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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I have trouble understanding movie dialogues no matter what I do or tweak. Help appriciated.

For context my setup :

Receiver: Onkyo TX-NR787

Fronts: Jamo S 807 x 2

Center: Jamo S83 x 1

Rear: Jamo S 801 x 2

Height speakers: Polk Audio OWM3 x 4

Subwoofer : SVS SB12-NSD 12" x 1

*Issue *:
I have trouble understanding dialogue and ended up using subtitles for the most part.

This is all using BlueRay TrueHD or Dolby/DTS uncompressed audio. The same problem also occurs in streaming services like Netflix.

The problem disappears when there is a voice-over narration. In the movie or for example in a documentary.

However, I have 0 issues with YouTube videos or even old stereo movies. Direct or up mixed.

*Current setup *

- Room calibration is done using Onkyo's setup. Also raised center by 5 dB.

- Placed speakers as front as possible to avoid reflection and directly facing the listener.

- Tried with EQ center speaker to raise the 80-400Hz frequency.

However, nothing really helps.

*Example Clips (Nonspoiler i promise) *

[Blade Runner] > url streamableDOTcom/5hbxk5

I only hear it as

"Right Deckard, you blah blah blah skinhead sidewalk"

Also when he says "Four" more to go, I hear it as "Twelve"

ANOTHER EXAMPLE

Clip from ConAir : streamableDOTcom/fg51bk

The lines from Dave Chappelle (the African American actor) is really hard to understand. Totally seem to be mumble.

Same clip with subtitles: streamableDOTcom/chcpfp

Now it totally makes sense. Of course.


I don't understand why that is the case. Once I read the subtitle it totally makes sense. But without it, it's not clear many times.

(Please replace `DOT` in URLs with `.`)
 

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I have trouble understanding movie dialogues no matter what I do or tweak. Help appriciated.

*Example Clips (Nonspoiler i promise) *

[Blade Runner] > url streamableDOTcom/5hbxk5

I only hear it as

"Right Deckard, you blah blah blah skinhead sidewalk"

Also when he says "Four" more to go, I hear it as "Twelve"

You can add a clickable link to your messages by clicking the chain link icon with the world behind it. I had a hell of a job finding the link as you posted it. For anyone else it is https://streamable.com/5hbxk5

I am hearing the link you posted as-
(Other cop) Right Deckard you look almost as bad as that skin job you left on the side walk.

(Other cop) One more to go.

(Deckard) Three, there's three to go.

(Other cop) There's four.

The only thing I am getting different is that I am hearing, 'One more to go' when you are hearing 'Twelve'.

I used to suffer from not being able to understand dialogue, usually female voices. It came to a head when watching Oblivion. Tom Cruise & Olga Kurylenko were having a conversation on top of the remains of the Empire State building. I could hear every word Tom said but Olga sounded like mumbling.

After researching the problem and doing the free stuff, paying attention to positioning the centre speaker to avoid reflections and moving the sofa away from the wall, this improved things. I then added foam acoustic tiles on the wall behind the sofa, (because they were cheap to try). This made things better so the final step was swap out the foam tiles for two 4 inch thick acoustic panels and mount them floating 2 ins of the wall which give an effective thickness of 6 ins, (so the science says), Been like that for three years now and no real problems with dialogue but nothing is perfect. Sometimes it is just bad recording or it might be age related hearing loss.

The funny thing is if there is something I cannot understand, as soon as I look at the subtitles I can then hear it perfectly even if I play it months later.
 
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- Tried with EQ center speaker to raise the 80-400Hz frequency.
Yeah, that probably made things worse. That's the "mud" zone. Take that back down to zero (i.e. no boost), and boost the 2-4 kHz range a few dB. That will give voices more presence. If male voices still sound "boomy," try reducing a bit in the 80-100 Hz range, especially if the speaker is inside a cabinet.

Listen to the sibilants – “s” and “t” sounds. If they sound subdued, like there’s a sheet over the face, a slight boost in the 6-7 kHz range should help that. Keep in mind however that the prominence of sibilants (or lack thereof) is something that changes from one program to the next.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
 

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Stopping the first sound reflections can help a lot, like having a thick rug between the speakers and you on the floor, if you are not already carpeted, and having acoustic panels on the walls between the speakers and you, or even a tapestry or drapes. Absorbing these early reflected sounds can clear things up quite a bit. Like suggested above, having sound absorption behind your seating position can help as well.

Try running the audio calibration again. I have observed differences in calibrations even with everything seemingly the same, some calibrations sounding better than others. Double check some calibration threads to make sure you are doing it correctly. Having the calibration mic in the wrong position(s) can hurt the final result significantly.

If all the free and cheap things to try do not help, consider getting an upgraded center speaker, if possible.
 

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I didn't see much mention of how your center speaker is mounted, other than "placed speakers as front as possible". Is it on a shelf? If so, is it all the way forward? How far from a wall is it? Did you try angling the center to point directly to the MLP? Based on your comments about narration and stereo sourced content not having a problem with dialog, it seems the problem could be your center channel. Either how it's setup or just the center channel itself.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
You can add a clickable link to your messages by clicking the chain link icon with the world behind it. I had a hell of a job finding the link as you posted it. For anyone else it is [/URL]
Sorry, I'm new here. Because of less than 5 points I couldn't paste a link. Sorry about the trouble.

(Other cop) Right Deckard you look almost as bad as that skin job you left on the side walk.

(Other cop) One more to go.

(Deckard) Three, there's three to go.

(Other cop) There's four.

The only thing I am getting different is that I am hearing, 'One more to go' when you are hearing 'Twelve'.

I used to suffer from not being able to understand dialogue, usually female voices. It came to a head when watching Oblivion. Tom Cruise & Olga Kurylenko were having a conversation on top of the remains of the Empire State building. I could hear every word Tom said but Olga sounded like mumbling.

After researching the problem and doing the free stuff, paying attention to positioning the centre speaker to avoid reflections and moving the sofa away from the wall, this improved things. I then added foam acoustic tiles on the wall behind the sofa, (because they were cheap to try). This made things better so the final step was swap out the foam tiles for two 4 inch thick acoustic panels and mount them floating 2 ins of the wall which give an effective thickness of 6 ins, (so the science says), Been like that for three years now and no real problems with dialogue but nothing is perfect. Sometimes it is just bad recording or it might be age related hearing loss.

The funny thing is if there is something I cannot understand, as soon as I look at the subtitles I can then hear it perfectly even if I play it months later.
Yeah I head it as One too sometimes. But never 4 . Not sure if it's just bad dialogue delivery by the actor.

About the last point, that is so me. As soon as I see the subtitle it's like "Oh yeah! Ofcourse he said that". But not always during the movie. I don't know what exactly is missing.
Funny thing is , none of it is an issue with bad quality video recordings from Youtube and even on my phone using TikTok and all. Or even sitcoms or news or other such sources.

The issue is limited to High Quality TV shows and Movies.


Yeah, that probably made things worse. That's the "mud" zone. Take that back down to zero (i.e. no boost), and boost the 2-4 kHz range a few dB. That will give voices more presence.

Listen to the sibilants – “s” and “t” sounds. If they sound subdued, like there’s a sheet over the face, a slight boost in the 6-7 kHz range should help that. Keep in mind however that the prominence of sibilants (or lack thereof) is something that changes from one program to the next.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
Thank you for the advice. I will try it and get back to you with the result. I think you're onto something. The dialogue understanding issue is definitely tied to missing sibilants.

Stopping the first sound reflections can help a lot, like having a thick rug between the speakers and you on the floor, if you are not already carpeted, and having acoustic panels on the walls between the speakers and you, or even a tapestry or drapes. Absorbing these early reflected sounds can clear things up quite a bit. Like suggested above, having sound absorption behind your seating position can help as well.

Try running the audio calibration again. I have observed differences in calibrations even with everything seemingly the same, some calibrations sounding better than others. Double check some calibration threads to make sure you are doing it correctly. Having the calibration mic in the wrong position(s) can hurt the final result significantly.

If all the free and cheap things to try do not help, consider getting an upgraded center speaker, if possible.
Thank you for your advice.

My room is well treated, to the point my GF is annoyed AF.

I have definitely done the calibration as accurately as possible and multiple times. The result is always consistent when it comes to the Speaker levels and Distance, even when I did it multiple times.
To eliminate the RoomEQ making it worse, I've tried to watch movies with "Direct" mode as well. That did not help .





I didn't see much mention of how your center speaker is mounted, other than "placed speakers as front as possible". Is it on a shelf? If so, is it all the way forward? How far from a wall is it? Did you try angling the center to point directly to the MLP? Based on your comments about narration and stereo sourced content not having a problem with dialog, it seems the problem could be your center channel. Either how it's setup or just the center channel itself.
Sorry about that. My speaker is as forward as possible. Even a bit more ahead than the shelf.
It is pointed towards the MLP, yes.

Here's a picture for reference : imgurDOTcom/a/fdecyUi

(Sorry about no directl link. My point is still less than 5. Just repalce `DOT` with `.`)
 

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Here's a picture for reference : imgurDOTcom/a/fdecyUi

Try temporarily pulling the white room divider out from behind your couch, it could be causing a center reflection or vibration generation its own distortion.



Also change your setup to 3.1 to simplify the number of competing elements (essentially it limits the potential problem space to 3x speakers and a sub). Or heck, disable the front L/R and see if it disappears, if you can only have a center plugged in and continue to have the same issue that's a ton of useful information: You've limited the scope to a "problem" with the center speaker and or sound-waves from it.
 

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Sorry, I'm new here. Because of less than 5 points I couldn't paste a link. Sorry about the trouble.



Yeah I head it as One too sometimes. But never 4 . Not sure if it's just bad dialogue delivery by the actor.

About the last point, that is so me. As soon as I see the subtitle it's like "Oh yeah! Ofcourse he said that". But not always during the movie. I don't know what exactly is missing.
Funny thing is , none of it is an issue with bad quality video recordings from Youtube and even on my phone using TikTok and all. Or even sitcoms or news or other such sources.

The issue is limited to High Quality TV shows and Movies.




Thank you for the advice. I will try it and get back to you with the result. I think you're onto something. The dialogue understanding issue is definitely tied to missing sibilants.



Thank you for your advice.

My room is well treated, to the point my GF is annoyed AF.

I have definitely done the calibration as accurately as possible and multiple times. The result is always consistent when it comes to the Speaker levels and Distance, even when I did it multiple times.
To eliminate the RoomEQ making it worse, I've tried to watch movies with "Direct" mode as well. That did not help .







Sorry about that. My speaker is as forward as possible. Even a bit more ahead than the shelf.
It is pointed towards the MLP, yes.

Here's a picture for reference : imgurDOTcom/a/fdecyUi

(Sorry about no directl link. My point is still less than 5. Just repalce `DOT` with `.`)
You're running the center and front speakers as "small", right?
 

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I also have been struggling with the same issue of dialog intelligibility for, well, decades now. And I also have the same situation with having the most difficulty understanding female voices.


Back in the 2000s, I tried three or four center channel speakers, but I could never understand the dialog as well as I could by using "phantom" mode with just the front L/R speakers. So, I ended up sticking with phantom mode for about 10 years.



Recently, however, I decided to try again to use a center speaker. I bought two of them and compared them to each other for about two weeks. It seems that both of them are superior speakers to the ones I tried back in the day. One was a Wharfedale EVO 4.c and the other was a Polk LSiM706C. They both sound very clear and have about the same bass extension. I just could not tell any difference in dialog intelligibility, so I returned the more expensive EVO. The Polk is pretty dang clear, especially if I pull it as far forward on the shelf as I can. But I still have some difficulty with female voices.



I do have some high frequency hearing loss, especially in the right ear, so I'm sure that is some of the problem, but I did have the problem even when my hearing was better. Other factors, IMO, are that some of these actors actually do seem to mumble their lines and don't enunciate well at all, and the way they mix the dialog in the sound track.
 
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Yeah I head it as One too sometimes. But never 4 . Not sure if it's just bad dialogue delivery by the actor.

About the last point, that is so me. As soon as I see the subtitle it's like "Oh yeah! Ofcourse he said that". But not always during the movie. I don't know what exactly is missing.
Funny thing is , none of it is an issue with bad quality video recordings from Youtube and even on my phone using TikTok and all. Or even sitcoms or news or other such sources.

The issue is limited to High Quality TV shows and Movies.

Thank you for the advice. I will try it and get back to you with the result. I think you're onto something. The dialogue understanding issue is definitely tied to missing sibilants.
Yes all my dialogue problems were tied to Movies. Anything else TV, (except dramas that try to imitate movies), YouTube, old movies and voice overs were fine. Animated films were not a problem as the actors record the dialogue in recording booths.

Never sure what the problem is with film. In old movies actors tended to speak properly and there was less background/ambient sounds. Even tramps and coal miners spoke with cut glass accents and even if regional accent was required it sounded false as all the dialogue was still enunciated correctly.

As the video you made was a recording of your system playing the clip I expected it to sound worse but I could understand it on my PC speakers and my Home cinema gear.

"The dialogue understanding issue is definitely tied to missing sibilants."

Have you checked to see if the tweeter in the centre speaker is working. I have had the tweeter fail and not realise due to age related hearing loss it but it makes a real difference to dialogue.
 

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Recently, however, I decided to try again to use a center speaker.
One was a Wharfedale EVO 4.c and the other was a Polk LSiM706C. They both sound very clear…
I believe the difference is that both those speakers have the tweeter and midrange vertically arrayed between the woofers, while your previous speakers were probably just a single tweeter between the woofers. From what I understand, the vertical array is a superior design that enhances intelligibility.

For further improvements, you might try the EQ tweaks I suggested in Post #3 .

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
 

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For a mere $10 return fee within 60 days if not happy, why not upgrade to Jamos 3 way center.

https://www.crutchfield.com/p_701C9IICBK/Jamo-Concert-9-Series-C-9-CEN-II-Black-Ash.html?tp=189
Yes, at least. But Crutchfield specs say it weighs only 6.8 pounds??? Can that be possible? I guess it would be an upgrade from the S83. I would never pay $459 for a seven pound speaker. I got my 40 pound Polk LSiM706c center for $349 from adorama on sale.


And I didn't realize how small the OP's center speaker is until I checked. Considering that, and that the center speaker is the most important, I would guess that a center speaker upgrade might be the first order of business.
 

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Yes, at least. But Crutchfield specs say it weighs only 6.8 pounds??? Can that be possible? I guess it would be an upgrade from the S83. I would never pay $459 for a seven pound speaker. I got my 40 pound Polk LSiM706c center for $349 from adorama on sale.


And I didn't realize how small the OP's center speaker is until I checked. Considering that, and that the center speaker is the most important, I would guess that a center speaker upgrade might be the first order of business.
I hear that but that's the only Jamo option.

As Jamo is made by Klipsch, which has many center choices in their well received RP series, that is another "family" option.
 

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For a mere $10 return fee within 60 days if not happy, why not upgrade to Jamos 3 way center.

https://www.crutchfield.com/p_701C9IICBK/Jamo-Concert-9-Series-C-9-CEN-II-Black-Ash.html?tp=189
Totally different model line from Jamo with different drivers and crossover, so the much-fabled "timbre match" would be likely impossible anyway.

And $460 for a pair of lousy 4" woofers??? For $400 he could get an Emotiva C2+ which would undoubtedly wipe the floor with that one.
 
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Totally different model line from Jamo with different drivers and crossover, so the much-fabled "timbre match" would be likely impossible anyway.

And $460 for a pair of lousy 4" woofers??? For $400 he could get an Emotiva C2+ which would undoubtedly wipe the floor with that one.
My guess is the OP has limited space; but that's just a guess.

This review of the tower indicates the center might have decent clarity.

https://www.therobinsonbrand.com/journal/best-budget-hifi-tower-speaker-jamo-c97-ii-review
 

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Here's a picture for reference : imgurDOTcom/a/fdecyUi
With the right-side wall very close to your system and nothing on the left side, your room is not very well balanced for early reflections. You do have some early refection treatment for you front-right speaker, but nothing really for the center channel reflection point back to your MLP. Therefore your brain hears more center channel reflections from one side than the other which can screw up intelligibility.

You might want to experiment with temporarily hanging a heavy blanket midway down your right wall to see if that helps. If it does, I would look at getting a couple of 2'x4'x2" thick acoustic panels from a place like GIK Acoustics, and then hang them vertically at the midpoint a few inches apart as a better long-term solution. I would leave your existing panel by your front-right speaker where it is.
 

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My guess is the OP has limited space; but that's just a guess.

This review of the tower indicates the center might have decent clarity.

https://www.therobinsonbrand.com/journal/best-budget-hifi-tower-speaker-jamo-c97-ii-review
Well, 3-way centers usually do have decent clarity...can't think of any that people have complained about in that regard.

But mains (whether towers or bookshelves) having decent clarity often do not translate into the "matching" center having the same, esp. when they're 2 way centers.
 

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And $460 for a pair of lousy 4" woofers???
The OP has a Jamo S 83 center speaker, which utilizes a pair of 5-inch bass drivers and retails for $229.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
Try temporarily pulling the white room divider out from behind your couch, it could be causing a center reflection or vibration generation its own distortion.



Also change your setup to 3.1 to simplify the number of competing elements (essentially it limits the potential problem space to 3x speakers and a sub). Or heck, disable the front L/R and see if it disappears, if you can only have a center plugged in and continue to have the same issue that's a ton of useful information: You've limited the scope to a "problem" with the center speaker and or sound-waves from it.

Thanks. Room dividers are not an issue. They are a recent addition and I've been having issues even before I added them. Plus they are very very thin, might actually be acoustically transparent. And I did run the room correction after adding them, so they are taken in account.

About the second point, I have actually tired the following two things:

1) Run a 4.1.4 setup, thus disabling the center speaker. They do not help with the mumble. And I also lose out the option to increase the center volume, making the situation worse.

2) Also, disconnected all other 8 speakers and just running the center for the experiment.
Again, the mumble doesn't get resolved.

The problem is not that the dialogue gets drowned out by explosion or musical score. Problem is that even during normal conversation, sometimes dialogue like seems a bunch of mumbles.

I have another example attached at the end of the post.

You're running the center and front speakers as "small", right?
Yes sir. Here is my crossover setting:

imgurDOTcom/a/dEktHtJ

Yes all my dialogue problems were tied to Movies. Anything else TV, (except dramas that try to imitate movies), YouTube, old movies and voice overs were fine. Animated films were not a problem as the actors record the dialogue in recording booths.

Never sure what the problem is with film. In old movies actors tended to speak properly and there was less background/ambient sounds. Even tramps and coal miners spoke with cut glass accents and even if regional accent was required it sounded false as all the dialogue was still enunciated correctly.

As the video you made was a recording of your system playing the clip I expected it to sound worse but I could understand it on my PC speakers and my Home cinema gear.

"The dialogue understanding issue is definitely tied to missing sibilants."

Have you checked to see if the tweeter in the centre speaker is working. I have had the tweeter fail and not realise due to age related hearing loss it but it makes a real difference to dialogue.
This is exactly it. The problem is limited to "cinematic" movies only. Also it is not an issue with animations or voice-overs where the actors try to enunciate.
Hell, I can watch a 1940s Mono movie and could understand 100% dialogue with ease. Same with news, sitcoms, youtube amateur videos etc.

These problem only started happening since 80s movies and so on. Surprisingly, this is less of an issue with Marvel movies because they compress the dynamic range themselves.

I actually have the smaller brother S81 Cen and that also has the same issue. I don't think tweeter failed in both speakers. How do I check if the tweeter is still working?

For a mere $10 return fee within 60 days if not happy, why not upgrade to Jamos 3 way center.

That's a entire different line-up right. My current speaker is Jamo S 83 CEN, which is also a 3 way center.

S 83 Cen

- 1" soft dome tweeter with an integrated waveguide for focused high frequencies
- dual 5" polyfiber woofers for punchy bass and midrange

9 Series C 9 CEN II

- 1" silk dome tweeter with an integrated waveguide for focused high frequencies
- dual 4" HCCC (Hybrid Composition Conical Cone) midrange drivers

It seems like the difference is in midrange drivers.

Again, while 9 Series C 9 CEN II might be a better speaker, there is no reason to think that S 83 Cen sucks. Plus, the Amazon and Crutchfield reviews are all glowing for S 83 Cen. There is no reason to think speaker is the problem.
(Sorry can't post direct links)

Also, I have also tried 4.1.4 (thus eliminating center). The mumbling issue is still present with Phantom center.

And I didn't realize how small the OP's center speaker is until I checked. Considering that, and that the center speaker is the most important, I would guess that a center speaker upgrade might be the first order of business.
Jamo S 83 CEN is huge. I don't know why you think it's small.
The dimensions are `19-5/8"W x 8-1/2"H x 9-11/16"D` . Of course, it is not a tower, but for a center speaker, it is quite big.

With the right-side wall very close to your system and nothing on the left side, your room is not very well balanced for early reflections. You do have some early refection treatment for you front-right speaker, but nothing really for the center channel reflection point back to your MLP. Therefore your brain hears more center channel reflections from one side than the other which can screw up intelligibility.

You might want to experiment with temporarily hanging a heavy blanket midway down your right wall to see if that helps. If it does, I would look at getting a couple of 2'x4'x2" thick acoustic panels from a place like GIK Acoustics, and then hang them vertically at the midpoint a few inches apart as a better long-term solution. I would leave your existing panel by your front-right speaker where it is.
Unfortunately, that is true and the room is not optimal for a "perfect" system.. But the right side is the kitchen and there is no way to hang a blanket in the middle of the room. It's a rented apartment so I can't really put a structure in between haha.
I agree that the room structure is definitely stopping my system from being optimal, but I do not think that is the reason for dialogue mumbling. Just my intuition that it is not the reason for my current issue.


I did padout the back of the TV as much as I can imgurDOTcom/a/J7ijGni

The OP has a Jamo S 83 center speaker, which utilizes a pair of 5-inch bass drivers and retails for $229.
Yes. It is top of the line center in S series and other reviews have given it glorious revies for clarity. I really doubt it is my center speaker.
Plus I was able to reproduce this with 4.1.4 setup as well.


For further improvements, you might try the EQ tweaks I suggested in Post

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
I tried the following two EQs:

1 : imgurDOTcom/a/oCMmGJH

2: imgurDOTcom/a/MIf95To

I have to say they improved the sound for sure. However, not enough and mumbling issue still persists.

But thanks for your suggestion and I will keep using the EQ. Definitely helped a bit.



ANOTHER EXAMPLE

Clip from ConAir : streamableDOTcom/fg51bk

The lines from Dave Chappelle (the African American actor) is really hard to understand. Totally seem to be mumble.

Same clip with subtitles: streamableDOTcom/chcpfp

Now it totally makes sense. Of course.


I don't understand why that is the case. Once I read the subtitle it totally makes sense. But without it, it's not clear many times.

(Please replace `DOT` in URLs with `.`)
 
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