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DVD sound level too low

Old 02-09-06, 08:34 PM
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DVD sound level too low

I have recently bought a HDD/DVD recorder, and when using it to play commercial DVDs, I find that the sound level is too low. Looking around on the internet I see that it is a common problem. You may say, just turn up the sound on the TV. However, even at the TVís maximum volume, the sound is still too low during quiet passages on some DVDs.

As an experiment I connected the 2 audio pins of the 3 pin audio/video cable to my stereo, and by turning the volume up higher than normal, I could then hear the quiet passages O.K. However I then found another problem (also common it seems) Ė the loudest passages on the DVD were then too loud.

Iím not interested in surround sound, home theatre systems etc. All I want to do is play back DVDs through my TV. Having my stereo permanently connected to the DVD recorder is not really an option either, for a couple of reasons Ė normally itís not physically close to the TV and DVD recorder (itís currently sitting on the floor, near enough to connect a cable between them) and I donít want to totally rearrange my lounge room, and secondly, even though the stereo still works well, itís old (it predates CDs!) and doesnít have a remote, and continually getting up to adjust the volume between soft and loud passages on a DVD would be a pain.

My question is, is it possible to connect some sort of amplifier between the DVD recorder and the TV (i.e. still use the TVís speakers Ė as mentioned above Iím not interested in installing a home theatre system)? Additionally, is it possible to get one with dynamic range compression, to reduce the difference between loud and soft passages?

I might add that Iíve tried fiddling around with the audio out settings on the DVD recorder, but it doesnít seem to make any difference. Itís a Pioneer DVR-530H.
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Old 02-09-06, 09:56 PM
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you can't install an amplifer to boost the levels of your tv's speakers. you shouldn't be having this problem - there is something wrong with either your tv or your dvd player. have you tried different cables, a different input on the tv, etc?
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Old 02-10-06, 11:38 AM
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You probably have DNR/DRC in the player already, in fact, I suggest you check the setting if available. It may be contributing to, or could fix your volume problem.

You can get a line-level amp that could help. Often marketed as a headphone amp. But you'd raise the risk of a loud passage (explosion or something) damaging your TV speakers. And this is not a power amp like a receiver. Those work on speaker-level audio signals.

Also, a good amp like that would be somewhat pricey, no doubt. Say $150 or higher. You could try a new, small bookshelf stereo to get better/bigger sound for the same or less cash. Less obtrusive than a full surround system, perhaps. And most of them have shielded speakers so they can be right next to a TV.
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Old 02-10-06, 03:48 PM
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Iím not interested in surround sound, home theatre systems etc
As the other guys have indicated you may be able to find a work around but it will be just that.

DVD's have very dynamic soundtracks full of special effects and music. They are meant to be played back on the proper equipment with the proper amplification and speakers.
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Old 02-10-06, 06:02 PM
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There is an ďAudio DRCĒ setting which I did try, but it didnít make any difference. The manual isnít very clear and I donít really understand all this stuff, but I think it only applies to digital audio (which is when using the ďoptical digital outĒ port, rather than the analog audio ports of the A/V output??).

Would the line level amp have any sort of dynamic range compression as an option?
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Old 02-10-06, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by aardvark_65
There is an ďAudio DRCĒ setting which I did try, but it didnít make any difference. The manual isnít very clear and I donít really understand all this stuff, but I think it only applies to digital audio (which is when using the ďoptical digital outĒ port, rather than the analog audio ports of the A/V output??).

Would the line level amp have any sort of dynamic range compression as an option?
I don't think a line-level amp is a good solution for you. It could damage your TV's speakers and may not even solve the problem. How is the volume on your TV when watching television? Have you tried hooking your dvd player to another tv? It's possible that it is defective. DVDs definitely benefit from surround sound equipment, but they should be watchable on your tv - the problem you are describing is not normal.
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Old 02-10-06, 06:51 PM
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I tried a different cable, different input on the TV, different output on the DVD recorder, but none of it makes any difference.

The volume on the TV is O.K. when watching TV. The sound level from the DVD recorder (i.e. through the TV) is O.K. when using the recorderís built-in tuner, when playing back a program recorded on the recorderís hard disk, when playing back a program recorded on a blank DVD-R disk, even when playing a commercial audio CD. The problem is only when playing a commercial DVD. And section 3.6.4 of ďDVD DemystifiedĒ (http://www.dvddemystified.com/dvdfaq.html) indicates that movie soundtracks are recorded at lower levels (and I couldnít adjust the output signal level from the DVD recorder or the input signal level on the TV). Hence I donít think thereís anything wrong with my TV or DVD recorder.
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Old 02-10-06, 07:36 PM
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DVDs are recorded at lower levels, but not drastically lower levels. What is the brand/model of your tv? Do you have to turn the volume up fairly high when watching tv? (i.e. can you watch tv with the volume at 30% or is it closer to 80%)
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Old 02-10-06, 08:27 PM
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TV is a NEC N-4858 (about 5 years old). Note: I am in Australia - don't know if that makes any difference to model numbers etc. I usually have the volume at about 30-40% when watching TV
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Old 02-10-06, 10:02 PM
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Hm. it sounds like a problem with the dvd player. Can you try it on a friend's tv to see if it has the same problem? The line level output from dvd players is lower than from cds, but not by so much that you should be having this problem.
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Old 02-11-06, 06:41 AM
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Why do you think it is a problem with the DVD recorder? As mentioned above, the volume level is fine when playing DVD-R discs I have recorded from the DVD recorder's inbuilt tuner, and when playing commercial audio CDs. Presumably the circuitry etc used when playing commercial DVDs is the same as that used when playing DVD-R discs, and when playing audio CDs (well, the audio part of the circuitry anyway, with CDs).

Some commercial DVDs I can hear O.K. with the TV volume somewhere between 70-90%. It's just the quiet passages in some others that are still too quiet even with the volume at 100%.

I don't have easy access to another TV.
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Old 02-13-06, 09:44 AM
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Any chance the DVDR has a Dialog Enhance menu item? One of my players has both this and DRC.
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Old 02-13-06, 11:02 AM
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A thought just occurred to me (and on a monday no less!): maybe the DVD player's L/R outputs are connected via the 5.1 analog outputs? This would explain the lack of dialogue, since most dialogue comes through the center channel. This could explain why CDs sound ok, since the player is just outputting 2-ch audio. Just a thought - check it out.
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Old 02-13-06, 09:56 PM
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Spiky, I can't find a dialog enhance setting

BobDole42, I'm afraid I don't understand. What are the "5.1 analog outputs"? On the back of the recorder are 2 audio/video outputs (and 2 inputs), each with stereo analog audio (2 ports, L & R), a composite video port, and S-video port. There is also a "component video out" with 3 ports (Y, Pb, Pr), and an optical digital out, as well as antenna in/out. I have a 3 pin A/V cable connected to the stereo analog audio and composite video ports, and to similar ports on the TV. The TV doesn't have any other inputs. Also antenna, wall outlet -> DVD -> VCR -> TV
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Old 02-13-06, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by aardvark_65
Spiky, I can't find a dialog enhance setting

BobDole42, I'm afraid I don't understand. What are the "5.1 analog outputs"? On the back of the recorder are 2 audio/video outputs (and 2 inputs), each with stereo analog audio (2 ports, L & R), a composite video port, and S-video port. There is also a "component video out" with 3 ports (Y, Pb, Pr), and an optical digital out, as well as antenna in/out. I have a 3 pin A/V cable connected to the stereo analog audio and composite video ports, and to similar ports on the TV. The TV doesn't have any other inputs. Also antenna, wall outlet -> DVD -> VCR -> TV
Ah. Some dvd players have 5.1 analog outputs that send the decoding surround sound to a receiver/processor. I guess the DVD recorder doesn't have this. Sorry - I thought I had an idea.
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Old 02-13-06, 10:34 PM
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Originally Posted by aardvark_65
The sound level from the DVD recorder (i.e. through the TV) is O.K. when ... playing back a program recorded on a blank DVD-R disk, even when playing a commercial audio CD. The problem is only when playing a commercial DVD.
Have you tried selecting the 2.0 soundtrack (instead of the 5.1)? Any recorded DVD from a DVR is going to be 2.0, as will audio CDs (I think).

Although I have no idea what would cause it, it sounds like it could be a problem with 5.1 tracks using your speakers (and 2.0 tracks might be fine).

Try the troublesome tracks/discs with 2.0 audio track and see if that helps.
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Old 02-13-06, 10:56 PM
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How do you select different soundtracks? The menu on the "troublesome" DVD doesn't appear to allow this sort of selection (and I can't recall seeing anything like that on other DVD's menus).
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Old 02-13-06, 10:57 PM
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Originally Posted by aardvark_65
How do you select different soundtracks? The menu on the "troublesome" DVD doesn't appear to allow this sort of selection (and I can't recall seeing anything like that on other DVD's menus).
Either via the audio menu (of the DVD) or via the audio button of the DVDp.

I could be wrong, but I thought most DVDs had 2.0 tracks.
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Old 02-13-06, 11:16 PM
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The DVD menu definitely doesn't have anything like that - it allows different languages, but not 2.0 vs 5.1.

I also can't find anything like that in the menus on the DVD recorder. It does have things like "DTS out" on or off, converting Dolby digital to PCM (on or off) etc (most of which I don't understand...). I have tried fiddling with these settings, but it doesn't seem to make any difference
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Old 02-14-06, 10:08 AM
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Is it just one DVD with this problem?

All those digital audio settings will not make any difference since you are using analog output. Many DVDs have both a 5.1 track and a 2.0 stereo track. When you use the stereo outputs, the 5.1 track has to be downconverted to stereo, or you can just pick the stereo track. Sounds like your player doesn't do a very good job of the downconverting, at least not with certain discs. It may be the dialog (center channel) is just recorded really low if it is just the one disc.

Usually the "Language" section of a DVD menu has a PCM or Stereo choice. But not always. They should, and this is the reason they should. The DVD Forum was trying to prevent this exact situation by recommending that all discs have a stereo track.
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Old 02-15-06, 12:14 AM
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The problem is on more than one DVD, but certainly not all of them. Most DVDs I can watch (hear) with the TV volume up higher than normal (often much higher), but with a few DVDs, the sound is still too low (at some points in the movie) even at maximum volume. However on playing a few more DVDs in the last day or two, Iíve found a couple where the sound is almost at the same level as when watching TV, i.e. I can have the TVís volume at about the same level as when watching TV. It doesnít seem to matter whether itís an old movie or not - I wondered whether older movies might have less dynamic range and hence a higher overall sound level, without all the special effects of modern movies, but it doesnít appear to be so, e.g. with ďThe Day the Earth stood stillĒ (1951), I have to have the TV at or near maximum volume. Hence it looks like I have to put the problem down to (widely?) different volume levels on different DVDs. I havenít noticed 5.1 vs 2.0, PCM vs stereo etc options in the menus of any of my DVDs.

Being in Australia, I mostly have region 4 PAL DVDs, whereas I imagine you guys mostly have region 1 NTSC? Would that make any difference (not the region code, which I understand is just 1 byte on the disc, but perhaps PAL vs NTSC)? Or does PAL vs NTSC just affect the picture and not the audio? I do have 2 NTSC discs Ė one does have a high audio level (about the same as watching TV), although the other one is lower. And I do have one or two PAL discs where the audio level is quite high. So maybe it doesnít make any difference.
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Old 02-15-06, 09:57 AM
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PAL speeds up the pic/audio of films due to its framerate, but shouldn't alter the volume, just the pitch a bit.

It may be easier to find new movies with greater dynamic range, but that isn't exactly due to the age. Just how they mix it in the studio for the DVD. I suppose more older movies will be left in mono or at least not given the full modern treatment with a large dynamic range, so they would more often be loud enough with your setup.

I can go to Costco here and buy a small Panny bookshelf system with an auxiliary input for video for less than US$150 that would solve the problem. That would probably be my answer in your position. Actually, I could spend less, I just wouldn't.
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Old 02-15-06, 11:54 AM
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It sounds like we've exhauted all of the possible solutions. I would do what Spiky said - buy a cheap bookshelf system. This will solve your problem and give you better sound for your movies.
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Old 02-15-06, 09:19 PM
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OK, perhaps I'll look into doing that. Thanks for the help guys.
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Old 02-15-06, 10:03 PM
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Originally Posted by aardvark_65
OK, perhaps I'll look into doing that. Thanks for the help guys.
Sorry we couldn't solve the problem. I hope you find something that works well for you.
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