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Sound and Vision: You know what I’d like to see? A TV without built-in speakers

OPINION: I’ve reviewed a lot of TVs over the past few years, and there’s one line that’s almost inevitable, a line that I tire of writing but write anyway: the TV’s sound is underwhelming.

It is fated, really, that most TVs reviewed will feature this line or one close to it. Sound wasn’t much of a problem with CRT TVs, as screens were massive enough to have an integrated sound system that could produce a sound that comfortably filled a room.

The move to flatscreens saved space, made it easier to place TVs on the wall, made them look nicer; but sound systems have suffered massively ever since.

There are a few TVs that do sound good, but it’s always ‘good for a flatscreen TV’. Sony is a good example of this, as their TVs – in particular the premium ones – offer crisp, clear, and dynamic sound, and decent bass too. I shan’t spoil an upcoming review but it fits into the “better than expected” category for a TV.

But even so, the sound quality won’t beat that of a separate soundbar. Flatscreen TV’s audio was compromised from the get-go, and everything since is akin to TV manufacturers trying to find their way out of a maze to find some decent audio.

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It’s something that’s crossed my mind recently mainly because TV sound doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Recent LG OLED TVs have all sounded rather tame; after a few years of pretty decent sound, some Samsung’s TVs seem to withdraw within themselves. I could watch the same scene on a Samsung TV at volume 75 and it’ll sound quieter than a Sony TV at volume 40 because the speakers can’t be pushed too hard once past a certain level.

My solution? Bin the speakers entirely.

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That’s right. Don’t even bother putting speakers in the TV’s chassis, because what’s the actual point if the audio quality isn’t going to get much better? Better yet, given that TV manufacturers are making a bigger point of attaching soundbars to their TV sales, why not offer a combo of a TV and a soundbar and sell that to customers instead?

It doesn’t have to be for every TV; perhaps market it more towards the home cinema crowd who’d be interested or who have their own sound system that they can connect to. But I just struggle to see what the point of a sound system is with modern TVs.

It can rarely offer the same thrills and excitement as an external sound system; you’re almost always going to have to pay for a sound system anyway to give it a boost. So why not discard the built-in speakers entirely, use that space for something else (or make the TV even slimmer), and make the TV all about the visuals rather than TV and sound.

It’s reached the point where paying £3000 for a TV, and only getting a sub-standard audio performance, is simply not good enough. It’s a waste. Audio quality seems to be an afterthought, so let’s dispense with them altogether. TVs will be better for it.

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