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Need Advice: 1st Home Theatre

Old 08-21-00, 06:22 AM
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Well, so far my set up is as follows

- Sony 32" Trinitron
- Sony DVD
- old Kenwood stereo receiver
- a pair of Infinity bookshelf speakers
- S-video connection
- stereo connection
(all hooked up with decent Monster cables)

I am satisfied but not happy. Its hard to hear dialog so when I put the volume up explosions and music is way too loud. I want to up grade to Dolby Digital surround because I think a center channel speaker might solve that problem. Don't want to spend too much but a $300 Onkyo and a matching Infinity center ($300?) may be what I'm looking at if I want something that will last.

Is it better to go with a Sony receiver with more watts or an Onkyo with less? Should I spend this much or should I go with a cheaper set up? I live in an apartment so I do worry about too much power. Thanks for any suggestions.
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Old 08-21-00, 10:58 PM
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Hi Ian,
I was in the same situation as you were in. I hated how the dialogue in movies was so quiet but explosions and everything else was soo LOUD. I got a center channel thinking that this would do the trick. You will get better separation and clearer dialogue BUT everything else will still remain as LOUD as it was. I thought that maybe my speakers or equipement was inefficient and this was causing the dialogue to be low in volume.
BUT here's the truth: the dynamic audio range of a DVD movie is huge compared to everything else. The audio on DVD movies are mixed this way to improve the realism of the movie sound. If you were listening to people talking and then all of a sudden a car blew up, it would sound really LOUD in real-life.
The peak dialogue level for a TV broadcast is about 3/4 the max level of the program.
On the other hand, the peak dialogue level for a DVD movie is only about 1/4 the max level of the movie. Since this is your first home theater experience you probably have been primarily watching TV broadcasts. You're very comfortable with dialogue being primarily the loudest with everything reduce in level so the dynamic range of a DVD movie will seem very huge to a home theater newbie.

Practically all DVD players have an option called "Dynamic Range Control" or "Dynamic Compression". Turning this option on will decrease the dynamic range of the sound track. It will lower the booms and elevate the whispers of a movie soundtrack so every sound is more around the same volume level. However, a lot of people have said they barely noticed a difference with this option on so it might not be very effective. And it only works on Dolby Digital material.

Some receiver's also have a dynamic range control called Dolby Digital "Midnight Mode" or something along those lines. It works the same way but this feature on receivers actually seems to work according to people. People notice a difference when using the receiver's compression feature as compared to the DVD player's compression feature. Again, this feature will work only work on Dolby Digital material. I think Pioneer receiver's have a compression control that works on all sound formats and not just Dolby Digital material (check to make sure if you're consider Pioneer).
So, if you're going to get a new receiver, find one with this option.

I would still recommend getting a center channel though. You could always independently raise the volume of the center channel only. A misconception is that the center only carries dialogue. The center channel carries most of a movies soundtrack and not just dialogue so you'd be increasing the explosions as well...but having that option to raise the center channel volume is nice.

Hope that helps,
Andy
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Old 08-21-00, 11:08 PM
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About the center speaker, getting a matching center is definitely a MUST. I'm currently listening in Dolby 3 Stereo (no surrounds) across the front with all matching speakers.
Are you planning on a getting surrounds too?

IN terms of receiver's, if you don't plan to get surrounds make sure it has the Dolby 3 Stereo mode.
For receiver's, I'd go with a better receiver that's built like a tank that has less power than a crappy one with lots of power.
Andy
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Old 08-22-00, 03:18 AM
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If you are going to buy a DD receiver, you will want to take advantage of the surround capabilities. Have you looked into a "home theater in a box"? The speakers are often not high quality, but I think they are a good way to get started. These packages are getting cheaper and while they may not be as good as Onkyo (a fine brand), you will be missing a lot of what DD is about unless you have a 5.1 setup.
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Old 08-22-00, 06:14 AM
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quote:
Originally posted by Andy Kim:

IN terms of receiver's, if you don't plan to get surrounds make sure it has the Dolby 3 Stereo mode.
For receiver's, I'd go with a better receiver that's built like a tank that has less power than a crappy one with lots of power.



Any brand name suggestions for solid receivers that are built like a tank?
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Old 08-22-00, 09:30 AM
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quote:
Originally posted by koobird:
Any brand name suggestions for solid receivers that are built like a tank?


The most affordable tank is an Onyko. I loved my Onkyo 676 receiver so much I got rid of my Sony DVD player and bought an Onkyo 6 disc. Its built like a tank also.
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Old 08-23-00, 07:42 PM
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I have this problem of the dialogue being to low compared to the explosions in a movie. The only way to really fix this is to get a receiver with "midnight mode"? Not that many receiver have a function like this do they?
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Old 08-23-00, 11:42 PM
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quote:
Originally posted by namlook:
I have this problem of the dialogue being to low compared to the explosions in a movie. The only way to really fix this is to get a receiver with "midnight mode"? Not that many receiver have a function like this do they?


Don't think any DD ready receiver's have them. But I'm sure most of the better ones do.
You're DVD player will also have a dynamic range control that you can turn on and off. Have you tried that yet? Don't be surprised though if you hardly notice a difference as it seems to not be so effective according to people.
Andy
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Old 08-24-00, 06:08 AM
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Thanks for the replies.

Originally I got a Technics Dolby Digital Receiver but promptly returned it. That thing ran really HOT real quick. Lucky I did because I got an Onkyo TX-DS474 with that "high current" thing going on instead, for only $16 dollars more! Circuit City had it listed for $299 but got it for $259 when they rang it up in the computer. Happy Days! Its got the "midnight" mode that'll make my neighbors happy. Dolby Digital surround is sweet but gunshots and explosions are still way too loud for apartment viewing. I've had to tweak the centers and rear surrounds db levels to higher settings to give it the balance I want. Overall I'm very happy.

By the way, I hope I only have to set up a surround system only a few times in my life.
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