The Best Ways to Actually Hear TV Dialogue

The Best Ways to Actually Hear TV Dialogue

The good news is, you’re not losing your hearing. The bad news? Dialogue on television has been going down the drain for some time, despite improvements in technology. This is due to a variety of reasons, mainly having to do with actors not having to enunciate or articulate their lines as much—ironically, because of the improvement in microphone technology.

However, there are still some actionable steps you can take to make your TV (or whatever sound system you use) better adapted to the mumbling you might hear on your favourite shows.

Why is TV dialogue so hard to understand?

As Vox explains, actors no longer need to project their lines to a single microphone, which used to be the norm back in the day when dialogue was much clearer (think most classic movies from the 1950s). Now there are multiple mics on set on top of the wireless lavalier microphones that actors can hide in their clothes—meaning actors can mumble their lines, knowing the sound will get picked up. There’s also “down mixing,” which basically means the intricate audio mix from movies must be compressed to become adaptable to things like your headphones. You can’t really do anything about those issues, but you can for the next problem.

Better speakers will give you better dialogue sound

Back in the day, you would have bulky TVs with big speakers facing the viewer. TVs these days, on the other hand, come in sleek sizes with speakers facing the back. Even if technology has been able to make speakers smaller, it doesn’t necessarily translate to better audio. To immediately improve your TV’s sound quality, we recommend purchasing a soundbar. These speakers can elevate dialogue and pronunciation with speech-enhancement features. Some suggestions:

  • If you’re looking for a great soundbar that won’t break the bank, consider the VIZIO 5.1 V-Series Soundbar. It features four individual audio devices, including a subwoofer, and has a speaker dedicated to audio with “Adjustable Dialogue EQ,” so you can improve the sound of dialogue.
  • If you prefer a single soundbar, consider the ZVOX Dialogue Clarifying Sound Bar. It has a “SuperVoice technology” setting that reduces non-vocal background sounds to enhance dialogue.
  • For those looking for convenience, the Bose TV Speaker Bluetooth Soundbar, has a “Dialogue Mode” on the remote to boost vocals.

Turn the dynamic range off

Dynamic range is meant to give you a scale of sound coming from your TV. If an explosion had the same decibels as a whisper, then the explosion wouldn’t feel very dramatic. The problem is that dynamic range turns your dialogue down to make the contrast with other sounds more obvious. You can turn off these features on your TV settings and/or your speakers. Every setting is different, but you should look for something in settings called “dynamic range compression” and turn it off. You might also have a “night mode” setting that basically does the same thing. Doing this will compress the sounds into sounding more similar, ultimately bringing the dialogue audio up.

Adjust the EQ to make the dialogue sound better

You can adjust the equalization (EQ) on your TV or speaker settings to focus on getting better-sounding dialogue. You don’t need to be an expert sound engineer to do this. Basically, lowering the bass and increasing the treble will do the trick. High bass is the nemesis of understandable dialogue, and the treble is the sound range where most human voices usually fall. The bass frequencies start on the left, midrange frequencies are in the middle, and the treble is on the far right. However, your TV probably has EQ presets that will improve clarity without you fiddling with the individual controls. Any of these presets will improve dialogue quality: dialog, news, speech boost, clear voice, or amplify.

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