Ever since I bought my first A/V receiver almost 25 years ago, one thing that always bugged me was the center channel. From a $50 AudioSource to a $2100 B&W HTM1, Ive always had issues understanding what the hell people are saying. Ive read a million threads on why this is and ways to remedy it. Well nothing ever worked until now. From this point forward, Im guessing, so dont take this as caanon. Im willing to bet that a vast majority of the people who report this issue had their system setup in a living room environment with that wasnt condusive to good acoustics. With that said, I too have always had that kind of HT environment. In my current setup, I have theatre seating that is against a wall with the center channel about 10 feet away at ear level in line with the tweeters of my front mains. No amount of calibration changes how my ears interpret voices during movies or certain TV shows. Ive tried everything. Some bad or some worse than other settings. Ive found a fairly happy medium. Im also guessing that most folks dont listen at referance level because of their more than likely smallish room that thier HT is set up in. At those closer distances, its a bit too loud sometimes. Anyways, I degress. What I found to eliminate the issue of muddy dialogue is to cup my hands behind my ears and push my ears ever so slightly forward. All of the sudden, my center channel comes to life!! Voices are cyrstal clear and very audible. Im wondering if having a wall directly behind my listening position plays a roll in my trouble with understanding my center channel? Also I wonder if genetics plays a roll as well. By that I mean the shape and position of my ears. Im willing to bet that folks with "Dumbo" ears tend to have better, or more focused hearing due to the ears channeling the sounds to the ear canal better? As soon as remove my hands from behind my ears, the channel loses high end, clarity and goes back to muddled, middy sound both difficult to understand and sometimes impossible to.
I also wonder if the mix, or how they recorded the dialogue track plays a roll as well. Recently I watched a show on the Smithsonian channels called "Arial America", or something like that. It had soft music playing in the back ground with a narrator. His voice was crystal clear! Every nuance of his voice I could discern every ounce of his voice with no strain whatsoever. Why is that?? But with a movie on BD of equal scene ( soft music and dialogue only) its all I can do to understand?? A second example is an oldi but goodie flick, The Black Hole. Not the best example of sound editing and recording, but decent none the less. During the dinner scene on the Cygnus, you can hear every word they say with no problem. Its not real dynamic, but I could hear everything they said. Granted, there was very little background noise or music, but throughout the movie, I could hear them. Switched to another BD with a similar scene, quiet, little background, and it was once again difficult to understand. Its almost like the voices are over mic'd. They have a kind of surging quality to them. Like when the infllection of their voice goes from a whisper to a quick rise or fall in pitch, it distorts or gets really loud, too loud, and the fades off. Ive noticed this with every center channel Ive ever owned. The current one Im using is a brand new Klipsch RC64II that is working fine. Sorry for such the long rample, But it makes me wonder if two center channels slightly toed in would help. Or a center channel designed kind of in an inverted 'V' shape would work? Instead of a speaker directly aimed at your nose, you would have a speaker aimed at each ear. I still have several older center channels and wonder if I should try it, just to see. But anyways, try the cupping method, youmay have to do some adjustments to cut out extreme highs due to the reflection of the sound from your hands into your ears, but it does help.