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 TV 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 is limited.
Budget: LG LAS260B
This two-channel soundbar will bring films and TV shows to life thanks to its 100W output and added bass. Plus Bluetooth means you can wirelessly beam songs, films or TV shows to it from your smartphone or tablet. Magic.
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
£499.95, John Lewis
This is actually a ‘soundbase’ on which your TV sits (basically a mini TV stand) but it works just like a soundbar. 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. A great option if money is no object.
Home cinema speakers
What are home cinema speakers?
If full surround sound is what you’re after, 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. They give great sound, but do tend to crowd your lounge, as they're a lot messier than a soundbar.
Budget: Q Acoustics 3000 Cinema Pack
This system proves that great things do come in small packages – despite their petite size, these speakers deliver on the sound front, with fantastic sonics. It's more than capable of filling a small- to medium-sized room with sweet, sweet sonics.
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. Don't forget to 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 Aura
If your TV has Bluetooth, this speaker will connect to it wirelessly, giving you bags of freedom in where you position it. It also connects wirelessly to your phone, tablet or laptop for music playback.
Mid-range: Naim Audio Mu-so
£895, John Lewis
Again, this connects to your telly over Bluetooth, or a wired connection if you prefer. It's compatible with lots of music streaming services too (like Apple Music and Spotify) and sound quality is second to none.
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 also 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