Can You Use a TV’s Built-in Speakers Without the Video?
With some TVs offering advanced audio capabilities, can you use only the speakers (no video) for a whole-house music system?
Such great speakers ... why not use them for whole-house audio?
May 02, 2009 by Julie Jacobson

These days, some TVs have pretty decent speakers built in. Is there a way to use those speakers for background music, without having to turn on the video?

In other words, is there such a thing as a “video mute” function?

Derek Cowburn of Distinctive Audio Visual Environments, a professional integration firm in McCordsville, Ind., asked us that very question. Not only did he want audio without video, he wanted rich control of said audio—a feature that his clients have been asking about.

Specifically, Cowburn requested:

A “video mute” that powers off all the video electronics and leaves only the audio section operating. Volume and mute controls would still operate as well as input selection. This would allow the TVs to be used as part of a whole-house audio system without the large energy draw of keeping the video on. “Instant-on” video would allow the display to be used for music selection or other navigation purposes, then off again to conserve power. Discrete audio and video source selection via IR, RS-232 (serial), or IP would also be important.

Initially, we were stumped. Remembering Mitsubishi’s line of TVs with a built-in surround bar, we posed this question to them.

Lo and behold, the manufacturer provides the very feature our integrator seeks.

Mitsubishi tells us that its Unisen branded LCD TVs enable users to turn off the video panel to conserve energy when listening to music selections.

Enjoy the TV’s virtual surround sound without the video

In this mode, users can still operate the volume and mute controls on the remote. But press any other button, and the TV video turns back on.

The entire line of Unisen LCDs has discrete IR (infrared) codes for audio and video source selection and discrete ON and OFF commands. In other words, you can adjust the video without messing with the audio, and vice versa.

Just how much energy are you saving? The folks at Mitsubishi haven’t crunched those numbers. Our inquiring integrator suggests, “Have them pick up a Kill-a-Watt for $30 and test the power consumption with video on and off.”

Mitsubishi’s Unisen Diamond series has an RS-232C serial control for rich integration with third-party control systems.

The Unisen TVs (starting at $1,799) features 16 “intelligent speakers” that reproduce 5.1 surround sound.

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Julie Jacobson - Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

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