Playing Games With TV Speakers: You’re Doing it Wrong

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A GameFaq’s daily poll a few weeks ago took me aback. I know, I know, it’s GameFaq’s and it’s an internet poll. Basing an editorial on such an item seems cringe worthy, but I have little reason to suspect people answer these dishonestly in such numbers as to skew reality.

So here we are in the age of home theaters, 3DTV, HDTV, home servers, and who knows what else, yet you’re listening to games (or movies, or music) through your TV speakers. You’re doing it wrong, and I say that emphatically.

Maybe a 7.1 set-up isn’t for you, with burly floor speakers and 75-pound receiver. That’s fine and understandable. Maybe your residence wouldn’t be suited to a 5.1 set-up. Cool too. But, you have options. A decent pair of gaming headphones? Great. A sound bar? Awesome. A 2.1 set-up? Go for it. Your grandmothers vintage record player with AV inputs? Use it.

The difference sound makes is arguably more important than graphics, but since there’s little way to prove that in print or on the web, few choose to talk about it. That’s changing today.

You don’t have to spend a lot to receive even a basic upgrade. Scour a thrift store for late ’90s audio equipment and two basic speakers. You’ll come home with an immediately improved environment. Splurge on a pair of $100 headphones. The different will be instantaneous. Even if you purchased your Xbox 360, PS3, or Wii U at a massive discount, you can STILL do better on your budget than TV speakers.

It doesn’t matter what brand your TV is, or what the marketing stated: Your TV speakers are bottom of the barrel audio equipment. If you’re wondering why Halo 4 doesn’t sound like the revelation it is sonically, it’s because you’re using equipment that is barely certified to project audio. You can do better with an off-the-shelf boom box.

People under estimate what sound can do. In a multiplayer environment, players with calibrated audio and a 5.1 set-up have an advantage. People discuss HD, but even the highest end console shooter needs visuals rendered down to SD in order to function for everyone. That sound, that ability to hear people walking behind you or pick up on a shoot out in a specific direction, is something you cannot get from your TV. That’s a real advantage.

We’re coming up on tax return time in the US, and if you’re the type who plunked down $2,000 on a new TV but ignored the audio aspect, here’s a chance to rectify that situation. Go for it, and for the love of every audio designer on the planet, stop using the TV speakers. Please.