This one cheap upgrade can make even an old TV sound so much better


I’ve been reviewing TVs for almost seven years, and I’ll be honest: it’s kind of becoming a pointless job. It used to be that buying a cheaper, entry-level TV meant rolling the dice on whether or not it would have problems like stuck pixels, faulty inputs, or just really poor picture quality. But LED/LCD TV panel and component manufacturing has come so far in the last decade, nowadays you can get a 4K smart TV for a few hundred dollars that looks pretty darn good—or at least satisfactory. Reviewers, we’re running out of runway!

On the other hand, built-in TV speakers have only gotten worse. Modern flat-panel TVs are much thinner than the boxy tube TVs of yesteryear, which is great for aesthetics and convenience, but doesn’t leave much space in the TV for speakers. Even if you own a mid-tier or high-end TV worth a few thousand dollars, I’m willing to bet the audio is one of the most frustrating parts. When you turn it up enough to “match” the quality of the big screen, commercials are too loud, dialogue is hard to hear, or bass causes the whole TV to buzz. Sound familiar?

Well fortunately, there’s a super easy fix. Even if your TV is 5 or 10 years out of date, you can improve (and maybe revolutionize) your audio experience with a soundbar.

What’s a soundbar?

Soundbars are compact, horizontal speaker boxes that sit in front of your TV (below the screen) and “pinch hit” for your TV’s audio. Generally, TVs have “stereo” audio (a left and right channel) that is about 20 watts, or 10 for each speaker. While it’s hard to quantify how much “sound power” a watt is, almost any soundbar you buy is going to have more than 20 watts of output. Some of the high-end ones are in the 200-300 range, but even a soundbar under $100 is miles ahead of your TV’s speakers.