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How to Get Great Sound When Watching Sports on TV

The perfect game day audio is just a click away.

Here’s a fun fact: All major sporting events are broadcast in HD, and sometimes even 4K UHD. The pictures are overflowing with detail. You can clearly see the distorted wince on a quarterback’s face as he’s being sacked for a loss, the tracking of a 1.6-inch golf ball through its entire 350-yard flight down an immaculately manicured fairway, even the clear rotation of a basketball as the game-winning shot drops through the net from behind the 3-point line. These fantastic images are simply mesmerizing — but the fun doesn’t stop there.

The right audio setup at your home — whether it’s a sound bar or AV receiver — can serve to perfectly complement the action you’re seeing on the screen. Just as a great surround sound movie soundtrack can suck you into the story and make you feel that you’re in the scene, the same can happen when watching live sports events at home … even though it can sometimes be a little trickier to optimize the settings for your sound bar or receiver.

That’s because not all live sporting broadcasts are mixed the same. There are simply too many variables — such as different venue sizes, sound levels and whether the event is occurring indoors or outdoors — for one setting to work optimally for them all. Are we watching the final hole of a championship golf tournament or the final seconds of the college basketball game-of-the-year? These are completely different sound tracks with different expected results.

That said, your AV receiver and/or sound bar will probably offer number of “modes” (preset settings) that can bring out the best audio experience for every type of sporting scenario. Here are some tips that will help you do exactly that.

Tips for AV Receivers

Program buttons on a Yamaha AV receiver remote.
Yamaha AV receiver remote PROGRAM buttons.

Most AV receivers will have a Straight Mode that provides the exact, unaltered decoding of the digital sound track. This is a good place to start, but won’t always yield the most exciting results. If there’s a Multi-Channel Stereo Mode (where the front stereo signal is mirrored to all connected speakers in pairs), this can work well if you’re having a party and people are watching the action from different areas of the TV room since it helps you hear the audio fairly equally in all of the speakers in your setup.

Most Yamaha AV receivers have a specially designed surround sound “Sports” Mode. This takes the digital bitstream from the broadcast and splits it up into 5.1 or 7.1 channels, but before sending that information to the speakers, some DSP magic is applied to the surround information, which makes it bigger and more enveloping while keeping the commentator’s voice focused in the center channel next to the TV screen. Sports Mode does a great job of making the stadium or arena crowd noise appear to come from all around, giving you the feeling that you are actually sitting in the stands watching the action live.

But the most important overall tip is this: Don’t be afraid of trying any of the available modes, and don’t limit yourself to using the mode as labeled. One of the so-called “movie” modes might give you the sound that’s perfect for a particular sporting event. To access different modes, cycle through the PROGRAM buttons on your AV receiver’s remote control. If you find your team isn’t winning with the current selected mode, it might be worth trying a new one to see if they can turn it around with that!

Tips for Sound Bars

MODE buttons on a Yamaha YAS-209 remote.
Yamaha YAS-209 remote MODE buttons.

If you’re using a Yamaha sound bar such as the YAS-209, there are several modes that can contour your system for the content you’re watching in order to provide the most realistic experience possible. As with Yamaha AV receivers, there’s a Sports Mode, and in many cases, this is the best choice for general sports viewing. But as we’ve mentioned, there are so many variables that sound engineers have to work with that there’s no one mode that works best all the time, so don’t be afraid to check out TV Mode or even Game Mode. The goal is to be enveloped by the ambiance of the venue while having the announcer’s voices generally focused on the screen.

Regardless of which surround mode sounds best to you, activating the Clear Voice function will often be the icing on the cake. This technology isolates dialogue, such as a commentator’s voice, and emphasizes it above crowd noise.

A sound bar and a subwoofer
Yamaha YAS-209 sound bar with wireless subwoofer.

Whether you’re using a sound bar or an AV receiver, a quick exploration of the available settings and modes can enhance your viewing experience and bring you into the onscreen action. It’s all part of the fun of owning a quality surround system for your home entertainment. Enjoy the game!

Click here for more information about Yamaha AV receivers.

Click here for more information about Yamaha sound bars.

Click here for more information about the Yamaha YAS-209 sound bar.

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