Picture quality has historically always been the most important characteristic of a TV. It doesn't matter if you're a movie enthusiast or a sports fan; image quality is the first priority when choosing a TV. However, no home entertainment system can deliver an extraordinary experience without proper sound quality. Just like in a movie theater or a stadium, sound plays an important role in immersing the audience in the action. Although TVs don't have the most complete sound systems, there has been significant progress in that area. Modern TVs can get loud, have decent bass, and deliver clear and intelligible dialogue. If, however, you want the best sound to accompany your great TV, we suggest that you buy a dedicated sound system or a soundbar (see our recommendations for the best soundbars).
The LG E9 OLED is the best sounding TV we've tested so far. It can get fairly loud thanks to its embedded soundbar and can deliver a good amount of body and punch to its bass. However, there's no thump or rumble so it can't deliver the experience of a movie theater. Dialogue, however, is clear and understandable even at higher volumes, which is great for open spaces. Like all OLEDs, it has excellent picture quality with wide viewing angles. It delivers perfect blacks in a dark room, so watching movies is a remarkable experience. HDR content is displayed full of rich, saturated colors and highlights that pop, thanks to the wide color gamut and good HDR peak brightness. Motion handling is excellent thanks to the nearly instantaneous response time, and gamers will appreciate the remarkably low input lag and support for HDMI Forum variable refresh rate for nearly tear-free gaming experiences.
Unfortunately, just like all OLEDs, this TV has the risk of temporary image retention and permanent burn-in. It's unlikely that this will be an issue for most people who watch normal, varied content, though. The TV is equipped with support for HDMI 2.1 which currently doesn't add much but makes the TV future-proof.
Overall, it's a remarkable TV delivers excellent performance and good sound quality.
If you like the performance of the LG E9 OLED but want to spend less and get similar overall performance with similar sound quality, then check out the LG C9. This TV doesn't have a premium design like the other LG, but it's still a remarkable TV and delivers excellent picture quality. Its stand is designed to direct the sound out of the front towards the audience and has a decent overall sound quality. It delivers clear and well-balanced dialogue and can get fairly loud, but just like most TVs, it can't deliver good sub-bass, so it lacks thump or rumble, often found in movies and video game effects.
For the best sounding TV, get the E9; otherwise, the C9 will cost you less and will deliver similar overall performance.
If you're concerned about the risks of image retention or permanent burn-in on OLED TVs, then you should go with the Samsung Q80/Q80R, the best sounding LED TV we've tested so far. It has a decent sounding frequency response, though it doesn't have enough bass to produce a rumbling sound. Dialogue sounds clear and there's very little distortion, even when playing at a loud volume.
On top of having a decent sound reproduction, this TV can also deliver a stunning picture quality. With the help of its local dimming feature, its VA panel has an impressive contrast ratio to produce deep blacks when viewed in the dark. It is, however, lower than most TVs with the same type of panel. This is largely due to its 'Ultra Viewing Angle', which improves viewing angles at the cost of contrast ratio. Motion handling is outstanding, and the TV's input lag is also remarkably low to provide a responsive gaming experience. There's support for FreeSync variable refresh rate and it has an 'Auto Low Latency Mode', which triggers automatically when a game is launched from a compatible console such as the Xbox One, saving you the trouble of having to change picture mode each time.
If you want the best sound without adding a soundbar to your setup, consider this TV.
If you have a limited budget, then go with the Vizio P Series Quantum X 2019. Its frequency response isn't as good as the Samsung Q80/Q80R QLED's, but it can get extremely loud with very little distortion. This TV also uses a VA panel with exceptional contrast ratio, but the most notable feature is the TV's incredible peak brightness, as it's able to make small specular highlights pop in HDR content. Unfortunately, like most VA panels, viewing angles are rather poor, so it isn't ideal for large rooms or if you tend to watch at an angle. Additionally, while input lag is low and the panel has a 120Hz refresh rate, there's no support for any variable refresh rate technology to reduce screen tearing.
Overall, the Samsung is a better sounding TV and has more features, but if cost is a concern, the Vizio is a great alternative.
The best sounding TV in the budget category is the Samsung RU7100. You won't get the perfect blacks you'll get on an OLED or the brightness you'll find on LEDs. This is a good TV overall, with decent picture quality. It has a high native contrast ratio and can deliver deep blacks in a dark room, but lacks a local dimming feature to further improve the quality. It can't get very bright and it's more suitable for an average lit room. It has a remarkably low input lag, great for gaming, but motion isn't as crisp as on higher-end models which might disappoint sports fans. This TV has decent sound quality, can get fairly loud, and will be okay for most uses. Unfortunately, just like most TVs, it lacks thump or rumble in the sub-bass range and a bit of punch and body to its bass. On the upside, dialogue is well-balanced and clear.
Unfortunately, this TV has poor viewing angles and you have to sit straight in front to enjoy the most accurate picture, so it isn't your best choice for watching the big game with a group of friends.
Overall, it's a good TV for most uses and delivers decent sound quality.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best sounding TVs to buy for most people with different tastes. We factor in the price (a cheaper TV wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), and availability (no TVs that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to do the work of choosing yourself, here is the list of all our reviews of TVs with their sound performance. Be careful not to get too caught up in the details. While no TV is perfect, most TVs are great enough to please almost everyone, and the differences are often not noticeable unless you really look for them. Keep in mind that no TV can deliver the sound quality of a dedicated sound system or a soundbar.
02/26/2020: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
01/06/2020: Replaced the LG E8 OLED with the LG E9 OLED and the LG C8 OLED with the LG C9 OLED and changed some text to enhance clarity.
10/31/2019: Replaced Vizio P Series Quantum 2018 with Vizio P Series Quantum X 2019, the Samsung NU6900 with the Samsung RU7100, and made changes to text for clarity.