I finally solved the never ending center channel dialogue issue!! - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 01:16 AM - Thread Starter
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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.
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post #2 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 02:41 AM
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How is this solved?
Sounds like a simple acoustic trap behind your listening position would fix all your problems.

For 25 years, you never bothered to ask a professional?
I'm fairly certain any acoustic engineer could have told you the solution along with many members on this very forum.

Also I refer you to this thread: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1468761/help-new-b-w-cm9s-sound-like-crap

The thing with AVS forum is that though many of its members are just normal laymen who come here to appreciate A/V, this is still a science forum.
The trick to utilizing this forum as a learning tool is being able to discern members who are knowledgeable from those who are laymen.
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post #3 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 02:56 AM
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Of course cupping your ears helps. It took you 25 years to figure that out? biggrin.gif That also works on any other kind of sound.
Kind of a strange post but entertaining. Since youve already read a million threads on this subject I have nothing to add. Good luck. smile.gif

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post #4 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 06:28 AM
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post #5 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 06:35 AM
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^^
Nice. Horn ears.
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post #6 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 06:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Bill Fitzmaurice View Post

rotfl biggrin.gif
Is he using the lip ring as an antenna?

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post #7 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 11:10 AM - Thread Starter
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Too funny!! Two things that no one answered. Does having a wall directly to the rear of the listening position have any negative affects? Acoustically that is. Also, why was the Smithsonian narrative crystal clear, ever so easy hear and understand as well as the Black Hole? But when I watch a contemporary movie or HD TV broadcast, I get the surgy,inaudible voices? I know the affects of the room, Im just wondering if it has anything to do with the actual source material.
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post #8 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 11:55 AM
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Putting your hands behind your ears provides your ears with a higher sound level, and provides more rejection of sound from the rear. That's all it does.

So does getting closer.

Turning up the volume on the center speaker does almost the same thing.

The inherent shape of your ears tends to minimize sound coming from the rear.

Their shape should make that rather obvious.

I have found that, in general, center speakers with smaller drivers, for example 4 inches, work better for voices than those with larger ones.

One that is very good is the Cambridge S50 center speaker, which seems to be exceptionally good for dialogue (and midrange in general).

It also seems to help to roll the signal to the center speaker off above 100 Hz. Allowing the center speaker to operate lower can often muck up the sound of the midrange.

Putting sound absorbent material on the rear wall limits undesirable reflections and almost always makes a big improvement in the sound clarity.

Heavy lined drapes are one good solution that can be attractive-looking.
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post #9 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 12:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daffypuck View Post

Too funny!! Two things that no one answered. Does having a wall directly to the rear of the listening position have any negative affects? Acoustically that is. Also, why was the Smithsonian narrative crystal clear, ever so easy hear and understand as well as the Black Hole? But when I watch a contemporary movie or HD TV broadcast, I get the surgy,inaudible voices? I know the affects of the room, Im just wondering if it has anything to do with the actual source material.

Yes, I answered you already. Acoustic reflections. There are plenty of articles you can read about that.

As for the Smithsonian narrative, did you check which speakers were playing?
There is a good chance that narrative playing from the LR speakers has less distortion and reflection than the center channels.

But you're probably going to ignore my post anyway...rolleyes.gif
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post #10 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 02:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daffypuck View Post

Too funny!! Two things that no one answered. Does having a wall directly to the rear of the listening position have any negative affects? Acoustically that is. Also, why was the Smithsonian narrative crystal clear, ever so easy hear and understand as well as the Black Hole? But when I watch a contemporary movie or HD TV broadcast, I get the surgy,inaudible voices? I know the affects of the room, Im just wondering if it has anything to do with the actual source material.
I doubt the source material has anything to do with it. The back wall might, this explains why:
http://www.realtraps.com/articles.htm

As for what's happening when you cup your ears, your hands provide a reflective surface that intensifies the sound level above that frequency where the distance across your hands measures 1 wavelength. Figuring four inches for each hand and seven inches for your head that's about fifteen inches, which is one wavelength at 900Hz. That's right smack where the maximum intensity of the harmonics of the human voice lie, and that's why you hear voices better. You can accomplish the same thing with an EQ that allows you to boost the output in that same region.

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post #11 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 03:00 PM
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You also might want to get your hearing checked (seriously).

As bill said, it is probably not the sources in and of themselves. But it may have to do with WHO is doing the dialog. Documentry programs tend to use people that have clear and easy to understand voices. Their voices also tend to be a bit deeper, and do not rely on as many higher frequencies. (My guess is because as people age they lose their ability to hear the higher frequencies, and they do not even realize this, often thinking it is some other issue. So documentry programs make sure to hire someone who is better understood.)

Actors in movies, especially if they are whispering, or if some sort of action, or background noise is going on, are often harder to understand than the guy doing the dialog in a documentry.

Understanding some people, but not others, is a sign of hearing loss, tbh.
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post #12 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 03:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks y'all. All humor aside, I know this post is beating the preverbial dead horse, but I've learned more in the past 18 months than I did in the previous 20+ years by the several forums I've been perusing, especially this one. As far as my hearing goes, I fortunately have good hearing still. No doubt it's not what it was 20 years ago though. I've become particularly anal about hearing protection the past few years. I sample all sorts of sound around the house and yard and anything over 85 db, I wear ear plugs.
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post #13 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 03:58 PM - Thread Starter
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Yelnach, sorry about that. I went back & re read your first comment and realized I misinterpreted the first part of your post. Thanks for the suggestion. I'll definitely give it a try.
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post #14 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 05:59 PM
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Honestly, go have your hearing checked. No one is saying your deaf, just that your hearing isn't what it used to be. I too started being anal about hearing protection 4 or 5 yrs ago , but alas the cow's had all run away by the time I closed the gate.

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post #15 of 18 Old 05-08-2013, 07:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Took y'all's advice, and was just curious, and got a hearing test. The audiologist said I had great hearing! No loss at any frequency. Most of my measurements were were either 5dB-10dB with I believe one that dipped to 20dB. Had 100% speech recognition as well. I dug up my military files to compare and m hearing is not as sharp as 20 years ago, but at least I'm taking care of my ears now and aside from age, I won't have premature hearing loss due to outside influences.
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post #16 of 18 Old 05-08-2013, 09:39 PM
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If after 25 years of numerous CC's and STILL having dialog issue's, I suspect a room problem, an incorrect position of the CC or maybe even a setup issue.

If you feel you can watch movie/shows the entire length with your hands cupped behind your ears, then my hat's off to you.


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post #17 of 18 Old 05-09-2013, 12:18 PM - Thread Starter
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That is absolutely true! My next upgrade will not be equipment, but a new room!! Im pretty happy with the gear I have now, its just a matter of having a room thats conducive to HI-FI. One thing I tried that did show improvement was moving my listening postition away from the back wall to near the center of the room. Of course thats not practical in my living room, but I just thought Id try it to see what results I would come up with.
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post #18 of 18 Old 05-09-2013, 12:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daffypuck View Post

Took y'all's advice, and was just curious, and got a hearing test. The audiologist said I had great hearing! No loss at any frequency. Most of my measurements were were either 5dB-10dB with I believe one that dipped to 20dB. Had 100% speech recognition as well. I dug up my military files to compare and m hearing is not as sharp as 20 years ago, but at least I'm taking care of my ears now and aside from age, I won't have premature hearing loss due to outside influences.


Those charts look great!


Most people who are over 30 usually have a dip in the 1k-5k area somewhere. They do not even realize it as it happens naturally over time.

Based on how you described things, it sounded almost exactly like someone with an issue in those frequencies would describe things. But it looks like you are doing great in those frequencies. So that is definitely not an issue.

You have better hearing than me wink.gif
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