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How to really hear the crowd roar at home

One of the most common complaints I hear about TVs is that the sound quality sucks. There are so many reasons for this: tinny built-in TV speakers, compatibility issues on an external system, or just bad mixing. So many shows on Netflix prioritise the mixing of background music over dialogue, much to my irritation. But now that we’re heading into the Olympics, followed by the finals of everything, this is a good time to make sure your TV’s sound is in the best shape it can be.

The first thing you need to do on your quest to better sound is determine your budget. Improving TV sound runs anywhere from free to $7500, with the easiest way coming in around the $1000 mark.

A good soundbar is an effective way to give your TV an audio boost.

A good soundbar is an effective way to give your TV an audio boost.

The second thing you need to do is work out in what way you’d like it to be better. Do you want clearer commentary/dialogue, or are you wanting more of the roar of the crowd and atmospheric rumble? These are opposite pursuits, so choose wisely.

The free way is to dig through all of your settings, which should absolutely be your first port of call. Depending on the fanciness and newness of your TV, it might have different sound profiles that you can play with. Sometimes there’s even one labelled “sport”, which takes a lot of the work out of it. Play around with those different presets and see if any of them do what you want

If you don’t have presets, or don’t like them, make a note of your current equaliser settings by taking a photo of each menu screen before you start fiddling (in case you make it worse) and then see what works. Generally speaking, if you want to hear the dialogue better, turn up the high and mid frequencies and turn down the bass a bit. If you want more atmosphere, crank the bass.

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Speakers need room to move, and modern flatscreen TVs just don’t have enough room to house good speakers. They’re great at displaying pictures, but most TVs (even the expensive ones) just have tiny speakers firing directly at your wall from behind the TV. That’s why I always recommend to get a soundbar when you get your TV.

It’s best to get one the same width and brand as your TV when you buy it, because that guarantees the best experience (without breaking the bank for a full surround system). But, failing that, the three current models I’ve had the best experiences with are the Samsung HW-Q950A (complete package in a box for $2049), Bose Smart Soundbar 300 ($600) and the Sonos Arc ($1399, and part of an expandable system you can build at your own pace). Even then, though, you’re going to want a separate subwoofer and possibly play around with the settings to make it work for your ears.

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