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Ask the expert about soundbars

Our experts answer members' questions.

Ask the Expert
Last updated: 01 April 2022


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Ask the Expert appears each month in CHOICE Magazine. Subscribers can write to our experts with their niggling questions. We'll publish a selection of these online for members.

Will a soundbar help the hard of hearing?

I am planning to upgrade my TV. A high priority for me is sound quality, in particular in relation to the spoken word. I suffer from hearing loss in the higher sound reaches. While I wear hearing aids these are only partially successful in helping me to distinguish conversation, particularly in wordy programs or where there is background noise.

I have a TV Dex which has a TOS Link connection to the TV and relays the sound direct to my hearing aids. This helps, but only partially. I have also tried using good quality over-ear earphones plugged directly into the TV. This is much more effective but it means having a cable dragging across the floor from the TV, and the earphones also become hot and uncomfortable after wearing them for very long.

I am wondering whether the addition of a soundbar would be helpful for me?

Members can log in below to read how CHOICE TV & soundbar expert Denis Gallagher answers this reader's question.

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Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.

CHOICE TV expert Denis Gallagher: First of all, don't be so sure that your six-year-old Samsung will be any worse than the latest and greatest TVs. The biggest change in the TV over the last several years has been the reduction in the case, which may lead to attractive thin screens, but also a lack of area within the TV to create good sound. I suggest visiting a store on a day that isn't too busy if possible, and asking to listen to a news broadcast or live broadcast on the TV you're interested in.

As for adding a soundbar, most soundbars will improve your listening experience over using the TV speakers. However, while the more expensive soundbars are now introducing a centre speaker setting which can help isolate voice, I recommend you go with a smaller, cheaper soundbar that scores well in our reviews, as these models tend to not over-deliver on the surround sound and are a lot clearer as far as vocals are concerned at the lower volume levels.

Our soundbar testing now includes a voice-only assessment. We listen to a radio interview broadcast with both male and female voices to determine overall clarity and any introduced white noise. These results will be included in our next soundbar update. Aside from this, our listening panel also comments on the vocal quality in our cinema (multi-channel) and stereo (music) content and will highlight the vocal quality if it's particularly good or particularly poor.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.