All TVs come with built-in speakers, but today's LCD, plasma and OLED TVs with their slim profiles don’t have the space to fit good speakers into their thin cabinets. This means that while the picture quality of modern televisions has improved hugely, little has changed in terms of sound quality from the internal TV speakers.
The Problem with TV Sound
Basically, on almost all new TVs, the spatial volume required for the speakers to push out enough air to get a good quality sound just isn't there. The result is that the audio from most TVs is “thin,” and “tinny,” and often doesn’t fit well with the great quality big-screen picture.
Another problem is that most TV manufacturers build the speakers into the bottom of the TV set, facing downwards, which doesn’t make for the best sound quality at all.
For these reasons, we’ve come up with a few solutions that can help improve your listening and, by association, your viewing experience too. Just remember that if you do choose to connect your TV to an external audio system, you might need to go into your TV settings and activate the specific option you intend to use.
The Bluetooth Option
The big advantage of using Bluetooth to send audio from the TV to an external audio source is that the connection is wireless. This eliminates the need for a cable to get the sound to the compatible audio system. The disadvantage is that not all televisions have this option, but Samsung and LG do offer it on some of their models.
Connect to Your Existing Stereo System
You may already have a pretty good pair of stereo speakers and an amplifier. If you do, it makes good sense to simply connect the TV to the amp. This will allow you to almost instantly enjoy considerably better sound than you could ever get from your factory TV speakers. If you want to take it up a notch, add a subwoofer to your stereo system as well.
Many integrated stereo amps have optical inputs that can deliver your TV’s output to your speakers. If you have an analogue amp, then use the RCA inputs and plug them into the television’s outputs.
Once you've done that, it's time to go to your TV’s menu and make sure that the sound output is being transferred to the stereo system, and not still to the TV speakers.
Bear in mind that some newer TVs no longer have RCA connections. So, if you’re buying a new TV and your audio system has an analogue audio input you will need to check that the new set has an analogue audio output option. If it doesn't, the only option is to upgrade to a new stereo system, or to an external soundbar.
Use a Soundbar
Not everyone has the room or the budget for a full-on AV system. In this case, a soundbar may be your answer. Soundbars are small enough to place in front of the TV or below it if the TV is wall mounted. Some soundbars come with a flat base so, theoretically, at least, you could stand the TV set on top of it. You will also find soundbars with larger cabinets that can produce a bass-rich, fuller sound than cheaper soundbars can. Some older models only have optical inputs, so always check you're getting one with HDMI connections before you part with your hard-earned cash.
Spoil Yourself with a Surround Sound System
This is a costlier option but will certainly immerse you in a true cinematic experience when you watch your favourite movies and shows. To be clear, surround sound is far better than ordinary stereo sound.
Blu-rays, Netflix, and Amazon Prime regularly stream programmes with 5.1 Dolby/ DTS soundtracks, so you’d do well to purchase a 5.1 surround system. This will give you the best sound to go with the great picture quality.
If you’re feeling generous later, you can upgrade to a 7.1 channel setup. These options will require more cash and more space for kit and cabling, but you won’t won't regret it.
This is the cheapest and most versatile way of improving your TV’s sound. Desktop speakers are fairly small, can usually be located right next to the television, and have several connection options. Some will even have an optical input at the back of the main speaker which easily connects to the TV.
Others are wireless and have many streaming features along with multiple connections. A big plus is that they don’t require a cable to connect the two speakers.
If you have wireless speakers without an optical input, it’s possible to remove the 3.5mm headphone from the TV and plug it into the speakers’ aux input. This allows you to adjust the volume via the TV remote.
A Decent Pair of Headphones
If you live alone in a small place, this may be your answer. Most high-end headphones come with a long cable, usually around three meters. If it’s not long enough to plug into the back of your TV and still sit a comfortable distance away, you can always get a cable extender.
The most convenient option, however, is to buy a set of Bluetooth headphones. Many TV manufacturers such as Samsung, LG and Sony offer Bluetooth pairing. Your TV will connect in the same way that your smartphone connects with your Bluetooth headphones. Using headphones certainly gives you an immersive, even intimate listening experience, and they have the bonus of cutting outside noise, too.