Half the experience of watching a movie or playing a video game is the sound. Are you getting the full experience?
One thing is abundantly clear when comparing today’s TVs with those from only 1o years ago: TVs have gotten a lot thinner, and that leaves less room for speakers. To produce deep bass sounds you need a large driver, which won’t fit inside a thin TV. You also want the speakers to face you, but most TV speakers either face down or behind the TV. How do you think it would sound if every person talking to you was turned around and speaking in the opposite direction?
Sony currently makes two models that have front facing speakers, and they’re just about the only TVs on the planet with that feature. Notice how extra space has been provided behind the speakers.
The most common and convenient option to improve your sound is the sound bar (Samsung HW-K450 pictured). Sound bars are a horizontal array of speakers inside a single box designed to sit in front of, below, or above your TV. Not only will you have more speakers than your TV, but they will be higher quality and facing you. Expect the sound to be louder without the tin-can sound some TVs produce. Most models also come with a subwoofer so you can hear the low frequency bass sounds of movies and some TV shows. As a bonus, you can play music through your smartphone or other device through most sound bars.
Stereo System (2.0 or 2.1)
A stereo system consists of a receiver and speakers. The great thing about a stereo setup is that you get to choose the individual components. If you want a budget system, you can do that. If you want high fidelity speakers that accurately reproduce the sound as the audio producer meant it to sound, then you can have that too. These speakers are MUCH larger than any found in a sound bar.
The receiver acts as the brains of the unit and everything (TV, speakers, Blu-ray player, Xbox, PS4, etc) is connected to it.
For speakers you have a couple of choices: floor standing speakers (pictured above) and bookshelf speakers (about 1/3 the size). Floor standing speakers have larger drivers that can reproduce bass. Because bookshelf speakers are smaller, you may need to add a subwoofer if you want to hear the lower frequencies).
Surround Sound (5.1 and Beyond)
Surround sound gives you the full cinematic experience. You can buy it as a package (Onkyo HT-S5800 pictured), or build your own. Movies are filmed in surround sound and some TV programming is as well. If you aren’t watching something recorded in surround sound, then the system will function as a stereo 2.1 system.
One important thing to remember: the proper placement for surround speakers is to your side, not behind you. If you have a 7.1 system, then you will have what are called rear speakers. Those go behind you.