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Old 07-18-2016, 03:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Can't make out dialogue well in the center?

Not a recommendation thread, more of a question thread.

Perusing various threads I've seen this problem come up more than once for people- that they can't make out dialogue well. Most seem to own a center, but the center for some reason isn't performing what would seem to be it's primary it's job well enough. Ever since upgrading from a cheap HTiB set up I can honestly say I have never encountered this problem at any time. And up until recently, I haven't been using particularly pricey or fancy speakers. Dialogue has always been clearly and cleanly articulated for me.

I'm am just wondering if this is because the ones I've been using were/are designed to be as neutral as possible? Do people start having problems when the speakers are intended to have a signature sound (which I would take to be a purposeful deviation from a flat as possible frequency response)? Or am I just off base here?

I realize this could also be room interaction to a good extent. Do you think it's mostly that and not the speaker design itself that gives some people their problems?
Is it possible that you could chalk most of these complaints up to off-axis lobbing issues from the horizontal MTM design that most people likely have?

Last edited by Paulidan XM; 07-18-2016 at 03:10 AM.
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Old 07-18-2016, 03:26 AM
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Can't make out dialogue well in the center?

I had this problem recently. For me it was a combination of my front speakers being too close to my center, my room, and my old center which just wasn't up to task vs my fronts which even when EQ'd seemed to overpower the center. What are the fronts and center you're using? Can we see a photo of the front speakers? Before I got my new center, moved the fronts apart, and fixed some room EQ issues, I used to just run EQ then boost my center channel a good 3-4db. Not a great solutions since your other speakers will get drown out a bit during the action scenes but it definitely helped with the quieter hard to hear dialogue parts.

Another thing i noticed is that I was always listening to movies at very low volume because the action scenes were very loud if I had the volume to a level where I could clearly hear the dialogue scenes. What I realized is that, partly at least, this is how it's meant to be. Think about when your at the movies. The dialogue is clear and easy to hear but not overpowering, but the action scenes are VERY loud! Once you have some good speakers that can emulate the reference experience, that's just what you'll get too at home. If you can't crank it up a bit for some reason (trust me I have many like baby, and wife), lots of AVRs have settings to balance the vocals with the louder scenes. I believe it's called DRC or Dynamic Range Control.



Also with DRC, note that if your using some device like Xbox One that passes sound to the receiver already uncompressed, this won't work as it needs to happen to the compressed Dolby/DTS content. The receiver can't do this function to uncompressed (PCM) audio.
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Old 07-18-2016, 04:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Paulidan XM View Post
I'm am just wondering if this is because the ones I've been using were/are designed to be as neutral as possible? Do people start having problems when the speakers are intended to have a signature sound (which I would take to be a purposeful deviation from a flat as possible frequency response)? Or am I just off base here?

I realize this could also be room interaction to a good extent. Do you think it's mostly that and not the speaker design itself that gives some people their problems?
Is it possible that you could chalk most of these complaints up to off-axis lobbing issues from the horizontal MTM design that most people likely have?
What make/model center speaker are you using?

No, the sound signature of the center speaker does not determine its voice clarity or lack thereof.

Room interaction usually affects the PERCEIVED sound signature of the speaker---e.g. it can render an already "bright" speaker even brighter, or make a neutral speaker seem slightly "bright" or slightly "warm."

As the name implies, any off-axis "lobing" issues would simply affect someone sitting off-axis...if you're sitting ON-axis, it's irrelevant usually.

If the speaker itself is not defective or incompetently designed (usually, a crappy tweeter and/or crossover), the more likely possibility is some sort of user error---perhaps wiring the speaker out of phase, or some incorrect setting in your AVR.

Make sure this is happening with a variety of sources, rather than just one defective source---for example, a particular movie with very poorly mixed audio.

~ HT ain't rocket science. Most just want clear dialogue out of the center (70-80% of output), boom-boom from the sub, enough detail/dynamics from the front L/R...maybe $100-300 per speaker, $30-$60 per surround. There is a vocal minority that derives great pride & pleasure from blowing far more $$$ for perhaps an extra 5-10% improvement...well, this is good for the economy. Figure out which camp you are in, and proceed accordingly. ;)
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Old 07-18-2016, 04:47 AM
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Both of the previous posts make good points with respect to dialogue clarity. Some additional issues that I think can contribute to the problem are primarily positional in nature. If a CC is not angled properly up (or down) with respect to listening positions, it can be hard to hear as clearly. Although most speakers have reasonable off-axis performance in the horizontal plane, many do not in the vertical plane. That is partly to prevent floor or ceiling bounce from contributing to first reflection issues.

If a CC is located inside a cabinet, or back on a shelf or stand, that can also create problems, as what is around the CC can add distortion to the sound reaching the MLP. If at all possible, the CC needs to be located forward of any obstructions, so that comb filtering will not occur. Of all the satellite channels, proper positioning of the CC is probably most important, simply because it carries so much of a movie's information. And it doesn't take much to obscure dialogue, particularly if accents are involved, or if actors mumble.

Finally, many people put something like a hard-top coffee table directly in the path of the CC, especially in mixed-use rooms. While convenient and attractive, those tables, or other objects, can cause early reflection problems. And as with comb filtering from a shelf or cabinet, early reflections involving the the CC can obscure critical dialogue. EQ won't really solve that type of problem, and may in some cases exacerbate it.

The point about mis-matching an under-powered CC with stronger front speakers is also something that I have experienced. That can also make it hard to hear dialogue. Zorba has long contended that the CC is the most critical speaker for HT and I have never seen (or heard) anything that would contradict that.

Regards,
Mike
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Old 07-18-2016, 02:33 PM
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To me turning off DRC dramatically improve everything, including center channel clarity.

In my case Audyssey set the center too low in volume and the surrounds too high.

A simple volume adjustment took care of any issues.

My center is a 50 pound monster and sounds great; some of the tiny lightweight ones might not pair well with higher quality left and rights.
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Old 07-18-2016, 03:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paulidan XM View Post
Not a recommendation thread, more of a question thread.

Perusing various threads I've seen this problem come up more than once for people- that they can't make out dialogue well. Most seem to own a center, but the center for some reason isn't performing what would seem to be it's primary it's job well enough. Ever since upgrading from a cheap HTiB set up I can honestly say I have never encountered this problem at any time. And up until recently, I haven't been using particularly pricey or fancy speakers. Dialogue has always been clearly and cleanly articulated for me.

I'm am just wondering if this is because the ones I've been using were/are designed to be as neutral as possible? Do people start having problems when the speakers are intended to have a signature sound (which I would take to be a purposeful deviation from a flat as possible frequency response)? Or am I just off base here?

I realize this could also be room interaction to a good extent. Do you think it's mostly that and not the speaker design itself that gives some people their problems?
Is it possible that you could chalk most of these complaints up to off-axis lobbing issues from the horizontal MTM design that most people likely have?


Keep in mind that clarity of speech is optimized by having the best possible reproduction between 300 hz and 3000 hz. Bell Laboratories proved this over 100 years ago by extensive research and testing, and it has been confirmed many times by subsequent research.

Too much low frequency content is often a "muddying" factor. The "room interaction" you speak of is primarily a mid-bass issue; frequencies between 40 and 80 Hz.

I recommend center speakers with 4-inch drivers and little or no response below 100 hz. This often makes for a big improvement in speech clarity compared to expensive wide-range center speakers with excessive bass response.

Keep the bass in the front L/R speakers and NOT in the center speaker if you want improved speech clarity. That is my advice based on a lot of experience.
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Old 07-18-2016, 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by commsysman View Post
Keep in mind that clarity of speech is optimized by having the best possible reproduction between 300 hz and 3000 hz. Bell Laboratories proved this over 100 years ago by extensive research and testing, and it has been confirmed many times by subsequent research.

Too much low frequency content is often a "muddying" factor. The "room interaction" you speak of is primarily a mid-bass issue; frequencies between 40 and 80 Hz.

I recommend center speakers with 4-inch drivers and little or no response below 100 hz. This often makes for a big improvement in speech clarity compared to expensive wide-range center speakers with excessive bass response.

Keep the bass in the front L/R speakers and NOT in the center speaker if you want improved speech clarity. That is my advice based on a lot of experience.

Agreed! Or set a crossover a little higher than 80Hz, even if the center is capable of going lower than 80.
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Old 07-18-2016, 04:22 PM
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it also could be an avr settings issue

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Old 07-19-2016, 08:39 AM
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This thread about potential causes of poor dialogue clarity from the CC may have run its course. But I decided to revisit the idea of using a higher crossover, because something about that may seem counterintuitive. Let's say you set a crossover of 100Hz, either because the CC is incapable of playing below that, or because you are hoping that you will get better dialogue clarity. In either case, the bass frequencies below 100Hz aren't lost, they are merely transferred to the sub(s).

But that's the slightly counterintuitive part. Why would a sub be able to play clearer dialogue than a CC with 4'' or even 6" drivers, assuming that the MV is such that the CC isn't distorting. The short answer for me is that it can't, but something about using a slightly higher crossover makes voices sound a little more natural and clearer for me. My CC is always set with a 60Hz crossover, which is generally consistent with its specs. But I have never liked using even an 80Hz crossover, much less 60Hz. And that is based largely on the sound quality, and not just on the 1/2 to 1 octave rule, which I do follow.

I have experimented with crossovers ranging from 90Hz to 110Hz, with 90Hz as my current setting. And I have always preferred the sound a little higher than 80Hz. I can't really explain why that should be. As I said, it's a little bit counterintuitive. Perhaps it's partly because the CC is a little closer to me, or pointed directly at me, and sounds above about 80Hz are a little more directional. I don't really know. But I wondered whether others have had a similar experience, and if anyone has a better explanation for why a higher crossover seems to help, if potential CC distortion is not a factor, as I believe it is not at my listening volumes?
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Old 07-19-2016, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by mthomas47 View Post
I have experimented with crossovers ranging from 90Hz to 110Hz, with 90Hz as my current setting. And I have always preferred the sound a little higher than 80Hz. I can't really explain why that should be. As I said, it's a little bit counterintuitive. Perhaps it's partly because the CC is a little closer to me, or pointed directly at me, and sounds above about 80Hz are a little more directional. I don't really know. But I wondered whether others have had a similar experience, and if anyone has a better explanation for why a higher crossover seems to help, if potential CC distortion is not a factor, as I believe it is not at my listening volumes?
I'm curious, do you notice male voices sounding any different at the 110Hz vs the 80Hz crossover?

Also, what sub do you have? I wonder if a sub that has a flat FR and does the upper bass region well (since the cheaper ones usually exaggerate the 30-60Hz range while falling off sharply before and after) is well suited for this type of high crossover.

~ HT ain't rocket science. Most just want clear dialogue out of the center (70-80% of output), boom-boom from the sub, enough detail/dynamics from the front L/R...maybe $100-300 per speaker, $30-$60 per surround. There is a vocal minority that derives great pride & pleasure from blowing far more $$$ for perhaps an extra 5-10% improvement...well, this is good for the economy. Figure out which camp you are in, and proceed accordingly. ;)
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Old 07-19-2016, 10:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zorba922 View Post
I'm curious, do you notice male voices sounding any different at the 110Hz vs the 80Hz crossover?

Also, what sub do you have? I wonder if a sub that has a flat FR and does the upper bass region well (since the cheaper ones usually exaggerate the 30-60Hz range while falling off sharply before and after) is well suited for this type of high crossover.
Both male and female voices sound a little different as I change the crossover. My CC is a Mythos Ten. Initially, I thought that the bass radiators in that speaker made voices sound a little chesty with a low crossover. It was very noticeable with a 60Hz crossover, and somewhat so even with an 80Hz crossover. That was with a good SVS sub located behind the display to prevent localization. Later, I went much further with my subs, and now have three Ultras. Although the subs have a very flat frequency response, my particular situation is skewed somewhat by the fact that I prefer a big sub boost.

Talking about this has made me want to experiment again, but my recollection is that I went back down from 110Hz to 90Hz because of the big sub boost. The large sub boost, coupled with the 110Hz crossover, really tended to give a little too much bass emphasis to voices, so 90Hz was my best compromise. I'm going to try 100Hz again for a while to test this. For someone with less bass boost, though, the higher than a 80 or 90Hz crossover might aid in clarity. I suspect you are right that a higher quality sub would do much better with a higher crossover, as some of the cheaper subs undoubtedly don't do as well in the 100 to 120hz range.
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Old 07-19-2016, 11:26 AM
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Keep in mind that clarity of speech is optimized by having the best possible reproduction between 300 hz and 3000 hz. Bell Laboratories proved this over 100 years ago b..

Too much low frequency content is often a "muddying" factor...

I recommend center speakers with 4-inch drivers and little or no response below 100 hz. ...

Keep the bass in the front L/R speakers and NOT in the center speaker if you want improved speech clarity. That is my advice based on a lot of experience.
This was going to be my response as well. If you don't apply a crossover to the Center vocals get a husky or chesty sound to them that tends to muddy the midrange. Which is exactly the opposite of what you want.

Let each speaker do what it does best. Let the Center concentrate on dialog.

Also, though more minor, the position of the Center. Moving it forward or backward can change the timing of it relative to the other speakers.

Also, how deep it is in the cabinet and how close to the wall, as with other speakers, can effect the sound. Though, again much like other speakers, using a crossover on the speaker can moderate problems caused by placement.

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Old 07-19-2016, 11:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the feedback, guys.

Just to be clear, I'm not having any issues at all with my center- I was just curious what was likely contributing to the problems other people are having.
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Old 07-19-2016, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by mthomas47 View Post
Some additional issues that I think can contribute to the problem are primarily positional in nature. If a CC is not angled properly up (or down) with respect to listening positions, it can be hard to hear as clearly.

....

If a CC is located inside a cabinet, or back on a shelf or stand, that can also create problems, as what is around the CC can add distortion to the sound reaching the MLP. If at all possible, the CC needs to be located forward of any obstructions, so that comb filtering will not occur.

....

Finally, many people put something like a hard-top coffee table directly in the path of the CC, especially in mixed-use rooms. While convenient and attractive, those tables, or other objects, can cause early reflection problems.
^^

This. Over the years, I've seen lots of people complain about center channel dialogue issues, only to discover issues with not aiming the speaker at the listening position, reflection issues because of furniture that was close to the center channel, or rooms that had had horrible reflection issues because of tile floors, glass sliding doors, and nothing on the walls.
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Old 07-19-2016, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Paulidan XM View Post
Thanks for all the feedback, guys.

Just to be clear, I'm not having any issues at all with my center- I was just curious what was likely contributing to the problems other people are having.
You are welcome! That was always clear. I just thought it was an interesting theoretical discussion.
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Old 07-19-2016, 02:38 PM
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I am well in the category of "other people" having major issues with dialog when watching TV shows.

I have changed AVR and all speakers all to no avail.
In my dedicated home theater room I do not have this issue at all.

So my problem relates to my family room set up.

Speech dialog is often very poor and changes from channel to channel. Worst of all is CBS and episodes of Elementary.
Speech audio is generally poor, though female voices are the worse of the two
I am currently using a TIVO set to output in Dolby Digital into a Sony 1040 AVR. (it has latest firmware and I did a complete factory reset).Note I also use a 1040 in the HT.
Speakers are currently Martin Logan Series 4 (L & R) and for Center I use a Series 8.

I have spent maybe 50 hours experimenting but all to no avail.

Ian

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Old 07-19-2016, 02:58 PM
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I am well in the category of "other people" having major issues with dialog when watching TV shows.

I have changed AVR and all speakers all to no avail.
In my dedicated home theater room I do not have this issue at all.

So my problem relates to my family room set up.

Speech dialog is often very poor and changes from channel to channel. Worst of all is CBS and episodes of Elementary.
Speech audio is generally poor, though female voices are the worse of the two
I am currently using a TIVO set to output in Dolby Digital into a Sony 1040 AVR. (it has latest firmware and I did a complete factory reset).Note I also use a 1040 in the HT.
Speakers are currently Martin Logan Series 4 (L & R) and for Center I use a Series 8.

I have spent maybe 50 hours experimenting but all to no avail.
I have found the Dolby Digital signal from a lot of TV stations "sketchy" at best, this is why, years ago, I set my Tivo to output stereo only. No issues since.
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Old 07-19-2016, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by IRJ View Post
I am well in the category of "other people" having major issues with dialog when watching TV shows.

I have changed AVR and all speakers all to no avail.
In my dedicated home theater room I do not have this issue at all.

So my problem relates to my family room set up.

Speech dialog is often very poor and changes from channel to channel. Worst of all is CBS and episodes of Elementary.
Speech audio is generally poor, though female voices are the worse of the two
I am currently using a TIVO set to output in Dolby Digital into a Sony 1040 AVR. (it has latest firmware and I did a complete factory reset).Note I also use a 1040 in the HT.
Speakers are currently Martin Logan Series 4 (L & R) and for Center I use a Series 8.

I have spent maybe 50 hours experimenting but all to no avail.
I agree with Alan's assessment of TV shows in general, and CBS in particular. One of the things I have noticed about CBS is the heavy surround boost they use on many of their shows. It can make some shows virtually unwatchable for me. On other CBS shows that I want to watch, I find that reducing the trim levels on my surround speakers can really help. That won't completely correct the problem of hard to hear dialogue, but it might help.
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