TV Speakers in Flat-Panel TVs Sound Really Flat

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Sunday, March 29, 2009
My parents have a Sharp TV they bought in the 1980s. It still works. And since they both grew up during the Great Depression, their common sense has guided them to keep it. Good for them...for more reasons than one. The monaural speaker system built into that out-of-date TV sounds pretty decent. It's not "high fidelity," but it reproduces sound with reasonable accuracy. And most important, it delivers acceptable vocal clarity. They can understand what newscasters say.

That is more than can be said about many modern flat-panel TVs. The sound systems built into many of these technological wonders are just plain awful. In some cases, you really can't understand what the announcer is saying, unless you "crank it up." Here's why:

  1. There's no room in there.  As TV panels get thinner and thinner, there's less room of decent-quality speakers, speaker-magnet, and "speaker cabinet space." This is important. Speakers are not digital. Smaller is NOT better. And speakers in most flat-panel TVs are just too small. 

  2. Nobody ever walked into Best Buy and declared, "I want to buy the TV with the best sound system." TV makers aren't dumb -- and they're under tremendous pressure to bring prices down. So if they eliminate an expensive feature like a good sound system, the cost of the TV can come way down -- and nobody complains. 
  3. People presume TVs are like cars. Everybody knows that when you buy a good car from a well-known maker, it comes with a good sound system. Consumers think the same thing happens with TVs. "Hey, it's a S*n*...the speakers are probably pretty good." But TVs are NOT like cars. Good ones do have bad sound systems.
  4. The human mind can learn to love anything.  My office is also a testing ground from new speaker systems. I'm always switching out one and putting in another. So sometimes I end up with NO sound system attached, and I have to watch TV while listening to the built-in speakers. For the first five minutes, I suffer -- thinking, "How can anyone listen to these awful speakers." Then I get used to them and think, "these aren't so bad after all." The fact is that, the more you listen to something, the more you get used to it. So people get their new TVs home and quickly adjust to sound quality on par with a 1963 transistor radio.
So what will happen to change all this? Probably nothing. TVs will keep looking better and better, and sounding worse and worse.

Bad for consumers. Good for ZVOX!


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