Mossberg: Sonos solves TV audio problems for a stiff price


Last year, I bought a new, high-end LG OLED 4K TV and wrote about the experience. I talked about the brilliant picture, the tiny bezels, the ultra-thin display, and the overly complex UI. But, over the ensuing months, another feature of the TV has become more and more noticeable, and annoying: the audio.

The sound of “what did she say?”

Like most new HDTVs in recent years, my LG is too thin (even with its bulge in the lower back) to support more than small speakers. They generate volume, but little nuance.

On top of that, modern TV shows and films are increasingly mixed in a way that demotes the clarity of dialogue in favor of cinematic sound effects and wild swings in volume between scenes.

This wasn’t much of a problem with my old TV, a decade-old Pioneer Elite Plasma with huge, front-facing speakers running top to bottom on each side of the tall screen. But, with the new LG, we soon began resorting to closed captions on many shows, especially British ones, because the dialogue sounded muddy.

It turns out this combination of small speakers and dialogue-unfriendly mixing is a well-known problem, much written about. And its effects aren’t just limited to people who are hearing-impaired or whose hearing has degraded due to age. It’s a broader issue. You can tell it affects you if you’re constantly reaching for the remote to raise or lower the volume within the same show or movie (not counting the always-blaring commercials).

In fact, before I ever left Best Buy with the TV, the salesmen, who had been very high on the LG, told me all the new TV speakers were too small and tried to get me to buy an external soundbar. I ignored them, because a) I am not, and have never been, an audiophile, b)…

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