Nowadays, it seems form seldom follows function. The never-ending quest for elegant, unobtrusive and slim consumer electronics has led designers to save space in each and every area. On flat screen TVs, for example, everything has to be "screen" and there's no space left for anything else. Not even for, say, speakers. As a consequence, the sound quality of modern flat LCD or LED TVs is getting poorer and poorer, so much so that it is often hard to follow simple dialogues. Make a comparison with an old CRT TV of, say, 10-15 years ago and you'll be shocked! Old TVs sound so much better! Trying to cure the problem by raising the volume level doesn't help much, as you might have already noticed.
On stereophonic TV programs the problem is also caused by the lack of a center channel. Dialogues got split in two, left and right channel, and clarity is lost. It should be much better to have a centrally placed good speaker, instead of two superslim drivers placed laterally (and quite far one from the other, especially if the TV screen is very wide). To make things even worse, the quality of the loudspeakers is horrible, because of their extremely compact size. You, dear marketing geniuses, can rewrite marketing laws but can't modify good old physics laws!
In order to get a full, powerful and clean sound you simply can't rely solely on small speakers. Speakers not only have to be of reasonable size but they do need a convenient air (loading) volume. And this isn't available on modern TV screens. You need air in order to move air. Don't forget good sound reproduction is all about moving air. In fact that's fundamental to the way sound propagates!
You might think good speakers aren't necessary because modern TVs are often connected to Home Theater sets. Well, think again, because this isn't always the case. Quite the contrary, as a recent market analysis seems to suggest [source: The Telegraph, 2/14/2013]. It seems Home Theater sales grew by a mere +3% last year, while soundbars sales reached an impressive +60%! So what are soundbars and what does this impressive growth of sales mean?
Soundbars are those small arrays of speakers that can be placed above or below a TV screen and that can greatly improve TV sound quality. They use reasonably sized speakers, good internal amplification and sometimes rely on DSP to equalize and get the best sound from the speakers. Why are people so interested in soundbars then? It's obvious: installing a complete Home Theater system is troublesome, speakers take a lot of space, then you have to deal with meters and meter of cables running everywhere, complicated remote controls etc. Really, do you think people need all of this stuff? They just want to get reasonable sound quality from their TV screens. So soundbars become an extremely attractive solution: they take little space, are easy to connect and set up and can even work as a complete audio center to which one can connect portable devices, game consoles, sometimes even in wireless mode!
The rationale behind this analysis is pretty obvious: you can reduce the size of the speakers (and of the space where they work) up to a certain level and not more than that! Wives, girlfriends and mothers should understand that speakers size can't be decreased to zero! Exactly like washing machines and microwave ovens can't be smaller than they are, for obvious reasons. Form follows function! HiFi loudspeakers can't be small and can't be hidden somewhere on a shelf simply because they are...so ugly! ;-)
You can't sacrifice such a relevant function as audio quality, as this attitude is leading us to extremely well defined and realistic (even 3D!) images matched with extremely poor sound. This is pure nonsense.
Dear audiophiles, don't forget that, even in audio, size matters! Try to explain this obvious concept to your relevant second other :-)
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