The other day, our audio reviewer Steve Guttenberg told me that when he was choosing his new television he spent a good deal of time at his local electronics retailer testing TVs against each other. But instead of evaluating the picture he was more interested in evaluating the sound quality, which I'm sure did not impress the salespeople who were used to just flicking on a copy of "Up" and waving at the TVs theatrically.
Sound quality is underappreciated in a product that is primarily designed to give you a picture, and unless you buy an expensive Bose VideoWave or Bang & Olufsen TV, then its built-in audio is not going to be much more than an afterthought. TV audio quality is not even something we test for here at CNET.
While most of my colleagues listen to their TVs through a sound system, I know that many of my family and friends don't. The sound they hear is as the TV provides.
There are quite a few benefits to hooking up a sound system and it's one of the best upgrades you can perform -- for as little as $200. Sound bars are the most convenient way to improve your viewing experience. Plug your sources -- cable box, game consoles, and more -- in via HDMI cables and you're ready to go.
In the past, many TVs' speakers fired forward and were large enough to provide decent sound quality, especially in a high-end TV. However, with the shift toward tiny bezels and thin cabinets, speakers are usually mounted behind the TV and are much smaller. The result is even worse sound than before.
Augmenting your TV's sound improves intelligibility of speech -- which is great for drama and news broadcasts -- and also means that soundtracks have more bite, music channels sound closer to the real thing, and action movies will have more room to breathe, resulting in greater punch during exciting car chases or shoot-outs. If you have Smart TV, then it means you can then use services like Pandora and actually have a system that sounds like a real stereo.
While I used to own a 5.1 surround system in Australia, since moving to the States I'm enjoying a much simpler two-channel setup and not missing having a living area full of wires and speakers.
What about you? Do you listen via your TV's onboard speakers, headphones, or a full-blown 7.2 home theater system? We'd love to know how many people are using the speakers in their TVs, especially since David Katzmaier and I are considering testing onboard sound in future TV reviews.