With a few exceptions, television speakers don’t deliver much more than a bare minimum when it comes to audio power and precision.
While built-in speakers are adequate, today’s thin flatscreen TVs lack the physical space to adequately recreate the sort of sound big-budget shows, movies and video games deserve: low frequency booms, crisp dialogue and directional effects that draw the viewer right into the heart of the action.
Thankfully, this problem can be remedied by adding external speakers. Read on and we’ll take you through the options, ranging from simple and affordable to complex and luxurious.*
What is a soundbar?
One of the simpler, more elegant options for boosting TV audio is a soundbar: an elongated, narrow loudspeaker designed to be placed below the screen. Due to their one-piece design and easy connectivity - they generally require no more than two cables: one to the power socket and one to the TV - they’re an ideal choice when space and tidiness are key concerns.
Budget: JBL Boost TV
Tight on space? This compact soundbar will fit comfortably into the snuggest of living rooms, but don’t let its diminutive form fool you: it’ll boost your TV’s sound to a level you’d never get from built-in speakers.
Mid-range: Q Acoustics Media 4
Designed for TVs at least 40in in size, the Media 4 keeps things simple. There are no pseudo-surround sound modes or dozens of connections here, just two drivers and a subwoofer producing full-bodied audio that’ll give movies, TV shows and games a lot more weight and authority.
Other: Canton DM100
£499, John Lewis
A slight variant on the soundbar design (it’s a ‘soundbase’ on which your TV is placed directly) and ideal for larger screens, the DM100’s subwoofer-packed design delivers a bold sound, big on bass and bombast – but not lacking when it comes to subtlety either.
Home cinema speakers
What are home cinema speakers?
If full surround sound is what you’re after from your TV, a home cinema speaker package is the way to go. Usually consisting of five satellite speakers to provide sound effects from different locations, and a subwoofer to serve up low-frequency bass effects, they usually need to be connected to and driven by a receiver.
Budget: Tannoy HTS-101 XP
Small in size but big on bang for your buck, this Tannoy package is one of the best-performing entry-level 5.1 options around. Note: you’ll need to buy a receiver too, because the speakers need an amp.
Mid-range: Dali Zensor 1 5.1
Got a bit more to spend? This Dali package packs a punch, with solid wood cabinets and drivers that deliver both precision and dynamics. Again, pair them with a home cinema receiver.
Other: B&W MT-60D
For those with an even bigger budget, a system like the Bowers & Wilkins MT-60D provides class-leading performance as well as a compact, stylish and easy to live with design – just check out that round subwoofer.
No speaker designed for TVs will be completely wireless – at minimum, it’ll need to connect to a power socket. But here are some TV speaker options that require fewer wires and help prevent cable spaghetti spoiling your living room’s clean lines.
Budget: Harman Kardon Nova
If your TV has Bluetooth, this pair of speakers will connect to it wirelessly, giving you bags of freedom in how you position them. They’ll also connect wirelessly to your phone, tablet or laptop for music playback.
Mid-range: Philips Fidelio E5
This 2.1 (left and right speakers, plus a subwoofer) system can instantly convert into a 4.1 surround sound setup when required – just detach the wireless rear speaker modules and place them behind you for all-enveloping surround effects.
Other: Sonos 5.1 Home Theatre System
Sonos is best known for its wireless music speakers, but it offers a 5.1-channel wireless home cinema setup too: soundbar (the Playbar which is available separately), subwoofer and two PLAY:1 speakers for rear effects. It’s not cheap, but if you want the full thrills of surround sound with powerful bass and the added bonuses of great music performance and wireless setup, this system fits the bill.
*Prices subject to change