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Help on Speakers
Old 10-20-2017, 08:02 AM   #1
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Help on Speakers

Sound on TV in living room has not been good. To hear voices, you have to turn sound up so that background noises are too loud. So years ago, we purchased a receiver and a 5.1 speaker system. Still did not fix problem but it was better. Most voice is through the center speaker. We have adjusted the center speaker volume to max. In late 2016 we purchased "big ole 4k monster 55" TV". Sound was no better, even with receiver and 5.1. Purchased a sound bar made by TV manufacturer. Did not help. I am returning sound bar today.

Temporarily, we moved TV to a smaller room and sound is great, even though I am only using TV speakers. So, I began thinking that our normal room of about 250 square feet (2,500 cubic feet) was the problem. Read about how furniture and placement of speakers can be a problem.

Here are the stats:
  • TV speakers are 20W
  • Receiver can handle 90W per channel. A combined 540W
  • 5.1 speakers are 50W each with frequency response of 175-20kHZ. Human ear can hear 20-20kHZ.
  • Sound Bar, which I am returning is 300W. I could purchase some rear speakers that work with sound bar. That would add 120W

After doing some research, I think the problem is that the room needs power and the frequency response of the speakers is terrible. I think that the overall power of the receiver is possibly OK. Receiver is 12 years old. Speakers are 9. Receiver cost $200. Speakers less.

So my plan is to replace the 5.1 speakers with better more powerful ones. If that doesn't fix it, replace the receiver.

Please note that some places have systems costing thousands. I want to spend a few hundred. After all I am a retired guy, living on .....

My questions to you: Does this sound like a reasonable approach? All equipment was purchased at a big box electronics store. I plan on talking to folks at this big box store and buying replacement speakers there. Any other store recommendations?
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Old 10-20-2017, 08:48 AM   #2
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Hearing loss is hereditary in my gene pool.
I solved my issue by placing my speakers (second set) on the end tables near me.
Even with modest volume, I can hear everything clearly. When I want full theater effect, I turn on the front (main) speakers and crank it up.
Don't know if this is an option for you, but thought I'd share what solved my issue.
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Old 10-20-2017, 08:51 AM   #3
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The sound systems currently in use by television manufacturers are really not up to the standards of 40 years ago. There is still no sound like a McIntosh tube system fed into Altec Voice of the Theatre speakers like they had in recording studios of my youth in Nashville. Millennials have most likely never heard music through high quality amplifiers and speakers.

You can have a 50 watt signal that is very clean that will sound better than a junk 300 watt system. Tthe quality of electrical signals is so important.

You might only be using 10 watts lower at normal listening levels--or less. To double the sound level, you might have to kick it up to 40 watts. To double that sound level, it might take 300 watts. But few speakers are capable of going so loud.

The best money spent on any sound system is in quality individual speakers. And I am not talking about subwoofers, etc.
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Old 10-20-2017, 08:59 AM   #4
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" Receiver cost $200. Speakers less. "

That likely is your problem. Especially if we are talking $200 for 5 speakers (and the sub?). A $200 receiver can probably do the job for you, but decent speakers tend to cost some money. They are electro-mechanical, physical devices, and they don't follow the 'miracle' of what modern electronics have provided.

I got suspicious when your only description of the speakers was the power handling, age, and freq response. Freq response specs on speakers are a rather 'mushy' thing, and don't tell us much of anything about quality (distortion and flatness of freq response).

Most speakers are sold on sizzle, not steak. If you avoid the sizzle, you can probably get what you need w/o breaking the bank.

I'm a stereo guy, have not done much with 5.1 sound. But in addition to finding a speaker that is really good for voice (which is in the middle freq range), I'd think about an equalizer. Punching up the freq band where voice is might be what you need. It helps keep all those other sounds from 'competing' with the voice.

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Old 10-20-2017, 08:59 AM   #5
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We bought a Bose soundbar after junking a Samsung surround sound boat anchor.
The thing I like about it is that it has a speech setting to boost the speech.
I have a hearing loss, and invested in "TV Ears" so DW can keep the sound reasonable.
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Old 10-20-2017, 09:05 AM   #6
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+1 for a Bose system with no receiver.

We have a Bose Cinemate GS series II and Bose Cinemate 15 system. One optical cable from the tv to the unit. The Cinemate 15 the newer model, but discontinued. Many for sale on eBay.

Bose Solo 15 is good. That one sits under your TV like a pedestal. Bose Solo 5 is a more compact version.

I made it one week on TV only sound. It actually hurt my hears no matter how I adjusted the base/treble, etc. The speakers just are not good on most TVs.
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Old 10-20-2017, 09:08 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
Punching up the freq band where voice is might be what you need. It helps keep all those other sounds from 'competing' with the voice.
That was my first thought. My guess is an equalizer will be the best investment for this problem. Adjust it to increase the volume of the midrange frequencies. Before buying one you can put this to the test if your amp has bass and treble controls, turn both those down and increase volume. That'll make the midrange (where voices are) louder. If the output then sounds too odd to your ear, a 7-band equalizer will let you fine tune the mix of frequencies to those you prefer.
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Old 10-20-2017, 09:29 AM   #8
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quick google came up with this, which seems like good info, based on my experience:

How to EQ Speech for Maximum Intelligibility - Behind The Mixer

Quote:
The frequency make-up of speech

Our speaking voice has three frequency ranges that need to be understood;

1. Fundamentals. The fundamental frequencies of speech occur roughly between 85Hz and 250Hz.

2. Vowels. Vowels sounds contain the maximum energy and power of the voice, occurring between 350Hz and 2KHz.

3. Consonants. Consonants occur between 1.5KHz and 4KHz. They contain little energy but are essential to intelligibility.

In short, this means that the “power” of the voice does not equate to the intelligibility of the voice. Think of it like this…just because a person has a booming voice doesn’t mean they are easy to understand.

Boost in the 1KHz to 5KHz range for improving intelligibility and clarity.
So you can see, the "frequency response of 175-20kHZ" has little to do with voice clarity. In fact, those speakers may drop out in the 1-5KHz range, but the freq response quasi-spec may only be telling you about the extremes, and not much if it also does not include the db SPL limits used.


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Old 10-20-2017, 09:34 AM   #9
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My guess is an equalizer will be the best investment for this problem. Adjust it to increase the volume of the midrange frequencies.
That might work well enough for OP, but I'd suggest a slightly different approach. Many decent, affordable, mass-market AV receivers these days have the ability to fine tune the characteristics of each individual speaker in a 5.1 setup. For example, you could go into the receiver's menu and boost the sound level of the center speaker by, say, 9dB. This would have the effect of making dialogue and speech much louder, since that's almost always piped through the center speaker. IMHO, this would be better than using an equalizer to boost the midrange frequencies across the board, since that would affect sound quality for every speaker in the 5.1 system—something that would likely result in an unpleasant, odd, "tin can" type sound profile.
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Old 10-20-2017, 09:36 AM   #10
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Some Samsung TVs have a "Dialog Clarity" setting, in addition to various equalizer settings. No idea how that works, but it might be useful.
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Old 10-20-2017, 09:51 AM   #11
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There are settings in the TV, and also in your sound package. Without knowing your TV or Sound model/manufacturer, hard to say much else.
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Old 10-20-2017, 09:57 AM   #12
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OP here. Thanks for the suggestions. Will look into the speaker suggestions. In the old days of separate components equalizers were a good thing. A receiver is a combination amplifier and limited equalizer so I am not sure how I would use an equalizer unless I replaced the receiver. Will have to think about that one.

Others suggested TV settings but the TV speakers don't do the job in a big room so I am using the "sound out" connections on my TV which means I completely bypass any TV sound settings, unless you know something I don't. But when I have the TV in a small 10x10 room those TV settings are great.
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Old 10-20-2017, 10:15 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Z3Dreamer View Post
  • 5.1 speakers are 50W each with frequency response of 175-20kHZ. Human ear can hear 20-20kHZ.

So my plan is to replace the 5.1 speakers with better more powerful ones. If that doesn't fix it, replace the receiver.
I think your plan is probably sound! The frequency response of your 5.1 speakers is very limited, and you didn't spend much on them, so I think they are probably the place to target for an upgrade. You don't have to spend thousands, but a few hundred bucks per speaker wouldn't hurt. As ERD50 stated, the loudspeakers are the transducers in the system which convert electrical signals back into sound waves so it is always a good idea to put your money into quality speakers. One budget saving tip would be to look for used speakers. Full home theater setups are going away and being replaced by bluetooth soundbars, so perhaps you can pick up a quality system that someone doesn't want anymore.

Final thought, make sure your AV receiver is not set on any kind of of effect like Hall or Chamber. Those settings will tend to reduce the intelligibility of the sound.
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Old 10-20-2017, 10:36 AM   #14
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I think the OP likely got one of those home-theater-in-a-box setups which includes 5.1 speakers and maybe even a receiver or a box that would do the Dolby Digital decoding.

These can often be had for under $500 but are typically giving you mini speakers.

It's hard to find specs. about these. One thing to look for is sensitivity values. Some speakers will put out higher decibels for a given amount of power.

Other thing to consider is maybe that the OP is experiencing some hearing loss and his system doesn't sound loud enough?

For a bigger room, you'd have to consider getting speakers which are floor-standing, at least for the front left and right.

You'd also have to put the center channel speaker as high as possible, just below the screen. That can be hard to do if you have your TV wall-mounted. The display should be high enough that there's no neck strain from having to look down or look up. Many people mount TVs above the fireplace and you'd think that would cause neck strain.
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Old 10-20-2017, 10:37 AM   #15
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The dialog comes from the center channel and it is the most important speaker in the HT system. I use this and I can tell you that I get clear dialog anywhere in the room.
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Old 10-20-2017, 10:39 AM   #16
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OP here. Thanks for the suggestions. Will look into the speaker suggestions. In the old days of separate components equalizers were a good thing. A receiver is a combination amplifier and limited equalizer so I am not sure how I would use an equalizer unless I replaced the receiver. Will have to think about that one.

Others suggested TV settings but the TV speakers don't do the job in a big room so I am using the "sound out" connections on my TV which means I completely bypass any TV sound settings, unless you know something I don't. But when I have the TV in a small 10x10 room those TV settings are great.
Yes, I'm really not sure if you can get an equalizer tapped into the center channel, the receiver may have that path internally hardwired. I've actually been looking for 'affordable' "component" 5.1 sound systems. There are sources for pretty cheap, but decent switching amplifiers, and I'd rather buy 5 of those, and replace one if it blows out, than to tie all my money in an all-in-one device. But the only 'pre-amp' 5.1 systems with the proper decoders I can find are expensive pro-style units. Ebay/Amazon carry a few cheap ones, but they apparently aren't actual Dolby licensed, and don't really do the job correctly, they produce a lot of weird artifacts in the surround speakers.


I've had a few 'affordable' stereo receivers go belly up after a few years, but everything is so integrated, and complicated with computer control, they really aren't fixable, and you can't easily salvage any part of it (like use it as a stand-alone amp if the input goes hay-wire) because the computer controls everything.

But look in the manuals, and/or give us the model numbers of everything, that's the only way you can know. I suspect the TV sound settings will carry over to the line out.

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Old 10-20-2017, 10:39 AM   #17
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Just went through this with my in-laws. Their TV speakers are on the back of the TV, so sound bounces off the wall behind the TV before reaching the viewers. If there was a hard flat wall behind the TV, roughly perpendicular to the viewers, the sound may be acceptable. Unfortunately they have a room full of furniture behind the TV so (1) the TV sound had to be turned way up to hear it in front, and (2) the sound's multi-path reflections made it sound fuzzy and garbled.

So bought them a basic soundbar+bass speaker to point the sound directly at the viewers. That worked, except the sound from the sound bar arrived a split second before the (garbled) sound from the TV speakers, resulting in an unpleasant echo. The solution was to use only the soundbar and keep the TV on mute. Now it sounds great.
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Old 10-20-2017, 11:23 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
Yes, I'm really not sure if you can get an equalizer tapped into the center channel, the receiver may have that path internally hardwired. I've actually been looking for 'affordable' "component" 5.1 sound systems. There are sources for pretty cheap, but decent switching amplifiers, and I'd rather buy 5 of those, and replace one if it blows out, than to tie all my money in an all-in-one device. But the only 'pre-amp' 5.1 systems with the proper decoders I can find are expensive pro-style units. Ebay/Amazon carry a few cheap ones, but they apparently aren't actual Dolby licensed, and don't really do the job correctly, they produce a lot of weird artifacts in the surround speakers.


I've had a few 'affordable' stereo receivers go belly up after a few years, but everything is so integrated, and complicated with computer control, they really aren't fixable, and you can't easily salvage any part of it (like use it as a stand-alone amp if the input goes hay-wire) because the computer controls everything.

But look in the manuals, and/or give us the model numbers of everything, that's the only way you can know. I suspect the TV sound settings will carry over to the line out.

-ERD50
Receiver Sony STR-DE598 purchased in 2005.
Speakers Insignia NS-HT51 purchased in 2008.
TV LG 55UH7700
DW is a 1950's model Redhead 1.0

Any advice would be appreciated.
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Old 10-20-2017, 11:50 AM   #19
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I'b be wary of the Insignia brand. Isn't that a house brand for Best Buy?

Instead look for something from a real speaker manufacturer.

I found this link:

https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/be...-sound-system/

I don't know ELAC but I know KEF very well. Of course the system they're recommending is almost $2000 and you might even need a more powerful receiver to drive them.

The Pioneer package might be good but I'm more partial to speakers from the UK manufacturers, which KEF is, than the Japanese ones. But I see two big floor standing speakers there.

Also the other consideration is if you foresee upgrading to a 4K TV. At that point, you would need an upgraded receiver with the latest HDMI chips. Receivers released in 2017 do not pass 4K and HDR signals but some of them are getting firmware updates to do so.

I would expect receivers released next year will have better support for 4K and HDR.

Then there are surround sound systems which have 7 channels, for the sides. There are even now setups where additional speakers fire to the ceiling or are installed in the ceiling to give height to the sound stage.

But for most people, who stream Netflix 4K, 5.1 should be sufficient.
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Old 10-20-2017, 12:02 PM   #20
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I'b be wary of the Insignia brand. Isn't that a house brand for Best Buy?

Instead look for something from a real speaker manufacturer.

I found this link:

https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/be...-sound-system/

I don't know ELAC but I know KEF very well. Of course the system they're recommending is almost $2000 and you might even need a more powerful receiver to drive them.

The Pioneer package might be good but I'm more partial to speakers from the UK manufacturers, which KEF is, than the Japanese ones. But I see two big floor standing speakers there.

Also the other consideration is if you foresee upgrading to a 4K TV. At that point, you would need an upgraded receiver with the latest HDMI chips. Receivers released in 2017 do not pass 4K and HDR signals but some of them are getting firmware updates to do so.

I would expect receivers released next year will have better support for 4K and HDR.

Then there are surround sound systems which have 7 channels, for the sides. There are even now setups where additional speakers fire to the ceiling or are installed in the ceiling to give height to the sound stage.

But for most people, who stream Netflix 4K, 5.1 should be sufficient.
Thanks. I have bookmarked the link and will read it today. I now remember from the 70's when I was knowledgeable about stereos that one wanted to put 50% of your budget in speakers. It makes sense that buying the Best Buy store brand was not the way to go. A number of you have suggested initially just replacing the center speaker. I think it makes sense to try that, as the only problem I have is with hearing dialogue. If that doesn't work, I will try replacing the subwoofer then the other 4. No need to buy a set. Explanade, thanks for the info on receivers. If I end up replacing it, I will be mindful of the new standards as my TV is 4k and all those other standards you mentioned.

Some of you have suggested my hearing is going. Could be but DW Redhead 1.0 has incredible hearing, especially when I am doing something wrong. She agrees that the sound output is bad.
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