Panasonic SoundSlayer review
One of the most immersive aspects of gameplay is the audio experience.
Unfortunately, wearing an uncomfortable headset or having subpar audio equipment for a gaming setup can put a damper on that. Not only does this distract from gameplay, but it may also muffle cues and atmospheric noise that are vital to completing boards or leveling characters.
Panasonic's Sept. 30 release, the SoundSlayer Gaming Soundbar, claims to reimagine the audio experience by isolating and enhancing each sound in a video game -- minus the discomfort of a headset. The distinct gaming modes are meant to accurately place critical sound effects to create a sense of reality that draws players deeper into the game. Panasonic markets the SoundSlayer as the best way to experience role-playing games with the designated RPG mode.
But does the soundbar live up to the hype? We decided to put the Panasonic SoundSlayer to the test to see whether it delivers a truly immersive experience for gamers. Here's what we found.
How we tested the Panasonic SoundSlayer
Ahead of its release, we tested the Panasonic SoundSlayer among serious gamers who normally use gaming headphones to achieve an immersive gaming experience. While the SoundSlayer is optimized for multiplayer role-playing games, we played a wide variety of role-playing games, first-person shooters, survival horrors, and action-adventure games with it.
Panasonic SoundSlayer cost
The Panasonic SoundSlayer retails for $299.99. The soundbar comes with a basic remote and AC adapter like most audio or visual devices; however, it didn't come with the two HDMI cables necessary for setup. This is a cheap addition, and we recommend ordering these when you order the SoundSlayer.
Setting up the SoundSlayer
With the two HDMI cords we purchased, it was easy to connect the SoundSlayer to our existing gaming setup. One HDMI connects the SoundSlayer and TV, and the other HDMI connects the SoundSlayer to any console.
From there, we set up the input signal on the television and toggled down to the video game audio selection. We used the SoundSlayer's remote control to select the optimized preset to match our gaming or media preferences. Options include three game modes: role-playing games, first-person shooter, and voice. Cinema and music modes are also available.
First impression of the SoundSlayer
The SoundSlayer's low-profile design provides aesthetic appeal. Given its sleek, thin design, it meshes well with most existing entertainment centers or gaming computer setups. Its multi-color LED indicator lights were highly visible without being distracting during gameplay.
Panasonic SoundSlayer role-playing games mode
In addition to playing "Final Fantasy IX" with the SoundSlayer, we played several of our favorite RPG titles in the SoundSlayer's RPG Mode. We found this mode was the best choice for most non-shooting, non-RPG titles as well.
The SoundSlayer enhanced and isolated sounds in games that are heavily atmospheric in nature. Sounds were clear, distinct, and well-balanced. This includes the often-intertwined elements of character dialogue, music, and environmental sounds.
We noted the most balanced sound was found in retro titles like "Jet Force Gemini" and "Kameo," as well as indie games such as "Enter the Gungeon" and "Carrion." This came as a surprise, considering the SoundSlayer was developed to support big-budget titles with its high-res and 4K HDR-compatible technologies.
When we played a survival horror, "Resident Evil 3," we didn't notice much sound enhancement or isolation. We then switched to FPS Mode, which improved firearms sound effects; however, dialogue felt somewhat drowned out by the dreary atmospheric sounds of the game. Some games might not fit into the category you expect, meaning you'll occasionally need to test out a few different modes on the SoundSlayer.
Panasonic SoundSlayer first-person shooter mode
During our experience playing "Halo 5" in the FPS mode, we felt multiplayer fights were far more intense and engaging -- especially when we enabled 3D sound mode. While the soundbar was developed with RPGs in mind, we were impressed with the FPS mode's capabilities, which enabled us to hear sounds lost through our regular speakers.
The spatial placement of bullet and plasma bursts, for example, launched past our character with pinpoint accuracy. We were able to better discern footsteps, which in turn helped us anticipate opponents' moves so we could fire or run for cover sooner. With the new edge on reaction time, we were able to secure a few top-tier MVP scores while using the SoundSlayer.
Panasonic SoundSlayer voice mode
Games with considerable overlaps in sounds pulled us away from the immersive experience. For example, explosions in "Mass Effect 3" that occurred while characters were speaking became distracting, considering the explosion wasn't the main audio focus of the scene.
After some trial and error, we were able to identify titles that were well-served by voice mode -- especially those similar to the sci-fi simulation "Stellaris." Voice mode placed an emphasis on the clear diction and voice of each player's robotic advisor. This improved the overall auditory ambiance of the game by layering the sound appropriately over the game's haunting background music.
Playing other media on the Panasonic Soundslayer
We streamed movies with the SoundSlayer, and after switching to cinema mode, it felt as if we were sitting in the best seat in a movie theatre. Dialogue was pitch-perfect, and explosions and sound effects were well-balanced with a high level of clarity.
We tested the music mode, as well as the SoundSlayer's Bluetooth capability, with Spotify. While listening to familiar albums, we noticed the sound was well-calibrated and delivered clear layering. Songs with heavy bass lines and percussion sounded full-bodied.
Panasonic Soundslayer pros
Overall, we were impressed by the Panasonic SoundSlayer's immersive experience. Its stand-out RPG mode delivered a high level of sound clarity and isolation in highly atmospheric games. The FPS mode elevated the intensity of gameplay by amplifying sound effects often lost in regular speakers, especially with 3D sound enabled.
The low-profile design of the SoundSlayer has aesthetic appeal, making it versatile enough to blend in well with most gaming and entertainment hubs. We like that the SoundSlayer's unassuming design lets the specs speak for themselves.
While cinema and music modes aren't the main selling points of the SoundSlayer, they enhance dialogue, sound effects, and music enough to earn recognition. The modes are most effective at layering, allowing each sound to be independently appreciated.
Panasonic Soundslayer cons
It took some trial and error to determine which mode offered the best audio experience for some of our favorite titles. We think the device would benefit from a definitive list of recommended titles and the best modes for them -- rather than Panasonic only listing genres or top-selling titles.
We noted a few nuances with the SoundSlayer while adjusting volume with its remote. While the soundbar clearly indicated volume changes with a succession of lights, the lack of precision felt like an oversight. A numerical system, often used in TVs or audio systems, would be far more accurate and user-friendly compared to the existing "+/-" buttons.
The Panasonic SoundSlayer Gaming Soundbar is an ideal choice for gaming enthusiasts in search of an immersive experience without the hassle of a headset. The soundbar enhances audio quality, making for an enjoyable gaming experience. It may even improve your gameplay, too.
With its well-rounded capabilities, we believe the Panasonic SoundSlayer is a solid investment for anyone who wants to get the most out of digital gaming, music, and video streaming.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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