June 30, 2008
| by Dennis P. Barker
Since the inception of television, sound has always played second fiddle to the picture. Even today, the sound quality of the majority of TVs is pitiful. Depending on the set (even the most expensive), TVs have the tiniest and tinniest sounding speakers offering audio quality from 1-watt to 10-watts per channel on average. Yes, over the years, manufacturers have tried to improve sound quality by adding more speakers – even a subwoofer was included in a few models in the past, but to no avail. In today’s age of high-definition TV, Blu-ray movies, and 7.1 surround sound, to get better sound you have to go to an external audio source (such as a Home Theater In A Box or soundbar) or separate audio components. No more.
At last week’s unveiling of LaserVue TV and other HDTVs in New York City, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, Inc. announced the introduction of their new Ultra Thin Frame Premium Flat Panel TV with Integrated Sound Projector (iSP) – their 149 Series. These TVs were designed for viewers who have been craving a complete home theater TV experience, but without the complicated set-up and operation. Mitsubishi’s new product line up will come in 46-in. (LT-46149) and 52-in. (LT-52149) models.
How iSP Works
The integrated sound projector (iSP) reproduces 5.1 surround sound from a single speaker cabinet attached below the TV screen, which gives the flat panel the appearance of a slight chin. The small speaker enclosure houses a 16-speaker array that creates a full 5.1 channel sound field. Through the use of an advanced algorithm, the iSP delays the sound varying intervals to each of the 16 speakers. As a result, the speaker array generates 5.1 distinct sound beams that are precisely focused both directly and indirectly to the listener decoding both Dolby Digital and Dolby TrueHD surround sound. At this time, it does not support DTS.
One of the key features of the iSP is the easy-to-use, graphical user interface. Out-of-the-box, the iSP is set up to deliver optimal sound in a typical room setting. However, the user can simply enter specific room dimensions, e.g. 13 x 20, as well as the location of the main listening area. The TV placement and furniture placement are also adjustable. Then, the iSP calculates the sound beam angles to provide the optimal sound for the entire room environment. Via the on-screen display, viewers can adjust the location and sound level for each of the five surround channels. To further improve sound quality, there is an auto-sensing subwoofer out jack so that you can add any brand of subwoofer for improved bass levels. The output level for the subwoofer is also directly controllable from the remote control. The beauty of subwoofers is that they can be placed anywhere within a room – even behind the TV.
How did it sound? Pretty darn good! While certainly not on par with the best home theater separates, the sound projector technology provides a very pleasing experience comparable to a good HTiB or Soundbar, but without any hook-up. As a long-time reviewer of audio products, I found the 149 Series very impressive. Simply attach an HD set-up box (either cable or satellite) and a Blu-ray player, and you’re done! Instant Home Theater.
Dennis has been involved with Consumer Electronics forever it seems. His 25+-year career includes a 12-year tour of duty at Consumer Reports magazine, as well as stints as a product reviewer, market analyst, technical editor, and consultant for the electronics industry. He lives in Ossining, NY with his two children, one demanding cat and piles of A/V equipment.