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Four ways to get great TV sound

Options for every room, lifestyle, and budget

I started my Crutchfield career as a product advisor. I fielded thousands of customer questions about A/V equipment, designing systems for homes, cars, and the occasional party bus. Do that for eight years, and you begin to understand what people really want from their gear. You also get a lot of hands-on experience with the latest products. That's one of the coolest things about working here. As a writer, I enjoy translating technical jargon into easy-to-understand language. My goal is to make shopping for speakers and amplifiers simple. After all, this stuff is supposed to be fun! Outside of work, I enjoy playing and teaching music. I'm always on the lookout for interesting left-handed guitars.

More from Kramer Crane

Deia Z. watching TV

Adding a sound system to your TV brings shows, movies, and music to life.

High-definition TVs offer a stunning picture and a vivid sense of realism. But the flat sound that comes from the tiny speakers inside? Not so much.

Here are four ways to enjoy clearer dialogue, better volume, and lifelike special effects. Choices range from simple, space-efficient options to full-blown home theater systems.

1. Sound bars deliver big sound from a small footprint

Love great sound, but have limited room for speakers or other equipment? Consider a sound bar. These sleek speakers need minimal space and wiring. And many can be wall-mounted below your TV for a neat, clean install.

The beauty of sound bars is their simplicity. Most feature built-in amplification, so you don't need an external amp. And many use just a single digital cable to connect to your TV.

Sound bars with built-in Bluetooth® or Wi-Fi® make listening to music easy and fun. Love bass? Choose a sound bar that includes a wireless subwoofer. Some sound bars can even be expanded to 5.1-channel surround sound with optional wireless rear speakers.

Check out our sound bars buying guide to find the right one for your system.

Sound bar mounted below a TV

Most sound bars can be wall-mounted below your TV for a neat, clean install.

2. Stereo speaker systems are great for both TV and music

Adding a stereo speaker system to your TV is a great way to get engaging sound. They need relatively little wiring, and offer easy speaker placement options. Stereo systems also offer rockin' music playback.

Start with a stereo receiver. Choose a pair of bookshelf speakers to save space, or go with floor-standing speakers for fuller sound. Round out your system with an optional powered subwoofer to beef up the bass.

Stereo systems with a sub (known as 2.1) can be expanded to 3.1 with a home theater receiver and a center channel speaker. This setup gives you better dialogue and a wide front soundstage — ideal for movie soundtracks. 2.1 or 3.1 systems are perfect for rooms where rear surround speakers aren't a viable option.

Stereo speaker system

A stereo or 3.1 system is an excellent choice when surround speakers aren't an option.

3. Powered home theater systems come with everything you need

Powered home theater systems are complete solutions that deliver enveloping surround sound without a lot of bulk. These pre-matched systems include everything you need, including amplification and wiring. Many systems even include wireless surround speakers for stealthy rear effects.

Want to play your movie collection? Choose a system that includes a disc player for DVDs and Blu-rays. Love listening to music? Look for a system that offers built-in Bluetooth for streaming from your smartphone or tablet.

Klipsch Reference Premiere HD Wireless 5.1 Surround Sound System

Powered home theater systems (like the Klipsch Reference Premiere HD Wireless system shown above) give you everything you need for immersive surround sound.

4. Component surround sound systems offer the best performance possible

Want the full-blown home theater experience? Nothing fills a big room with sound like a 5.1 or 7.1 system driven by a robust home theater receiver.

These traditional surround sound systems are comprised of five or more speakers. A variety of sizes and finishes are available to match your décor. Mix and match bookshelf, floor-standing, and even in-wall or in-ceiling speakers for a custom system tailored to your space.

Power is supplied by a home theater receiver. Bass is provided by a powered subwoofer. And one or two pairs of surround sound speakers deliver wraparound special effects.

Need some help putting together your system? Start with our guide on how to choose home theater speakers. For a deeper dive into surround sound, check out the components you need for home theater.

7.1 surround sound speaker system

Component home theater systems let you customize a system that's perfect for your room.

We can help you choose

Have questions about choosing the right equipment for your new system? Call, email, or chat with us today.

Our expert Advisors know the gear inside and out. Your Advisor can send specific Crutchfield pages to your screen, saving you a lot of browsing time. You'll get a shopping cart loaded up with everything you need for your new TV sound system.

Free lifetime tech support is included with your Crutchfield purchase.

I love helping others bring their passion of audio into their home!

Jane, Crutchfield Advisor

  • maggie from so. calif

    Posted on 5/18/2015

    Hi, please tell me the simplest way to increase the vol of my 12volt tv that I put in my motor home. What do I need to purchase. I have limited space in the vehicle . Appreciate your help. Thank you Maggie

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/19/2015

    Hi Maggie, good question. We'll probably need a bit more info about your system to respond. I've forwarded your question to our sales team for the best answer. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Jack from Anacortes, Wa

    Posted on 7/1/2015

    Hi Dave, This seems overwhelming to us as we are still using old anologue TV's and VHS tape's and DVD players! We want to upgrade our TV to a new flat screen and a DVD in our exercise room so that when on the treadmill or elliptical, use head phones and not have on external sound. Then, when wanting to use an exercise dvd to work out with, switch on speakers. We don't need a high end sound system for the exercise room but need the flexibility for head phones and external speakers. Also, wireless head phones would be nice if possible. Help!!!! Thanks jack

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/1/2015

    You're right, Jack, it can be overwhelming. I saw a friend's eyes glaze over recently as I tried to suggest ways to help him bring his home system into the 21st century. Because there are so many facets to your situation, I have forwarded your questions to our advisors. They should be contacting you shortly with some recommendations.

  • Fred from Oklahoma City

    Posted on 7/28/2015

    Hi Jack from Anacortes, The easy way to solve your needs is to buy a wireless headset. I bought a Sony wireless headset on eBay for less than $50. I wear hearing aids and my wife had to put up with the extra volume just so that I could hear the dialogue. The wireless headset proved to be a godsend for both of us. Plugging it into the TV does not affect the speaker volume for her and if she mutes the speakers it does not affect my headset, as It has its own off and on switch and volume control. Comes with Transmitter and charging station.

  • Ann from Livermore

    Posted on 9/5/2015

    I was looking for a solution too competing noise from another tv. I have two tv's relatively close to each other they are a room apart but the sound has a straight shot. To fix this I wanted to get a speaker of some type put it near where I sit. I am back always and i have sort of a corner that I am In. This would give me sound and I could turn off the sound on the tv. I have looked at blue tooth speaker, anything wireless will do. I have a relatively new Visio 64" tv. I believe it has blue tooth capability. Non of the speaker seem to say compatability with the tv. I can send u a pictures of my plugs. The tv is using dish network. Help

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/7/2015

    Ann, I sent your question to our sales team for the best answer. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Dave from Stockton

    Posted on 12/2/2015

    Hi. We just bought a Westinghouse WD32HX1120 flat screen tv. Picture is great, sound is terrible! The tiny speakers are on the BOTTOM and even with the volume at max is can't be heard across the room. I wanted to hook up external speakers but there are no "audio output" RCA-jacks that I know of on the tv. (BTW the "manual" is awful! No info there...) So - I was wondering if I can hook up a pair of small external "computer " speakers (powered) and plug them into the "headphone" jack on the tv w/out frying anything. Will that work? Just wanted to ask before potentially frying something. Thanks.

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/3/2015

    That should work just fine, Dave.

  • Loyd from San Antonio

    Posted on 2/9/2016

    Yes, we have a small Spa. In the sitting area we have located our flat screen TV that is streaming a beautiful water fall along with music that we have programed on a lap top in the office behind the TV. Now we realize that we need two speakers that will go into two separate rooms. Should we try to run wires from the TV to a receiver and then on to the extra speakers, or should we or can we power them from the small lap top. We realize that the extra speakers will need to be wired.

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/10/2016

    Loyd, I sent your question to our sales team for the best answer. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Eric from Kyle, TX

    Posted on 3/28/2016

    Maggie, if your RV TV has the tiny headphone jack (or a pair of RCA jacks you can adapt to a single stereo headphone jack), you can plug the other end of the audio cable into the BOSE Soundlink MINI and use that as an external speaker. Set the BOSE's volume to MAX and then use your TV remote to manage loudness from the TV. It's cordless (power) and rechargeable, but it can also sit on the charging cradle for continuous use. It is the best sounding little speaker I've found for the money. Big sound, nice bass thump too!

  • John Liggett from Sapphire

    Posted on 5/22/2016

    We have a 32" Samsung LED TV (model # UN32D4000). The speakers are in the back of the TV and output is 10W. The TV is located in a recess in a wall cabinet and the sound SUFFERS. We have to turn up the volume to mid 50s to hear it. We have a set of Yamaha speakers that came with our stereo system. Can I plug these into the TV?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/23/2016

    John, Like most newer TVs, your Samsung doesn't have a direct connection for external speakers. It does have a minijack audio output and an optical digital audio output, either of which can be fed into most home theater or stereo receivers. So if you power your Yamaha speakers with your stereo system, you should be able to plug one of your TV's audio outputs into your system's receiver to play TV sound. If the stereo system is no longer around, and your speakers are not self-powered, you'll need to get a receiver or amplifier to power them. Otherwise, there's no way to directly connect them to the TV.

  • Tom from Brooklyn NY

    Posted on 5/24/2016

    I'm trying to connect a slightly old (8 years) Bose Sounddock Series II to my Samsung 32 LED -- I have the optical cable plus adaptor, but the two units don't seem to talk to each other. Any ideas?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/25/2016

    Tom, the only thing that comes to mind is to be sure that in your TV's sound menu, the digital audio output setting is set to PCM audio, not bitstream (if your TV offers this option). If you purchased your gear from Crutchfield, you can always give our techs a shout.

  • Paul from Walton on Thames

    Posted on 7/27/2016

    It is so simple. Just two pieces of cardboard folded to deflect the sound forward instead of downwards. Every TV i know of has the speakers facing DOWN!!!! Paul

  • Carol from Round Rock

    Posted on 8/24/2016

    I have a Sony 42" flatscreen TV that I'd like to wallmount in my new home. I bought a nice sound system from Crutchfield and was wondering if there was a way to wirelessly hook up the sound system to my TV?

  • Matt from Germantown

    Posted on 8/27/2016

    Dave, I have a Vizio E550iB2 TV. When I'm exercising on my elliptical machine across the room, I need to crank up the volume. This disturbs the people in the other parts of the house. I have a Bose Bluetooth speaker. Is there a way I could hook the Bose wirelessly to the TV so the speaker can be close to the elliptical and I can keep the volume down? Thanks. Matt

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/29/2016

    Hi Carol, depending on which model Sony TV you have you may some some wireless connectivity options. Please give one of our Advisors a call and they can help you choose the best equipment for your system.

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/29/2016

    Matt, there aren't any wireless options for connecting your Bose speaker to your TV. However, if your speaker has an aux input, you can connect it to the TV with a stereo mini-to-RCA cable. That will let you play the audio from the TV through the Bose speaker, and will sound much better for you!

  • David Crosby from Toney

    Posted on 9/18/2016

    Would it hurt the tv to take the back off the tv and wire directly to the tv speakers (or just use the tv speakers wires) and run the tv to a stereo auxiliary input jack so the volume can be controlled by the tv.

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/19/2016

    David, I don't advise modifying the TV wiring. If you're looking for a way to get variable TV volume, give one of our Advisors a call. They'll be able to find the right solution for your specific equipment.

  • Zii from Sarasota

    Posted on 11/21/2016

    I have a 2.1 small sub. The left speaker output is unfortunately dead. I would still like to use the sub alone, though. How can I hook up ONLY the sub to my TV or monitor, without losing the sound from the embedded speakers? (By embedded, I mean the TV's own speakers) Can this be done at all? Thank you.

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/22/2016

    Hi Zii, I'll need to know the make and model of the subwoofer and TV that you're using to know whether it will work or not. Feel free to give us a call with the specifics of your gear, and we can see what options are available for you.

  • Max from Grass Valley

    Posted on 6/6/2017

    Hi, I'm starting life over again as a single and lost my entertainment center and tech support in the split. I now have have a fairly new Vizio Smart TV which has the usual terrible sound although I have hooked up some older Logitech speakers which helped a bit-although they echo if I don't mute the TV while using them. My problem is that, along with the poor TV sound, I no longer have a Blue Ray/DVD player, or a CD player for my large collection of music. As a baffled older woman I would like advice on creating a system that includes these as well as speakers that would project my music throughout the downstairs of my house. Since I know nothing about all of the new wireless speaker technologies I would like an efficient and cost effective solution that would fast forward me into this century. Thank you so much for your consideration.

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/6/2017

    Hi Max, thanks for reaching out. We're happy to help with all of your questions. I've passed your note on to our Advisor group, who will reach out to discuss equipment options with you.

  • Ernest from Raleigh, NC

    Posted on 10/17/2017

    I'm looking to get a new TV for Christmas. For some reason, the current crop continues to push the visual resolution even further beyond human perception and adding even more useless streaming services. And yet, to get surround sound I have to by a separate system, most like have wires running across the floor and deal with two remotes. Are any manufacturers going to catch a clue and take my money for a package that will include a decent TV with wireless remote speakers? Do any of them realize that there is a large market of people in apartments that would like to have a TV with surround sound, but without the complication of a truckload of electronics and a rats nets of wires? 10W is enough sound power. . .because who wants the neighbors complaining?, and it's not like we're in a concert hall. Where is the consumer grade smartTV with built in wireless surround sound?

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