You Asked: HTIB vs. soundbars, Sony’s 2024 lineup, and plasma upgrades

In this installment of You Asked, we’ll discuss home theater in a box versus a soundbar surround system. Also on tap: Should you upgrade from a plasma TV? And when will Sony’s new TV lineup drop? Plus, the most universally helpful TV advice I’ve ever given.

Home theater in a box vs. soundbar setup

The components of a Klipsch Cinema 1200 sound system.
Klipsch Cinema 1200 Digital Trends

Would you pick a home theater in a box or soundbar setup for around $1,000? And what brand and model would you recommend? I have an LG C2 and plenty of space for either. I mostly use it for movies, TV shows, and gaming.

Let’s use this question as a learning opportunity. I don’t actually know if you want to know what I would do, or if you’re just asking for my opinion on what I think you should do. See, what I would do might not be in your best interests. And since I don’t know what your best interests are, it’s hard to tell you what I think you should do. All I can do is give some really generic advice and hope it helps you somehow.

Most HTIB (or home theater in a box) systems that pair receivers with individual speakers and speaker wires have pretty good audio fidelity. What you don’t get is DSP-tuned output, but you do have the ability to put the speakers where you want and optimize your sound field. Also, with a receiver and speakers setup, you can upgrade the speakers down the road if you want.

But, speaking personally, I am nine out of 10 times going with a soundbar system. In this case, for under $1,000, I would get the Klipsch Cinema 1200 because that thing is under $800 now, and it was once double that. It is a seriously kick-ass system. It’s light on frilly features, but it will absolutely rock the living daylights out of your room. (Which, if you have neighbors, might not be a good thing.) The Klipsch Cinema 1200 is awesome. The Polk MagniFi Max AX is also worth a look, and JBL has one under $1,000 that should also be great for the money.

Upgrading from plasma

A backlit jar of amber liquid displayed on an LG C3 OLED.
LG C3 OLED Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

Vintagemxer9165 writes: Should I upgrade from my Panasonic plasma Viera 55-inch that is 12 to 15 years old and still going strong?

I don’t know if you should, but I know that I would. And I have. I have a Panasonic ST60 that has a moderate number of hours on it, but I know that its peak light output has gone down since I bought it. And while there’s something I still really love about the motion on that Panasonic Plasma, thanks to its subfield drive, it is inferior in just about every way to even midlevel QLED TVs today, let alone OLED TVs.

If it’s in the budget, I’d get a Samsung S89C or S90C OLED, an LG C3 OLED, or a Sony A80L OLED. The perfect blacks will be similar to what you have with your plasma, but their higher brightness, HDR processing capabilities, and increased color gamut should make you very glad you upgraded.

Rising TV prices

The pedestal base of a Samsung S95C OLED TV.
Samsung S95C OLED TV Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

Brownskinb5084 writes: Can you help me understand why Samsung is raising the prices on their TVs instead of them dropping?

Uh, yes. I will write a whole article on TV prices. But the short version is inflation. Everything is more expensive now. Materials, labor, logistics, all of it is more expensive. I think TV prices will go up across most manufacturers, except maybe TCL and Hisense.

Again, I’m going to do a whole post about this. But for those of you who are fans of this series, here’s a sneak peek at the takeaway: Buy a 2023 TV, and buy it now. This is perhaps the most universally helpful TV-buying advice I’ve ever given.

Single generation upgrades?

Joabruno: I own the Sony A95K. Is the picture quality substantial enough to justify upgrading to the A95L?

No. Keep your A95K. Some might argue that it is a more reliable TV and that the difference in picture quality is minimal.

2024 Sony TV lineup

The foot and bottom corner of a Sony A95L QD-OLED TV.
Sony A95L Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

Dan Marshall asks: When will Sony announce the 2024 lineup/pricing, and when will the embargo be lifted on your super-secret Sony spy meeting?

I would say you can expect to hear more in mid-April. I don’t know if pricing information will be available around then, but you will definitely be hearing some juicy Sony stuff around that time.

No golden ears needed

A closeup on a Sonos Src Soundbar on a media stand.
Sonos Arc Digital Trends

Mike Pedersen writes: I have a 25-year-old Bose Acoustimass 5.1 speaker system paired to a Yamaha receiver. Speakers are still working and sound great, but they are all I know. Would switching to a Sonos Arc with Era 100s and sub be an improvement? Will Dolby Atmos be that much of a difference? My Bose rears are wall-mounted toward the ceiling. I’m also considering the Samsung Q990D and Sony HT-A9.

All three of those systems will be a whole new world of audio for you. I think you would be shocked at the improvement. You don’t have to have golden ears to get it.

Keeping options open

The bottom bezel and logo of a Hisense U8K TV with a city skyline at night displayed.
Hisense U8K Chris Hagan / Digital Trends

Floyd Mara writes: I’ve never owned an OLED before, and I knew I wanted to upgrade to one this year. I had my mind made up with the Samsung S90C. Then I saw the Hisense U8K and the TCL QM87. Holy Cow! Those TVs are incredibly bright and ridiculously affordable! (My wife really likes the Hisense.) I honestly have no idea what TV to get now. About 98% of the content I watch is streamed from my Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. I mostly use YouTube and sports apps, Hulu and HBO for my wife. Once in a long while I’ll watch something on Blu-ray. I’m not a gamer, either. I guess I’m asking for a nudge in the right direction from a pro.

Floyd, sometimes we fall in love with the idea of a thing. And I know we talk about how amazing OLED TVs are here because, when you are a videophile or extremely picky about color accuracy and stuff like that, OLED delivers. But for the sheer wow and enjoyment factor, the Hisense U8K and TCL QM8 are amazing, and I think you’d love either one. Your wife likes the U8K, you say? I think you know what to do, sir.

Bipole and dipole speakers for balancing audio

Caleb Denison looking perplexed as he is seated between two speakers on stands.
Digital Trends

Aaron Rosenfeld writes: My living room is small, and the surround speakers are basically directly next to the left and right seats, so the balance is way off. The right seat only hears the right speaker, and vice versa. Would bipole or dipoles be a solution?

Aaron, I know exactly how this is. Dipole speakers might help a little. Bipole less so, but also helpful. What would really help is if you can elevate the speakers a few feet above your ear height as you sit. I realize that might not be an option, but when a speaker is right next to your head, just about any speaker is going to sound like it is right next to your head. The way your brain processes sound, there is little you can do to avoid awareness of the sound source’s location. And since a head is always going to be blocking the speaker from the other listener, that — plus the close proximity — is going to result in the experience you get today.

Dipole/bipole speakers will help, at least a little bit. But elevating a dipole or bipole speaker would probably help a whole lot more.

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