Nice TV, too bad it sounds like hell

TV buyers are so focused on plasma and LCD picture quality, the manufacturers can get away with selling panels that sound truly awful. Here's a couple of affordable solutions.

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
2 min read
It's big enough to sound great, and cheap enough it's a no-brainer solution for lame sounding TVs. Zvox

I get letters about this all the time.

They usually go something like this: "I'm no audiophile, but can you explain why all of the new, slim, pretty, thin HDTV's sound so bad? I bought a 46-inch Samsung LN46A850 for its great picture, but when I got it home, the sound was tinny. So I bought a sound bar but it had its own issues and I don't want to use multiple remotes. Any ideas?"

The problem is mostly caused by just how skinny these TVs are: There's no room for decent speakers. More than that, I'm sorry to say that sound quality isn't a priority for TV manufacturers, and they know that most buyers accept "good enough" sound. So there's no real demand from consumers to get better sound from TVs. And I guess the manufacturers assume anyone who really cares will spring for a better sound system.

My advice: Check out Zvox speakers; I've reviewed many over the years for CNET. The best bang for the buck model is the 315. It sounds great for $199, and since you can hook it up to the TV's audio outputs, you won't need to use a separate remote (that's also true for some other manufacturers' soundbars).

Consider the 315 only if your TV has a headphone jack--or if its audio output jacks can be set to "variable." Then you'll be able to control the 315's volume with your TV's remote (the 315 doesn't have its own remote).

To learn more about the 315 check out my CNET review.

Or step up from the Zvox to Sony's stellar HT-CT100. The two-part (speaker plus subwoofer) 3.1-channel system is one of the skinniest soundbar speakers I've tested to date, and it boasts better-than-average connectivity highlighted by three HDMI inputs. Best of all, it costs just $300, and--considering that modest price tag--it sounds great.

Read my CNET review to learn more about the HT-CT100.

Sony's skinny 'bar and brawny sub will rock your world. CNET Networks