Although its features and functionality are very similiar to its rivals, this Panasonic is a radically different design.

All seven channels use digital amplifier modules, which are smaller and lighter than their analogue counterparts. The model has been in Panasonic's range for over a year, only now it ships with some different point-of-sale dressing.

The Perspex fascia, designed to match the brand's original Blu-ray players, also looks a tad dated. But how does it measure up to today's analogue competition?

Digital amplifier benefits

The receiver can pass a 1080p video signal and switch uncompressed audio, and it offers decoding for standard Dolby and DTS soundtracks.

But there's no support for Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks; these must be decoded by the BD player you partner it with. There's not much point using a Panasonic DMP-BD30 for this, as it can only output those formats as bitstreams. This alone would seem to indicate that an update on the model is long overdue.

An effective auto-setup mic saves start-up time, but without an onscreen menu, the Panasonic will have you reaching for the manual at some stage.

Powerful receiver

In terms of amplification, the SA-XR700 can muster 100W for each channel, but also intelligently send more power from channels that aren't firing to the ones that are, so the front speakers could theoretically be getting more than 100W.

Such digital tomfoolery sits ill with our Tech Labs test routines, which could only measure the power output on this sample at 51W in two channel model. Personally, I thought the receiver seemed loud enough to cope with big transients.

The first contact moment in Close Encounters of the Third Kind has all seven channels delivering a snappy and detailed full-range sound as the UFO hovers overhead. This soundtrack can sound a bit jarring, especially with the metallic clashing of the mailboxes; the Panny tends to exacerbate the situation slightly with a bright tone all its own.

Bright sounds

It fares better with stereo music, especially when you bi-wire your front speakers. The unusual 'Triple Amp Drive' system automatically configures three amps to drive the front pair in two-channel mode.

For anyone with a Panasonic BD player or TV, this forward-thinking receiver must be tempting. But the truth is, the Panasonic SA-XR700EG doesn't sound as open and engaging as some of the competition.