Ever wondered why some TVs sound quite ‘tinny’? As TVs get slimmer and picture technology gets better, sound quality is suffering. You may have noticed, dialogue can be muffled and music unclear.
To be fair, with the advent of OLED TVs – like the Sony BRAVIA OLED A1E 4K HDR and the Panasonic TX-65EZ1002B Smart 4K Ultra HD HDR – and their innovative sonic technology, sacrificing sound for picture quality will soon be a thing of the past. However, it’s definitely worth visiting a showroom to listen to a TV before you buy.
There are many ways to improve your TV’s sound. Most manufacturers now recommend connecting your television with a sound bar, additional speakers, or even your Hi-Fi system. But which option is best for you?
Why buy a sound bar?
You don’t have to spend big to upgrade your sound. Not only are sound bars relatively cheap, but they’re simple to set up. True speakers might have the edge in terms of sound quality, most notably with music, but if you’re just after better audio for films and TV programmes, then a sound bar is a big step forward.
A sound bar is exactly what its sounds like: a long, thin speaker. You can fix your sound bar to a wall or just place it directly in front of your TV. At its simplest, there are no extra speakers or tangled wires to get lost in. But if you want to go further with your set-up, try pairing your sound bar with a subwoofer for extra bass – this can be done through either a wired or wireless connection depending on the model.
Models like the Philips Fidelio B5 are extremely versatile. The B5 offers a true surround sound experience, through its detachable rear channels which are ideal for watching movies and also function as separate Bluetooth speakers.
Why buy a sound base?
The perfect choice for when space is at a premium. A sound base is designed to sit underneath your TV – hence the name. You also get a bit more oomph than with a standard sound bar. Sound bases tend to be larger, with powerful drivers and built-in amplification. If you don’t want a separate subwoofer but would still like decent bass, then pick a sound base over a sound bar.
Before you buy a sound base, check its specs for the maximum TV weight and make sure it’s wider than your TV’s base. Once you’ve positioned the sound base under your television, you’ll notice it actually ends up looking more like part of your TV stand than a speaker, see for yourself.
The Sony HT-XT3 comes complete with an integrated subwoofer with a pair of downward drivers, meaning there’s no separate subwoofer unit taking up precious space. This sound base also has a host of extra features, including support for Sony’s high-resolution audio codec and is internet connected with support for Google Cast and Spotify Connect.
Why connect your TV to a Hi-Fi?
If you already own a Hi-Fi, improving your TV’s sound can be really easy. All you need is the right cable which can be picked up for under £10. But first, check the back of your television and see what type of cable is needed. An optical digital out socket will give you the best sound – you’ll need a digital optical cable and a converter for phono cables. If you don’t have this, you may just have a phono connection or a 3.5mm headphone socket – this is the same connection you might use to play music from a smartphone or a MP3 player.
Why buy a 2.1 system?
Small living room? You can still achieve immersive sound. A 2.1 speaker system is made up of two speakers and a subwoofer and won’t take up too much space. This tidy set-up keeps cable clutter to a minimum.
You might want to consider buying an amplifier – these increase the power and clarity of your sound. Some active systems have an amplifier built-in, but in many cases you’ll have to purchase one.
Why buy a 5.1 system?
Got a bit more room to play with? Five speakers and subwoofer will take your sound to another level. Generally, three front speakers would be positioned to the left, right and centre of your TV. Placed behind you, two rear speakers provide the surround sound effect and a subwoofer handles the bass. Add more freedom to your set-up with wireless speakers – there won’t be wires running around the place.
So what’s holding this system together? A Blu-ray player will do. But if you’re really serious about sound, then consider an amplifier and AV receiver. While the speakers produce the sound, it is up to amplifiers and AV receivers to deliver a clear audio signal for a full surround experience. And if you’re really, really serious about sound, a 7.1 speaker system will give you even more depth and detail to your sound. Although it doesn’t stop there – an investment in matrix sound channels will give you a system of 9.1 and above.