Netflix/Hulu low dialog audio loud music/explosions - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 7 Old 05-26-2015, 06:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Netflix/Hulu low dialog audio loud music/explosions

I've been dealing with this for years with no solutions on Windows XP and 7, complete denial from Netflix customer support, and workarounds which caused problems.

When I watch Netflix or Hulu, everything but the dialog sounds adequate; the dialog is too quiet, if I turn up the volume, now music and explosions are way too loud and the dialog is still hard to hear, so I have to turn it back down and use sub-titles. This problem doesn't happen on YouTube, or Vimeo, or DailyMotion, or normal antenna TV, or DVD. It is just Netflix and Hulu.

I've read that the way they encode/compress/stream their video, the center channel is used for dialog, and because I'm on a 2-channel speaker (output from PC is also 2-channel and computer is configured for two-channel), the dialog is muffled/quiet, and I'm supposed to use 5.1-channel. Well, I have zero other reason to use 5.1-channel, they'd all just sit in a row on the TV shelf next to each other anyways, serving zero other purpose. Also it could cost me hundreds of dollars that I don't have right now to get a system as good or better than the one I have. This same problem happens over headphones.

Is Netflix and Hulu doing it wrong or am I? I'm on Windows 7 and I've turned on Enhanced Audio in settings that seems to fix the dialog issue, but it causes my music volume to jump up and down and sound really bad; it will sound normal, a loud part comes, and then it sounds like someone literally turns down the volume, then a quiet part comes, and it sounds like someone turns up the volume again. It's not a good experience.

Can someone offer any info/advice? I haven't configured my computer in any unusual way other than the enhanced audio adjustment, which I'd prefer to leave disabled.
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post #2 of 7 Old 05-27-2015, 12:20 PM
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Most users here are going to be watching on a TV and over a surround system. But the problem still remains. The audio mix and levels are up to who does the sound for the title. So if a title has a wide audio variance then we may turn on a compressor which is often part of an AV receiver. This will narrow the dynamic range. I don't watch via Windows but there may be some setting for a compressor too or you may be able to add it with an Add-on.

This persists still in network TV and years ago we learned that Dolby had created a system for maintaining the same level from show to show and even ad breaks but most engineers didn't know it existed in the compressor equipment and hence never turned it on. I maintain that Netflix and Hulu need something like that but often these companies just take an encoded file from the provider since particularly Netflix can charge a lot to do the encoding.

It's interesting that something similar exists for podcasts and is even free open source software but apparently not well known among podcasters.

Oh, and YouTube really needs to put an engineer on this.
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post #3 of 7 Old 05-27-2015, 05:06 PM
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My understanding is that hulu has only stereo audio. Am I wrong about this? I know that it is definitively the case for the hulu web interface, I don't know for sure if it is true for various "set-top" boxes running native/app playback software.

Hulu seems ok to me on the desktop. Though I run very old school EMU10K1 based audio card which has minimal reliance on software processing, and the kx driver software has some audio normalization style filters.

If you can enable some type of audio normalization, that should do the trick - at least for hulu. I have no idea about netflix, as I don't use and/or hate it.
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post #4 of 7 Old 05-13-2017, 03:30 PM - Thread Starter
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I now am having the same problem on smartphone with downloaded Netflix shows, where the dialog is too quiet and explosions and music are generally too loud, speakers or headphones (of any type). This seems to me like an encoding/compressing issue from Netflix.

What do you think? Have you noticed?

YouTube and Vimeo and Vevo (mobile websites or apps), and podcasts and music on the Android media player sound fine.
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post #5 of 7 Old 05-13-2017, 04:00 PM
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That is one of my pet peeves. It is not just Netflix and Hulu, it is pervasive everywhere. I can not watch most shows with my TV speakers only, I have to have the surround on. Even then, often the dialog is too quiet and the explosions and music is too loud, but at least it is listenable. I just finished watching "Bosch" on Amazon Prime and was pleased that the mixing was so good that I had none of the mentioned problems while watching it-what a pleasure. Part of the problem is the whispering in scenes for dramatic effect. What effect, I can not hear what you are saying so it is lost to me. I have considered putting on the closed captions so I know what I missed.
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post #6 of 7 Old 05-14-2017, 07:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dhinged View Post
I've been dealing with this for years with no solutions on Windows XP and 7, complete denial from Netflix customer support, and workarounds which caused problems.

When I watch Netflix or Hulu, everything but the dialog sounds adequate; the dialog is too quiet, if I turn up the volume, now music and explosions are way too loud and the dialog is still hard to hear, so I have to turn it back down and use sub-titles. This problem doesn't happen on YouTube, or Vimeo, or DailyMotion, or normal antenna TV, or DVD. It is just Netflix and Hulu.

I've read that the way they encode/compress/stream their video, the center channel is used for dialog, and because I'm on a 2-channel speaker (output from PC is also 2-channel and computer is configured for two-channel), the dialog is muffled/quiet, and I'm supposed to use 5.1-channel. Well, I have zero other reason to use 5.1-channel, they'd all just sit in a row on the TV shelf next to each other anyways, serving zero other purpose. Also it could cost me hundreds of dollars that I don't have right now to get a system as good or better than the one I have. This same problem happens over headphones.

Is Netflix and Hulu doing it wrong or am I? I'm on Windows 7 and I've turned on Enhanced Audio in settings that seems to fix the dialog issue, but it causes my music volume to jump up and down and sound really bad; it will sound normal, a loud part comes, and then it sounds like someone literally turns down the volume, then a quiet part comes, and it sounds like someone turns up the volume again. It's not a good experience.

Can someone offer any info/advice? I haven't configured my computer in any unusual way other than the enhanced audio adjustment, which I'd prefer to leave disabled.
I don't know about your sound system, but I was able to get a handle on the problem by just picking up a cheap CENTER CHANNEL speaker for my amplifier. It's not a full surround-sound setup, but switching on the 'surround setting' on the amp seemed to help a lot; I still get output from the front speakers but it's reduced.

Luckily my amp had connections for a surround-sound setup.
Good luck!

PS: There's not a hell of a lot to watch on Netflix anymore anyway...
I'm thinking of dumping it one of these days.
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post #7 of 7 Old 05-14-2017, 02:13 PM
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For mobile sounds like they need to a compression option to the app to keep peaks and lows manageable. Sometimes movies are mixed for theaters and never remixed for TV. For home theater with an AV Receiver find the compressor option on the receiver which most have though they call it different things. I have that set on my Yamaha receiver as too many shows are have too wide a dynamic range and crunching popcorn loses some of the dialog.
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