Q My audio setup consists of a Yamaha RX-A3030 receiver, M&K speakers with 2 Paradigm front effect speakers, and a Velodyne sub. Although I’m in my late 70s and have trouble hearing high frequencies, regular TV broadcasts sound clear on the system. Movie dialogue, on the other hand, sounds muted and is difficult to understand when I watch DVDs or Blu-rays. What steps can I take to make movie dialogue match what I hear with regular broadcast TV? —Bill Vandervoort, Chanute, KS
A The problem in this case could be your center channel speaker. Since most TV programs are broadcast in the Dolby Digital 2.0 format, dialogue will be reproduced by your system’s main left/right speakers when you watch TV. Movie soundtracks, on the other hand, are typically encoded in a 5.1-channel format, with dialogue conveyed by the center channel speaker.
The first step I’d suggest would be to run your Yamaha receiver’s manual speaker setup test tone sequence. This will tell you if the center speaker is reproducing sound properly, and if its level is matched with other speakers in the system. Receiver auto-calibration features such as Yamaha’s YPAO can sometimes fail to balance speaker levels properly, so it’s possible you’ll need to adjust the center speaker’s output to bring its level up in the mix.
If you confirm that your center speaker is working properly and level-matched with the rest of the system but are still are having trouble hearing movie dialogue, the next step I’d take would be to investigate the RX-A3030’s sound enhancement features. One of these, Dialogue Lift, uses the front effects speakers (Yamaha calls them Presence speakers) to “raise” the location of dialogue so it sounds like its coming directly from the TV screen, not from a speaker stashed in a stand beneath the TV.
Another RX-A3030 feature, Adaptive DRC, automatically adjusts the dynamic range of soundtracks. According to Yamaha, it “ensures that you hear clear dialog and vocals and all sound effects at comfortable levels.” Adaptive DRC is also said to even out levels between sources like broadcast TV and movies — another problem you are apparently experiencing.
Low dialogue volume, SOLUTION on Yamaha AV receiver
Ever since the first day I fired up my system which I mainly use to watch movies, there was a discrepancy between dialogue volume and effects volume. At first I thought this was exactly how films were supposed to sound like if you didn't watch them at reference level. And because I live in a flat, I figured I would just have to put up with it. This drove me absolutely nuts! When watching a movie, I would always have to turn up the volume just to hear dialogue clearly but when there was an explosion or gunfire, the volume was too loud and I would be reaching for the remote again to turn the volume down, and vice versa.
Three weeks ago, I'd had enough of this and decided to spend a whole Saturday morning on avForums doing research. A significant amount of people seem to have experienced this issue at some point, and I finally found a solution.
The setting that solved my yearlong problem was: "Adaptive DRC". [User Manual Pg. 51] I turned it "On".
I should mention this was the solution on my Yamaha receiver, and other brands may refer to this under a different name with their particular AV receivers.
I also experimented with the “Dynamic Range” setting [User Manual Pg. 83] after reading about it on various threads.
I left Dynamic Range at the max setting. I tried the min/Auto, and the STD setting. But these settings significantly reduced the lower bass “impact” of my KEF q900 floorstanders.
So there you have it. After whole year of constantly messing with the volume while watching movies, it turns out the only setting I needed to change was “adaptive drc”. And also set the center channel level to “+2.5dB”. Before, my center level was at “+10.0dB”, and I still had issues properly hearing the quieter movie scenes.
I'm not sure why Yamaha have this setting turned off by default on their receivers, judging by how many people have mentioned this issue on various threads around the internet. But anyway. For three weeks now I've thoroughly enjoyed watching movies. The dialogue unlike before comes across loud and clear. I can even hear when the actors whisper on screen without turning up the volume at all.
I'm sorry this has been a long post. Maybe the moderators can have a sticky thread on the AV Amplifiers and Receivers forum because a lot of people seemingly suffer the same problem I did.
How to Correct Low Center Channel Dialog
What to Know
- AV receiver: Search the setup menu for the center channel output/EQ levels. Alternatively, use the automatic speaker level setup function.
- DVD/Blu-ray player: Search the menu for dynamic compression or dynamic range adjustment setting. Turn on to level output channels.
- Check the center speaker for weak performance. Quiet or imbalanced output may be due to incompatibility with other speakers.
In home theater audio, dialog usually comes from the center channel speaker. In some cases, it may be overwhelmed by music and sound effects coming from the left and right channels. Here, we show you how to correct this problem with an AV receiver, DVD player, or Blu-ray Disc player.
Correct Low Center Channel Using an AV Receiver
If you have a fairly recent model AV receiver for your sound, check the setup menu to see if you can adjust the center channel output level or adjust the center channel equalization. Often, you can adjust the other channels as well. Many AV receivers have a built-in test tone generator to assist in this task.
In addition, many AV receivers also have an automatic speaker level setup function (MCACC, YPAO, ZVOX, and others). By using a provided microphone and built-in test tones, the AV receiver can calibrate and adjust the speaker settings automatically according to the size of the speakers you use, the room size, and the distance of each speaker from the listening area.
However, if the automatic speaker level settings aren't to your liking, you can make manual adjustments. An easy way to emphasize the center channel and keep the other channels balanced is to manually bump up the center channel speaker level by one or two dB (decibels). Do this after the initial automatic speaker level setting process is complete.
Correct the Center Channel Using a DVD or Blu-ray Disc Player
Another way to ensure better center channel dialog levels is with your Blu-ray Disc or DVD player setup menu. Some Blu-ray/DVD players have one of the two following settings (these settings can also be found on many AV receivers).
Dialog enhancement emphasizes the center channel dialog track using a dynamic compression or dynamic range adjustment (sometimes referred to as Audio DRC). Activating this setting makes all channels sound more even in volume, which makes the center channel dialog stand out effectively.
By using the tools that may be provided with your existing components, you can avoid the frustration of putting up with a less-than-desirable listening situation.
Other Factors Contributing to Weak Center Channel Output
Low or poor center channel performance can also be the result of using an inadequate center channel speaker.
When deciding what type of speaker to use for a center channel in a home theater system, consider the performance characteristics of your left and right main speakers. The reason for this is that the center channel speaker needs to be sonically compatible with the left and right main speakers.
In other words, the center channel speaker should have identical or similar specifications to the left and right main speakers. The reason for this is that most of the dialog and action taking place in the center of a movie or television show emanates directly from the center channel speaker.
If the center channel speaker cannot output the high, mid, and upper bass frequencies adequately, the center channel sound may be weak, tinny, and lack depth in relation to the other main speakers. This results in an unsatisfying listening experience.
Having the right center channel speaker goes a long way to making any other needed center channel adjustments on either your receiver, Blu-ray Disc, or DVD player more effective in resolving low center channel dialog or other center channel sound output issues.
Thanks for letting us know!
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Level yamaha dialogue
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