Week 33, 2018: Plasma vs. OLED and LCD-LED televisions, another Sbode deal, Cambridge Audio Air 100 and Air 200 back soon

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 33, 2018

Q. In recent columns you gave high praise to LG OLED televisions and the ZVOX SB500 soundbar. I have a 1080P Panasonic plasma and the picture and color using HD broadcasts are so good I am wary of changing anything. I host our Super Bowl party every year and everyone still raves about how good it looks.

I use Sennheiser wireless digital headphones connected to the TV’s optical output and they provide excellent audio. I am so happy with the picture from the TV and the sound from the headphones now, will the LG and ZVOX soundbar be as good? Should I make a change?

-B.S., Walnut Creek, CA

A. You are really happy with what you have now, and everyone raves about the picture quality. I advise you to keep your TV and continue to enjoy it.

The academic answer is with a 4K signal or 4K Blu-ray with High Dynamic Range (HDR), the LG OLED is going to look better. But with 1080P television broadcasts and Blu-ray discs the difference may not be that great, if the OLED is better at all. When comparing TV technologies other than OLED with 1080P, my money is still on the plasma. Some of those Panasonic plasmas still look better than any current LED-LCD set when displaying 1080P signals, with a natural, true-to-life look that is hard to match. I am hanging on to mine as long as they work.

The sound system is another story. You have headphones for yourself, but nothing for everyone else. That Super Bowl party would be a lot more super with better sound to bring out the action and sounds of the game. Though you have the headphone transmitter connected to the TV’s digital output, you can use an optical splitter to connect another device. The J-Tech optical splitter is highly regarded and sells for $22 online. With the splitter you can add the soundbar to your system and use it when entertaining, and continue to use your headphones when watching alone.

Q. I read your columns about Sbode earphones and speakers on your website. In addition to the small Bluetooth speaker they have for $35, they also have a bigger speaker, the M400, for $50. Do you think I would get better sound with a pair of the smaller speakers connected in stereo mode, or a single M400 speaker?

-K.M., Los Angeles, CA

A. I’d have to say a pair of the M350 speakers. I have heard the M400 and it is quite nice, and with its narrower diameter it is actually a bit more bag-friendly than the short, squat M350. But with a pair of the $35 Sbode speakers you can spread them out to get a nice stereo effect, filling the area with spacious sound. I came to realize a stereo pair is nice for a couple. Each partner could take one speaker with them to listen during the day when they are apart, and then at night pair them together for stereo sound in a living room or bedroom. It’s almost kind of romantic, if Bluetooth speakers can be romantic!

Sbode has two promotions for August, one of which will get you that stereo pair. You can get an M350 speaker and the popular Sbode Sport Earphones for $49.99, using the code SBODE001. Get a pair of the M350 speakers for $59.99, using the code SBODE002.

For those of you who missed out on the special deal on the Cambridge Audio Air 100 and Air 200, you will have a second chance to get one. More details next week.