When reviewing the latest flatscreen TVs, we, at Which?, nearly always take umbrage with their poor sound. Old CRT sets simply offered better audio quality, or at least that’s how we remembered it. So we decided put our own claim to the test; just to be sure.
In a unique snapshot test, we found that modern flatscreen TVs do indeed lag far behind the ‘big box’ CRT TVs in the sound stakes – however, the gap is starting to close.
TV reviews – our verdict on the latest LED, LCD and plasma sets
What’s wrong with TV sound?
While TV picture quality standards have risen steadily in recent years, modern TV sound quality has remained underwhelming. We put three CRT TVs through our 2013 sound quality test to see how they fared and then pitted them head-to-head against three of the best similarly-sized flatscreens we’ve tested for audio in 2013.
As you can see from our infographic, the older CRT TVs quite comfortably beat the flatscreens. We’ve converted the data to percentages so you can see the difference at a glance.
A 17-year old Nokia TV still sounded great
The Sony KV-28FD1E, one of the best TVs we’ve ever tested for audio, absolutely smashed our best sounding LCD of 2013, the B&O Beoplay V-40, in the head-to-head.
Samsung’s flagship UE40F8000 was easily outpeformed by the Nokia FB72B2 (yes, Nokia used to make TVs), and in fact this 17-year-old CRT TV beat all the flatscreens we selected.
Both the Nokia and the Sony CRTs scored highly for sound in their day, but we also threw in a curveball – the Philips 32W9309 was a great TV, but not among the best CRTs for sound.
Interestingly, the Sony KDL-47W805A was able to pip the Philips – just. The sound quality gap is closing, but the flatscreens still have a way to go yet to rival the CRTs.
Which? expert verdict – ‘suffering from poor audio? Get yourself a sound bar’
If TV audio technology improves, flatscreen TVs may one day have sound quality on the same level as CRTs – but you have to consider the practicalities. CRTs were hulking giants with oodles of space for great speakers, and that’s just not currently possible in a TV less than an inch thick.
While sound has got worse on modern TVs, we’ve gained in other areas – a 32-inch CRT could easily cost over £1,500, but now you can buy a 50-inch flatscreen for half that price. Sound bar or home cinema systems are available to improve your TV’s sound, often at affordable prices.
So, TVs don’t sound like they used to, but they don’t look like they used to, either – and you just try mounting a CRT on your wall and see how far you get…
Andrew Laughlin, Senior Researcher/Writer