There are now so many options for improving TV sound. From basic TV sound to on-screen actuators, Sound Bars to multi-channel home theatre component systems, wired or wireless headphones, and 2-channel stereo systems, the choices are many. In this educational series, let us guide you through the options.
Internal TV Sound
For most TVs, built-in TV sound has been compromised due to the TVs becoming increasingly thinner and the bezels surrounding the screen virtually non-existent. The internal speakers that were once forward facing are now often downward firing near the base of the TV. This less-than-ideal placement has resulted in the development of TV sound alternatives as the need for better sound has grown.
Some TVs do offer innovative sound solutions. Sony OLED models feature actuators coupled to the panel that turns the entire screen into a sound system! Flagship Sony OLED models include speaker wire inputs so they can be connected to a conventional A/V receiver allowing the TV to be used as the center channel in a multi-speaker surround sound system. Other premium TVs offer multi-speaker systems, or built-in Sound Bars along with upward firing “Atmos” speakers. Many also offer the ability for you to attach a subwoofer for enhanced bass performance.
TV Audio Output
Output choices on TVs to support external audio devices have also changed. TVs today can offer analog outputs that can be configured for headphones, subwoofers, or line out for external audio. Configurations for line out can be fixed or variable depending on which remote you prefer to control volume. Almost all flat screen TVs include an digital optical output – the one most commonly used. The newest TVs include a combined HDMI input/output with eARC and ARC (Audio Return Channel) that when used with the latest version HDMI cables can deliver higher resolution audio output and improved audio codec support for premium content (like Netflix 4K HDR with Atmos sound) when connected to a compatible sound system.
Sound Bars bridge the gap between TV sound and premium audio solutions. These can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands for the most sophisticated models. Regardless of price, the design principle is the same: to provide better than TV sound in a compact form factor with minimal wiring.
Some Sound Bar systems have a small built-in subwoofer. Others include a wireless subwoofer. Most include the ability to add a subwoofer to enhance sound quality. Some models can expand into full surround systems with the addition of proprietary, purpose-made speakers. These add-on speakers can include subwoofers, rear channel speakers, even speakers that can be grouped to extend the TV sound to other parts of your home.
Input connections to the Sound Bar most commonly include a digital optical input, but may also include analog, coax digital, ARC and eARC, as well as Bluetooth wireless connectivity.
Most Sound Bars offer a wireless Bluetooth input, or support Apple Airplay, sometimes both, allowing you to stream music to the Sound Bar from a device like a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
Sound Bars can range from simple 2-channel stereo units to multi-channel systems. Some units offer Dolby Atmos speakers and processing that dramatically expands the sound vertically for increase dimensionality. Some are “smart” Sound Bars with apps and network connectivity for receiving higher quality streaming music and to expand into multi-room sound.