- Author Jonathan Evans
- Published April 16, 2014
Beef-up your TV’s sound
Do you want more sonic oomph from your TV? You don’t have to spend a fortune to get it.
At the most basic level, of course, a TV on its own is a home cinema. Get a decent aerial to receive a signal and you can be enjoying superb images of TV shows and movies in no time.
Most of us aren’t satisfied with that for long, though, we will tend to upgrade this most simple of ‘home cinemas’ at the very least to include some other source – Sky TV perhaps – or, more likely, a DVD or Blu-ray player.
With any one of those options, you’re almost certain to be happy with the picture you’re watching. The change from standard-definition to high-definition images is one of the most satisfying there is to experience. You won’t look back, that’s for sure.
A pristine picture is one thing. Superior sound is something else.
Get those trousers flapping
A major part of the experience when you go to the movies is the amazing sound that you get in the cinema. It adds hugely to the enjoyment of the film.
But sound reproduction is one thing at which the modern flat-panel TV does not excel. It’s not the TV’s fault – they’re so slim there’s just no room in the chassis to house a bulky speaker. All too often, then, you’re left with sound that simply can’t do justice to the masterpiece you’re watching.
Good news: you don’t have to spend a fortune to rectify that situation. Although, as is the way with these things, you could if you wanted to.
What about that old stereo amp and speakers?
You might well have an old hi-fi system knocking about that you don’t use any more. Recycling it as a TV sound system makes a lot of sense.
You’ll need to ensure that your TV or other source has the right outputs to connect to the amp you’re planning to use but assuming that’s OK, the sound you get will knock any TV’s efforts for six.
Soundbars and soundplates
Perhaps the simplest solution, these speakers are dedicated to improving your TV’s sound, and some have the technical wizardry to offer impressive faux surround sound.
The soundbar has been around for a few years now, and there are plenty of options out there, including LG’s Award-winning NB4530A.
A new type of external speaker has started to become popular recently. A soundplate is, in effect, a soundbar that the TV sits on (a soundbar, in contrast, sits in front of the screen). This solves one problem that sometimes arises with a soundbar: the view of the screen can’t be blocked if the TV is sitting on top of the speaker.
Whether you decide on a bar or a plate, do a little homework before you invest. You’ll need to make sure the speaker you get has suitable connections – some don’t have HDMI connections, for example. That’s not a deal breaker by any means, as long as you know how you are going to connect your TV, disc player or console. Options besides HDMI might include optical digital, coaxial digital and analogue connections.
Home cinema system
If you want a really simple way to get ‘proper’ home cinema surround sound, your best bet may be to get a home cinema in a box. You get everything you need to connect to your TV, including (usually) a Blu-ray player, a surround-sound amplifier with anything from 2.0 all the way up to 9.1 channels of sound, probably a separate subwoofer, and all the speakers and cabling you need.
Set-up is simple – just make sure there’s somewhere for each of the speakers to stand, whether that’s on a dedicated plinth, your TV stand, or mounted on the wall. You should also plan a route around your room for all that cabling.
Home cinema separates
To get the very best sound – and to allow yourself the ultimate in upgrade flexibility – you need to go down the separates route.
This need not be as expensive as you might fear. You will need an AV amplifier, of course, but you can get a perfectly decent foot on the ladder for as little as £250.
You will also need some speakers, naturally – but you don’t need to go the whole hog from the off. You can start with a stereo pair, then build up to a centre channel and a pair of surround speakers when resources allow.
Why not add a subwoofer?
You will also want to consider investing in a subwoofer, to enhance those all-important low notes on a movie soundtrack. It’s not only the explosions and crashes that will benefit (although benefit they undoubtedly will). A well set-up subwoofer can, indeed should, enhance a system’s sound subtly – but you’ll notice when it’s not there.
Start small and grow gradually
Even a budget 5.1 separates system will be quite capable of blowing you away and keeping you thoroughly engrossed in a movie. So much so, in fact, that you may well catch the upgrade bug.
And there’s a nice clear path for upgrading: there are many fine amplifiers in the £400-£500, £800-£1000 and £1000+ ranges, and speaker systems to match.
Whether you go for a style-led or a conventional package is largely up to personal taste – and perhaps space available in your room – but if you want the most bang for your buck, you’ll probably get more oomph going down the traditional route. Bigger boxes is the trade off.
Each step up the audio ladder will bring you noticeable improvements in sound movie-watching pleasure.
Upgrading your TV’s sound is easier than you might think – and you won’t regret it.
Jonathan Evans is Managing Editor of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision magazine.