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Hey all? I’m in the process of buying speakers for my basement. On our main floor tv area, we struggle to understand what people are saying during tv shows/movies/etc.

now that I have a new chance to avoid this issue - are there any center channel speakers or manufacturers that are better for spoken audio?I’m going for a 5.1.4 setup and will very rarely be used to music.

I was going to go with KEF speakers and use a Q650C for center, but someone who just got one reported in the KEF owners thread that they are struggling with spoken audio,

Is this a challenge with the center challenge? Receiver settings? Or environment? Are certain center speakers better for spoken audio than others?
 

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Wow, this is something that I have searching for over the past year or so ! I'm anxious to see what recommendations that you receive. I am currently using Elac Debut b5.2/c5.2/b5.2 for my front 3 speakers and with my old ears & damaged hearing I must use subtitles for most of my HT. Not that the c5.2 is a problem but, with my hearing, do I need something else to compensate. I had high hopes for the new Uni-fi 2.0 line but both Elac and Crutchfield advisors indicated that maybe the Uni-Fi would not be a significant improvement over the Debut. C'field indicated that a brighter speaker, such as the Klipsch RP450c, might be a better choice. Meanwhile, I'm getting pretty good at keeping up with the subtitles ! :)
 

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The environment plays a major role in speech intelligibility. As long as the speaker isn’t totally bad, it can be plenty clear, as long as the environment allows it to be.

Common environmental issues with center channels, which lead to muddy voices:
  • Enclosed in a box, like when people put them INSIDE of a cabinet. This is a no-no; they need to be open and able to breathe.
  • Too close to the wall, especially if it’s a rear-ported design. This can be mitigated by placing an acoustic (absorption) panel directly behind the speaker on the wall.
  • A flat surface is directly below the speaker; this is common if your speaker is on top of a piece of furniture and the speaker is behind the edge. Pull the speaker forward until it is flush with the edge and all parts of the drivers have direct line of sight to the floor.
  • The floor is too reflective. Use a fluffy area rug if you don’t already have good carpet.
  • Reflections off of a TV that is mounted directly above the speaker. This is a tough one to deal with; I can somehow compensate for this using a custom Audyssey curve, or whatever EQ system you’re using.
  • Reflections off of the ceiling. Also a tough one to deal with if you have typical, non-dedicated-room visual constraints. Easy to deal with if you don’t mind having an acoustic panel on the ceiling.
  • Wide angle between the center channel and your listening position. This basically exacerbates all of the above, but then you also have to deal with comb filtering, also known as “lobing.” This can be mitigated with a 3 way center channel. But for most decent quality speakers, a two-way center channel has no noticeable lobing within +-20 about degrees of perpendicular, so that gives you a 40 degree “cone” of an ideal listening window. Beyond that, it’s not necessarily bad, it’s just not ideal. A 3 way center will get you more like +-30 degrees.

In some instances, very slightly adjusting the delay (or so called “distance”) in your room correction up or down might make a difference, especially at the crossover point. It may smooth out the integration between your center channel and subwoofer(s). Also, play with the crossover frequency; 80hz is a great starting point, but don’t be afraid to try 90 or 100, or even 60. Just experiment.

Some people report improvements with angling the center channel up toward the ears, also known as “raking” the speaker. Careful not to create yet another resonance chamber if you try this. Think about it; if you put a peace of foam or wood or whatever at the front of the speaker to raise it, you’ve now created a hollow volume between the furniture and the speaker. This can lead to other problems. To properly rake a center channel, you’ll need to use a solid piece of something (likely foam) to avoid creating any gaps.

If after all that, you still have a bit of mid frequency boom that makes speech sound muddy, you’ll want to experiment with more EQ. Cut notches of frequencies out until the muddy sound goes away, then slowly start to put the frequencies back in to get your “full” sound back, balancing fullness with clarity.

Sometimes, with whatever constraints you have, you just need to make a compromise. This hobby is all about compromises. Hope this helps!
 

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Most of this is just bad mixing....If you just watched Tenet yea that's not your system that the mix.

There are dialogue controls that can automatically play with the sound to make dialogue much easier to hear but i'm not a big fan of those. Just turn it up.....

You can increase the db of your center channel too but you're messing with the mix pretty heavily to get good results.
 

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Hey all? I’m in the process of buying speakers for my basement. On our main floor tv area, we struggle to understand what people are saying during tv shows/movies/etc.

now that I have a new chance to avoid this issue - are there any center channel speakers or manufacturers that are better for spoken audio?I’m going for a 5.1.4 setup and will very rarely be used to music.

I was going to go with KEF speakers and use a Q650C for center, but someone who just got one reported in the KEF owners thread that they are struggling with spoken audio,

Is this a challenge with the center challenge? Receiver settings? Or environment? Are certain center speakers better for spoken audio than others?
I just upgraded my center from a Klipsch rc52 to the q650. It's a noticeable improvement. Don't put too much into one person's experience, mine included. You need to hear for yourself but the q650 is a very good speaker at its price point.

Most dialogue issues have more to do with poorly mixed/mastered content and less to go with the speaker being used.
 

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Klipsch usually gets high marks for dialogue clarity. Of course, eliminating bad reflections in your room will help with the clarity of all your speakers, as mentioned above.
 

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Hey all? I’m in the process of buying speakers for my basement. On our main floor tv area, we struggle to understand what people are saying during tv shows/movies/etc.
now that I have a new chance to avoid this issue - are there any center channel speakers or manufacturers that are better for spoken audio?I’m going for a 5.1.4 setup and will very rarely be used to music.
Any excellent center speaker will provide excellent voice clarity as well as tonal realism/fullness. In Canada, your best bet may well be the Emotiva C2+ which ships free from the US ($400USD plus 15% upcharge for Canadian duties). You'd probably need to jump up to the massive Paradigm Prestige or Premier 3 way centers to get a significant improvement over that one, at (my guesstimate) 2-3 times the price.

Of course, if you want to experiment with the Paradigm Monitor center and can find a place with an easy return option, it would be the best bang for the buck if you're 100% satisfied with it.
 

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I echo the room comment (no pun intended). A bad room can make or break a speaker and bass response. There is a whole section at AVS forum devoted to room treatments. I’ve invested a lot of time and money in my own room and can confirm it makes a very big difference. Room treatment and speaker placement is the foundation you want to start with regardless of the cost and brand of your speaker.
 

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I was never happy with dialogue intelligibility until I made the investment about a year ago in a Atlantic Technology CC (8200c THX Ultra)......I couldn’t be happier with it....it’s not cheap, but worth the investment.
 

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One thing that wasn't mentioned was the placement of the MLP.

If you have your sofa against the rear wall, almost all of the center speaker content is ambient, there's a strong reflection off the rear wall directly behind you causing combing and lobing, and the reverberant sound will be competing with the strong bass from the boundary reinforcement off the wall behind your head too.

If you have your sofa in a modal bass null, a modal bass node, or a speaker-boundary interference null, you also get strong frequency response aberrations from those acoustic problems too. You can't do much about the speaker-boundary interference except by moving the speaker away from or closer to the boundary, or treating the reflecting surface, because moving the MLP will likely only shift the frequency of the null slightly, but you can address the modal nulls and nodes readily by moving your MLP and you can also investigate the intensity of ceiling and floor reflections impairing the imaging by moving your ears up and down.

One easy way to diagnose if your MLP is poorly positioned is to move a chair around trying different distances from the front wall and trying seated or standing positions. If you notice a wide variation in dialog intelligibililty with better sound elsewhere, consider moving your MLP and/or your center speaker, or adding absorption/diffusion.
 

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Not trying to be flippant, but the way I would choose or recommend how others should choose which is best for dialog is let your ears decide which is best in your listening space. Good old fashioned comparison in your space will not let you down. Everything else is just someone else's opinion.
 

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On our main floor tv area, we struggle to understand what people are saying during tv shows/movies/etc.

Are certain center speakers better for spoken audio than others?
Here's an excerpt from another post you might find beneficial.

But here's the good news: you don't need to change out ALL of your speakers. You can simply replace our center with any number of far more capable center speakers that will finally allow you to experience HT dialogue as it was meant to be: effortlessly! No more bloody straining to understand wtf the actors are saying anymore.

Here are some proven-performer horizontal centers in the $250-400 range, which most people are quite happy with:
  • Emotiva C1+ or (if you have the space) C2+
  • HTD Level 3 (free return shipping)
  • Infinity RC263 (esp. when on sale)
  • Chane A2.4 (when in stock)
  • Ascend 340SE
  • Hsu HC-1 or CCB-8
  • Canton Chrono centers (accessories4less.com)
  • Polk LSi-M centers (when deeply discounted)
Centers with free return shipping:
  • HTD Level 3 center
  • RSL CG25
  • SVS Ultra center (a bit overpriced, but...)
  • JBL centers from the JBL website
  • Infinity centers from the Infinity website
 

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Sharing another excerpt about matching centers.

And before you ask:
The importance of "timbre matching" is grossly exaggerated. Like most audio folklore, it comes directly from the vested interests of the industry and its advertising-bought, ever-pretentious "golden-eared" audio press. It matters only if you're very nitpicky and MICRO-LISTEN to your movies, as opposed to (gasp!) simply WATCHING them.

(Seldom mentioned is the fact that the ONLY way to get a TRUE "timbre match" is to use a center that is IDENTICAL to your L/R speakers and is also vertically configured, i.e. having the 3 tweeters horizontally aligned. Any time you combine a HORIZONTAL center with VERTICAL mains, you are not getting any sort of real "matching"---a horizontal center is just a WAF/convenience-driven compromise.)

To see how multiple people are finding out FOR THEMSELVES just how silly the whole "timbre matching" hoopla is, start with post #19 of this thread:

There are many more threads like that:

Hsu HC-1 with NHT SuperOnes

Infinity RC263 used with JBL 590s

Infinity RC263 with Emotiva T1, vs C2

Emotiva C2 with Klipsch RP-600M, JBL Studio 530, etc.

Klipsch RC-62ii with JBL 590:

Klipsch RP-450C with JBL 590

Emotiva C2 with Revel F35, and with JBL 530:

Polk 706C with Legacy Signature II:

SVS Ultra center with Polk LSi-9

Emotiva C2 with Mission 770

Emotiva C2 with JBL Studio 590

KEF Q650 with Polk RTiA3

Emotiva C1+ with Wharfedale Diamond 225

Paradigm center with B&W in-wall speakers

Hecor Aurora with Revel F208

HTD Level 3 with Def Tech BP30
 

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Another tip that hasn't been mentioned here is to play with the dynamic range adjustment on your receiver. I have done almost everything suggested in this thread with most having only small/moderate improvement (YMMV depending upon your conditions) in dialog clarity. Just recently I stumbled onto the suggestion of DR and it seems to have a moderate+ impact - i.e. reducing the DR improves the dialog. Just one more idea on helping with the problem.
 
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Hey all? I’m in the process of buying speakers for my basement. On our main floor tv area, we struggle to understand what people are saying during tv shows/movies/etc.

now that I have a new chance to avoid this issue - are there any center channel speakers or manufacturers that are better for spoken audio?I’m going for a 5.1.4 setup and will very rarely be used to music.

I was going to go with KEF speakers and use a Q650C for center, but someone who just got one reported in the KEF owners thread that they are struggling with spoken audio,

Is this a challenge with the center challenge? Receiver settings? Or environment? Are certain center speakers better for spoken audio than others?
I appears you are looking to get all 3 front speakers, and not just a center channel speaker. If that's the case, I suggest you consider all 3 front speakers as a "system" instead of looking for a CC in isolation. The front soundstage is made up of all 3 front speakers and they should all work synergistically to provide a cohesive, consistent and integrated front soundstage. Certainly dialogue intelligibility is a significant aspect of sound quality, and a very important one for movie content. It is certainly possible to find 3 speakers with the correct sound quality to provide excellent dialogue intelligibility while also providing a cohesive, consistent and integrated front soundstage. This should be the goal when designing the front soundstage.

Obviously, 3 identical speakers will provide the best opportunity for this kind of match, especially if they're all mounted at the same height, (ear height for the tweeters), and aimed at the listener. However, 3 identical speakers don't always work for everyone. Nor do identical mounting heights work well in all situations. Practical considerations often supersede the ideal solution. In those cases, compromises must be made. But even when making compromises, the concepts and practices of a "sonically matching" front soundstage should be kept in consideration.

Having said that, you may need to look beyond the "matching" CC from a speaker line to get a good sonic match to the L/R's. Often the "matching" CC is a horizontal version of a vertical speaker. It usually uses the same tweeter, but may have different mids/woofers. Horizontal speakers have inherent dispersion issues which may be exacerbated by driver selections or placements within the enclosure. Sometimes the matching CC is sealed whereas the L/R's are ported. Even if the CC is also ported, it may have a different port tune than the L/R's. These issues and others can result in a less than ideal sonic match for the horizontal CC and the vertically aligned L/R's.

As a general rule, vertical driver alignments work better for speakers than horizontal alignments. When looking for a sonically-matched set for the front soundstage, look for vertically aligned speaker systems. In a horizontal CC speaker, using a 3-way design and aligning the tweeter/mids verically in the middle while only deploying the woofers horizontally can go a long way towards addressing these issues. Some of the previously mentioned CC's use this alignment with stacked tweeter/mids and woofers deployed on either side.

Another alignment that can work is a 2.5-way design, where one woofer is crossed over lower than the other, and low enough to avoid the lobing and comb filtering inherent in MTM designs. Klipsch uses this strategy on many of their CC's, as do some other manufacturers.

Bottom line, 3 identical vertically aligned speakers, mounted at the same height and aimed at the listener provides the best opportunity for an ideal sonic match of the front soundstage. If that is practical or possible, there are other options than can provide "more than acceptable" results. It's all about correct "system design."

Good luck.

Craig

PS. Even the very best CC, the one with the flattest on- and off-axis frequency response, won't be able to provide perfect dialogue intelligibility... if the recording and mixing engineers have done a lousy job of getting the dialogue into the content. Unfortunately, this happens all too often in contemporary movie content. The dialogue is either overwhelmed by sound effects, or it is recorded at to low a level, or just "badly", and it impairs the listener's ability to understand the dialogue. This can't be corrected by any speaker. It can only be made worse by bad speaker design.
 

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As a KEF Q650c owner, I can hear dialogue just fine. As mentioned, could be other factors like room acoustics, the actual source material or even speaker placement that is causing intelligibility issues. Do you have a picture of your set up for reference?
 
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