feet away. I’d say to use this effect sparingly and be aware that there will be some films that just won’t like it being turned on.
I picked the iPad up and walked away to see if there would be any interruption in the audio, but there wasn’t. I should mention that the SC-NP10 can get pretty loud — I had set it to about 2/3rds volume and managed the level from my iPad throughout the tests. There wasn’t any hiss or distortion when driving up the volume either, although when I played lower resolution MP3 files, I couldn’t drive the volume up all the way because they started to sound “brittle.” Panasonic SC-NP10 is one of the best wireless speaker by Panasonic I must admit.