Do I need a soundbar or receiver to boost dialog volume?
I often have trouble understanding TV dialog, due to a combination of high frequency hearing loss and low dialog volume in common TV sources. My understanding is that dialog is often encoded in the center channel of 5.1 (and higher) audio, so I want to bring up the relative volume of that component, when driving my 2 channel stereo.
I have 5 HDMI sources (PC running streaming apps, Roku (am replacing a Roku Express by a modern Roku Ultra), Android TV, DVD player, and I may get cable or satellite).
I have an old non-smart but still working well 1080p HDTV that only has two lousy speakers. The only other audio output is a headphone jack, that I have used to input into a 40 year old analog hifi (which has pretty good sound quality), sometimes with a used pro-grade graphic equalizer in between. When I use the hifi and graphic equalizer, it helps a fair bit, but what I really need to do is to boost the relative volume of the center channel.
I want to do this at minimum cost, without degrading sound quality.
So far I have found out three ways to do this, all fairly expensive.
1. Buy a reasonably good quality AV 5.1 (or more) receiver, and 3 (or more) good quality speakers. Turn up the center channel volume. Quite expensive.
2. Buy a soundbar that passes through the HDMI signal, plays the sound, and has a control that lets me boost the center channel volume. Fairly expensive - I think I need at least a $350 souondbar to match what my hifi produces from the current setup.
3. Buy an HDMI sound extractor (e.g., from Monoprice), and use it to feed a fancy surround sound audio system. Again expensive.
Is there a cheap pass-through HDMI device that will just extract the 5.1 sound from an HDMI input, boost the center channel, and output it into analog stereo I can feed my hifi, or re-encode it onto the output HDMI?
Alternately, is there something I can do inside any of the listed sources that will boost the contribution from the center channel?
Alternately, could I buy some type of fairly good surround sound headphones that have center sound channel adjustment? This is tempting, and I'm willing to spend $100-$150 on reasonably GOOD quality headphones. Ear buds don't fit my ears - I would need on-ear or over-ear headphones, and my head is fairly narrow for an adult, so about 2/3 of the headphones I've tried can't be adjusted to fit. I don't know enough to figure out what would work.
Last edited by MRG1; 11-28-2019 at 10:43 PM.