WHO SAID TVS SHOULD BE SEEN AND NOT HEARD?
Will the Sonos Playbase spark a new TV audio revolution?
The high profile launch of the Sonos Playbase once again throws a spotlight on the miserable mess that is TV audio.
As flatscreens thinned, their sonic performance has diminished to the point of embarrassment. For many, the soundbar has become a defacto solution. Without one, your favourite shows sound thin and weedy.
But while soundbars have sold in their millions, they aren’t the perfect panacea. Most lack the ability to produce deep bass, which has led to a preponderance of 2.1 packages. But not everyone wants to devote floorspace to a wireless subwoofer with the aesthetic appeal of a briquette.
Soundbars bring other problems. They are rarely a cosmetic match for the screen they’re partnered with, and can even obscure the IR zapper window.
For a time, the sound plate, or soundbase, looked like an answer. By doubling as a platform for the TV, they were better able to blend in with the décor. And with more cubic volume, they could also generate a decent level of slam, thereby making a separate subwoofer redundant.
Yet despite valiant sounding efforts from the likes of LG, Canton and Onkyo, soundbases never took off with buyers in the way soundbars did - perhaps because most just looked by a standard speaker trampled by a Toyota Hilux.
Perhaps Sonos, with its magic marketing pixie dust, can finally make them fashionable?
Soon though we might not actually need to buy external speakers for better TV audio. I’ve noticed a definite trend by TV manufacturers to redress the audio visual balance. Sound is being seen as a way of adding value back into gogglebox sales. Sets with integrated soundbars are on the rise. LG made a noise with its 2016 OLED range, using speakers designed by Harmon Kardon – a company, ironically, now owned by arch rival Samsung.
This year Sony is using audio to help distinguish its OLED debut, the A1. Acoustic Surface technology cleverly turns the screen itself into a loudspeaker. A pair of actuators bonded onto the rear panel can output 2 x 20W, supported by a 10W sub-woofer in the TV’s lean-back stand.
Such glass trembling tech isn’t new, but Sony has found a way of vibrating the screen surface differently on each side, to create a stereo effect.
It may sound far fetched, but the end result is really impressive.
Don’t expect Acoustic Surface tech to become the norm on tomorrow’s TVs though. It only works with OLED. Those transducers need to vibrate glass, and with LCD TVs the backlight gets in the way.
Still, the message is loud and clear. TV audio is making a comeback. Sounds like good news to me.