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High-definition flat-panel TVs have tiny speakers inside. If you want TV sound that's as big and bold as your TV picture, you need an external sound solution.
Like the name implies, sound bars are horizontal enclosures designed to sit below your TV. Your TV's built-in speakers pale in comparison. You'll hear crisp clear dialogue and dynamic sound effects. Watch a lot of movies? Look for one that can simulate surround sound. Many sound bars include a wireless subwoofer for deep bass. And some let you play music through a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection.
A pair of powered stereo speakers will work wonders for both music and TV sound. Place one on either side of your TV. The built-in amplifier is usually housed in one of the two speakers. The left and right speakers then connect to each other with an included wire. Look for a model that has an optical digital audio input. This is usually the best way to connect to your TV.
Want genuine surround sound? Here's a simple recipe. Mate a prepackaged 5- or 6-piece speaker system with a home theater receiver (sold separately). All these speaker systems include front left and right speakers, a center channel speaker, and two surround speakers. Most also include a powered subwoofer.
These pre-matched systems include everything you need for great TV sound. Many systems even include wireless surround speakers for stealthy rear effects.
These systems include a sound bar that's packaged with compatible wireless surround sound speakers.
Listening to your TV on headphones is a great solution for late-night viewing when you don't want to disturb others. The most popular and foolproof option is a transmitter-based wireless TV headphone system. Many TVs can pair with Bluetooth headphones. And some gaming headsets also work well for TV sound.
For sound bars, you'll want to consider the following:
Most sound bars are designed to be placed in front of your TV or hung on the wall below. You may also want to consider a platform-style unit that sits beneath your TV.
If you struggle to hear what the people are saying in movies and TV shows, get a bar that has a dialogue enhancement setting. This boosts the level of the frequencies that correspond to speech.
If you choose a sound bar that has enough inputs, it can act as a hub for your cable box, Blu-ray player, game console, and other components. This is particularly useful if you have an older TV, or if your TV is wall-mounted, and you don't want a lot of cables hanging down from it.
Some sound bars are compatible with Alexa or Google Home — meaning you'll need an Echo or Google device to use the voice control features. Some bars have voice control built right in.
Check to see what kind of cables are included with the sound bar you're buying. You may need to pick up an HDMI cable or an optical digital audio cable. If you're not sure about the best way to connect a new sound bar, read our sound bar connection guide or contact one of our advisors.