“SOUND”OFF: How important is quality audio to you?

Let’s start this article with an unpleasant truth. Audio on most TVs has always been bad. Even though broadcast technology has allowed for ever-better sound, most televisions still have tiny little speakers that aren’t too different from the ones in 1950s TVs. They may in fact be a little worse, owing to the desire for very flat televisions.

Yes, older tube TVs had speakers that faced the viewer at least. Flat TVs generally have speakers that face downward or sideways, so you don’t have the experience spoiled by a big speaker grate.

Easier than ever to fix…

Today’s home theater systems are compact and easy to configure. Sound bars with virtual surround are better than ever, and often include wireless subwoofers. For those who really want the best, it’s possible to get Dolby Atmos systems that self-configure no matter where in three dimensions you put the speakers. Spend enough money and you’re sure to get theatre-quality sound, even from over-the-air, cable, or satellite.

…but how many people actually do it?

That’s the real question. How many people, even home theater buffs, care about the sound coming from their TVs? I think back 15 years when I worked with a prominent tech blogger. They freely admitted that they didn’t have a home theater, just a gigantic TV. (I’m thinking that “gigantic” in 2007 didn’t mean what it means today, but still.) Sound quality meant nothing to them.

Today if you want great sound, it’s possible to use headphones to get Dolby Atmos, 7.1, or 5.1 audio at a very reasonable price. It’s not necessary to spend hundreds of dollars if you’re really only going to care about great sound for movies.

And even then, do people care about great sound at all? That’s the question that’s been gnawing at me for years. It seems like the millennial and GenZ folks are less interested in quality video and audio and more interested in availability. If the content is there, they’ll stream it, no matter what the quality. They won’t hold out for the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with 26-channel Atmos. They’ll take what’s available now, no matter what it is.

Time for you to weigh in

I’m not expecting the comments on a blog like this to mirror the whole population, but I am interested in what you have to say. Do you still meticulously maintain a home theater system? Or is a 6″ phone with a pair of earbuds good enough for you? Leave a comment below!

Oh, and if you wouldn’t mind, shop at Solid Signal for the things that you might need to help you live your best digital life. They are really good sports for letting me write off-topic articles like this one.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.