It’s not just picture quality that separates the very best OLED TVs. An AV experience is only halfway there without the sound, and for the very best built-in sound right now, it has to be Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio+.
Acoustic Surface Audio+ is Sony’s name for its innovative solution to OLED TV sound. The eternal problem since the dawn of flatscreen TVs is how to get good audio performance when there’s precious little space for any decent sized speaker cabinets in that ever-decreasing wafer of TV?
Sony’s rethinking of the problem has been nothing short of revolutionary. Instead of trying to fit speakers into those tiny spaces and then apply better and better DSP, the approach of Acoustic Surface Audio+ is to turn the TV itself into the speaker.
As it turns out, this ‘sound from screen’ approach has more benefits than simply the quality of the audio. If you’re determined not to have a soundbar or other external speakers to help out your TV, then you should really consider going for a Sony (opens in new tab).
This is how Acoustic Surface Audio+ works and what it will do for you.
Acoustic Surface Audio+: sound from picture
The pinnacle of TV sound right now is Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio+. It’s the technology used in Sony OLED TVs (opens in new tab) to vibrate the glass panel of the TV and turn the screen into a speaker.
It does this by using rapidly moving actuators which are in direct contact with the screen. These actuators are sat in small aluminium baskets to improve their rigidity and that allows enough power and vibration to make the higher-end sounds.
Sony’s OLED TVs use a pair or even three actuators to create a stereo soundstage where dialogue and effects can all be carefully positioned and panned to give the feel of a home theatre experience. There’s also a Voice Zoom mode which amplifies human voices and comes in particularly useful when trying to focus in on dialogue in sonically busy scenes.
Quite amazingly, it’s all utterly invisible to the human eye, even at high volumes. It doesn't disturb the image whatsoever and yet it vibrates fast enough to create all the high frequency and midrange sounds required when watching TV and films. There are subwoofers behind the screen firing forwards for the low frequency portion of the audio.
There are several benefits here. The first is that the source of the sound is facing directly towards the place it needs to get to, i.e you and your ears. Most other TVs have speakers that are either down-firing from the bottom of the frame or rear-firing around the back. The sound from those then has to travel around the panel to get to your seating position and that can cause problems for sound quality with clarity and precision both suffering. It’s not unlike trying to listen to hi-fi speakers while sitting in the next door room. And, of course, the larger the TV, the further that sound has to travel, meaning the more compromised the audio it’s likely to be by the time it arrives.
As we often find in our Sony TV reviews, Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology avoids this problem and the results are that the sound is cleaner, crisper and more satisfying. What’s more, because the sound comes from the screen itself, just like in cinemas, it feels more intrinsically matched to the pictures that it’s supposed to come from and that adds to the sense of authenticity of the home theatre experience, whether that’s for games, films or TV viewing.
Even better with a Sony soundbar or AVR
Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio+ OLED TVs get even better when you add them into a home cinema speaker set-up.
It’s possible to turn the A80J (opens in new tab), A84J and A90J (opens in new tab) TVs into a centre speaker for dialogue and effects when connected to a 2021 Sony soundbar. Simply use the provided cable with the recently-launched Sony HT-A9 speaker system and What Hi-Fi? Award-winning HT-A7000 soundbar and switch your OLED TV to Center Speaker Sync. The idea is to keep that feeling and clarity of the words coming from the screen while getting more from the music, bass and other effects by outsourcing them to a dedicated external speaker.
The premium A90J (opens in new tab) takes things even further. Customers of Sony’s top OLED TV for the year will find speaker terminals on the rear of the set that allow it to be plugged directly into a home cinema amplifier and used as the centre channel of a 5.1 or bigger full surround sound package. That’s one less speaker to buy and one less box to try to squeeze in the space under your TV.
While we would always recommend adding a soundbar to a TV at the least, Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio+ is head and shoulders the next best thing. There are no other TV manufacturers which are as developed and effective on this front, and, if that’s what you want from your TV, then it’s a Sony OLED you’ll need to buy.
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