Samsungs’s new line of 8K televisions for 2020 takes a pretty incredible new approach to sounds. With additional speakers built into the TV set, including two that face up towards the ceiling, Samsung is able to get incredible, almost surround-sound-like sound stage, in a TV about as thick as your thumb. The problem is it only works on Samsung’s best, and most expensive, televisions.
Samsung calls the audio technology, collectively, Object Tracking Sound +. The idea behind it is to move the audio action from the bottom of the TV set to the centre of it. That way when you’re watching an action film the sound seems to come directly out of the centre of the screen instead of somewhere muddy and at the bottom.
In the demo I saw, it works incredibly well. Billie Eilish’s “bad guy,” a song I listen to regularly on headphones and my Sonos set up at home, first played through the bottom speakers of the TV set, and it sounded exactly like what you’d expect. Tinny and poorly mixed thanks to tiny downward-firing speakers.
When the Samsung representative flipped the switch to engage the Object Tracking Sound + mode, the music seemed to immediately transform. The sound stage extended, Eilish’s voice became clearer and perfectly balanced by the bass line, which thrummed pleasantly despite the lack of subwoofer.
But Samsung noted that Object Tracking Sound + is only available on the 2020 8K models. Which sort of makes sense. You put the newest and fanciest technology into the newest and fanciest televisions. People who buy them want to feel rewarded for going all-in on the brand new technology.
The problem is that we’re barely a 4K-TV kind of world. Anecdotally, I find far more people asking me what the best 1080p TV is versus the best 4K. Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+ all provide 4K content to stream, but TV is still broadcast at 720p to 1080p, depending on the network, and many homes in America don’t even support internet capable of 4K streams. Movies and TV shows you watch aren’t streaming in 8K any time soon.
Something even the 8K TV makers are aware of. Samsung spent more time telling me about its upscalers (admittedly impressive) than about 8K content. It’s just too out of pocket for most people—thousands of dollars, not hundreds.
The people who are going to embrace 8K right now will do so because they can afford to, and if they can afford to spend several thousand dollars on an 8K set, they’re probably not going to rely on the TV’s speakers for sound. People who buy 8K TVs are going to have a 7.1 surround sound system or Sonos, or at the very least a soundbar.
So this very good technology is hidden in a TV that doesn’t really need it and few people will get to experience. It would have been so much nicer if Samsung put Object Tracking Sound + in a TV most people would buy. The company’s work on better sound in thin TVs is admirable, and it sounds damn good. Now put it in a TV I can afford, please.