TV sound: delivering audio quality when the bezel has vanished

January 13, 2014 // By James Lewis, Redux Labs
When it comes to a TV is it all about the look or the sound? If we’re going to shrink the bezel, as current design trends dictate, we need to apply engineering to more than just structural integrity.

A TV’s aesthetics are clearly vital; the success of Apple demonstrates that market dominance comes as much (if not more) from Sir Jonathan Ive’s stunning designs as it has from any technological advantages of the company's products.

As such, the TV bezel has begun shrinking, with companies such as Samsung and LG bringing out large format TVs with very little bezel. LG’s rather beautiful LM8600 LCD TV, for example, (Figure 1) has just a 1-mm bezel.

But the story doesn’t end here as a small bezel means very little space for speakers. And this leads to a range of compromises: either tiny speakers, or speakers embedded into the rear of the TV, or an additional sound-bar, which sits in front of the TV – ruining the aesthetics that the purchaser has paid a premium for. None of these alternatives is good news for consumers.

Fig 1: LG’s stunning LM8600 – CNET described its bezel as “impossibly thin”.

The importance of audio

Audio is, aurguably, the most vital part of the viewing experience. Indeed, film production courses regularly state that audio quality is more important than image quality and, as the Production 101 film course states: “studies show that while people will tolerate the worst quality video images, they will not watch programs that have poor quality audio.” You have only to watch YouTube to know this is true.

Despite this, the importance of audio quality isn’t always recognised by the electronics industry. A good example of this comes from TV teardowns that examine the LCD / LED displays, the connectivity, the 3D system, the software… but not the speakers – see iSuppli’s 2011 teardown of the LG 50PZ950 for a good example.

Small speakers

As anyone who has been seated in a public area near (almost invariably) a group of teenagers playing songs from their phones will know, small speakers deliver an appalling audio quality.

And, while television speakers will