At the CES Line Show in New York City earlier this week, I visited with Mitsubishi. As expected, they had some large stories to tell, including their 82″ DLP rear projection HDTV that they claim is the largest 3D-ready TV on the market (shipping in July). And they were showing their LaserVue rear projection sets as well. But the demo that really caught my eye — or make that my ear — was the new line of Unisen LCD TVs with Mitsubishi’s new 16-speaker sound technology.
I don’t think I’ll get much of an argument when I say that the speaker systems of most flat panel televisions are pretty poor. The sound is flat, and you get little support for the lower frequencies. One solution is to get a separate home theater sound system — which can be reasonably priced these days — but that means more boxes and more wires and more clutter.
Mitsubishi’s solution is to put an array of small drivers along the bottom edge of the LCD panel. This takes up less space than larger speakers, and has some additional benefits. Working together, the array can create a much larger and dispersed sound than the typical stereo pair of speakers. (I play in a band that uses the Bose L1 portable array sound systems, and I’m a believer in arrays of small speakers.) According to Mitsubishi, the array design also lets them use psychoacoustics to “place” the sound where they want, creating a surround sound experience that comes close to a separate speaker system, but using the single array of speakers on the television. And they even include volume level support for a sub-woofer if you want more low-range response. A calibration microphone makes it easy to adjust the system to match the specific requirements of your room.
In the demo, the difference between this and a major brand competing product was dramatic. The Unisen sound enveloped me, and even without a sub-woofer, it clearly had a richer range than the competitor. Mitsubishi makes premium-priced products, but this is one feature that offers a clear advantage. If you’re not going to use a separate sound system with your large flat screen, it may well be worth spending the extra on one of these Mitsubishi sets.