If there's one resolution I want you to consider for 2013, it's to improve the sound your devices create. Because in all likelihood they sound terrible.
We spend a lot of money on our technology to get the fastest speeds and the brightest screens and yet sound is the characteristic we think of least.
Consumers will spend $1,500 on a 55-inch LED TV with 3D, 1080p resolution and built-in Netflix and CinemaNow, and then watch Total Recall on that glorious screen while listening through the television's sorry excuse for speakers.
Or they'll lay down the same amount of money for a premium laptop, fire up Skyrim, and hammer away at orcs and dragons only to have the laptop's limited speakers render the heavy noise of battle into a tinny cacophony.
Others listen to music through their iPad's crappy speakers.
Still others will do the same by using the even crappier speakers on their smart-phone. I've seen it all, it's a crime, and it causes me pain because the beauty and variety of sound are some of the greatest joys of being human.
So here's my rule, based on my own experience: when watching a movie or playing a game on your computer or TV, sound makes up 50 per cent of the pleasure you'll receive from the experience. The worse the sound, the worse your experience.
Don't suffer. Get external speakers.
Fortunately, unless you can afford it and have the ear to notice the difference, there's no need to go high end, because almost any set of external speakers is better than what's built in to your computer, tablet or TV.
For a laptop, tablet or smartphone, get a good set of computer speakers and keep them on your desk or wherever you do most of your computing. They attach via a simple analog stereo plug into your laptop's headphone jack. That simple plug makes them quite versatile for almost any device you've got. I've attached computer speakers to MP3 players, phones, tabletop radios and even TVs, and in each case it was a noticeable improvement. There are dozens of special dock and speaker arrangements for devices like the iPod, and speakers which accept wireless AirPlay and Bluetooth signals, and some sound very good. But unless you want a dock to charge your device, buying a simple set of computer speakers is cheaper and its utterly basic technology will not be rendered obsolete by changes in proprietary connectors (hey there, Apple) or wireless standards (hey there, everyone else).
I'd recommend 2.1 speakers, which means two speakers and a small subwoofer to put on your floor. The subwoofer will give you that extra oomph not found on 2.0 arrangements.
(Unless you're a rabid gamer, avoid 5.1 speaker systems - they take up a lot of room, and some spouses won't have the patience for extra speakers and wires.) Aim for somewhere between $50 and $100. I've had good experiences with Logitech and Altec Lansing speakers, but go to your nearest store and hear for yourself.
For televisions, which also means for gaming consoles like the Xbox and media streamers like the Apple TV, I'd recommend a sound bar, which is a long and narrow speaker cabinet generally placed at the base of your TV. Home theatre systems are good all-in-one solutions, but a dedicated sound bar takes up less space with fewer connections and allows freedom in choosing the other components of your TV viewing setup. Prices vary from $100 to $1,200 or more, so again you should go listen in person. Ignore claims that sound bars will replicate surround sound. They won't. But they will offer a much fuller sound field than simple stereo speakers and are immeasurably better than your TV's native speakers.
An option to the sound bar is the pedestal speaker, which doubles as a platform on which your TV rests. Setup for these system is quite simple. Zvox is the best known brand here. My family gave our parents a Zvox speaker for Christmas and we all found the difference to be immediate. The gift of much improved sound was an important consideration for seniors with strained hearing and it will be for you, too, regardless of your age.
email@example.com Twitter.com/trueblinkit -Barry Link is the editor of the Vancouver Courier