PROS / Its compact design and unique speaker technology combine to make a great home stereo.
CONS / The Panasonic SC-HC20 does not run on batteries and is not easily portable.
VERDICT / It has great sound options for a small stereo system and works with most iPods.
The Panasonic SC-HC20 compact stereo system has an iPod dock that supports most iPod and iPhone models in addition to a digital AM/FM tuner and hide-away CD player. Its slim, glossy design with a stylish blue LCD display has an understated modern look and it is easy to place almost anywhere within reach of a power source. It doesn't run on batteries, which puts it at a disadvantage compared with the more portable iPod docks in our review, but it does have a number of features that make it a great option for people who don't require a go-everywhere iPod docking station.
The integrated universal iPhone or iPod dock powers all docked devices while the speaker system is plugged in, regardless of whether the power is on or if it is in standby mode. To connect your model of iPod, you must first connect the proper adapter (not included with the SC-HC20) and then press your iPod firmly into the iPod docking station until it locks. To connect an MP3 player that doesn't fit into the dock or any other audio device with a line output, use the auxiliary line input located at the rear of the unit and select the "Aux" mode before beginning playback.
The CD player can play MP3 CDs in addition to CD-R, CD-RW and professionally produced CDs, and allows you to program and reorder a playlist of up to 24 tracks from a CD in the tray, repeat one track or one album, or play all the tracks on a disc or selected tracks on an MP3 disc in random order. All of these functions can be easily navigated and programmed using the included remote control, and to some extent with the onboard controls on the top of the unit. You can also program up to 30 FM and 15 AM radio stations using the digital tuner, and increase the sound quality of playback from the radio using the included FM and AM antennas or by adjusting the AM "tune mode" or by listening to FM stations in "mono" mode.
The SC-HC20 iPod speaker dock has an easily programmable clock and "play timer" and "sleep timer" settings that turn the device on or off at preset times programmed by the user. You can also adjust the overall sound by engaging four preset EQ modes, increasing or decreasing the bass and treble levels using the "Surround Sound" mode or "D. Bass" function to boost the low-end frequencies, and by using the "Re-master" effect for MP3 playback. Combined with the high-quality bamboo speaker cones that produce surprisingly clear and coherent tones and vocals, these options give the listener a great degree of control over the way their music sounds.
This iPod docking station and home stereo system uses unique full-range speakers with bamboo cones that deliver clear tones, especially higher-frequency sounds like vocals. The sound enhancement technology provides a full-range sound-scape powered by a 10W amplifier for powerful sound in small to mid-sized rooms.
Using the remote to control this stereo system with iPod dock can take a minute to master since it has so many buttons and controls. Once you're acquainted with the remote, however, you'll appreciate how easy it is to access the features and modify the settings remotely. The controls on the speaker system itself are easy to learn.
The Panasonic website has a comprehensive and searchable help and support section with phone and email contact options, FAQs, product information, service center locator and more. They are a bit slow to respond to email support requests, but their support team is friendly and helpful, and dedicated to providing quality customer service.
If you're looking for a compact home stereo with an iPod dock that supports a wide range of iPod models, the Panasonic SC-HC20 is a great option that doesn't take up much space. It gives you a great amount of control over your sound settings and listening options, and looks slick and modern. With a one-year warranty, it's a great way to go for compact home audio.