Compared to the big, bulky TV sets of old, modern flat-screen TVs offer bigger, clearer, higher-definition screens and are so lightweight that you can hang them on the wall; however, where they lose out to older sets is the sound.

As they do not have that big wooden box housing the speakers, most modern TVs tend to have a quite weak sound. This means you might struggle to hear dialogue, or find that music and sound effects overwhelm speech.

What can you do? The answer is external speakers in the form of either a surround sound system or a soundbar, but which is best?

Day-to-day TV viewing

For everyday TV use, most home automation companies will recommend you go for a soundbar. These have the advantage of being compact and are easy to connect, usually with just one cable.

A soundbar will have a number of speakers combined in a single box designed to sit in front of or under the TV. Some may have a separate sub-woofer to give the better bass response. They will usually have a number of pre-programmed modes designed to optimise the listening experience for different things, such as music or movies. Adding a soundbar is the best way to improve your TV listening experience with minimal effort and cost.

Movie viewing

If you are fond of watching movies and want to create a true home cinema experience, Digital interiors specialists in home automation are likely to recommend a multi-speaker system.

These have a sub-woofer and a number of satellite speakers. A 5.1 system, for example, will have a sub-woofer plus five satellites. This allows you to have three speakers in front and two behind, giving a surround sound experience. Most day-to-day TV is broadcast in stereo; therefore, you will only get the full effect when watching films on Blu-ray or DVD, which are recorded with true multi-channel audio.
The drawback of this type of set-up is that lots of speakers involve lots of cables. Achieving a neat installation, therefore, takes a bit of work. Wireless systems are becoming available; however, you still need to deliver power to the satellites, so there are still some cables involved.

Which type of system is best for you really depends on the type of TV you watch.