Flat panel HD TVs might have conquered the living room, but despite their glorious picture quality, their audio can’t match CRT TVs. Isn’t it about time manufacturers got their game together and gave us good quality sound?
I’ll let you into a secret. Despite testing and reviewing hundreds of lovely new flat panel TVs over the past few years, I’m still watching telly at home on an old big box CRT.
It’s only now with the switch to Freeview HD that I’m finally going to take the plunge and get a new flat panel HD TV (and start enjoying all those new fancy features my poor old Thomson Best Buy could only dream of).
But there’s something holding me back, despite the lure of free HD and the chance to watch iPlayer on the telly. Something which virtually no flat panel TV, however good the picture, can deliver – sound quality to match my CRT.
Our HD TV audio tests
We’ve tested hundreds of flat panel TVs since they first appeared (amazingly only about 7 years ago) but I can count on one hand the few that have delivered truly impressive sound quality.
Too many are weedy, bass-free zones that give nothing but the odd spot of earache and a new level of meaning to the word “tinny”. “Not fit for purpose” is the over-used phrase in our listening test lab. Things have got so bad that we’ve heard some TV shockers that lack the audio oomph of an iPhone (I’m not making this up).
The lack of oomph is an easy one to work out. New tellies are mercilessly thin. Amazing as they may look (and it’s hard not to marvel at some of the screens – only millimetres thick!) that beauty comes with a heavy price. Listen to a new TV and the audio will not be a patch next to an old good quality CRT. Budget hi-fi and home cinema systems could be from another planet for all the similarities in audio performance.
What’s our audio alternative?
Sound bars are an option, but they’re an expensive extra, so it’s hard to justify forking out for them. Instead, wouldn’t it be great to sacrifice some of that slim-line appeal for a bit of extra space for the speakers.
Panasonic seems to be making a step in the right direction – some of its new TVs have a relatively bulky sound bar built into the display casing. Still, results to date have been underwhelming.
So it’s either plug my new flat panel HD TV into the stereo (great for a movie, but a tad excessive for a bit of channel surfing), fork out extra for a half decent sound bar, or put my dreams of HD and internet telly on hold while I wait for the manufacturers to deliver.
That’s pretty disappointing for an audio visual product.