Posted: 7:44 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014
Talk about irony: Modern HDTVs dazzle the eyes with their gorgeous colors and razor-sharp images, but disappoint the ears with their crap-tacular speakers.
Alas, it's the nature of the flat-panel design. Today's supermodel-thin TVs just don't have room for big, beefy cones. For some reason, though, few people bother to investigate alternatives to those built-in speakers--or perhaps just don't know there are alternatives.
Prepare to be enlightened! You can vastly improve your TV's audio quality by adding an external speaker system. And you don't have to spend a fortune on one.
Let's start with the smaller TV you purchased for your den or bedroom. It probably has fairly tiny (and tinny) speakers that are pointed down or even toward the rear--and sound atrocious.
A cheap and easy fix: Dig out your old pair of PC speakers and plug them into the TV's headphone jack. For a grand total of $0, you should enjoy a serious sound boost--not just volume, but also quality.
Go Big and Go Home
Now, on to the living room. A big TV needs a bigger solution, and although there are a wide range of sound bars out there that can do the job, I remain a big fan of the single-cabinet speaker boxes from Zvox. And for a limited time they're all on sale.
For example, the Zvox SoundBase 555 is a wood-paneled, low-profile cabinet that sits under your TV (anything up to 55 inches) and cranks out loud, clear audio. And it's smart, too: It boosts the dialog during talky scenes and lowers the volume during commercials.
Furthermore, the 555 has an audio-in jack for connecting your smartphone or tablet, a digital display that disappears after you've set your desired volume, and an easy-to-program control system that works with your existing remote(s).
The SoundBase 555 normally sells for $399.99, but it's currently on sale for $349.99. I'm not saying that's cheap, merely that it's cheaper--and well worth considering if you want an easy, awesome upgrade for your home theater.
I have a smaller SoundBase, the bedroom-friendly 220 (currently on sale for $169.99), and I absolutely love it.
Of course, you can also try a recycling option like I described above: If you have an old stereo receiver and speakers, or can find them cheap at a garage sale, simply connect your TV's audio-out jacks to one of the receiver's inputs. That'll give you big, big sound for small, small money.
Whatever tack you take, trust me when I say you'll be blown away by the difference external speakers make. After all, you invested a good chunk of change to give your eyes a treat; don't your ears deserve the same happiness?
Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and Savings.com, and also writes for PC World and Wired.
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