The Stress of a New TV

In switching from a 7-year-old 55-inch LCD to a new 65-inch OLED TV, I’ve been awestruck by the transformation in picture quality. Yet, the upgrade has not been pain free.

This is partly due to the manufacturer’s abandonment of legacy ports. The stereo output that connected to my reliable analog headphone transmitter is gone. Didn’t Sony, the manufacturer of my new TV, realize that when two people share an apartment, private listening keeps them from driving each other crazy? This is stated in the maxim: the basis of a good marriage is a set of wireless headphones.

Since the new TV does have a digital optical audio output, my workaround was to buy an inexpensive digital-to-analog converter and connect it to the transmitter. No dice! A Sony tech rep I phoned to find out why the headphones weren’t getting a signal confirmed that the digital audio-out setting is disabled when using audio signals that are passed through the HDMI’s Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC).

I wasn’t about to stop using the TV’s eARC port, which accommodated my Roku-embedded soundbar, four satellite speakers, and subwoofer. I also wanted to be able to call upon the Roku visual interface and stream channels not available on the Sony TV — impossible using the digital optical connection.

So, I bought a pair of Bluetooth headphones since both Bluetooth and a USB charging port are built into the TV. That worked, though locating the Bluetooth menu on the screen and running the pairing routine means additional steps that were unnecessary with my old analog headphones.

Also missing on the TV is a set of conventional composite video and stereo inputs. It’s not that I often use my VCR, but I want the assurance that I can still play tapes. The TV does contain a single input for VHS hoarders like me, but using it required yet another purchase — a special cable with yellow, red, and white inputs on one end and a one-pin output on the other.

Then, there is the matter of being able to toggle my sound system between movie and music modes. With movies, listeners typically rely on the front speakers for dialogue, while the rears are deployed for effects like an approaching thunderstorm or bouncing hubcaps dislodged during a collision. Music is usually played through the front speakers, too, though, I prefer firing up all the speakers.

With my old TCL Roku TV, I merely had to press the asterisk button on the remote to access the sound system menu. Roku confirmed that its soundbar was compatible with the Sony TV. But using the TV remote would no longer be possible. If I didn’t want to switch to the Roku interface in the soundbar, my best bet was to keep my phone in reach and use the Roku app to toggle between TV/movies and music. (Luckily, I didn’t have to buy a phone, too.)

By now, you’re probably thinking I carry too much baggage to appreciate my new TV. Not so! I just love the deep blacks, the high dynamic range, the enhanced smartness of the interface, and being able to use the TV remote to control my DVR — something I couldn’t do before. These are obvious pleasures that negate the pain.

Truthfully, my biggest hurdle was getting over my buyer’s remorse of not having gone bigger. Sure, the diagonal is 10-inches larger than before, but why didn’t I ascend the scales even further for a TV I’d likely own for the rest of the decade? It didn’t help when just after I ordered my 65-inch TV, the gym in my co-op installed a whopping 77-incher. Sweating, I stared at it from the treadmill, thinking, “What have I done?!”

I was haunted by what the white-haired guy who sold me my TV had quipped: “Seventy-seven is the new 65.”

In response, I tried moving the sofa and coffee table closer to the TV. If I could pare my peripheral vision, the TV would loom larger. But whenever I sat down, the sofa skidded back to the wall. I thought of placing abandoned components — a 63-watt Technics receiver, a CableCARD-defrocked TiVo — behind the couch to keep it from slipping backwards. My wife peered at me with disdain. “What a waste of room space,” she remarked.

It has been three months since the TV arrived. I’ve now acclimated to its size, giving up the idea of trying to shorten the viewing distance. The sofa is back against the wall, and I’ve decided that exuding regret is no way for a home theater enthusiast to behave. Sixty-five inches is plenty, and I’m finally at peace with my stunning new set.

The Author
Michael Antonoff is a freelance writer specializing in audio/video technology and industry developments. He was executive editor of Video magazine, technology editor of S&V, and a tech columnist for USA Today.

Billy's picture

Sony is good stuff, but the Chinese have really upped their game in terms of performance at a much lower price in comparison. I love Sony, but they seem to have gotten a little big for those britches. It would kill them not to leave some of the old connections in place, really wouldn't cost them too much, besides, they charge a premium, make it worth it. Next, why the goofy analog input? Sony is notorious for that crap, remember their old MP3 players that didn't use SD cards? They wanted to sell you a very expensive proprietary card instead. I bet only Sony had those cords for sale, am I right? Nickle and diming the public is not a good way to keep customers. You think they would have learned something from Betamax!

frym's picture

I agree. Manufacturers are shafting a lot of us. I wonder if they know and doing it anyway or are just oblivious? Either way, it makes me want to buy less gear.

DougInNC's picture

Thanks to Michael for this piece. What was the viewing distance that first seemed unsatisfactory for your 65-inch Sony?

A refreshing, amusing, highs-and-lows reality story for TV, this took lab "testing" into the homefront of actual "experience."

When I finally move on from my Pioneer Kuro 50-inch plasma, "abandonment of legacy ports" is a huge concern, including the stereo audio output to headphones. I'll also despair over the sinking quicksand of subtle but brutal conflicts like eARC disabling digital audio output.

You reinforced two beliefs: (1) an A/V receiver is my best insurance and pathway for supporting legacy connections; (2) a second TV in the room will continue to be necessary to work through spousal challenges as well as device conflicts to be encountered in the newest tech.

Michaela's picture

I'm positioned on the sofa about 10 feet away from the screen--the same distance I measured when using my previous 55-inch LCD TV and the 50-inch plasma before that. Home theater buffs find 8-feet (or less) more acceptable for a 65-incher. The point is to fill your peripheral vision as you would sitting in a movie theater. I don't expect to accomplish that at home unless I move a chair within a few feet of the TV or wrap my face in a virtual reality headset. I've now comfortably acclimated to the 10-foot mark, and I'm not moving.

dnoonie's picture

Better TVs are always coming out, don't worry, enjoy what you have. I "upgraded" from a 60" Kuro to a 65 LG OLED 5 years ago and have enjoyed having HDR content to view! At the time a 77" was quit a bit more expensive and I'd have had to more my speakers closer to the wall to fit the 77 so the added benefit of a larger TV was a harder choice then. I'd still need to move the speakers but now a 77 is the same price I paid for the 65 5 years ago. The advancements haven't been spectacular in 5 years so I'm waiting.
Happy viewing!!