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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know this topic comes up a lot but I am trying to land on a good solution. I have a Sony STR-ZA3000ES avr connected to 2 DT 9080x tower speakers. There just isn't a place for a center channel in my setup (over the fireplace sin). The options on the sony for audio signal are underwhelming, basically just treble and bass.

I have the amp set to two channel stereo, broadcast tv is great. I can watch the normal tv show and the audio is crystal clear. Music is also crystal clear. Premium channel movies such as HBO tend to have issues with dialogue. Netflix and amazon prime have similar problems as well. Some are worse than others, for example, I tried watching tenant the other night and It was really hard to understand the dialogue. I temporarily hooked up an older mythos sts tower on the center channel, set the avr it to multi channel and it did make some improvement, but it wasn't anywhere near as clear as normal tv. I had the speaker in the middle of the room as a test and still didn't leave me wanting to demo the room to fit a center. I later read that tenant is probably one of the worst examples of audio mixing, but lets set that aside for a second.

I feel that my speakers are good enough for the room, I would love a center channel but its just not possible. I attached a picture of the room so that you can see what I mean.

Is there anything out there where I could better adjust the signal sent to the tower speakers to improve dialogue? I have never owned a pre-processor for example. I feel the bulk of the issue is the signal sent to the towers, not the towers themselves. I know the room acoustics are a problem (ceilings are like 30 feet high) but there again its fine with broadcast. I just don't have any experience with what is out there that could possibly address this problem. For example if something can take a pcm input, and allow me to amplify what was originally destined for the center channel speaker and make sure that is louder then what was originally going to be sent to L&R i could see that working etc.

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What's more important, the fireplace or a CC speaker?

Look into your AVR's settings and try "Phantom Center" mode or some that may be similar.
See how that works as a compromise.
 
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The fireplace definitely needs to stay. I have the system set to 2 speakers, as a result it is operating on 2ch mode and does send the dialogue to the L&R speaker. From what I am reading most av receivers reduce the center signal by 3db or so when they mix it into the L&R. Are there any processors or devices on the market that would allow you to customize or counter this? I could probably live with the inverse scenario, reducing the signals of the L&R and upping the center signal sent to those towers.
 

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The only way to fix this is to have a receiver with dialog enhance capability or have a center channel speaker that you can bump up the dBs a bit to hear the dialog over the special effects. Looking at the picture, I see no reason you cannot have a center channel speaker. It could sit on top of the mantle, below the TV. You might even adjust the bracket holding the TV so the TV sits a few inches higher, giving you some additional options in center channel speakers. You really want to avoid those centers with 2 and 3 inch drivers, if you can.
 

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I know it’s likely not restricted to this particular movie, but Tenet is NOT a good test or benchmark. Many find the dialog unintelligible in this movie on the best setups!
 

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I have the amp set to two channel stereo, broadcast tv is great. I can watch the normal tv show and the audio is crystal clear. Music is also crystal clear. Premium channel movies such as HBO tend to have issues with dialogue. Netflix and amazon prime have similar problems as well.
We have several rooms with systems using AV receivers that are utilized in stereo mode only (the theater room is multichannel). There are no dialogue problems at all, including streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime with Roku and Blu-ray players, and HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc., via cable receivers. Prior to cable, DirecTV was fine downmixing to stereo as well.

You did not specify what devices you are using for streaming and premium channels and whether they offer audio setup options. If you have not already done so, check if you have any audio settings buried in menus that need adjustment.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I have a tivo edge as the primary source of audio, it offers dolby and pcm output. PCM is more balanced but much quieter then the dolby output mode. What center channel would you recommend if I try the mantel? I was wondering also is something like the xmc-2 would potentially allow me to resolve the issue from a signal standpoint?


the mantel is 8" deep and currently there is 4" between the mantle and the tv. As stated I could move it up slightly.
 

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I have no experience with Tivo products.

I read the Edge online manual. It says some models have stereo analog outputs. If applicable to your unit, have you tried using an analog connection?

 

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F your fireplace. Redo its aesthetics to fit a center channel. There’s oodles of wasted space there. You’re welcome. Sound is infinitely more important than looks….. And then you could get into a proper Atmos setup.
 

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Some to consider that will be kinda close to the mantel size IIRC (most have depth a little more than 8") and not make you raise the TV too much and not break the bank (<$200)
You'll want to confirm the sizes and not trust my memory! :)
RSL CG23
Infinity Reference RC252 (but wait for a sale to get under $200)
HTD Level Two Center
Polk Signature S30 (currently on sale at Amazon, but can be found for less "refurbished". The slimmer S35 has complaints about clear dialog)
BIC FH6-LCR (known for clear dialog, but non-existent bass, contrary to specs. Can be returned in-store if bought at walmart.com. Not the best looking grille)

If your budget's a bit higher, these are considered to be better quality centers around the same size
Emotiva C1+
Chane A2.4
Ascend CMT-340
Hsu HC-1
HTD Level Three Center

You may want to start with options that allow for easy returns. Besides retail stores and Amazon Prime, Harman Audio (including Infinityspeakers.com and jbl.com), rslspeakers all offer free shipping and free returns. SVSsound does as well, but their speakers are more expensive then the competition (Prime Center in this case). Crutchfield has discounted return shipping on non-tower speakers.
I think HTD offers free returns for first-time buyers.
You'll want to most speakers with rear ports because of the proximity to the wall. The Polk may be an exception, since its "PowerPort" has a guide forces adequate spacing.

What center channel would you recommend if I try the mantel? I was wondering also is something like the xmc-2 would potentially allow me to resolve the issue from a signal standpoint?
the mantel is 8" deep and currently there is 4" between the mantle and the tv. As stated I could move it up slightly.
 

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I had the same dialogue problem with my old Energy bipolar speakers and Mirage "omnipolar" speakers. Have you tried experimenting with toe-in? If that doesn't work, here's a radical option.

If you can't accommodate a center in front of the fireplace because of WAF, there are speakers that have excellent dialogue intelligibility AND--with just two (L/R) speakers--create a rock-solid phantom-center image that stays anchored between L/R even if you move far off-axis. These are mostly controlled-directivity speakers like Hsu CCB-8s or Power Sound MTM 210T, MTM 210, or MT110.

I have the Hsu CCB-8s. I don't use a center but I never have dialogue-intelligibility problems, due to the CCB-8's razor-sharp imaging. No more turning up the volume because I can't understand dialogue. And their controlled-directivity design, combined with extreme toe-in and a principle called time-intensity trading, expands the "sweet spot" beyond the MLP to a super-wide area where 5 or 6 people, including those sitting off-axis, can enjoy a stereo image/phantom center.
 

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Do you want easy or cheap?

Cheap ain't easy (get rid of the fireplace), but an easy way to fix this would be this:

You can also get a wallmount center speaker and attach it to a bracket to the VESA mount and it will work well. At least a lot better than it is now.
 

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Nice. About time they came up with a motorized version.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
thanks for all of the advice guys. I ran a speaker wire to true center, I am also going to try 2 speakers ontop of the cabinets as a possible solution. That will put them mid screen, I know there are many reasons not to do this, but since I have the wires ran now (did that past few days) I'm going to at least try it and see what I think. If there are issues like comb filtering ill punt that idea and try something else but at this point aesthetically a cs9080 fits perfectly up there instead of the plants and I have a buddy who can let me try two for a couple days. I saw a few guys post that they didn't have issues with two centers despite all the warnings, hoping it works out. I tried my two 9080xs with the center signal split as a test and I didn't notice any strange behavior in that setup, just wasn't viable since I was lacking L&R at that point.
 

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I have the amp set to two channel stereo, broadcast tv is great. I can watch the normal tv show and the audio is crystal clear. Music is also crystal clear.

I temporarily hooked up an older mythos sts tower on the center channel, set the avr it to multi channel and it did make some improvement, but it wasn't anywhere near as clear as normal tv.
I had the speaker in the middle of the room as a test and still didn't leave me wanting to demo the room to fit a center.
Your statements in Post 1 indicate the dialogue intelligibility problem is not related to your main loudspeakers. As you said, "the audio is crystal clear" on TV shows.

Also, you tried a Mythos STS speaker as a center channel, located well away from walls and furnishings. The Mythos will almost certainly outperform any center-channel speaker you might purchase, including a CS9080. Yet you still had dialogue issues even with the Mythos.

This indicates to me that the problem is related to the electronics--the Tivo (more likely) or the Sony receiver--not your speakers.

If you have a Blu-ray or DVD player, check to see whether they provide clear dialogue with multichannel movies downmixed to stereo. Be certain to set the player's audio menu to the stereo output mode.

If downmixed discs provide clear dialogue then you know the issue is with the electronics, not the speakers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
So here is an update. I wired everything and I am currently running the attached image. I moved my towers and the two centers to an external emotiva amp. Everything is crystal clear. I didn't encounter any weird sounds by having two centers. Its likely due to the fact that the seating position is about 18 feet away, its not as if I am right in front of the tv/speakers. That being said it was a bit shocking how much comes out of the center channel vs the towers. I almost feel like spending for good towers was overkill. On 2ch they of course sound great and the centers do nothing, but on multi stereo i basically sense the bass of voices but not the voices themselves, background music etc from the towers. I am actually glad I have two centers at the moment because based on what comes out of each speaker I don't think one center would be enough for the room.

As a newb I'm just curious, are there products on the market that would redistribute the channels based on the speaker setup or are you purely at the mercy of how the movie was mixed? I have been eyeing up the xmc-2 instead of my avr, but not sure it would make a difference here.

I haven't watched an action movie yet, I watched parts of crazy stupid love last night as a test. The movie is mostly dialogue. In the bar scenes, all of the talking comes out of the centers, the background music and basically the bass/reverb of the voices come out the sides, but not really the vocals themselves. The general crowd noise seems to be coming out the L&R. From what i have read that's all basically expected, just again the L&R at least in that scenario is largely underutilized. That being said the overall experience is a movie that's easier to hear.
 

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There should be a lot more action in the front LR with an action movie.
(Do not use Tenet to test unless you want all effects and inaudible dialogue unless doing a lot of center +trim)


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

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Glad to read it worked out. Just to confirm, you're pretty much at the mercy of the sound editor that recorded the content. There are upmixers on-board the AVRs and processors (like all-channel stereo from stereo content, Atmos upmixing from DD content, etc), but they still work with what they got in the first place.
On any surround content, almost all dialog is typically recorded for the center channel. As you note, that's different for 2-channel stereo music.

So here is an update. I wired everything and I am currently running the attached image. I moved my towers and the two centers to an external emotiva amp. Everything is crystal clear.
That being said it was a bit shocking how much comes out of the center channel vs the towers. I almost feel like spending for good towers was overkill.

As a newb I'm just curious, are there products on the market that would redistribute the channels based on the speaker setup or are you purely at the mercy of how the movie was mixed? I have been eyeing up the xmc-2 instead of my avr, but not sure it would make a difference here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Just wanted to post again its been over a week and I am really happy with this setup. I added a large area rug to the mix and that also helped. For those of you who are dead set against two centers I really think (at least at these listening distances) its more than fine. I actually have a hard time imagining how hallow everything would sound if I didn't have two speakers pushing the center channel content in that large of a room. I have some long term plans (or considerations) of getting a xmc-2 and along with daric but I am a little concerned with all of the mentioned stability and quirky issues/
 
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