New TCL TVs can hear your every word — even in noisy rooms

Synaptics’ Audiosmart far-field voice (FFV) tech takes voice control to new levels with TCL’s new line of televisions, which have Alexa built-in and were introduced at IFA 2018 in Berlin.

The big deal about FFV is it enhances voice communication and automatic speech recognition in the real world. Background and foreground sounds and sudden and intrusive noises can confuse or block voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Synaptics’ Audiosmart FFV digital signal processors (DSPs) use proprietary algorithms to sort out sound signals, improving the technology.

Voice-processing tech in DSPs, in general, is biased toward recognizing speech over doorbells, HVAC fans, music, and traffic sounds. If Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and a host of other companies are correct in their belief that voice will soon be the dominant command, control, and communications interface, merely differentiating voice from the sound of a garbage disposal isn’t enough.

For example, convenience and security factors both demand finer than chainsaw-level voice differentiation. We already want our voice-connected electronics to know when we are addressing them and we’ll increasingly rely on our devices and systems to recognize who we are, as well as what we say.

Distinctive features include Voice Barge-in, Smart Source Pickup, and Energy Efficient Voice Functionality.

With Voice Barge-in, a TCL television with built-in Alexa will recognize the “wake word,” so you can say “Alexa” using your natural voice even when an action flick with loud dialogue is playing. Audiosmart FFV uses full-duplex acoustic echo cancellation to sort out the signals and their sources to pick up the wake word. You won’t have to outshout your TV, turn down the volume, or press a button to get your smart TV voice assistant’s attention.

With Smart Source Pickup, a Synaptics FFV-equipped TCL not only cancels sounds from other directions but also filters other sounds coming from your direction. If, for example, you and a room full of people are watching a football game and a running dishwasher is directly behind you, the Smart Source Pickup will still detect your voice.

Synaptics’ Energy Efficient Voice Functionality employs low-power DSPs so the TCL televisions can still meet all energy requirements for standby mode while allowing you to use your natural voice to turn the TV on and off.

Product Review

Simple and reliable, Apple's AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds

Apple’s AirPods wireless headphones have dominated the market essentially since they hit stores in December 2016. Though not without some faults, they cracked the connectivity code to rank among the best fully wireless earbuds you can…
Home Theater

Cheer for your favorite NCAA team and Xfinity will respond with matching lights

Screaming at your favorite team just became a lot more rewarding thanks to Comcast's Xfinity voice remote and some special NCAA commands that set your smart lightbulbs to your favorite team's colors.
Home Theater

Smart speakers are about to get an IQ bump thanks to new Qualcomm chips

Qualcomm announced a new chipset that is designed to make the next generation of smart speakers sound, listen, and connect better than ever before, and it could soon be in your living room.
Home Theater

2019 LG OLED TVs with AirPlay 2, HomeKit support coming in April

LG has revealed the prices and release dates of the first batch of 2019 OLED TVs with A.I. ThinQ. The new W9 wallpaper OLED TVs will arrive in June, while the E9 and C9 OLED TVs will start rolling out in April.
Home Theater

The best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2019.
Home Theater

Here are some common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.
Home Theater

There isn’t a single good reason to buy Apple’s new AirPods

After nearly a three-year wait, Apple has finally announced a new version of its popular true wireless headphones, the AirPods. We had high hopes for vast improvements, but that's not what we got.
Home Theater

ESPN Plus scores the exclusive rights to UFC Pay-Per-View events

If MMA is your game, then ESPN Plus is now a very important player. The Disney-owned service locked up the exclusive rights to UFC Pay-Per-View events, a deal that will last through 2025 in the United States.
Home Theater

Dish TV customers can access up to 13 NCAA March Madness games in 4K

If you're a basketball fan looking to get your fix of NCAA Championship action in 4K, Dish TV will be airing up to 13 of the tournament games in the ultra high-def format, starting on Tuesday.
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on UE Boom and MegaBoom 3 Bluetooth speakers

With just the right combination of great sound, a rugged design, and an overall sleek aesthetic, the UE MegaBoom 3 is our favorite Bluetooth speaker. And Amazon is offering a rare discount on it right now.
Movies & TV

Stranger Things season 3 is coming! Here’s everything we know so far

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season, premiering in July 2019.
Home Theater

Here’s what’s new on HBO and what’s leaving in April 2019

Whether you're a cable lifer or a staunch cord cutter, there's never been a better time to get down with premium TV. April 2019 brings Game of Thrones season 8, BlacKkKlansman, and Crazy Rich Asians to HBO.
Home Theater

Tipping point? Streaming subscribers outnumbered cable in 2018 for first time

2018 was a very good year for the entertainment business as a whole, but it was especially good for streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon, says a new report by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Home Theater

TCL drops the price of its 75-inch 6-Series 4K Roku TV to $1,500

March is a great time for TV deals, and we've got a whopper: TCL has taken $300 off the price of its superb 75-inch 6-Series 4K HDR Roku TV, making it $1,500. That's the lowest price ever on this affordable TV.