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The thinner tech gets, the worse it sounds

While technology manufacturers are obsessed with making ever thinner products, there’s one thing that’s suffering – sound quality. But it’s not just TVs and laptops that are starting to sound tinny.

As anyone with a passing interest in technology will be aware, the ultimate goal of all manufacturers is to design the ultimate slim line gadget, which we can impress our friends with and promptly lose down the back of the sofa.

And manufacturers have really come a long way in this respect. I can still recall the first ‘pocket TV’ I saw. I was amazed at its portability and the idea that you could watch the Crystal Maze literally anywhere.

But as impressive as that pocket TV was, it was still pretty chunky. If you managed to actually get it into your pocket, it would most likely have dragged your trousers down instantly, unless you were sporting a sturdy belt.

Today we can watch telly on our smartphones, some of which have the same dimensions as that of a Ryvita. However, this new slim form factor isn’t all good news.

The price of this impressively thin technology is not just money, it’s their sound quality. With smaller and thinner equipment, there’s less room to fit in nice big speakers, so as they get smaller, the sound suffers.

Poor sound quality

Rubbish sound quality is an issue we’ve identified before on Which? Conversation with HD TV’s and laptops, but it’s also creeping into other areas.

Some of the latest sat navs are cause for concern, with their slimmer bodies. It’s one thing to miss a vital plot point on Midsomer Murders thanks to small TV speakers, but it’s another entirely to miss your turning on the M6 because your sat nav wasn’t loud enough.

So what’s the solution? Well, adding separate bigger and better speakers to your kit is obviously going to help. But it’s rather galling to spend the best part of a thousand pounds on your brand new TV, only to be forced to spend more because the speakers aren’t up to scratch. It’s a bit like buying a car and having to pay extra for the wheels.

Even thinner HD TVs

With 2012’s TVs looking thinner than ever (LG’s OLED TV is a tiny 4mm thick) it’s safe to assume that there isn’t going to be a sudden u-turn on getting bulkier tellies. It’s a shame to think that the big, boxy CRT set I threw away a few years ago probably had better sound quality than the flatscreen I replaced it with.

Technology marches on, and our equipment is looking better day by day, but the sound is getting left behind. Maybe in the near future we’ll see TVs being sold that are thin as paper, but with the caveat ‘speakers sold separately’.

It’s time manufacturers addressed bad sound quality head on, instead of trying to sell us skinny peripherals to solve a problem that they created.

Comments
Member

Hi-fi buffs have been channelling their
TV audio through their hi-fi system since
CRT days.

Personally think the average computer user
or TV viewer cares very little or nothing abt
having good sound quality, hence manufacturers
being able to get away with it.

Rig up your computer to yr hi-fidelity
system for a much-improved or superior audio
experience.

Member

I think the laws of physics prevent the manufacturers
improving on sound quality as opposed to say visual
display or any other parameter, when making things
smaller, thinner or less bulky.

Member

Absolutely. Speakers have improved over the years but it is not possible to get reasonable sound quality from tiny speakers. Which? reported the problem in a recent report on TVs but still recommended certain models as ‘Best buys’. ‘Least bad’, maybe.

On another Conversation it has been said that some Sony TVs develop faults due to overheating of the very thin screen.

OK, CRT TVs were bulky but why do we have to go to the opposite extreme and produce pathetic products. Yes we can connect TVs to our hi-fi systems but it really should not be necessary for most users.

Jack mentions smartphones. Let’s have one with a decent size battery that lasts a week and not the toys that are currently available.

Member

Like I said, the average consumer is
not too concerned abt poor sound quality,
whether from computer or TV.

It’s the hi-fi buff or audiophile who
cares enough abt getting a good
audio experience; aunty beeb
has herself recommended rigging
up computer to hi-system, obviously
the better yr hi-fi is, the higher or better the
sound fidelity shall be.

I wd read Which? reports but for more specialised purchases
(not that many), wd read something else exclusively or additionally,
AND/OR seek out info on the internet myself OR from
friends/contacts who have particular expertise
or knowledge.

Member

As a matter of science, I thought the thinner the screen, the quicker
the rate of heat dissipation.

Member

I have not taken one apart but I guess the problem is the lack of ventilation when the screen is in a narrow case. Look up Sony Bravia dark lines/bands/shadows if you want to read about the problem. With other manufacturers producing very slim TVs I would not be surprised if we hear more about screen problems, and replacing the screen of a large TV is hideously expensive.

Member

Yup… had noticed seemingly inadequate ventilation points but thin screens
give out less heat unlike CRTs and no one leaves them on 24/7.

Member

An LCD screen has the display and a powerful light source sandwiched closely together. A CRT operates in a very different way, so a comparison is not really useful.