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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.