Q: In your review of the 55-inch TCL 5 Series 4K Roku TV, you didn't rate its sound quality. I have read that some folks end up using aftermarket speakers for their TVs because of poor sound. How is the TCL's sound?
A: I don't know of any flat-panel television that has great sound from the built-in speakers. I am happy to report the TCL 5 Series TV (tclusa.com) has passable sound, and while using it to watch movies in a midsize room, everyone was able to hear clearly. The dialogue — the thing that often suffers with lesser speakers — was audible, too.
That being said, I always recommend using a soundbar with any modern television, and the TCL 5 Series is no exception. Not only will a soundbar make dialogue easier to hear, it will provide richer, better-nuanced, more wide-ranging sound to complete the home entertainment experience. You always can try it without a soundbar first, and, depending on the room's acoustics and your hearing, you might discover that you're satisfied without one. But as George Lucas said, "Sound is half the picture."
In the few weeks that have passed since I first reviewed the TCL 55-inch 5 Series TV, I have become even more enthusiastic about it. I gave one as a Christmas gift to my best friend and his family, and to say they are delighted with it is an understatement. When we set it up, a cute winter scene complete with falling snowflakes graced the screen. It's not just the overall quality and value of the TV that make it great, it is the thoughtful little touches like that winter scene that make it extra fun for the owner.
As they logged into their Netflix account they upgraded to 4K streaming. Watching "Thor: Ragnarok," the picture was sharp with a wide gamut of accurate, beautifully rendered colors. Occasionally there was some break up and pixelization, but that is a function of the streaming service and the internet connection, not the television.
Watching the TV again makes me excited to see what TCL has in store for the coming year. My personal wish is a 75-inch version. I'm hoping that I will see one at the Consumer Electronics Show next week.
A late addition
The Vibes High Fidelity Earplugs (discovervibes.com), selling for only $23.99, were an inadvertent and regrettable omission from my "best of" list last week.
Vibes reduce volume without changing the sonic character of the sound, making them perfect for attending loud concerts because they reduce the danger of hearing loss. At 115 decibels the exposure time before you risk hearing loss is less than 1 minute. For comparison, rock concerts have been measured at over 140 decibels; that's like standing next to a jet at takeoff.
Vibes are also useful when operating loud power equipment. Using these earplugs now could be the difference between needing a hearing aid or not later in life.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.