What? Cant hear the voices

My wife and I 55 yrs ish are now having trouble hearing the voices clearly over laugh track and music backrounds on TV shows and movies on DVD. We have a great 38 inch Lowe HD tube TV, embedded in a great two channel sound system. Right now we get the best sound just using the two stereo speakers (Von Sweikert Vr4 SR's) and turning off the TV volume. My question is the best way to proceed. Is there a way to just add a center speaker and a reciever to handle it perhaps with prologic 2? Not interested in surround etc, just clearer voices. Thanks
Friend, welcome to the middle aged hearing club!
Larry K.
Did this just happen with no changes,by you, to your system?

Don't know what your source is for TV cable, sat, over the air etc... but for the DVD player you might want to check the setting to insure it is not outputting to 5.1. I had to set all speakers to "NONE" on my DVDSACD player when I went from 5.1 to 2 channel. Your TV source may be the same. List your DVD player and TV source please.
Just shy of you and your wife's age I too was having difficulty hearing and making out the voices. However I am using a complete 5.1 surround system. At first I adjusted the center channel upward to compensate so the center channel played louder than the other speakers. I still struggled to make out certain voices so I started investigating other options. It became apparent that some speakers have enhanced midrange speakers over their competitors. So I made a complete speaker switch to B&w 802's for my main and center channel speakers. The difference was quite astonishing. I gained complete sound improvemet across the board. Yes I spent a lot of money to deal with my dilema but these were the speakers I wanted in the first place. Perhaps others would know of different speaker options if this is something you would consider. You might even consider trying head phones? Unfortunately, your other option would require a change in processors. I even spent thousands of dollars for hearing aids. The aids improved my ability to hear but I was very dissatisfied with the quality of what I was hearing. Sure hope this helps, good luck!
You're on the right track with the center-channel only speaker. The resulting mono sound makes dialog stand out.

My parents had problems when they would accidentally press the surround key on the remote which would add artificial reverb and all sort of garbage to muck-up the sound.
Also, point the speaker directly at your seats.

Make sure you're getting straight sound in mono, pointing directly at you.
If you still can't hear clearly, have your hearing tested.
Good luck!
Eldarado may be onto something. If you have the problem on DVD, digital cable or satellite TV, then it may be a setting in your DVD player and Set top box. Be sure your DVD player is set to PCM or Stereo in the Audio setup. Same goes for your set top box if you have cable or satellite TV.

If the setting is wrong and you are only using the L&R analog stereo outputs from your DVD player and STB, you are missing all of the program matererial that would otherwise be sent to the center channel in a surround sound setup.

I've given this advice on this site in the past and it did resolve the problem.


I went through several center channel speakers and am now not using a center channel speaker. I have found that unless you have a VERY good digital processor (not found in any reciever so far) the best bet is to keep the signal analog as much as possible with stereo only using the analog outputs from the TV (or DVD if intelligibility is more important than surround effect). In my case my stereo power amp (Almarro A205a MKII) provides best main channel voice definition. Try using your TV's built-in amps to drive the Vr4's or other amp. If using optical output from TV a better fiber-optic will enhance quality (using voice to compare different setups is quite revealing). I'm using the shortest Kimber brand optic now for TV. If using Digital cable output then of course that makes a diiference also (I'm using 8feet of MIT coax with their RCA ends on it as best cheap cable, a little better than their entry level dig cable but not near as good as their best. Finally and not the least in importance is the speaker cable from amp to speakers. Just for TV a cheaper wire that restricts bass and lower midrange may work best. Let us know what finally works for you as I've been chasing good voice recognition for some time without spending big $ to "do it right".
My hearing is fine, but I frequently struggle to hear dialog when playing a DVD movie in 7.1. I think it is mainly an issue with recording and mixing of the soundtrack, but perhaps it is also partly an issue with the quality of my center channel speaker, as Fathertime suggests. I let my pre-pro balance all the channels with the auto-setup microphone, but the dialog is just not loud enough against the music and effects.

Some AV receivers (Yamaha?) have a "dialog lift" feature that supposedly makes the dialog stand out more.
Thanks for all the advice. I am going to be out of town for awhile but when back I will try the suggestions carefully from simplest onward.
It is not your age.....this is a common problem with HT in my experience. Much of what you are watching on a DVD was mastered for movie theatres....i.e. for vastly expensive systems with huge dynamic range.....which is obviously why the sound has more clarity on your Vr4 SR's. (a way better speaker than your TV speakers which probably compress/distort the bass and muddy the mid range clarity as the drivers go outside their linear response region at noormal movie SPL's).

BTW: Mid range compression at proper THX movie theatre levels is extremely common even in many higher quality speakers.

I suggest you just phantom the center channel sound through the Vr4 SR's and turn down the distorted TV sound altogether.

If you want a speaker with a particularly forward and crystal clear mid range then try to audition ATC. (This is not a plug for ATC ....they well are known for their mid range clarity)

Dynamic range is what adds clarity...and you need speakers that can handle what is on a DVD soundtrack.
More thoughts...

Some actors just plain talk to softly!

Example: "Stand and Deliver" starring Edward James Almos.

I love this guy ("Crocket, can I see you in my office?")
but he is what Seinfeld calls a "soft talker".

A solution to this can be found on some Denon receivers.
They have a feature that lets you program the volume control in adjustable increments.
I.E. Linear, +5 db, +10 db etc.

I "jockey" the volume all the time especially for action movies (up for dialog, down for explosions).
I found that distance-wise, the front L/R speakers need to be the same distance as the center from your litening/viewing position, otherwise, there are out of phase problems created as a result of the different distances of voice content speakers and this muddies the voice. I used a measuring tape and in my case, pushed the front L/R speakers back until they were the same distance as the center, which sits on top of my monitor.

Try it, it makes a huge improvement!
Again I reiterate...these sound tracks work in the movie cinema...the only reason they don't work in a home HT is due to poor quality speakers....believe me I have personal experience with both B&W and Bose systems that made voices very hard to distinguish (these were sub $2000 price range for entire set of speakers and clearly would not hold a candle to your Vr4's or a higher priced B&W such as the Nautilus)
Note that theatrical sound tracks are intended to be played back with a dialog level of 74dB SPL. On most Dolby Digital sound tracks, that allows for 101dB main channel peaks and 111dB LFE peaks. If you turn the volume down so the peaks aren't too loud, you'll have more problems hearing dialog.

The solution is dynamic compression. All Dolby Digital decoders are required to implement this (often called "Midnight Mode"), using meta-data defined adjustments to make the soft sounds (dialog) louder and loud sounds (explosions) softer.

All DVD players are required to include a Dolby Digital decoder - that's what runs the analog outputs. Their decoders should allow you to access BOTH compression settings: the standard one, and an even more severe adjustment inteded to avoid over-driving your TVs internal speakers. Look into it!

You may also have placement issues - if your main speakers are near (never mind in) large objects like an entertainment center or TV, you're going to have reflections that hurt clarity. Move them farther out - ideally 4+' out from the front wall.

Sitting closer to the speakers will help with the ratio of direct to reflected sound.

Finally, you probably have room acoustics issues. Dialog clarity suffers in overly reverberant spaces. Attractive fabric-covered panels are available to fix this.
I just had my processor upgraded with a much improved DAC. Granted, I spent alot of money but the point I want to make is that the center channel voices are so unbelievably clear. I'm sure you can achieve this too. At 50 my ears are ok but my eyesight is fading at an alarming rate! I am a huge fan of Theta. You can pick up used processors for a song. You should really think about 5.1 if you really want to enjoy your movies. ken
I think this may work pretty good for you. Check it out

I looked at the pictures of your system and room. I wonder about the effects of all that glass behind the speakers. Might a curtain reduce some of the problematic reflections that the window likely introduces?
Audio compression will help minimize the problem, but is this a solution or a band aid?

If you can't hear voice then something is wrong with your speaker quality or you are not properly using the phantom function to send center channel info to your main speakers (as you have no dedicated center channel).

Built in speakers in most TV's are NOTORIOUSLY bad....they are usualy boomy in the bass and suffer from mid range compression (all in order to sell in the two minute demo sales floor test - loud sells - so engineers design a TV that requires you to significantly jack up the volume to hear the voice and that way they sell more TV's than a competitor with an accurate sounding TV that is all too clear at lower levels! BTW this same technique is also used to sell speakers.....jack up the bass and the treble and kill the mids....actually easy to do even a speaker with "flat response" may have these features built in...all they do is narrow the mid range dispersion and use a low cost design that compresses the mid range at higher volumes...in the shop demo you tend to turn up these speakers louder than you would a more balanced design)
Audphile1: Thanks for the suggestion. I looked up the reference and it seems to be an elegant solution for someone such as me who is not needing the ultimate in surround. Do you have one of the Yamaha units and do you like it?
Gammajo, no I don't have this unit. I remember seing a picture of it in Audio Advisor and thought that this would work well for you so I looked it up on their website. It's not really cheap, but looks to be just right for what you're trying to do. Plus it has several digital inputs so you can basically have your dvd player and your cable box hooked up to it. And no receiver required!
AA offers 30 days money back so if it does not work out for you, all lost is shipping cost.
I wish I can offer an opinion in regards to how this thing sounds, but I never listened to it.
I think it has to sound way better than your TV speakers though.
Best of luck.
yeah, I thought I responded to this post already, but apparantly not. This sounds like a speaker/seating placment problem, and acoustics issue! If you can't understand the dialoge on good speakers/gear, that's your problem(s). You're bass is probably booming, and off-balance with the rest of the system, and you may or maynot be treating acoustics and "reflection" issues well enough, that your image is getting "smeared", and dialoge is vague. All of the above likely.
Do you find yourself going "up and down" on the volume all the time to compensate for loud passages vs quite ones, with low volume dialoge? You should also consider the noise floor in your room, and sound issolation.
Yep those are your problems..