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Suggestions -- Next Steps to Make HT Dialogue Clearer?

599 Views 9 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  jdurbin
I am fine-tuning my home theatre audio setup and would like suggestions about next steps.


I’m currently running a Pioneer 1015 with digital coax from my dvd player and 12 gauge speaker wire to a lower mid-range speaker setup (all speakers set on “smallâ€):

- Mission M61 mains

- Mission 73c Centre channel

- Mission M60 rear speakers

- Energy C100 bipole side surrounds

I’m running an Energy 10 inch powered sub on an RG6 coax from the receiver. Crossover settings on the sub and receiver are 80.

The speaker connections are all good quality banana plugs. The room is a dedicated HT, 19 x 14 x 8, carpeted and furnished, but with no acoustic treatment applied yet.


I used the Pioneer’s MCAAC to set up the speaker volumes and to adjust the EQ profile for room deficiencies. The system sounds very good, but centre channel volume had to be increased to make the dialogue clearer. Turning up the volume has helped, but it’s still not satisfactory.


My only remaining complaint about this setup is that sometimes, dialogue is hard to make out. I recently watched “Gosford Park†and “Magnoliaâ€. Gosford Park has a lot of whispered dialogue with English accents, and Magnolia has a loud music track in some parts that obscures the voice track. The dialogue is generally loud enough on my system, but sometimes it’s not clear enough to understand everything. I haven’t heard a comparable system to know whether this is due to shortcomings in source material or setup/equipment issues.


My first thought is to take my centre channel speaker to a good home theatre store and to A:B it against other centre channel speakers. I know that some speakers produce more acoustic detail than my setup, and perhaps this would help with the dialogue?

Where would you start, and what steps would you suggest?


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Acoustic treatments. They're essential for every room. Trying to tune your system without them is like driving into the sun with a dirty windshield and no sunglasses.


Also make sure that the center is pointed up/down towards your ears. This makes a big differance. You're center isn't inside a entertainment center is it?

And if you haven't played with your other speakers placement, do. Pulling them out from the walls and toeing them in can help.
Crossover settings on the sub and receiver are 80.
If you are using an 80Hz crossover in the receiver, you should bypass (not duplicate) the crossover in the sub.

Thanks for all your comments.

"Tweak" and "K", It looks as though I have some experimentation to do with acoustic treatment.

"K", none of my speakers is in an kind of entertainment centre. The main speakers are toed in slightly, ~ 18 inches from the front wall and 2 feet from the side walls. The centre speaker is at ear level (seated) 18 inches forward of the bottom of the screen.

Kal, I don't see any way of bypassing the low-pass filter on my subwoofer. It has settings of 50, 80, 100 and 120, but I don't see an "off" position for it. I thought I had read here that they should be set at the same level?

In the interim, I temporarily replaced the centre speaker with one of my rear surrounds (a monopole Mission M60), and it improved the clarity of the dialogue in "Gosford Park". That suggests replacing it with a better centre channel speaker will also help.

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Not being a smarty, but maybe it's just the DVDs & there's only so much you can do. Just something I thought of, since many DVD reviews I read here in AVS mention the variations in dialogue clarity.

Would changing the CC to Large make a difference? I noticed my 435 used to always set the CC only to Large, when the others were set to small.
Originally Posted by Ricketty Rabbit
Kal, I don't see any way of bypassing the low-pass filter on my subwoofer. It has settings of 50, 80, 100 and 120, but I don't see an "off" position for it. I thought I had read here that they should be set at the same level?
Without an "off", I've read to max the xover on the sub (for you 120), which should allow the receivers xover to send the correct frequencies through without being affected by the subs internal xover.
Thanks, gohd. I'll try your suggestions about resetting the CC to large, and setting the sub x-over to 120. I also wondered whether the DVDs had shortcomings since the dialogue is very clear on some. I would bet that the dialogue track on Gosford Park is a benchmark of sorts for CC speakers -- if you can hear the dialogue clearly on it, you can probably hear it on any. In contrast, we watched Master and Commander last night, and I'd say we caught 99% of the dialogue despite the incredible cacaphony of the battle scenes. But I gotta say, DTS soundtracks sure sound marvelous.

It's not the DVD's, it's the room. The bass decay (or lack thereof) is drowing and cancelling out some of the dialog. Treatments are the answer for this and a lot of other issues.

As for CC to large - only if it will handle it effectively and accurately. However, resetting the xover is absolutely in order. Set the sub point as high as possible and the receiver at 80.
I agree with Bryan on all points but would add this one point. I think your front three speakers may be poorly matched. I currently have a Cambridge Soundworks system and the center channel was supposedly compatible with the left and right front speakers.

When I used my pre-amp's pink noise and a Radio Shack SPL meter to tweak my gain settings for each speaker I was amazed at how different the center channel sounded compared to the other front speakers even when all were balanced to the same level according to the SPL meter. It sounded like the midrange had more depth and fullness to it and there was much less highend. I never noticed that when I was listening to music or movies. The pink noise made it obvious.

You may find that even though your receiver's circuitry has balanced the five channels (plus subwoofer) strictly on volume levels that because of the tonal differences between the front speakers the dialogue is depressed (or accentuated) because of peaks and valleys in the center channel's frequency response.

As Bryan points out, acoustic treatment would make a big difference in helping this out but you may also want to try different center channels - preferably that have the same drivers as your other front speakers.
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