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Dynamic range compression / dialog enhancement solutions

d00d

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I have the classic issue with a 2.1 setup where dialog is way too low and sound effects are way too loud. I'm looking for different ways of resolving this issue. I'm mainly using streaming apps and Plex natively on my TV, so the setup currently looks like this:

LG C9 TV->optical out->Topping DX3 Pro (DAC/headphone amp)->rca out->20yr old receiver

The receiver has some intermittent shutdown issues anyway, so I was going to replace it with a mini amp, but a mini amp isn't going to solve the dialog issue. In another room I have a similar setup, but it's: FireTV->TV HDMI->optical out->receiver. This setup actually works really well since the FireTV has some built in volume normalization and dialog enhancement settings while still outputting a dolby digital signal to the receiver. I could just use a FireTV with the above LG TV too, but I would much rather use the LG apps and the LG remote so I'm looking for alternatives.

What other options do I have? Is there a cheap DAC or DSP out there that can solve this or do I need to get a new full blown receiver? Something like the Denon 660H appears to do what I need with its Audyssey Volume support. In this case I'd use earc to connect the receiver to the TV, and when switching between headphones and speakers I'd switch the TV between earc and optical out. Any other thoughts or suggestions?
 

alex-z

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Cut the DX3 Pro out of the chain entirely. Get an AV receiver and run a centre channel. Dialogue clarity will become a complete non-issue.

Plus you get an inherent quality bump just by moving away from optical. All the streaming services encode their stereo signals at a lower quality than their surround signals, they use the Dolby Digital Plus format these days.

Yes, the Denon S660H is one of the cheapest ways to accomplish this. For the centre speaker, a single KEF Q150 does well for about $230.
 

DavidMcRoy

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If you poke around in the menus of your TV set you may find that it has support for Dolby Dialnorm. It might be labeled as "Compressed" (vs. "Standard") dynamic range under an audio volume setting somewhere.
 
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d00d

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Do you have dynamic range control (drc) on in the TV's audio settings? That should boost quieter sounds and reduce loud sounds a little.


JSmith
There are some dialog enhancement settings, but unfortunately they are only available when using the TV speakers.
 

fieldcar

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It may be time for a newer AVR. A lot of people are dumping them for soundbars, so the used market is decent.

You could try an HDMI ARC audio extractor as these act like an AVR/soundbar, but I think that TV's usually output untouched PCM/bitstream without the TV's dynamic's processing again.
 

Marc v E

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I downmix to stereo in my bluray player. Never any problems with dialogue. I would check for a setting in your app to output to stereo (if you haven't done already, that is)
 
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d00d

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I haven't been able to find anything reasonably priced so it does look like I'll have to just get a modern AVR. I should add that I actually do have one of these Rolls Volume Limiter devices, and it does solve this issue, but the sound quality leaves a lot to be desired (sounds fine for dialog and normal/lower volume scenes, but then the loud stuff comes through quite distorted).
 

djtetei

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All the streaming services encode their stereo signals at a lower quality than their surround signals, they use the Dolby Digital Plus format these days
Dolby Digital Plus is a lossy format, the same as Dolby Digital, except for the capability to add additional surround metadata information for Atmos soundtracks.
The only true high quality multichannel soundtracks are the ones encoded in Dolby Digital True HD and DTS Master Audio, but these are usually available on Blu-ray discs only.
Linear PCM soundtracks are usually delivered at 44.1kHz/16/24bit, 48kHz/16/24bit, according to the streaming service specifications for client delivered material. Therefore, between a multichannel lossy format soundtrack and a stereo uncompressed PCM soundtrack I would definitely choose the latter.
 
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djtetei

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@d00d Ideally your TV should have a built-in algorithm for downmixing multichannel soundtracks to stereo, including dynamic range compression.
Normally, for your setup, the TV digital output should be set to stereo PCM and dynamic range compression enabled.
I don't know the size of your speakers and subwoofers, but for a setup like this one shouldn't ask for dynamic range compression, in order to really enjoy the entire dynamic range of the soundtrack, the way it was mastered.
 
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d00d

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@d00d Ideally your TV should have a a built-in algorithm for downmixing multichannel soundtracks to stereo, including dynamic range compression.
Normally, for your setup, the TV digital output should be set to stereo PCM and dynamic range compression enabled.
I don't know the size of your speakers and subwoofers, but for a setup like this one shouldn't ask for dynamic range compression, in order to really enjoy the entire dynamic range of the soundtrack, the way it was mastered.
The TV obviously does downmix to stereo, but it doesn’t apply any compression. I care much more about not messing with the volume every 30s than the audio fidelity and dynamic range.
 

djtetei

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@d00d Have you checked the options available in your TV sound settings menu for dialog normalisation?
On Plex application have you tried to enable Normalize Multi-channel Audio?
 
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d00d

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@d00d Have you checked the options available in your TV sound settings menu for dialog normalisation?
On Plex application have you tried to enable Normalize Multi-channel Audio?
Thank you for the suggestions, but the TV has no audio settings available when using optical out other than PCM and Passthrough. I do have normalize multi-channel audio checked in Plex and that works as intended, but the dynamic range is still too broad.
 

djtetei

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@d00d Try one last option. Set your tv to output audio on its own speakers and keep the digital audio output set on PCM.
Your sound setting menu surely has dialog normalisation settings.
Also keep the volume control set on TV (variable), instead on fixed.
Does your TV has the Clear Voice option?
 
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djtetei

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Set AI Sound profile to off.
Enable Sound Mode - Standard - Clear Voice
Screenshot_20220720_175503_com.android.chrome_edit_438607779252342.jpg
 
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d00d

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Yeah none of those sound settings are available when using soley optical out or line out, but I have not tried the internal speakers + optical/line out setting to see if the pre-processing gets applied to the optical output or line out. I'll try that later today, thanks!
 
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d00d

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As far as I can tell, the audio enhancement settings only apply to the TV speakers, so when using internal speakers + optical out, the optical out is not pre-processed other than downmixing to 2ch PCM. I'm just going to get a either a new Denon AVR with audyssey volume or find an old HK avr with Dolby Volume.
 

Mojo Warrior

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An inexpensive option is to try a product from Zvox. They seem to target the segment of consumers who are seeking clearer dialogue from their TV/home theater. https://zvox.com/collections/accuvoice

"In 2012, responding to a growing crisis of incomprehensible TV dialogue, we introduced our AccuVoice feature -- which uses hearing aid technology to make voices clear, even at low volumes."

You can find their products second hand for cheap on-line auction sites (shopgoodwill.com) They even offer Bluetooth headphones with ANC (https://zvox.com/pages/accuvoice-headphones) that enhances dialogue if that is the most efficient solution for your situation.
 

djtetei

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@d00d At the beginning of the thread you mentioned that you mainly use streaming services for movie. This means that most movie streaming services should offer a stereo channel soundtrack beside the multichannel dolby digital plus soundtrack. Native stereo soundtracks are mixed differently than multichannel soundtracks and you shouldn't need dynamic range compression for dialog.
 

LTig

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You could use both the TV speakers (as "center" with compressed dynamic) and the optical out for external speakers. Worth a try as it costs nothing.
 
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