Improving Your TV’s Sound For Binge Watching At Home
The laws of physics are cruel mistresses. It is they who keep your television’s audio quality at its current inadequate standard.
Today’s flat screens with their ultra-slim profiles simply don’t have the enclosure space necessary to allow speaker drivers to give you big, punchy TV sound for big action movies, or the detail needed for dialogue-heavy scenes.
Most TVs place their speakers at the bottom of the screen, firing downwards, and some are in the middle on the rear of the TV in an attempt to help spread the sound. Either way, it’s hardly the best way to achieve a really immersive, impact-ful audio. While some sets, such as Sony’s AF9 OLED TVs have managed to incorporate speaker technology that delivers decent sound, and others like the Panasonic, Philips and LG feature built-in sound bars, a large number of TVs still emit wispy, tinny sound that doesn’t do justice to that gorgeous 4K, or even 8K, picture you’re seeing.
SO HOW DO YOU FIX THIS, READ ON…
1.0 | Desktop Speakers… the basic sound upgrade
This is the most affordable way of improving your TV’s sound, and also the most versatile. Desktop speakers are relatively small, and can quite easily be placed close to your TV even when you have next-to-no space.
We’d recommend something like the highly awarded Audio Pro A26 which are engaging, capable speakers and feature an optical input on the back of the master speaker, so they can easily be connected to your TV. You should also consider the epic Elac Navis powered speakers (Below) both of which are ideal for improving the sound from your TV and an added bonus music sounds incredible too.
Alternatively, opt for the talented KEF LSX wireless system, which is packed with streaming features and multiple connections, and has the bonus of not needing a cable to connect the two speakers.
You can also pair a (a pair of) smart speakers with your TV to enhance audio output and bring cinematic rock concerts or epic jazz club sessions to your living room.
HINT: If your favorite wireless speakers don’t have an optical input, you can always take the 3.5mm headphone out from your TV and plug that into your speakers’ auxiliary input. This way, you can let the TV control the volume, too.
2.0 | Integrated stereo amplifiers
If you’ve already spent a lot of care and cash on a good pair of stereo speakers and a stereo amplifier, it makes perfect sense to connect up your TV and enjoy a considerable step up in audio performance.
Plenty of integrated stereo amplifiers such as the talented Cambridge Audio CXA61 and CX81, or perhaps the Rotel, Anthem & Yamaha have optical inputs to take your TV’s audio output and deliver it to your speakers.
If you have a purely analogue amplifier like a Perreaux or Primaluna, you can use the amp’s RCA inputs and plug them into your TV’s corresponding outputs. Make sure you check your TV has analogue audio outputs, as newer TVs don’t always have this kind of legacy connectivity.
Alternatively, you can use an external DAC such as the Chord Mojo to take an optical signal. This is a “flexible option” as you can then use it for your mobile sounds too.
The final step is to go into your television’s menu settings and ensure that it’s directing the sound output to your hi-fi system, not its own speakers.
TOP TIP: want more oomph in explosive scenes? Add a separate subwoofer to your HiFi set up to create a 2.1 system.
3.0 | Soundbars, simple yet great!
If you don’t have the space or budget for a traditional hi-fi or AV system, but still want to experience better sound from your TV, a soundbar or sound base might just be the solution you’re looking for.
Not all soundbars are created equal, though. Dolby Atmos-compatible models such as the amazing Yamaha YSP5600 and the award-winning Q Acoustics M4 give you a more immersive, sound “like you are there” effects.
The best part is they are easy to install. Most soundbars are slim enough to be propped in front of your TV on the stand (or positioned directly under your wall-mounted TV).
INSTALL TIP: Some bars like the Yamaha YSP5600 are quite tall, so watch out that the height of the bar doesn’t obstruct the IR sensor at the bottom edge of your TV.
Another option in this style are Soundbases such as the Cambridge Audio TVB. They simply offer an alternative configuration; the flat base means you can place your TV right on top of it, or just slide it into your TV rack. The bigger cabinet means you get a bigger, bassier sound than a soundbar.
4.0 | Budget and premium options for better audio
While first-gen soundbars and bases only offer optical inputs, most modern products such as the Dolby Atmos-enabled Yamaha YAS-207 and Q Acoustics M4 have HDMI with connections also
Some, such as Yamaha, also offer plenty of streaming features for the likes of Spotify and Tidal, to its long list of features. When it comes to connectivity, optical is simplest – and it can handle up to 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks. But it doesn’t have the bandwidth necessary to carry lossless Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. HDMI does, although we wouldn’t expect an entirely faithful 5.1 sound from a soundbar. Yamaha’s YSP range of soundbars, which includes the epic YSP-2700, come closest. Stereo is nice, but surround-sound is way better – especially if you’re after an immersive cinema experience in your own home.
A talented AV receiver and a mighty surround speaker package will deliver the scale, detail and immersion you want when watching your favorite movies and shows. It’s the ultimate boost to your TV’s flaky sound.
Considering your Blu-rays, and Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ streams, output 5.1 Dolby/DTS soundtracks as standard, it makes perfect sense to invest in a 5.1 surround system if you really want the best sound to complement your pictures. You can also expand to a 7.1-channel set-up, or full Dolby Atmos system with speakers in the ceiling at a later date if you want, too.
Yes, this is a costly option. And you’ll have to commit a lot of floor-space to kit and cables. There’s some absolute stunners out there like the Q Acoustics 3050i 5.1 Cinema Pack and Elac Debut series 2, 5.1 package but you don’t have to cash in your life’s savings to get a decent home cinema system started.
And lastly a good pair of headphones…
Sometimes, getting better audio doesn’t mean turning the volume up to 11 or setting up huge speakers all around your room. All it takes is a good pair of headphones.
If you have a decent pair of over-ear headphones, they most likely come with a 3m cable. That should be long enough to plug into the back of your TV (if not, you can get cable extenders).
But the convenience of wireless headphones can’t be understated, esp if you live with someone who doesn’t much care for rugby or Fast & Furious movies. A lot of TV manufacturers (such as LG, Sony and Samsung) offer Bluetooth pairing from their TVs. They connect to your headphones just as they would with your smartphone.
Headphones, by their very design, offer a more intimate listening experience. It’s more personal, you might arguably hear more detail, and they’re undoubtedly immersive – perfect for your Game of Thrones binge.
Invest in a good Bluetooth pair, such as the Amazing Audio Technica ANC900BT wireless cans, and you’ll be well on your way.
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