Television Sound

Edit: New readers to this topic can read from the beginning or go to post 28 added on 18/2/2022.

I notice that when Choice reviews tvs it does not look at the quality of the sound. I find the sound on some tvs very poor and muffled and turning it up does not help - it is just loud muffled. Other tvs are fine. I would like to know the quality of the sound before I buy my next tv as the acoustics in the shop are totally different to those in my home. I can find nowhere on our tv where you can adjust the quality of the sound (luckily it is okay). I find this strange as since stereo systems were invented we have been able to at least alter the balance, treble and bass, or even have a full graphic equaliser. Why can’t we adjust the tv sound?

I would be interested to know if others have problems with the quality of their tv sound and if they have found anyway of improving it?

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Our Samsung sound is ok, but I have visited other people’s places where the TV sound is terrible.

In the on-screen menu and also in the on-screen tools, there are sound adjustment options on our Samsung, have you looked in the menus for your TV?

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In case that didn’t mean anything to you, look for the ‘menu’ button on your remote control (or on the TV itself), press it.

A menu will appear on the screen. What appears varies from brand to brand, and from model to model.

There should a range of items among which may be an option for ‘audio’. It may be on that top menu, or you may have to dig down into those top menu items to find it.

To navigate, use your arrow keys to move up/down, left/right, and then press your OK/Select button to choose something.

Once in the audio area, you should see a range of settings, for things like mono/stereo, bass/treble, and perhaps different sorts of preset sound settings.

Have a play and see if you can find settings you like. You may need to save the settings, but more likely just use the escape (completely) or return button (back one screen) to get out of there.

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We do test the sound quality on TVs (the scores/method are published on the website). But we know that generally, sound on built-in speakers isn’t great (although improving) and we recommend adding a soundbar to get the most out of your TV audio. The TV audio test only contributes 5% to the overall score. More comprehensive sound tests are conducted for our dedicated speaker and soundbar tests.

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It seems to me that the quality of inbuilt sound (mainly the speakers) is deliberately limited to contain costs, conserve space and weight in the cabinet and to encourage you to buy a sound bar.

With many (nearly all?) modern TVs the inbuilt speakers don’t face the front! This automatically limits the treble response, regardless of the quality of speakers, which means to some people the intelligibility of dialog is also limited. And with the volume of inbuilt speaker enclosures down to tiny there isn’t going to be any bass. In other words the modern smart TV with the small to nothing frame around the screen and the slimline cabinet is severely compromised with no sound bar. But they are sold as the hub of your home multimedia experience.

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Which really defeats decision making based on energy efficency. Running a sound bar or amplifing system could easily double (+ more) the energy consumption of the TV alone…making household power consumption increase.

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Kim,
Any external audio still relies on the quality of the sound output from the TV. This may be in a digital or analogue form.

How much confidence is there that if it is analogue it is of a quality better than any typical sound system?

If the external source accepts a digital signal, I gather there are several ways to achieve this, including HDMI pass through. Does Choice test or verify the functioning of the digital connections? I’ve noted there have been compatibility issues between soundbars/audio systems and TV’s even when they are from the same brand?

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Hi Mark, I’ll get our TV experts to provide you with more detail on this.

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Hi val2
I’m sorry it has not been apparent that we test the sound quality of the TV as this has always been a component of the TV test. However until recently, the quality for the most part has been so poor that it was more a case of highlighting a TV that performed OK.
The tester plays a number of high quality voice and music recordings on a DVD player connected to the TV and compares it to a reference system. The assessment is made at a volume that the tester feels is sufficient for listening in a normal room and also at the TV’s maximum volume (assuming the latter is louder). Sound quality accounts for 5% of the overall score.
This was the process until recently but as TV sound quality has improved over the last couple of years (particularly from the big four of LG, Samsung, Sony and Panasonic) for many of their models, we have introduced a listening panel in a similar manner to our Bluetooth speaker, soundbar speaker tests with three panelists carrying out an assessment on a range of audio content to help push the speaker as far as it can for voice, depth and overall quality. This has been carried out for the last couple of tests and will be progressively introduced into the wider comparative TV test.
If you are in the Sydney area we carry out member visits to our labs where you can see what we do. While I can’t guarantee that we will be testing TVs on every CHOICE lab tour, we tend to be in a state of continuous TV testing from May till around now (we just finished our last batch for 2018)
Regards
Denis

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Hi Syncretic
Thanks for the interest I suspect you are correct in that they are limited in the cabinet due to the constant demand for thinner and thinner TVs. Downward facing speakers combined with forward facing tweeters are appearing more in TVs and we have found them to be working surprisingly well, sometimes. Innovative attempts at delivering on thin panels (which the market still calls out for) and better sound (which people increasingly call out for) have been carried out by companies such as Sony with their screen acting like one large speaker and a sub incorporated into the rear stand or Panasonic with a surprisingly good soundbar shipped and attached to the base or Samsung and LG with the use of multiple speakers with directional downward and outward facing speaker arrays. As an aside, its important to see if the TV setting for sound when you are installing your TV for the first time is set to either ‘wall mounted’ or ‘table mounted’ as this can have an impact on the sound.
I feel the call for better sound has been a long time coming and maybe halted for a time with the short lived fad for home theatre in a box systems that sometimes cost only a few hundred dollars and seemed to deliver a lot of bang for your buck.
CHOICE spent a ridiculous amount of time and effort to test these systems to come to the conclusion that they are a nightmare to set up properly, don’t work well in a ‘real’ acoustically imperfect home and take up way to much room. Its no surprise that these devices are now consigned to history and soundbars which deliver surprisingly good sound and for the most part enhance the overall experience for those with a TV delivering tinny or tiny sound.
The place of a Smart TV in today’s home is another question that we at CHOICE are still wrestling with and our tech testers have pouring over the features and functionality each brand is offering; ready to incorporate their performance when assessing how good a TV is when operating within an Internet Of Things (IOT) environment . Once we see evidence that people are actually using the smarts in a TV for turning on the lights, shutting the air conditioner and booking their flights, we will incorporate more of this into our overall assessment. As it stands our main focus is on how well it deals with the apps and features that we feel users would use such as turning on Netflix, accessing YouTube and maybe showing images from the smartphone on the TV.
Regards

Denis

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Thanks Denis for your insight from examining many models.

Yes a soundbar/woofer often gives a big improvement for modest outlay. For TV and streaming I also agree that reliability and simplicity are needed before serious HiFi sound. We are talking about verisimilitude here not true accuracy. As long as the boom of the hero detonating the bad guy’s lair is satisfactory and the rumble of the death star passing by (in the soundless vacuum of space!) suggests size and power most of us will be happy. Compromise in bass reproduction is not such a bad thing especially for those who live in units or closely built-up areas who don’t have room for or rooms for big speakers and are not going to please their neighbours with window-rattling realism either.

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We noticed the sound improved when the TV was sitting a distance from the wall (ours on a table angled in a corner). The sound then bounces off the walls behind. We had tried a bluetooth speaker on a cable from our (not very smart) TV to his seat, but not much improvement - there’s a reason family give us stuff - usually because it does not work for them. It might work for others.

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We oldie sound addicts became familiar with speaker placement. Some speakers performed better on the floor, others on stands, some a distance from the walls, and every which way. It would not be at all surprising if tellies and soundbars as well as speakers were each uniquely sensitive to placement, and even room acoustics.

Playing with positioning can deliver entertainment in the form of just moving things about, or deliver improved sound quality as one hears it.

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Sound quality on TV is a big issue for me. We purchased an expensive Samsung 55" and one of the first things we had to do was go out and spend even more money on a sound bar - in some respects I actually wonder if this all part of a sales plan.

When purchasing a tv there is usually the opportunity to view the picture, but little or no opportunity to check the sound quality.

“Buyer beware” as sound bars can be quite expensive.

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We have our TV speakers turned off and play it through the 5.1 stereo. Two floor standing speakers, 2 surrounds, a centre, and an old school passive subwoofer. Since we had it all, $0 added cost and excellent sound quality plus the sound stage and processing options inherent in the home theatre receiver. :slight_smile:

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I am so glad I am not the only one suffering this problem, about six years ago I bought a Samsung, the sound is just awful, it was still under warranty when I sent it back with a technician, it came back the same, as the technician said the speakers being built in this model are of poor quality, and cannot be replaced. I am unable to afford a new TV, the only option I have now is buy a sound bar, and they are not cheap. With my luck I would get a “dicky” sound bar.
So when I see Samsung advertising these “Rolls Royce” TV’s, what is their sound like I wonder.
The sound is so bad on mine I miss some things people say, its so frustrating. My hearing is AOK!!

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We are happy with the sound levels and quality on our 3 Sony LCD/LED TV’s.

I have even had the oldest one cranked up to the maximum volume setting of 100 whilst playing Guns N Roses “November Rain”.

The next-door neighbour at our previous residence could also hear it quite clearly.

We only need to set the volume levels on the TV’s in our current residence to between 24 to 28 to hear them clearly.

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I have found the sound quality of flat screen TV’s to be abysmal with next to no bass and unintelligible speech. If you are even slightly interested in sound from your TV or connected DVD player I strongly advise you to invest in a soundbar at least or preferably an amplifier and a pair of speakers as they are quite a bit cheaper now than in previous times.

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Yes, we do the same, have done for years, any of the 3 spkrs pairs were gifts or are a sunk cost. The sub I bought a few years back is a good one but it was a run-out item.

Listening in stereo for now until I build a centre speaker.

The HT rcvr folds sound into the front pair and sub when set to stereo.

It has a MUTE button on the remote which is great with ads.

I have 5 more of the ‘full-range’ 3inch Fostex Fe103s. One to do the centre spkr and two each do the out-of-phase L & R rears which will be in the wall, behind curtains and covered by plastic grills. The two fronts are Lyrebirds made here in the ACT (and contain one Fe103 & a port) they get down to 90Hz which is way better than TV spkrs. The sub can be set to just above 100Hz, and has been a big improvement. (set to ~ 90Hz by ear)

The sub was a result of moving to a far bigger TV and having to retire the Jamo 3-ways, as there was no room for them.

Our next HT rcvr will need room and spkr DSP eq!! Its our small family-room & kitchen, and the sound at the sofa-bed just must have large peaks and dips.

Tim Bailey

Happy to discuss.

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Dear All
Thank you for so many amazing suggestions, although some are technically way beyond my abilities to comprehend let alone achieve! Basically, in this highly technological age I can not understand why tvs can’t be redesigned to have good quality speakers? Television is an audio-visual medium and should operate just as well auditorially as visually. (Just made up a new word there I think!)

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