A: Too many TVs. Here’s our chief executive, Peter Vicary-Smith, challenging TV manufacturers to bring sound quality into the 21st century. And we’ve already seen improvements from some brands…
Recently I’ve been reflecting on an issue raised by Which? member Mr Kitchen at our recent annual general meeting. It struck me as an example of technology moving one step forward and two steps back – leaving consumers to foot the bill for the shortfall.
We live in a world where technology has achieved the almost inconceivable; where scientists have landed a probe on a comet travelling at 40,000mph. Yet when it comes to mid-priced TV sets, too many manufacturers are churning out sleek, modern TVs with state-of-the-art flatscreens – and the sound quality of a transistor radio. (Some, of course, have both terrible picture and sound quality – see the inappropriately named Cello).
Looking for the up-sell
A few years ago, manufacturers took their eye off sound quality to focus on flatscreen picture technology. TVs all shrank to the thickness of a sandwich, speakers suffered and sound quality took a dive. Companies didn’t seem bothered – they appeared to seize the opportunity to sell people a soundbar to make up for their sets’ deficient sound. And in some cases – particularly for TVs priced at around £500 or less – the problem persists.
In 2014, around 20% of the TVs we tested scored two stars or less for sound quality, and all but one costs less than £500. Sound quality at this level means you won’t be able to pick out actors’ voices easily in dramas, for example. Picture quality is generally fine on these models.
Don’t go on looks alone
Several brands – notably LG, Samsung and Sony – made improvements after we reported on poor sound quality. Currently, at the higher end of the market, sound is generally fine, and in the mid-price range some manufacturers are managing to turn out TVs with great pictures and great sound – the £500 Best Buy Samsung UE48H6200, for example. So why can’t the rest do it?
The impressive-looking sound-letdown models tend to be discounted in the sales – so if you’re looking for a TV this January, don’t fall for a huge screen at a bargain price – and take Which? reviews with you.