Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Why do people complain about sound on LCD TVs?

  1. Nov 10, 2011 #1


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'm looking for a 42" - 46" LED HDTV lately, and I keep looking at these TVs on sale that have incredibly low reviews and skipping over them. However, upon reading the "bad reviews" it seems everyone is saying "TV is fantastic, but the sound is bad."

    Here's just one TV for example:

    Well, no crap, the TV is an inch thick.

    It probably shouldn't even come with built-in speakers.

    All of these reviews are for the same TV and each review said how great the TV was, but how bad the sound was. None of these reviews gave higher than 3 out of 5 stars. The TV as a whole has 3.1 out of 5 stars, but very few people actually have anything bad to say about the TV! (http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Westing...1218325540178&skuId=2257682&slref=10&slloc=01)

    If I bought a new set of computer speakers I wouldn't give it a bad review for how awful the picture quality is. Or if I bought a new iPod dock I wouldn't complain about video latency.

    It reminds me of this comic from xkcd:

    Am I the only one getting frustrated with the product review system that most internet sites employ? The whole point of an aggregated score is so you don't have to read each review individually... which is what I'm forced to do anyway!
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 10, 2011 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Eventually you'll adjust your opinion of the general public.

    Then you'll still be amazed at how they can limbo under the bar.

    I almost never use reviews from the general public, unless the score is low for some reason. Then I check out the bad ones and find out if the reason is justified or not. Obviously not the most efficient way, but it has saved me a couple times when there was a valid concern, such as the product consistently falling apart after a short time.

    For TVs, I always start from scratch and make selections from my own criteria. Then I go to CNET, who is overly conservative, and compare that to the general public.
  4. Nov 10, 2011 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Usually I find highly-rated products and sort by "lowest review score" and read the biggest complaints. Usually it's morons ("this grill requires an igniter to start, I'll just use my stove, thanks for nothing" "this table required a screwdriver to build... WHICH IS NOT INCLUDED!").

    How can our species be so stupid, though? How can you make enough money to afford a big ole' LED HDTV and still say something like "The sound is criminal, its SO bad. Its the worst thing Ive ever heard."
  5. Nov 10, 2011 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    People want the best for nothing. Most don't understand what compromises are made to achieve a certain aspect of a product either.

    Then you have the fact that some people complain just to complain. A good example is what I experienced yesterday when dealing with the local water supply company. There were a lot of housewives in an uproar about not having water all night, ready to burn something down and full of speculative explanations. Since I understood the equipment, I decided to deal with the supplier directly, got the info I needed, and tried to give it back to said housewives. Some countered with their own uninformed third hand accounts, and some just took me as the new target.

    Next time I'll just let them squawk amongst themselves.
  6. Nov 10, 2011 #5


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Hmm, I don't even understand that situation. They were upset that they didn't have water. Invented their own explanations (to calm themselves?), rejected assistance, then targeted you? As part of the problem? Weren't you also a customer?
  7. Nov 10, 2011 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Mostly yes. I didn't realize that they were complaining just for something to do. I didn't become part of the SAME problem, but because I stepped in and suggested there was no reason to be flooding a supervisor with irate calls (while explaining what happened) I wasn't "on their side" and became a target.

    My point was that some people complain just for something to do.
  8. Nov 10, 2011 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Meh, sounds like a waste of time. Although, I'm complaining with this thread, I feel like the nature of it's different. I feel like I've identified an actual problem and I'm in the data-gathering stages.

    Maybe you should have to find the roots of a simple quadratic equation before you're allowed to post a review. Or maybe there could be some simple questions to answer: "What is the unit of sound pressure?" "What is the resolution of this television?" "What does RGB stand for?" "What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?"
  9. Nov 10, 2011 #8
  10. Nov 10, 2011 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I'd rate this clip 1 out of 5 stars.

    The dialog was shallow and full of uninsightfulnessity. The animation was adequately visible, but uninspiringly soft, almost as if one were viewing it in a smoke filled room. The aroma accompanying this video was also stale and putrid, as if one were viewing it in a crowded biker bar. This video needs a better wifi connection - how many times can a 5 second video pause while waiting to load more data?! On top of everything else, some jerk spilled beer on my keyboard while trying to view the video over my shoulder!! Plus, the sound quality on this clip was poor and weak, making it almost impossible to understand what he was saying - definitely needs more volume!
  11. Nov 10, 2011 #10


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Hah ha.

    Heh he.

    Hah ha ha ha!!

    I literally lol'd at this.

    You're killing me!

    Upon re-reading your post, I decided this (bold) was the funniest thing I've heard all day.

    EDIT: I wish you could use the "REPORT" button to report an awesome post.
  12. Nov 10, 2011 #11
    I have an LCD TV and I have no complaints about the sound quality. Isn't it possible the speakers are actually worse than the speakers on similar TVs?
  13. Nov 10, 2011 #12


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    And yet it does.

    Sound is a required component of TV-watching; the TV-watching experience does not happen without it.

    Unlike your other examples:
    If you are the type of person who hooks it up to your sound system and bypasses then more power to you. So you ignore the comments about sound.

    Why do you expect someone else to determine, in their review, what's not important to you in a TV?
  14. Nov 10, 2011 #13
    To be fair, your average person has no knowledge of how sound is produced or why it takes space to produce good sound.

    IMO, the real problem is that they are rating the sound as "absolutely" bad rather than "relatively bad", that is, relative to the competition.
  15. Nov 10, 2011 #14
    The only reason for buying an LCD is because they are cheap and, because they are a pretty mature technology, there just isn't that much difference in the picture quality between an expensive and cheap one these days. In particular the contrast sucks on LCDs making dark scenes problematic. If you want a better picture then you'll have to buy a different technology, so the reviewers are merely commenting on the other basic features of the models such as sound where real differences in quality can be found.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2011
  16. Nov 10, 2011 #15


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    This is not true. LCD TVs have their advantages over other technologies. Notably, they weigh less, are thinner, use less energy and get less hot.
  17. Nov 11, 2011 #16
    I think the problem with the perception of poor sound on LCD TVs has a few different sides to it.

    1) They don't have the proper equipment for a room. A great room, with a vaulted celing, and using the onboard speakers: they are going to suffer horribly. Conversely - perhaps a LCD tv sounds fine with the onboard speakers in a bedroom or small den. Location, location, location.

    2) Kind of feeding off of #1 is just the raw ignorance. You're buying a TV - not a theatre. Too many people are used to the 'all in one' experience from a television. Complaining about the sound, IMO, is like complaining that your desktop PC doesn't do anything (when not hooked up to a monitor). More people understand the need for periferials for a PC than a TV it seems. (or more directly - it's like using a PC without attached speakers, if you're fond of bloops and beeps then that may be ok...)

    3) Arrogance when buying a TV. There is a certain arrogance and resistance to being 'sold' additional equipment when buying a TV, but I can bet that the ads and encouragement was there to buy a sound system to go with it. I think there is a significant amount of resistance to listening to the boy in the blue shirt, so when he suggests that you need to buy this 5.1 system with your tv - the automatic answer is no ("I just came in here for a TV dang-nabit!". Many people need to come to realize their ignorance, above, on their own - else it doesn't have the same effect. But... this is again on dependant on #1.
  18. Nov 11, 2011 #17
    About 4 years ago, we bought a BrandX 47" tube TV. Our surround sound went on the fritz, but the speakers gave good rich sound, so it didn't bother us. A year ago we brought the same brand in LCD, 53" and put the other TV in the kids lounge room. The LCD definitely has less fullness at both ends of the sound scale, no matter how I try to adjust it.

    After having the LCD for 12 months, I think a) the cabinet doesn't have the depth for good resonance, and b) they're relying on people plugging it into a sound system if we want better quality.

    Sometimes we switch the surround sound on (the bass speaker is the only circuit that is still reliable) just to get a fuller sound. When we watch the same program in both rooms, the old tube TV unquestionably beats the LCD for sound.
  19. Nov 11, 2011 #18
    Sounds like a job for Bose :biggrin:
    Anyone who complains about the sound on an LCD TV simply has yet to be bedazzled by the wonders of liquid crystal technology @_@
  20. Nov 11, 2011 #19
    In the immortal words of Homer,

  21. Nov 11, 2011 #20

    The only major advantage for most people is they are cheaper. The difference in electricity, weight, heat, and thickness are all minor considerations at best for most people.
  22. Nov 11, 2011 #21
    I read somewhere that LCD screens contain some rare earth element, also found in solar arrays and hybrid car batteries. The writer said that, until a substitute was found, it made all such technologies ecologically expensive.
  23. Nov 11, 2011 #22


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Well, sure... but in my OP I mentioned that it's an LED TV. One of the defining characteristics is the lack of depth. I can't imagine there's a single LED-lit TV on the market (regardless of cost) that sounds better than a $20 set of computer speakers.

    Ugh, fine, Dave... I mean... you're right. Maybe my complaint is more about the scoring metrics. If you're talking about a TV where 97% of the R&D and materials cost is in the visual display component and 3% goes into sound, then you review should reflect a similar ratio; example:

    It's just frustrating. Usually you can go to Amazon for... uh... paper towels. Sort by ratings, and the best ones go to the top. But you can't do that with HDTVs because of the bleeping reviewers.

    I'd agree with that. Of course, they might have no measure of the competition so they only have a "relative sense" anyway. Further, they might be comparing it to an old tube TV with it's vast expanse of wasted space.

    The TVs I had looked at were mostly local-dimming... although, to be honest, in the Best Buy demo, I didn't see much of a difference. I have a fluorescent backlit LCD right now, and the blacks aren't that awful in general. If I had my choice, I'd grab a 42" plasma, but getting 1080p in a plasma is expensive... you basically pay by the pixel.

    I used to work at Best Buy when I was in high school, and I was a pretty helpful sales guy. We never worked on commission and I always mentioned that before pitching something else. I would offer a disclaimer like: "Great choice on the computer, I should let you know before we go any further that I don't work on commission, but I'd like to suggest a few other items for you. You can get a printer at a discounted rate today with your purchase, and you may like to snag some blank CDs while you're in the store; it sucks to be playing with your new toy only to have to keep running to the store."

    But I certainly remember people who were combative about the mere idea that they might enjoy something that DOESN'T come in the big brown box.

    Oh, for the love of... don't talk to an audiophile about Bose.

    Bose, while certainly better than common retail Sony, Yamaha, and KLH speakers, are basically a triumph of marketing over objective sound judgement. I have owned my share of Bose equipment for sure (all packed away or sold off now), but my in-ear monitors are Ultimate Ears, my iPod dock is Athena, my receiver is a Yamaha Aventage, my speakers are Paradigm, and my subwoofer is a Velodyne. My center channel speaker alone cost more than my current HDTV.


    DISCLAIMER: I do not have absurdly expensive cables or any nonsense like that. I've safely avoided the marketing hype that comes with idiot-audiophiles. I use regular 14-gauge wiring. I'd use lamp cord if it weren't so damned ugly.

    Yeah, unobtainium.
  24. Nov 11, 2011 #23
    You have forced me into research!! :tongue2:

    There are 5 rare-earth elements that I've learned are used in LED TV's, Hybrid cars, solar cells and other more recent consumer devices: Dysprosium, Lanthanum, Europium, Erbium and Neodymium. I also learned that rare-earth elements are perhaps not so rare. Although, one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_vehicle" [Broken] says: "Nearly all the rare earth elements in the world come from China,[43] and many analysts believe that an overall increase in Chinese electronics manufacturing will consume this entire supply by 2012." (Yes, I know it's Wiki and I should not believe everything I read.)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  25. Nov 11, 2011 #24


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Pfft... you can synthesize all of those elements with nothing more than a supernova, and there are more supernovae happening each day in the universe than there are human births...

    ... I assume.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  26. Nov 11, 2011 #25
    These days even horror films tend to avoid extremely dark scenes in order to compensate for the limitations of LCDs. Hence all the green and red ambient light sources frequently used to try and imply the scene is darker then it is. Its similar to the music industry using compression or whatever to insure their music sounds good over cheap speakers. Until OLED or Nanodots or whatever replaces LCDs as the best cheap view screen I don't expect it to be a serious problem for anyone.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook