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Discussion Starter #1
I'm a newbie to the forum, but think I can find this useful in the future as I convert over to HDTV.

For now my problem is this. I have old but good equipment. Old Kenwood Stereo amp, fairly new Zenith 27" analog TV, new, inexpensive, Magnnavox MDV200f DVD player my duaghter gave us for Christmas.


I've fed the DVD video into S video to the TV, and feed the audio into either an input on the stereo amp, or into an input on the TV.

The video is beautiful when playing a DVD.

The audio soundtrack (sound effects, music, etc) sounds pretty good for an old system.

But the audible speech is so weak we can hardly hear it.

To hear any voice, you have to turn the audio up so loud that it is uncomfortable for casual listening.

I have two sets of speakers on the stereo amp, front and rear. I have speakers in the TV which I can turn on or off.

My best combination is using TV speakers on with rear speakers from stereo.

If I select one of the narration tracks on the DVD, it sounds great. It is just when the movie sound track is running that we cannot hear speech. I have tried all possible audio combinations on the DVD player. I have tried fullscreen and widescreen videos.


I have seen other complaints about this on the web, but no solutions yet.

What am I missing?

Thanks for any suggestions!
 

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Dialog in dolby 5.1 comes from the center channel speaker. If you don't have a surround system setup and have the audio setup wrong, you'll loose most of the dialog. So what you have to do is to setup the player/dvd such that the audio is redirected into the two channels you do have.


You need to be sure that the audio setup in the DVD player has 2 channel selected. This is after you have loaded a DVD, go into audio options and select something that would indicate 2 channel. You might also have to go into the player's setup options and do the same.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Becuase we have only used VCR till now, and have good results with it, I had to assume it must be something with the way DVD's are formatted.

I don't have a center speaker. This is a 30 year old amp. But it still sounds much better than most inexpensive ($300-$400) home theaters.

It seems if you want to go from VCR to DVD, that you also have to get into a new stereo with 5.1 audio.


Even playing the DVD into the TV sound system gives poor dialogue, but good sound for special effects.

I guess I'll have to find a 5.1 system, even though I like what I have.

My other question is if a different DVD player would give different results, or offer more audio selections to allow enhancing the voice part of the sound track.
 

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Not sure if downmix is automatic, or if you have to set the DVD player to do that in the setup menu, but you may want to check for a similar setting.


Was going to try to look at the Owner's manual on-line, but don't see that model on the Magnavox website.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Sorry, I typed the model wrong. It is Magnavox MWD200F.

There is a setting in the audio setup for selecting I think 3.1 or 2.0 audio (I'm going from memory). Default was 3.1 but I've tried both, with no or little change. There is also in the setup menu several audio selections. I've tried different combinations, but have not found one that improves voice in the background of the movie sound track.
 

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I was trying to find a picture of the back panel of the player you have. But it appears to be a Wal*Mart special that Magnavox doesn't even list on their own site.


Anyway, have a look at the back of it. If there are two sets of audio out RCA jacks, one that has just a stereo pair and another set that has 6 jacks for 5.1 surround, make sure you are using the stereo pair, not just the left and right of the 5.1.


Otherwise I'm not sure. You are correct in setting the player to output 2 channel instead of 5.1. But the player may not be smart enough to downmix. I'd also investigate the Setup of Language options on each DVD you are viewing to see if it ofters a Dolby Stereo option in addition to the Dolby Digital 5.1.


Last, because the dialog is mixed in mono, if your speakers are out of phase the sound would be mostly canceled. Check your wiring to make sure you keep the + and - correct and consistent through out all of the connections.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks much for the feedback so far.

The output on my DVD is analog audio, right left channel, and also digital audio coax. The video outs are video (RCA jack) and S-video.


I was not aware I could select an option on the DVD itself for either 5.1 or stereo. I am a little DVD ignorant (but not electronics ignorant). I'll have to look for this tonight. One movie I had was a Star Wars "The Phantom Menace" in wide screen. Another was the Last Lord of the Rings in full screen. Now whether or not the DVD player can properly downmix, I have no idea. I may try to borrow another DVD from someone to see if it performs any differently.


My speakers are not out of phase. Good question, however they are all wired correct polarity.
 

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Not every DVD offers 2 channel and 5.1 channel mixes. It is supposed to be possible to indicate how the 5.1 should be mixed down to stereo right in the Dolby Digital data stream. But sometimes the DVD authors don't like the limits of the downmix options and do a stereo mix by hand.


After seeing how poor of a job a lot of authoring companies do with indicating the video source and interlacing scheme in video streams, and their inability to set the Dolby Digital EX flags correctly in 6.1 bitstreams, it wouldn't surprise me at this point if when setting the downmix information they got that wrong too, and mixed the center channel at 0 into the left and right.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Injector,

I have a little more info now that I am home again. The Magnavox player has in the audio menu setting:

1. DRC (dynamic range control) on/off. I selected on to compress range between softs and louds.

2. It has downsampling on/off. I selected on for outputting in 48khz.

3. It has Dolby Digital Bitstream/PCM. I selected PCM, as the manual says this converts to 2 channel.


Star Trek DVD allows me to select 5.1 or Dolby Digital 2.0. I have 2.0

Mr. Incredible seems to only have 5.1.

Also tried Lord of the Rings, and X-Men.


The player also has a mode button that allows to select stereo virtual surround:

1. Natural effect

2. Emphasized effect

3. Off. No effects (original sound).

Right now I have 1 selected.


By the above settings, and playing with my stereo amp controls I can improve the dialogue. However it is still weak.

When TV plays or VCR, dialog is much more prominent. When DVD plays, have to up the audio levels significantly to get decent audio.

I guess this is good to create the special effects, but if you want to watch a DVD without disturbing sleeping kids, company, or someone working in the next room, it is hard with the DVD. May have to invest in a HTIB. However on some threads I have read that this can even be a problem with certain HTIB systems.


I like listening to the TV with just Tv speakers on and rear stereo on, as the chairs are about 12" from TV.

I fear with a 5.1/6.1/7.1 system, that I will loose the ability to have just my TV stereo with good dialogue, pleasant for me audio levels coming through the rear speakers. As I understand the newer systems, the dialogue is on the center speaker.

Are my fears unfounded?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oaktree44
Injector,

I have a little more info now that I am home again. The Magnavox player has in the audio menu setting:

1. DRC (dynamic range control) on/off. I selected on to compress range between softs and louds.

2. It has downsampling on/off. I selected on for outputting in 48khz.

3. It has Dolby Digital Bitstream/PCM. I selected PCM, as the manual says this converts to 2 channel.
1. On, is probably the best idea if you don't want explosions being much louder than dialog.


2 and 3 should have no effect on the analog outputs. I would change them back to the defaults, of no downsampling, and DD Bitstream.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oaktree44
Star Trek DVD allows me to select 5.1 or Dolby Digital 2.0. I have 2.0

Mr. Incredible seems to only have 5.1.

Also tried Lord of the Rings, and X-Men.
How does the Star Trek DVD sound in 2.0 Stereo?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oaktree44
The player also has a mode button that allows to select stereo virtual surround:

1. Natural effect

2. Emphasized effect

3. Off. No effects (original sound).

Right now I have 1 selected.
This is the reason I was saying to leave the defaults above. I'm not sure when the 5.1 mix gets handed to the virtual surround processor. I just don't want it to be mixed to two channels before this processor tries to do its work. That said I don't usually like the virtual effects, so you may also want to give "Off" a try, to see if it sounds any better.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oaktree44
I like listening to the TV with just Tv speakers on and rear stereo on, as the chairs are about 12" from TV.

I fear with a 5.1/6.1/7.1 system, that I will loose the ability to have just my TV stereo with good dialogue, pleasant for me audio levels coming through the rear speakers. As I understand the newer systems, the dialogue is on the center speaker.

Are my fears unfounded?
With an actual surround processor it is possible to tell the processor you have no center channel speaker and it will send the mono signal equally to both the left and right speakers.


People have also used the speakers in their television as the center channel. But that is usually not recommended as it will not match the timbre of the main speakers well.


I don't use the speakers in my television at all. With my 5.1 system even with no dynamic range compression I can have the levels low enough not to disturb anyone during the loud passages while still being able to discern the dialog in all but the most extreme cases. On the few DVDs where the dialog is so low compared to other parts; I do enable "Night Mode" on my receiver and it heavily compresses the soundscape.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Injector,


Thanks again for your input. Regarding the Star Trek DVD with stereo 2.0 selected, it is better than 5.1 playing into my stereo. Even though the sound track can still be pretty overpowering in relation to dialogue.

Most other settings on the player or DVD have little effect in terms of loudness. They do change the "color or temper" of the sound, IE maybe a little more brassy, or more bass, or slight more reverb, etc. But the other settings have minimul effect on dialogue loudness. Some settings seem to give a little more clarity, depending on the DVD.

I may try another DVD player, but somehow I don't think it is a player issue, but rather the nature of DVD and 5.1

You mentioned a "Night Setting" on your reciever. Is this a common mode on most recievers? I think I am going to have to shop for a HTIB or reciever plus speakers to resolve my problem. Though I was hoping to put it off another year or so till I made the plunge to H.D. I've looked a little at Yamaha or Onkyo, but I'm in no hurry. I would just prefer to make a good decision on something that would give good comaptibility with HD.
 

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The 2.0 mix should be as the show was presented on TV, albeit with perhaps a little more dynamic range.


I am now stumped as to what could be the problem. I would be interested to hear your results with a different player. I think it is great that the entry level into DVD playback is now in the $30 level, but sometimes the bar can be too low. I'd recommend the Pioneer DV-588A-S as an inexpensive player that performs well. It is priced at about 3x the Magnavox, but may be worth it. The physical build quality is a little low, but the actual playback is good.


Every receiver I've seen in recent years has offered a night mode of some sort. They all do the same thing, just a large amount of compression is applied to the dynamic range to bring the louds and the softs closer together. Personally I hate the way it makes a DVD sound, but I consider dynamic range compression to be my enemy. :p So maybe I'm not the best spokesperson on the subject.


As for HD, a few receivers today will switch HDMI video inputs--I prefer to keep my video and audio paths separate. None decode Dolby's new HD audio format. Sure the first HD content may be rolling out in 2006, but there will only be a few titles from which to choose, and the equipment prices are going to be of the "early-adopter" level. I'm going to wait a couple years before investing. Let others pay for the research and development costs, and have them find the compatibility bugs. Actually right now I'm assembling what will be the system that will have to last me until I'm ready to upgrade to HD.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Injector,


The Pioneer looks interesting, but haven't yet located one locally. I also found a Phillips DVP642 player, that has more audio possibilities, including a night mode selection out of the DVD.

Since I first posted on here, I have seen a number of other threads here with the same issue.

My gut feel is that the industry has partially missed the boat on playing DVD's for the average consumer, who wants to be able to watch DVD and hear what is being said. Most people are not going to go through the trouble of fine tuning amplifiers, speakers, speaker placement, fixes to room acoustics, etc. They just want to put the DVD in and go.

I almost think it has become overly complicated for the typical person. My field is electronics (not A/V though) and my preference is to plug it in and go, but it's not so simple.
 

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As you can see from my post count, I'm rather new here too. I'm also noticing the abundance of posts similar to yours.


As for the Philips, I've not seen one in person. But looking over the specs on Philips website; I can't say I'm impressed. One tip that the sound processor in it may not be up to snuff: it doesn't even have a DTS decoder. The SNR is only 90 dB, that is not even good for a CD player.


The Pioneer, while not exactly night mode (but when I've set this feature on my receiver it was very close to how the night mode sounded), does offer High DRC (Dynamic Range Compression) for Dolby Digital sources. Plus dialog enhancement which is described as, "The Dialog feature is designed to make the dialog stand out from other background sounds in the soundtrack." Also seeing that you have just a two channel setup, I assumed you may be interested in music. The Pioneer is also a SACD and DVD-A player.


I do agree with you, things should just work. But that is what I just can't get my head around. I've never experienced a problem like this myself. There was a 6 month period several years ago where I was without a receiver (my mother watered it along with her plants). While waiting to have it replaced I just ran the stereo jacks from the DVD player to the TV and used its built-in speakers. I had no trouble with dialog. Even now my mom has my old TV and DVD player (I forgave her) she rents DVDs all the time, and has never complained to me. Nor I have had any issues the few times I've watched movies at her house. That is what I can't figure out. It feels like I'm missing something, like there should be a root cause that can be dealt with.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
My problem is solved ( at least to a point that I can live with it).

I could not find ther Pioneer locally (Hi Fi buys were out of it).

So finally decided to try something, and picked up a Sony DVP-NS50P player.

This is a jump up over the Magnavox I had.

Just using the default settings, the Sony was slightly better in sound than the Magnavox.

But the Sony has a lot more features in the audio setup.

There are 7 different menu selections in the audio menu.

The two that help most for my situation are to select TV mode, rather than standard, and also in the downmix menu select normal rather than Dolby Surround.


If I use my TV speakers on in the front (with TV surround off), and my stereo rear speakers on, I get pretty good dialogue, and still have acceptable soundtrack.

This was on Star Wars "The Phantom Menace".

If I want to get the full effect of the sound track, I can use other settings (turn TV mode off, and go back to normal or wide; turn Dolby Surround on: turn on various virtual surrond modes, etc).


This Sony has a lot of capability for the price, in audio and video settings. Has DTS decoder, component out, digital audio, and so on. When I upgrade my components in the near future, at least I know I can probably make something work.

Thanks for all feedback.
 

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I'm glad I could be of assistance, and glad you got the problem worked out.


A note as to what the downmix option is doing: Normal is mixing the channels together as specified in the DD bitstream. Dolby Surround is taking the rear channels of the discrete 5.1 and mixing them together into one mono signal. Then taking that signal and sending it to the left speaker while inverting the phase and sending it to the right. The center channel is mixed equally into both the left and right. The 180 degrees out of phase "mono" signal can then be separated by a Dolby Surround processor and sent to the rear speakers. While Dolby Prologic pulls inphase mono signal from the left and right as sends it to the center channel.


So unless you are running a Dolby Surround processor you should not use the Dolby Surround matrix mixing as it will be adding out-of-phase information to your normal stereo mix. The virtual surround modes take the rear channel information and add artificial spacial ques to make the sound from two stereo speakers in front of you sound like it is coming from sources behind.
 
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