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Testing sound bars to improve TV audio quality

February 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Plenty of televisions have beautiful picture quality, but it's hard to find one with equally great sound.

If you're looking to upgrade your TV's audio without breaking the bank, a sound bar could be the answer just in time for Super Bowl Sunday.

Eyewitness News teamed up with Consumer Reports to test out the newest models that are relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and can really improve television audio. That should make watching the Super Bowl that much better.

Ted Tenthoff loves the picture on his TV, but not the sound quality.

"There's no depth to it. It was a dull, dull feature of the, of what was otherwise a really nice picture and a nice TV," said Tenthoff.

A simple audio upgrade with a sound bar made a huge difference.

"A good sound bar will give you clear highs, full midrange, and satisfying bass," said Consumer Reports Electronics Tester Elias Arias.

Consumer Reports tested 10 sound bars, ranging in price from $250 to $500. The sound bars are easily connected to a TV. There's no receiver and very few wires.

"The main speakers are actually inside the sound bar," said Arias. "The sound bar can then be mounted on a wall above the TV or placed below the TV."

You can skip the Sharp model HTSB-500. It delivered poor sound quality.

Testers recommend the top-rated Vizio model VHT510 for $330. It rates "very good" for sound quality and is easy to use. And it even comes with a wireless subwoofer and provides surround-sound with rear speakers.

For $80, consider the Vizio model VHT210. While it doesn't have rear speakers, it scored "very good" for sound quality and is also easy to use.

Either model can significantly improve your TV's audio.

Consumer Reports says another option to improve your TV's audio is a home-theater-in-a-box system, which start in the same price range as sound bars.

You do have to deal with a lot more gear: five speakers, a receiver and a subwoofer. But the payoff is even better audio quality.

Consumer Reports recommends the Onkyo HT-S3300 for $325.