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Best TVs for sound: built-in sound systems worth listening to

(Image credit: Philips)

Too often with the best TVs, sound performance is left as an afterthought. But at least half of the enjoyment of anything you watch is derived from the audio – that’s why filmmakers put so much time and energy into making sure their movies sound just right. Listening with a sub-par speaker system is like drinking champagne from a styrofoam cup.

You could invest in a soundbar or full 5.1 surround sound system, but that will mean extra budget, and more research into which is worth buying, measuring up to make sure it’ll fit, checking which connections they have… It’s a lot of faff.

The alternative? You could buy one of these TVs which have superb sound systems as standard. They all come ready to rock and roll straight out of the box, with no work required on your part. They all sound fantastic, too, because their manufacturers realise the importance of decent audio – at least, on their flagship sets. You can be sure of the picture quality on these choice picks, too.

We’ve picked five of the best TVs available right now whose sound skills are more than a match for their picture performance. Whether it’s a Hollywood blockbuster or just back episodes of Gogglebox, these TVs will make sure that whatever you’re watching sounds as good as it can.

Keep in mind that we have Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday both coming up, so it may be a good time to buy one of these sets – or ones like it – at a reduced rate.

What to look out for

DTS:X and Dolby Atmos are the main home cinema audio formats. These rival technologies are both audio compression technologies that create a surround sound effect both in cinemas and in the home.

So which is better? Opinion is divided. DTS:X is encoded in a higher bitrate so should technically be better quality audio. But Atmos claims to be more advanced, and capable of producing a higher quality sound at a lower bitrate. As is often the case, it comes down to personal taste.

Atmos is more widely supported – by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, among others – and most modern TVs are compatible with it, whereas DTS:X requires a separate audio system.

Read more: DTS:X vs Dolby Atmos vs DTS Play-Fi

The Pansonic HZ2000 in a living room

(Image credit: Pansonic)

1. Panasonic HZ2000 4K OLED

A knockout OLED TV with a 140W Dolby Atmos speaker system

Screen sizes: 55-, 65-inch | Dolby Atmos: Yes | eARC: Yes | Panel technology: OLED

Universal HDR with Dolby Vision IQ
Dolby Atmos sound system
No HDMI 2.1
Hideously expensive

Panasonic owns the Technics audio brand (every DJ’s favourite), and it’s put that know-how to good use on this set. The built-in 360 Soundscape Pro sound system is tuned by Technics, providing Hi-Fi quality sound for all your films, games, TV shows and music content. Also onboard are front-firing upwards speakers to direct the sound more towards the viewer, rather than aimlessly spaffing it into the air.

The 140W configuration is identical to last year’s Panasonic GZ2000, apart from the Technics tuning. But that’s no bad thing.

Indeed, in our five-star review, we praised the HZ2000’s “genuinely immersive sound performance out of the box”, singling out the height and width of its soundstage as particularly deserving of mention.

Combined with Dolby Atmos audio tech, it makes for a truly immersive listening experience, and one of the best audio performances of any TV yet.

It’s a shame about the high price – as ever, though, you get what you pay for. Audiophiles, take note!

Read our full Panasonic HZ2000 TV review

(Image credit: Samsung)

2. Samsung Q90T/Q95T QLED TV

Samsung's flagship 4K TV goes big on location-based audio

Screen sizes: 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch | Dolby Atmos: No | eARC: Yes | Panel technology: QLED

Excellent picture quality
Very good sound quality
No Dolby Vision or Atmos
Aggressive backlight dimming

Some TVs shout about how loud their speakers go, or how many they have. But Samsung has done things a little differently with the Q90T/Q95T. Samsung has built eight speakers into the TV at different points, and rather than this being a pure numbers game, it’s made them all work together intelligently to follow the audio around the screen.

The technology is called Object Tracking Sound. The idea is that each speaker responds as the audio moves, just as pixels in the screen do as the image changes. This allows the sound to follow the action on-screen, so as a helicopter flies overhead you’ll hear the audio’s spatial diffraction change dynamically. The result? A more immersive audio (and visual) experience, and all without the need for a pricey soundbar.

But that’s not the only audio trick up this telly’s sleeve. It also features Adaptive Sound and Active Voice Amplifier. The former adjusts the sound output depending on what you’re watching, so goings-on inside a stadium will sound very different to those in a car, say. Active Voice Amplifier enhances characters’ voices depending on the background noise in your room, so you can hear what they’re saying even over the noise of the vacuum. (If you’re vacuuming while watching TV, though, you’ll want to have a word with yourself.)

Read our full Samsung Q95T QLED TV review

(Image credit: Philips)

3. Philips OLED+935 TV

An OLED stunner with Bowers & Wilkins audio

Screen sizes: 48-, 55-, 65-inch | Dolby Atmos: Yes | eARC: Yes | Panel technology: OLED

Stellar audio performance
Four-sided Ambilight
Not the easiest TV to use
Android TV won’t suit everyone

This is part of Philips’ OLED+ range, which means it has a speaker enclosure made by legendary British hi-fi firm Bowers & Wilkins – and it’s been redesigned for even better audio performance.

The tweeter-on-top design – used in B&W’s high-end speakers – means the tweeter is kept separate from the speaker enclosure, eliminating interference from other speaker parts. Throw in four 50mm midrange drive units, a racetrack-style subwoofer unit, and twin upward-firing Dolby Atmos ‘Elevation’ units mounted on the top of the enclosure, and you’ve got a complete audio package.

It’s compatible with Dolby Atmos-encoded audio, and it will even up-mix non-Atmos multi-channel content too, giving older content three-dimensional immersion.

You can select different audio modes depending on how you place the TV, too. So whether it’s sitting on a TV cabinet, or wall-mounted, you can rest assured you’ll get the best possible sound quality.

The Philips OLED+935 certainly looks the part. The speaker enclosure takes design cues from B&W’s critically-acclaimed speaker range, with the tweeter grilles resembling those developed for B&W’s 800 Series Diamond range – while the bass enclosure is ported to the rear and uses Flowport technology, as developed by Bowers & Wilkins for its core loudspeakers. It’s essentially a hi-fi system that happens to have a TV attached – and an Ambilight TV at that!

(Image credit: Sony)

4. Sony A8H/A8 OLED TV

Good vibrations in Sony's Acoustic Audio tech

Screen sizes: 55-, 65-inch | Dolby Atmos: Yes | eARC: Yes | Panel technology: OLED

Ultra-wide viewing angles
Bold, industrial design
No HDR10+ support
Sometimes fiddly operating system

Ever been watching something and noticed that the audio doesn’t quite match up to the actors’ lip movements? If so, you’ll know it’s very distracting, and that lip sync issues can really ruin your viewing experience. It makes what’s supposed to be a serious film look like a badly dubbed foreign TV import. Not good.

The Sony Bravia KD55A8BU does away with this. Instead of having speakers next to the screen, the screen is the speaker. Well, almost. An actuator behind the screen vibrates discreetly to create sound, so that the audio comes from the part of the image that it’s supposed to. Dialogue comes from actors’ mouths, engine noise comes from a car’s bonnet, and so on – which is much more effective than just pumping it all out through the speakers either side or below the screen.

Dialogue sounds clearer thanks to a feature called Voice Zoom (which, as the name suggests, is like zoom but for voices). There’s a subwoofer built into the rear of the TV, too, providing the bass rumbles.

Sony’s S-Force Front Surround tech up-converts your inputs, producing the virtual equivalent of a multi-surround speaker system, making the audio more immersive without crowding your lounge with speaker separates. Sony’s ambient optimisation tech adjusts the audio to match your room environment, too, so no matter where you place your TV, it’ll sound as good as possible. Music to our ears.

Read our full Sony A8H/A8 OLED TV review

(Image credit: LG)

5. LG CX OLED TV

One of the best OLEDs, with

Screen sizes: 48-, 55-, 65-, 77-inch | Dolby Atmos: Yes | eARC: Yes | Panel technology: OLED

Stellar picture quality
Strong gaming features
Heavy bass can distort
Missing UK catch-up apps

Let’s be clear – the most notable thing about the LG OLED48CX is that it’s the first 4K OLED TV under 50 inches. That's fantastic if you don’t have much room, but still want all the benefits of an OLED screen. Thankfully, its audio performance is also pretty noteworthy.

Dolby Atmos 3D audio comes as standard, so you can enjoy all manner of compatible content from the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Thanks to Auto Genre Selection, the processor will automatically determine what type of content you’re watching – be it sport, animation, movies or standard TV – and adjust the audio output accordingly. 

Using its AI Sound Pro feature, too, the TV identifies voices, effects and frequencies to optimise its output depending on the music genre. It’s able to do this by learning from more than 17 million sound data points – and tends to improve on its Atmos performance, given this feature was developed explicitly for this TV's speaker setup.

But the AI smarts don’t stop there. The AI algorithm can also up-mix two-channel sound to mimic 5.1 surround sound, putting you right in the middle of the action – again, all without the need for separate speakers. Through the remote control, the TV can also determine the size of your room, the position of your TV and where you’re sitting. The processor then tunes and balances the audio to fit the environment, giving you sound that’s fine-tuned to your lounge.

Read our full LG CX OLED TV review