Many people don’t consider the importance of audio when buying a new TV, but in reality, it’s more important now than ever before.
TV manufacturers have focused their efforts on brighter displays, making them thinner and thinner each year, leaving very little room for the speakers and audio components. The result is a beautiful TV screen with poor, tinny audio that hampers the entertainment experience of even high-end TV sets.
If you’re searching for a TV with great sound built-in, you should first consider pairing your TV with a soundbar or surround system. If your budget or space prevents that possibility, you’ll want to look for TVs that have limited sound distortion at high volumes.
It’s a subjective task to select specific TV models with the best sound performance as different people have different ears and thus audio profiles. Nevertheless, we’ve selected our favorites below.
If you don’t plan on upgrading your built-in TV audio but want the best sound possible, choose from these models which have the Best TV speakers for onboard sound (according to our research and testing):
- Best Performance: LG GX OLED
- 2nd Best Performance: LG CX OLED
- Best Value: Samsung Q80/Q80T QLED
- 2nd Best Value: TCL 6 Series QLED
- Best Budget: Samsung TU7000
TV Speakers vs. Soundbar
If you’re deciding whether or not it’s worth upgrading your TV audio with a soundbar the answer is a resounding yes. Today’s thin TVs simply don’t have the space for great speakers, so you’ll be listening to flat, 1-dimensional audio that kills the life of an otherwise immersive experience.
Larger TVs typically produce better sound — there is more room for bigger and better audio components — but they still sound “good” at best. The simplest and most affordable way to upgrade your TV audio is getting a soundbar.
Soundbars work by encapsulating numerous speakers into one device, positioning each speaker to aim the sound. The angles are engineered to bounce the sound off the walls in a way that artificially recreates surround sound. It can even make sound come from behind you!
For this reason, Soundbars work best in small or medium sized rooms that are enclosed, with space behind the seating. That being said, pretty much any soundbar in any room will be an improvement over the audio of your TV’s built-in speakers.
The benefits of soundbars are quite simple: you get better sound at a reasonable price ($100 to $1000+), it takes up very little extra space, looks great, and it’s incredibly simple to install. No need to worry about tons of different wires and inputs and outputs. Just plug in an HDMI cable and you’re done.
The vast majority of people are perfectly fine with soundbars, but if you’re an audiophile, building a home theater, or might want to upgrade to a full surround sound system in the near future, you might want to skip soundbars altogether and get a basic surround sound system that you can more easily upgrade over time.
Soundbar vs. Surround System
Without rear speakers, soundbars don’t actually create sound behind you, they create the illusion of sound behind you. That’s why most audiophiles will suggest the real thing: a surround sound system that strategically places physical speakers in your room to create actual sound in actual places.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to choosing the full surround sound route:
- It creates better sound, but costs more
- It requires more equipment
- It takes up more space
- It’s more complicated
- It’s easier to upgrade over time
The question you’re probably thinking (“Is it worth it?”) depends on personal preference, but perhaps can be best answered by categorizing yo and your room:
- If you simply want a great experience and care little about the intricacies, complexities, and details behind the technology, choose a soundbar. You’ll save money, headaches, and countless hours of “research” with a final product that’s great.
- If you’re building a true “home theater” or consider yourself an “audiophile”, go with a surround sound system.
At the most basic level (~$500), you’ll want an amp/receiver, front speaker (passive soundbar), and bookshelf speakers. You can add a subwoofer for some serious bass and upgrade/add components as you increase your budget and learn more about the components.
Trying to piece together the best surround sound system for your room can seem like a full-time job. You’ll jump down a rabbit-hole of Google searches, Reddit links, and Chrome tabs… and perhaps never emerge. And if you do, you’ll probably emerge with a soundbar (see the best Soundbars here).