NEW TV? TURN IT UP!
Every year TV’s are one of the hottest gifts to give or get at Christmas. To be sure, they are always the marquee item at any Black Friday sale. And while there are many different brands and price ranges, they always seem to have one common problem. Poor sound quality. With the advent of mostly flat HD screens, today’s sets often lack the depth and size to accommodate good sounding speakers. So whether you are watching a movie, checking out your favorite game show, or watching a signing competition sound becomes crucial to the TV watching experience.
So what can you do to get that cinematic experience and immerse yourself in your favorite show? Well you really only have two choices. Either a full sound system, which can be complex and cumbersome, or the simpler choice of a soundbar.
WHAT IS A SOUNDBAR?
A soundbar is a great way to hear your programs as they were intended without the clutter and confusion of having too many additional components. With most soundbars you simply connect them directly to the TV and any video source like cable TV or a streaming device. And no extra wires or speakers to connect. Once installed, the soundbar instantly upgrades your sound to match that great picture!
HOW TO CHOOSE?
Choosing a soundbar, should boil down to two things. How many devices will you need to connect to it (like your cable box or streaming devices) and how much sound do you need. First check to see how many video sources you want to connect and make sure the soundbar has enough HDMI inputs to accommodate them. Most of you may only have one video source to connect, but others will want to add a streaming device and a cable box at the same time so you will likely want at least two inputs.
Keep in mind that soundbars come in different sizes and will deliver varying volumes of sound. So remember, the larger the room the larger the soundbar you will want. Also, you might want add-ons such as whether you want a subwoofer or set of surround speakers connected to it. For our purposes here, we’ll assume you just need a soundbar. (Keep in mind that many soundbars today will already come packaged with a subwoofer.) In addition to those two criteria, I also look for soundbars that include a center channel speaker. These are the speakers that will primarily handle dialogue and are mounted in the center of the soundbar. You may come across a soundbar that lacks a center channel and that will instead improve dialogue with software. But beware, those bars may sound less realistic and may muddy up your sound a bit making it harder to discern all the dialogue, especially during quiet scenes.
SOUNDBARS TO CONSIDER
If you have decided to improve the sound on your new TV, a few good options include soundbars made by Vizio, Sony, Samsung, Bose and Sonos, all which are in the moderate price range from $200 to $500. Those priced under $200 may still sound great in many cases but I’d recommend staying away from those in a large room. Soundbars costing $500 or more are intended for audiophiles or those looking for more bells and whistles, including some newer technology like built in ATMOS decoding or other sound enhancements. Many of these new technologies are not yet available for every movie or show that you will watch but you might consider them and whether the soundbar you buy now can offer these abilities. These extras often increase the price of a soundbar but for some of you it may be worth the higher price. If you have the latest video source technology, like an Apple TV or cable box offering enhanced sound options, I recommend considering soundbars with Dolby ATMOS and/or Dolby Vision as those options are now popping up on some broadcasts and devices . Keep in mind you’ll need at least a 4K television to handle some newer features like Dolby Vision so if your TV won’t benefit from those features you can save money on the soundbar you choose. If you are able to hear a soundbar in person before buying it, that is always a plus but during the pandemic online shopping is king so always read the online descriptions and reviews before you buy!
In conclusion, your great looking high-definition TV deserves some great sounding speakers and a soundbar is a great choice and rather easy to set up. So consider this when settling in for your next movie night and really enjoy your new TV!
Tip: For those of you really into comparing specs on anything before you buy, try checking out the multitude of websites and look for recent reviews based on model numbers. We really like ConsumerReports.org but there are lots of other choices. And look out for sales to save money since as with all electronics soundbars frequently go on sale! Happy shopping.