How To Improve My Television's Sound for Dialogue?

Good Questions

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Q: I really enjoyed your roundup of televisions in small spaces, as I live in a pretty small downtown apartment myself where I have just enough room to keep a small hand-me-down 32" flatscreen for Netflix. But even though my apartment is small, I sometimes have a hard time hearing movie and TV show dialogue clearly from the built-in speakers. Is there any way to help boost the volume so I can hear what people are saying without spending too much money?

Sent by Ellen

Editor: Here's an easy and free trick which may help boost volume overall audio (including dialogue) from smaller speakers: position the television in the corner of a room with two walls on each side. This creates an effect similar to cupping your smartphone speakers in the hands, amplifying and directing sounds more directly toward your ears.

Admittedly, this isn't going to necessarily fix/aid when 5.1 surround-sound audio is downsampled to two tiny built-in television speakers. If your set has audio customization controls, sometimes simply lowering the bass settings and/or setting audio to an appropriate source mode (sports, movies, TV shows) can help process sounds for improved clarity, often muddied by bass engineered for a 5.1+ speaker system.


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Because space is a concern, it's probably unlikely you can accommodate for a full 5.1 audio system. And because your screen is modest in size, I'm guessing you don't necessarily want to spend more money than what your TV is worth. This is where small space friendly soundbar speakers are advisable. The Wirecutter recently rated the Sony HTCT260 Sound Bar as their best "budget" pick, but at nearly $300, it's not exactly cheap. Budget brand Vizio offers a $185 soundbar with a with a wireless subwoofer and solid reviews, which can also be found for under a $100 used in the Amazon Marketplace. Any soundbar will sound 1000% better than built-in TV speakers, so regardless of budget, whether new or user, consider supplementing your television with an external speaker.


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(Image: Mark's Shanghai Style; Vizio)

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