Sound quality still can’t keep pace with picture quality, even on the latest TVs. But a recent Which? survey shows that nine in 10 of us count sound quality as an important factor when buying a new TV – so what’s going on?
Last year my colleague Mike Briggs confessed to keeping hold of his big box CRT TV. Why? Because he didn’t want to give up on its great sound quality, which is so rare on the latest flat screen tellies. Over a year on, have manufacturers picked up their game? In a word – no.
We still see generally disappointing test results on TV sound. And although one model we tested recently has shown that a top sound quality rating is possible from a slim TV, it’s definitely the exception rather than the rule.
Are TV sound bars for you?
So, in the meantime, what’s the best way to get good sound out of your telly? Well, the manufacturers seem to be pushing sound bars as a solution – these are slim speakers that might have once been part of your TV but no longer fit in! Instead they sit underneath or next to your TV. I’ve certainly seen a few sound bar ads as the Christmas deals ramp up – but are they all they’re cracked up to be?
We’ve put sound bar models from all the main TV manufacturers (and more) on test for the latest issue of Which? magazine. The best can improve the sound on almost any TV but can cost £200 or even £300. That’s getting close to the cost of your TV itself!
I’d like to see manufacturers working harder to find ways to improve speakers in their TVs. Picture quality’s important, but I wouldn’t underestimate how much listening to a TV with awful tinny sound can start to grate. Which? Convo commenter Terfar made this very point last year:
‘It is a shame that so many people watch TV and listen to such thin sound, losing most of the atmosphere and impact. The TV program makers put in a huge effort to transmit top quality sound, when the majority of people would be better off listening with a tin can and string.’
I’m not denying it won’t be a difficult challenge. And of course there will be a limit to the quality of sound you can get; it’s never going to compete with a full surround sound system. Yet, if one flat screen TV can get a five-star sound rating from us, it’s time the others caught up.
Are you unimpressed with the sound quality of your flat screen TV? What solutions do you have for improving the sound on your TV – investing in a sound bar, listening through headphones, hooking up to other speakers?