I want dialog to sound full & rich, not the usual thin & weak

Discussion in 'DVD Video' started by Max Kuenkel, Nov 14, 2003.

  1. Max Kuenkel

    Max Kuenkel Guest

    I had a 5.1 home theater system 4 years ago, with a good subwoofer.

    Explosions were great, as well as other low frequency effects.

    My problem was that I could never get dialog to sound good, especially men's
    deep voices, like Morgan Freeman in "The Shawshank Redemption". Dialog would
    come out of my center channel speaker, and the result was that the bass part
    of men's voices was underrepresented. I tried many times to tweak the
    system, so that maybe some of that bass content could be shifted to the
    subwoofer, but I was unsuccessful, because whenever I tried that, the bass
    levels were turned up so high that low frequency effects were loud out of
    all proportion to what they should be.

    Then I went to the store where I rent DVDs, and noticed that they had a
    primitive stereo setup, with a total of two speakers mounted in opposite
    corners of the store. These were not high-end speakers, it was an older
    model Bose. And the sound coming out of those speakers was so good that I
    still remember it: the low frequency content of dialog was not
    underrepresented. Men's voices sounded right, with some nice bass and some
    punch. It reminded me of a movie theater. The store had some movie previews
    playing, and when an explosion was heard, it sounded right, too, about 5
    times as loud as the voices, not 50 times as loud. And they had no subwoofer
    in the system (I asked).

    Later I sold my home theater system to a friend, and I haven't had a 5.1
    system since then. But I want that sound again, the sound that I heard in
    the store, with their cheap two-speaker setup that sounded way better than
    my 5.1 setup with 300W Klipsch subwoofer.

    Am I the only one who wants a full & rich sounding dialog, with a decent low
    frequency content? I would much rather have good-sounding rich punchy dialog
    in stereo than the thin & weak & tinny dialog and thunderous explosions that
    a typical low-end 5.1 system will produce. For me, dialog is more important
    than low frequency effects.

    So what am I looking for here? Should I just get a cheap used stereo
    receiver and two midrange speakers, would that do it? I don't want to spend
    more than $200. Or should I look into 2.1 systems like the ones from
    Creative or Altec Lansing? If I buy one of those, I don't want the same
    problem all over again: thin, tinny dialog on the one hand, and superloud
    explosions on the other hand. I want a system that emphasizes the midrange.
    I watch movies on a 20-inch LCD screen.

    Max
     
    Max Kuenkel, Nov 14, 2003
    #1
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  2. Max Kuenkel

    Thomas Bell Guest

    I have the same problems and also because I watch a lot of older movies
    with original mono soundtracks, I'm just not satisfied with what comes
    from most reciever's center channel. I currently use a Pioneer Elite
    vsx-29tx with a single Klipsch SC-1 center (mediocre speaker that I
    need to upgrade, imo) and solved my problem by running a line out from
    the center channel rca out and using a simple splitter into a stereo
    signal, run it into my older (as in '80 vintage Hitachi HTA 7000) 120
    watt stereo reciever with a pair of decent Energy Veritas (V.2.2) as
    basically a secondary mono center channel and it works fine for me.
    Maybe a bit too elaborate, but since I had the older gear to work with,
    it was easier and obviously cheaper then buying some major center
    speaker upgrade, plus I have better control via the second old reciever
    as far as center channel volume depending on what I'm watching/listening to.

    T.B.
     
    Thomas Bell, Nov 14, 2003
    #2
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  3. Max Kuenkel

    Max Kuenkel Guest

    Update: yesterday I went to Circuit City and bought a 5.1 speaker package
    (Logitech Z-640) for $79. As I was browsing the computer speakers in the
    store, an employee asked if he could help, and I told him what I wanted, and
    he said, the problem is probably because my earlier 5.1 system was 4 years
    old. At first I thought that was BS, but we talked about tweaking levels of
    individual speakers, both with hardware knobs on the speakers as well as
    with the software that came with my soundcard (Soundblaster Live 5.1). He
    convinced me that I should be able to bring out that midrange and and
    lowrange of actors' dialog without overexaggerating the low frequency
    effects. When I got home and set it up, I tested it with Saving Private Ryan
    DTS (with PowerDVD 5 decoding the DTS very nicely) and with Shawshank
    Redemption. Morgan Freeman's voice was deep and rich and resonant when he
    said: "There must be a con like me in every prison in America" (8:18). I
    could feel the bass in his voice. It was not thin & weak. I didn't even need
    to tweak anything, I had all hardware and software values set to default.
    The explosions in Ryan were good enough that I didn't miss my old 300W
    subwoofer: more than enough rumble power for me. Very good sound out of this
    system, I was amazed that the guy at Circuit City was right. This sound was
    better, cleaner, better midrange, better 100Hz to 200Hz range than my
    previous system from 4 years ago costing over $1000. The only thing that my
    old system could do better was the 30Hz - 100Hz range, and that's because I
    had a 300W Klipsch subwoofer. I am amazed at how you can go out and spend
    $79 and get this kind of sound. The quality of low-end 5.1 systems has gone
    up a lot in 4 years. All of this might be old news to the experts here, but
    it was amazing to me. In the test mode for the surround speakers (part of
    the Soundblaster software), the lady says: "left front, center, right front,
    left rear, right rear", and even her female voice sounded rich and full,
    because a good portion of the lower frequency range of her voice was being
    handled by the subwoofer, and this was all default settings with no
    tweaking.

    I will now have to think differently whenever I see those cheap surround
    speakers in stores with their 2-inch paper drivers: I used to think: "how
    can that possibly work? How can you get anything but tinny sounding garbage
    out of those?" but now I'm forced to admit, the technology has gotten so
    much better in 4 years, these low-end surround sound speaker systems are
    amazing. Of course they still can't compete with a high-end system, but what
    I bought yesterday for $79 is clearly better than my old $1000 system.

    Max
     
    Max Kuenkel, Nov 14, 2003
    #3
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