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Sony-A8F-2-768×512In this preview from our upcoming Source Book, longtime industry veteran Gordon Shackelford takes us through the process of choosing a new television…

How to buy a TV

Looking for a new television just isn’t as simple as it should be. The jargon of television specifications on its own is enough to intimidate almost anyone. Current models come in all kinds of sizes, with many features and price points. We will endeavor to provide you a framework by which to make your choice for a new TV as well-informed as possible.

How big?
The first thought that crosses the television buyer’s mind is “How big of a TV do I want and how much will it cost?” In 1983 the standard size of the typical television was 25 inches.  Research reveals that number is now in the 55 to 65-inch range. These large sets are selling at prices much smaller TVs were selling for just a few years ago. Today a 65-inch television from a name brand manufacturer can be had for around $2,000.

Families debate TV size endlessly. We have a saying, “There’s no such thing as a TV that is too big.” Families today are definitely embracing the larger end of the TV spectrum.

Samsung-TheFrameTV-1Why buy a premium brand when there are so many really cheap TVs out there?
In 2018 there are all kinds of televisions sold in big-box stores under the names of previously iconic US brands. These TVs offer attractive pricing, but lack the video processing capabilities that make manufacturers like Sony, Samsung and LG so universally heralded. If the quality of your video experience is important to you, and it should be, cheaper televisions don’t make good images and can actually cause us fatigue as our brains strain to try to make the picture look right. Plus, there are some some cool cutting-edge models now available, such as he Frame TV from Samsung (shown at left), which lets you upload from a selection of digital images, so your set looks like a painting when not in use! You can’t go wrong with a TV from one of our premium brands.

HD or 4K?
What type of TV should I buy? We are currently living in the era of Ultra HD TVs often referred to as 4K. The prices of 4K TVs have fallen dramatically in the past few years, and given the advantages of 4K over HD TVs, 4K TVs are clearly recommended. HD TVs have about two million pixels displayed on their screens. This pixel density provides an amazing amount of detail to the viewer; but now with the advent of 4K, the number of pixels now being displayed is 8 million, four times the amount of information being shown by 1080P! The perceived difference in detail and color is truly dramatic. Seeing deeper blacks, vibrant color and the stunning sharpness of a 4K source on a good 4K TV is truly a fun and mind-expanding experience.

LG-OLED-TV-ThinIQWhat kind of 4K TV should you buy: LCD/LED or OLED?
There are basically two types of TVs to choose from: LCD/LED, and OLED. Current LCD/LED TVs have several LED backlighting schemes that illuminate the LCD pixels, and differentiate in various price points with the more complex backlighting systems performing better and costing more.  OLED TVs use a pixel by pixel display, a technology that doesn’t use any backlighting at all, as each pixel brightens and dims individually.

Here are the pros and cons of each type of set: LCD/LED TV  sets are not as thin as OLEDs, but not by much. LEDs are brighter than OLEDs, but barely. OLEDs have deeper blacks as each pixel can be turned completely off, while LCDs can only dim their pixels but can still make outstanding black levels. These factors result in OLEDs having better contrast ratios, but LCDs with HDR have brighter colors. HDR (High Dynamic Range) dramatically increases the contrast and color saturation range of the image displayed. We feel that HDR is a must-have feature for any 4K TV purchase as the “pop” it adds to the picture is amazing.

Why you need to come in and see for yourself
In discussing a TV purchase we have established that the first considerations are size and price. Which brand and which type of TV should you purchase? As we’ve shown there are compelling arguments to be made for each type of TV. The interesting thing about current TV technologies is that all of them have passionate advocates. Some people tend to strongly prefer LCD/LED TVs, while others cast just as strong a vote for OLED.  We recommend that you come into Listen Up and take a guided tour of these types of televisions and their technologies and features, and decide which TV gives you the experience you would most like to take home. The quality of these televisions is so similar that personal experience of each type of display is critical to making an informed decision … trust your own eyes.

modern-design-theater-653pxDo I need a surround sound system or sound bar with my 4K TV?
A point regarding all modern televisions is the sound quality that each of these sets provide. Compared to the incredible strides made with the current video quality of our TVs, the audio output of even the best of these sets is noticeably lacking. The simple physics of modern television cabinet design makes really good sound quality from the stereo speakers in these sets nearly impossible. Almost every source we currently feed our TVs is some kind of surround sound, mostly Dolby Digital. In these sets the surround sound signal is often down converted to two-channel stereo which makes the dialogue in particular very hard to hear. We do not recommend spending extra money on any TV that charges a premium for enhanced sound, you most likely will find that even enhanced audio televisions are unacceptable to you.

Our recommendation is to use an auxiliary sound system of some type. Consider a full-blown surround setup or a sound bar. Both of these systems can provide the audio precision and dynamic range that internal TV speakers cannot match. Surround sound systems typically involve a receiver and between 3 to 11 speakers with a separate subwoofer. They are high performance and can bring a higher dimension of enjoyment to your audio visual experience. Of special interest are the new Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro 3D surround sound formats, which utilize height channels to provide a three-dimensional soundfield and thoroughly immerse you in all the action. Outboard speakers all around provide the best sound quality, but if you’d rather have less equipment taking up your living space, we have awesome in-wall and in-ceiling speakers whose performance has dramatically improved over the past few years. We are experts at attractively integrating your system  into your lifestyle and décor.

Sound bars are typically one unit that mounts under the TV and often include a separate wireless subwoofer. Sound bars are less expensive, compact and don’t take up much real estate. If you choose to go the sound bar route, be sure that the one you choose has a separate volume adjustment for the center dialogue channel. The dialogue channel is how you hear what is being said during a film or program, and having the ability to control the volume and tone of the voices coming from your speaker can make the difference between clearly hearing what people are saying or straining to understand voices, especially when other sound effects or music are present. Whether you go with a full surround system or a sound bar, auxiliary sound systems are recommended, and you might consider factoring one into your TV buying budget.