Does Your TV Sound Bad? Upgrade Your Audio and Never Look Back
I will be the first to admit that I have a problem: I don't like watching TV at most of my friends' homes. It just sounds too terrible. It's my own fault. Years ago I decided to invest in a nice A/V receiver and a decent set of speakers, and now I can't sit through watching a movie on a TV if the only way I am going to hear sound is through the TV itself. It just sounds like tin cans to me. Trust me, once you upgrade your TVs audio, you'll never want to go back, either. The good news is, this is the best time of year to find great prices on audio.
There are a number of different directions you can go with this, from not-too-expensive to a bit more out of pocket than you might like, but the upside is that most audio gear will last for years, unlike other tech gear that needs constant upgrading. In fact, I've had my current set up for over ten years and it still works great. Let's look at the options.
Soundbars are Good Starters
If you're nervous about buying a lot of separate audio gear, you might want to make it easy on yourself and go with a decent soundbar system. These are all-in-one systems that generally include a soundbar, a subwoofer, and built-in amplifiers, so all you need to do is connect it to your TV or cable box.
Many of these soundbars also have wireless subwoofers and built-in Bluetooth, and they don't have to break the bank. Plenty of deals will be available on Black Friday. For example, this LG soundbar at Best Buy will drop to $119.99, and you'll see plenty of other deals throughout the season, like this already deeply discounted Polk Soundbar at Adorama.
What to look for: Make sure it delivers good audio power, which is rated in wattage. 200-Watts total system power is a good starting point. Also, double check the audio connections. Some of the cheaper models don't have HDMI. This is not a deal breaker because many TVs still have optical connections, so just make sure to check your TV or cable set-top-box to make sure you have matching input/outputs.
Home Theater in a Box
If you want to get into surround sound but don't want to spend a ton, home theater in a box systems are a decent option. These all-in-one packages include a surround sound receiver and a 5.1 speaker package, which includes five speakers and a subwoofer. They can go for prices as low as $200 to $250, such as this Onkyo HT-S3800 5.1 Channel Home Theater Package for $248, currently. And we've seen it go as low as $200. These packages will also often include the speaker wire you need to connect the speakers.
The drawbacks of the lowest price versions of these are that they don't always include the top-of-the-line receivers or speakers, but only very basic stuff. For example, the speaker wire connections will use spring clips instead of the more desirable gold-plated binding posts. However, if you're planning on just buying and using a system like this with no plans to upgrade parts of it later, this may not really matter to you.
What to look for: Make sure you are getting everything you need. Some companies will call just a speaker set "home theater in a box." But that's incomplete if you don't already have a receiver. Also, check the number of connections the receiver offers. Make sure you have enough HDMI inputs to match the number of devices you need to connect. It's also a good idea to check reviews to see how other people rate the sound quality.
While at first this seems the more expensive way to go, and that can be true, this could be your best option in the long run and give you the best bang for your buck. Buying an A/V receiver and speakers separately allows you to match the receiver you want with the speakers you want and leave room to upgrade the different parts later, if you need to. After all, if you upgrade to a new receiver to include new technology, it doesn't mean you'll need to ditch your speakers, too.
Buying audio separately also lets you ease into home audio, as well. For example, you could get a surround sound receiver and simply add two speakers instead of a full surround sound configuration, saving you a bit of money, but leaving the option to add to it later. We see deals on speakers all the time. You could match this Yamaha Receiver for $280 to these Polk bookshelf speakers for $50, giving you a good audio package for under $350.
What to look for: Again, make sure the receiver has the connection you need for all your devices. Also, don't worry about it having WiFi or Bluetooth if you have devices like an Apple TV that already support wireless streaming. While receivers with wireless tech are nice, sometimes you're paying for redundancy. When it comes to speakers, just make sure that whatever you buy matches the power rating of the receiver. If you buy a receiver that can output 100 watts per channel, make sure your speakers can handle it.