Adjusting surround sound to hear dialogue

Q. We have difficulty hearing the dialogue when watching TV. I have a substantial surround system, including an expensive receiver, a Blu-ray player and a 6-speaker surround sound setup with a large subwoofer. I often can’t understand the dialogue when watching movies as well. Can you suggest a product that will help?

A.M., Maple Lake, Minn.

A. Since you have a sound system with a receiver, you do not need to add any products to fix your problem. Making some adjustments will suffice.

What you are experiencing is a common issue, typically experienced by those without a separate sound system. If you do not have a separate sound system, you approach the problem by turning on the TV’s dynamic range control, which helps somewhat. If you have a surround-sound system, you can not only turn on the receiver’s dynamic range control, you can increase the volume of the dialogue independently of everything else. This should solve your problem quite effectively.

Since you have a separate center channel, I recommend going into the receiver’s speaker setup menu and turn up the center channel volume in relation to the others. Do this by leaving all the speakers at the same settings except for the center, which you should bump up a bit from where it is now. I recommend starting with an increase of + 3 dB. A change of 3dB is considered the smallest increase that is easily noticeable. Start there and if you need to, bump it up bit by bit until you can hear the dialogue clearly when listening at your normal volume level.

Q. Some time back you wrote about a super-flat speaker wire that is about as thin as plastic tape. I am looking to use it but can’t remember the name of the product. Could you let me know what it is?

A.B., Milwaukee

A. It is Sewell Ghost Wire from


Walmart Hard Disk Drive/DVD recorder: The home recording saga continues!

Reader B.P. sent an email in which he said, “Two-Thumbs-Up for the curiously unidentified HHD/DVD recorder from Walmart.” He is right about the “curiously unidentified” part and I should have mentioned the specific model for those who are interested. The best choice has 1TB of space and the model number is MDR537H/f7. It sells for $278. There are a couple of other Magnavox HDD/DVD recorders with smaller hard drives that sell for a bit less, but Brian thinks the 1 TB version is the way to go and after reviewing the others, I agree.

Please note that “HDD” stands for “Hard Disk Drive” and is not a kind of abbreviation for high definition. More than a few readers thought since they saw HD in there it records in high definition. The website says “faithfully high definition recording” and “1080p up-conversion” which is kind of using weasel words to skirt the fact that it isn’t actually recording in true high definition.

Contact Don Lindich at and use the “submit question” link on that site.

2013 McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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