Secondary TV audio for clear dialogue

Coy Ramsey

Thread Starter
Jan 6, 2019
Preamp, Processor or Receiver
Yamaha Aventage RX-A660 AVR
Other Amp
4 Yamaha WX50 amps for MusicCast distributed audio
Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
Sony X700
Front Speakers
Elac Debut 2.0 BS5.2
Center Channel Speaker
SVS Ultra center to replace Elac Debut 2.0 CC5.2
Surround Speakers
Polk in-wall
Rear Height Speakers
Polk in-ceiling
RSL Speedwoofer 10s
Other Speakers or Equipment
Episode ceiling speakers for 4 distributed zones
Video Display Device
Remote Control
Logitech Harmony
Streaming Subscriptions
Spotify Prem, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video
Other Equipment
Episode in-ceiling for distributed audio into 4 zones
Old ears, damaged hearing, not an audiophile. Need to improve my secondary TV system for dialogue clarity. Typical great room setup, tv over fireplace, big open area, high ceilings, Samsung frame 55" tv. News, some sports, video streaming, and BD/dvd movies. Budget about $1200 for 2.0 system but may grow to 4.1 (wireless) at later date. Only 3" available space on mantle below tv makes center channel doubtful. Top 3 priorities: dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. Advice please.
Last edited:


Nov 6, 2019
When it comes to dialogue center channel excels even without the ability of increasing it by a few dB. Once the centre has increased slightly in volume you get good dialogue, remember a decent upmixer will extract the conversational information to the centre leaving the left right to produce other sounds. Whether it works perfectly like the way I describe I can't guarantee but on paper that's the idea. There are other scientific reasons such as comb filtering caused by left right that on paper catapult the concept of center channel for dialogue but you need an expert to chime in for those explanations.

For music and excluding the priority for dialogue a phantom center works well, so well that many report that a centre channel does more harm than good but this depends on quality of center, overall set up and what it's used for and with what upmixer.

Many of the experts swear by a centre channel but Linkwitz doesn't but again this depends on what it's being used for. In regards to dialogue it is generally accepted that a centre helps.

Now comes the problem of a decent center channel speaker, most measure horribly. Using your left right for the centre is the best option but impractical. Check out ASR forum for decent measuring center speakers.

If you opt out of deciding on a centre than you need do some research on directivity and dialogue, I'm guessing there is a link between clarity of dialogue and direct sound although some reflections reinforce dialogue it's all about getting reflections but after a certain ms but also not too late.

Your third priority in this goal is compression on your AVR something like dynamic volume I find it helps to reduce louder sounds so you can concentrate on dialogue.


Jun 26, 2017
I designed classrooms and lecture halls for many years (and many ears), where it's all about intelligibility. In short, this is what I found, as it applies to living rooms and home theater:

(1) headphones are best because they exclude all interference - comb filtering between multiple sources, reflections/reverberation, room resonances, and other noise sources. My wife uses inexpensive wired headphones all the time, except when we're sharing the experience and want to be able to talk.
(2) Next best: single center channel speaker with good clean response in 1K-3K because that's what distinguishes the consonants from one another (key, pea, tea, lee...). Single source prevents comb filtering. The more directive the better, because you want the highest direct to reverberant ratio you can get. A line array is tops; we use a pair of Excalibur (passive stack of about a dozen 1" speakers) for L&R, and they are good enough that we run without a center channel. No bass, of course. If you miss it enough (we don't), you can add it back in - do try to use a crossover that keeps the main speaker (s) as the only source in 1K-3K band. That's also where you may find some boost helpful. Age-induced hearing loss often exceeds 20-40 dB above 1K, and that's the first thing even the cheapest hearing aids address.
(3) With speakers, room acoustics become important, especially if the speakers are not terribly directive. Friendly: overstuffed sofas, heavy drapes, plush rugs, furniture and sculpture or other large objects with shape and edges that reflect and diffract sound dispersively, asymmetry. Unfriendly: large hard surfaces, picture windows, plaster ceilings, especially when two of them are parallel - bare floor and ceiling, minimalist decor, undisrupted by large furniture.

I'm not a fan of compression for broadcast material because it's already pretty well processed for level and intelligibility.

What I would really like to see is an exclusive dialogue subchannel that the listener could choose or boost as needed. Ideally, it would be available in L-C-R mode so you would tell which side of the screen the speech is coming from. Directionality is a helpful cue for following a conversation and tracking who's saying what when there are two or more people talking and particularly if the voices are similar. Since the speech is coming to your ears from only one of the three speakers, you don't have comb filtering. You might lose the exact placement on the sound stage, but that hardly matters.
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