Picture or sound - which is the most important?



Greetings all

In a nutshell, I'd like to hear from experienced users some opinions as to which is THE most important element in the movie viewing experience - the picture or the sound?

Are we approaching things the right way, as many of us new to HT have a background in 2 channel and assume the sound to be the most important aspect.

But is it?

For me, HT/AV is proving to be a very different and elusive animal compared to music, and I'm most interested in some opinions please.

All comments appreciated


John.. :)


Well-known Member
I would say 50/50 for me, a poor picture can spoil a film and so can poor sound.


Well-known Member
For me sound quality is much more important - given that image quality is satisfactory, at least - but it definitely depends on the movie.

I think this is because there is more to the image than mere quality - I find Dances With Wolves a beautifully shot movie and the larger the viewable image the more "enveloping" the experience. However, generally speaking, smaller screens give "better" image quality - but the price paid for sharp, detailed images on a small screen is the lack of "wow" factor compared with seeing the same movie on the "big" screen.

I hope that makes sense!

Sigs :)

Ian J

Originally posted by HiFiFan
In a nutshell, I'd like to hear from experienced users some opinions as to which is THE most important element in the movie viewing experience - the picture or the sound?

Without a doubt THE most important element for me is the film itself. I am more than happy to watch films that are 100% dialogue with no surround sound or deep bass at all as long as the dialogue is good.


Distinguished Member
For me Picture is more important but then again I watch movies with a projector and a 9ft wide screen.

I think that screen size dictates the sound experience.If you are watching a movie on a 20" tv (as I do in the conservatory) I am quite happy listening in moderate volume on my budget system.

When I watch in my cinema room I watch at near reference sound levels, and need a system to match.Its all horses for courses really.


Active Member
For surround sound movies with many sound effects, the surround sound quality of your system is the one you would spend the most $$$ on.

Most people already own a reasonable quality & size television, which wasn't very expensive. The (cheap) surround sets many by now have bought to supplement their HT are THE limiting factor there. Much is to be gained by spending more bucks there, where as the (low-res) visual experience cannot be improved by all that much currently.

Of course when you acquired a very good surround sound set, or mainly watch dialogue/old movies, you can spend the rest of your money enhancing your visual experience.


Greetings All

Thank you for your thoughts - it's appreciated.

The reason I asked the question is somewhat tied in with my post re high-end processors.

I have noticed and hence wondered, as to what is the most important element in the movie watching experience, as in the presence of the picture, (and of course, bigger is almost always better) I have noticed that perceived differences between high-end processors and cheaper receivers etc were little, when the experience was taken as a whole, i.e. picture and sound.

This lead me to wonder as to the correctness of my approach to HT re the importance of the sound, coming as I am from a 2 channel background, in that despite the obvious such as the plot, story-line etc of a film, being the lead element, the visuals as such were perhaps slightly the more immersive, 'being there' factor of the overall experience.

Intriguingly, I found on recent audition that a high-end processor that majored on strengths that would apply to 2 channel, such as transparency, detail etc, was outdone IMHO in the overall movie watching stakes (sound AND picture), by cheaper equipment that had obviously less overall resolution etc, but nevertheless had an excellent and even perhaps better sense of surround 'wrap' re the sound-field.

Somehow, this sense of excellent surround sound-field envelopment brought more to the sense of involvement overall in the presence of the picture.

My thoughts thus were, that the picture was ultimately the leading element, with the sound accompanying it as it were - certainly in the 'distraction' of the picture, the lower resolution of the cheaper processors was scarcely noticed, whereas the extra sense of sound-field 'wrap' definitely added more re that vital 'being there' feeling.




I would go for picture these days. I used to say sound. That said, to my ears their is a sonic level you must reach before you are happy, i have happily reached it. Accordingly I am much more interested in picture..... I havent spend on my actual surround system in ages whereas the picture is always changing



Picture for me as well.
Ive recently joined the PJ club and the number of films in my collection that I have started to watch on the big screen only to turn them off after 5/10 mins due to EE etc is quite worrying, so much so I’ve actually split my films into ones that can be watched on the PJ and the ones to only watch on the TV :(
Of course sound is important but content is more so, I've never understood people buying a crap film just for its audio content (the Haunting springs immediately to mind)!


Distinguished Member
I've been at a demo where they demoed 2 setups, one with a regular 32" TV and high-end audio and the other with a high end Sim2 projector and low-mid range speakers and AV receiver. Both setups cost virtually the same. At the end of the 2 demos they asked what people preferred, virtually everyone went for the projector setup.

I've always been a video man, I'm slowly getting more interested in high quality audio but only because I feel I've reached the pinnacle of video quality (within a realistic budget).

Peter Baker

Novice Member
Picture will always be the most impressive immediately. Sound quality is more subtle, but can be equally rewarding. An aggressive sound, such as used to be the case with many Japanese products, will initially sound dynamic, punchy and immediate. Over time it is likely to jar, and sound harsh. This is ,of course, only my opinion, but is certainly why I felt it worthwhile to go for better amps.
On the video front, I too love my PJ, and feel that DLP offers a richer viewing experience.

Best of luck with your decisions


After trying many different setups, I've found even a budget projector helps really improve the film experience followed closely by the quality of picture in smaller screens.
With audio I find the sound annoying when it isn't of a high quality.
Most Dems don't last for a whole film so on short term, picture definately but on a whole film sound gets me deeper involved, I find the picture only important in being there. The Surround sound side isn't as important although nice. Mono films still sound involving through a good system.


Active Member
My opinion which seems contradictory to all others here, I think ;-), is about the average population, not for people who already bought $$$'s of audio stuff and now own a PJ.


Active Member
Its a lot easier to get a good picture than good sound.

The picture depends on the source, the display device (inc the screen if you use one) and the ambient light level (if the display device doesn't heve a bright picture, i.e. forward projector)

Sound depends on source, pre amp, processing, power amps, 2 upto 10 spekers all of which should be tonally matched, room acoustics, room reflections, shape and room furniture absorbtion. All of which are a heck of a lot more difficult to get "right".

But as Ian said, the most important thing is the film itself. Its what its all for after all isn't it? :)


I'd rather have a 6ft screen and stereo than a 32" and DD5.1




Active Member
Sound for me because I use my HT for stereo, no room for a separate system, I would also say that at the moment a big picture for me is cost prohibitive! I have built my sound system up over time and upgrade bits where finance allows, but the picture would be one hit of a couple of grand for plasma or decent projector and screen, no chance at the moment.


I have a far better TV than anyone I know and a far, far better sound system. At somebody else's house the lack of picture quality doesn't bother me, but the lack of sound, especially surround sound, really minimises the experience.

Everybody will have a level which must be reached to be adequate or it will drive them mad. However, I would say that on a £200 TV, it would still be worth spending £400-£600 on a sound system.

With judicious purchasing eg last years' models at half-price, I reckon that £600 can provide a sound system which people, only used to TV sound, ghetto blasters etc, will find unbelievably fantastic, whilst those used to far higher quality, could probably live with at low-mid volumes.

This is also good enough for a cheap projector. However, with projectors, it is definitely worth spending more money on them. Poor quality big pictures look awful. So percentage spending probably needs to vary depending on where you are on the sound ladder and the picture ladder.


Well-known Member
I used to only concern myself about the sound side of things but after seeing the impact a decent PJ can make I now feel that the picture is just as important. Dont think I can accomodate a PJ but there may be other options to increase my screen size.


Active Member
When I changed from a 28inch widescreen to the plasma i am sure my system sounded better!

But what do I know when I clean the car I am sure it drives better!!:D


I read somewhere that the human brain spends so much time busy interpreting the picture, that the ability to discern sound quality becomes far lower. Implication is obvious: Picture should be more important than sound for movie fans, whereas sound becomes an ambience thing so a low quality but enveloping sound system is probably sufficient.

However, the discussion is a lot more complex. Most people have loads of CDs which also need equipment to play, and most people don't have the room/cash for separate hifi and AV installations (or am I wrong there?). The more music you listen to, the more important that sound becomes.

I personally went 2-channel hifi with big widescreen TV, but that is because I listen to music far more than watching pictures.

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