I've had a home theater setup for a while now, but, stupid me, I just realized that I had not really a clue as to what I was doing. I've got three inputs Cable TV, Blu-ray, and streaming from a laptop for Netflix and the like. All of the connections are HDMI. Inputs go into a Yamaha 5.1 receiver and goes to the TV via HDMI. It just suddenly hit me that the Blu-Ray, the cable box, the receiver, all have adjustments the affect the sound quality. I've got an audio compression on the Cable, The Blu-ray, has settings like Audio output priority, Audio (HDMI), BD Audio Setting, AudioATT, Dolby Digital, DTS, 48HZ/96, Audio DRC, Downmix. The receiver remote has a button that allows me to switch from a straight mode to a decode mode, with enhancement, and "direct mode". This is my second A/V receiver, and I still don't know what these settings do exactly. The owner's manuals might as well be in a foreign language. (Not because of me, but because of the vague instructions of the manual). I called Sony support with my first receiver and they told me that if I didn't understand then I should "just leave on the "straight" setting and forget about it". I'm not looking for some gaudy enhancement. I just want the sources sound like they were intended to sound.
Should one of the components be making all the calls with the others just neutraled out as slaves? My biggest problem right now is dynamics on Blu-ray. Great explosions, lousy, almost unhearable dialogue. Do I need to get an audio engineering degree to have all this make sense?
In other words, disable the compression in the cable box.
Similarly, configure the Blu-ray player to output "bitstream" with "audio mix" disabled. That way the bits are sent directly from the disc to the receiver with no modification. The player's various quality adjustments normally are only for the analog audio outputs, not for the digital audio outputs. If you provide the exact player model, people could make more specific recommendations. Each company does it slightly differently.
Most of the dialog comes from the center speaker, so its orientation and placement are important. It should be pointed up (or down) so its tweeter points directly toward the primary listening position. The front of the speaker also should be clear of (sticking out from) the edges of any shelving or cabinetry. Lying flat on the floor is the worst.
If you provide the exact model number of your receiver, someone could point you to the pages in its owner's manual which have the details for getting the best sound.
Have you run the receiver's YPAO room equalization to get your speakers calibrated? That should be done after optimizing the speaker's placement and will help somewhat with dialog intelligibility. After you've run YPAO, make sure PEQ is enabled in the "EQ Select" menu.
The receiver also provides individual sound level adjustments for each of the speaker channels. If dialog is too quiet, you can turn up the sound level of the center channel. .
I hope these comments help a little.
I have done the YPAO set-up. My cable box (Dish Hopper) has only one audio adjustment: PCM/Dolby Digital or PCMl only. The Sony 360s BD player has set-up options with the following categories: Audio Output Priority: currently set to HDMI
Audio (HDMI) currently set to 2ch PCM other option is "auto"
BD Audio Setting: set to MIX
Audio ATT set to "off"
Dolby Digital: set to Downmix PCM
DTS: set to down mix PCM
48k/96 set to 48khz/16 bit
Audio DRC: set to TV mode
Downmix: set to normal.
The big problem is how do I know what my original signal is and how I should use my settings to complement it. Is my cable box transmitting 5.1 on all channels or just the more modern network and cable channel? Am I better off just keeping some kind of 2.o setting for something like a newscast?
I suggest setting your Dish to PCM/Dolby 5.1. That way you'll get whatever the stations send. Also, set the BD player to "Auto" and turn off Downmix for the same reason. The receiver will decode them properly.