That's exactly the effect of a poorly designed circuit offering simulated surround with two cheap speakers and 10 watts to drive them (that's the what drives my entire LED back patio lighting). It's a lot to do with the engineers at the networks who are optimizing the digital sound to work with 5.1 Dolby Digital, not two-channel built-in monitor speakers. Older movies are processed with sometimes little thought about how the sound quality will be with no ability to configure the sound on the consumer end. If you can afford more, go to the better quality SONY, Panasonic, Onkyo or other compact home entertainment surround systems. That will obviously give you a better center channel where the voices are reproduced and a sub-woofer which will handle newer movie soundtracks or classical music. Watching opening night at Lincoln Center through two ten watt tiny speakers would be classified as water boarding.
Have you decided how to clear up your problem?
I have been busy with other concerns lately, such as the out of town trip. I have to do this in a way my wife will agree with. Right now, she is counting pennies extremely closely, so it will likely take a while for me to act.
If you connect your existing DVD player, it will upgrade the picture to 1080p (again, not really adding any detail that is not in the original 420p DVD, but they definitely look better -- it does require an HDMI connector which you can add on cheaply when ordering the unit -- it's offered right below it).
I do know my equipment and it's pretty amazing what this small investment will do to increase your enjoyment of TV and DVD.
I have found a temporary $12 solution. The directional hearing devices seen on TV and in stores actually work. I watched a dirty Harry film this evening and heard every word.
I got Dolby surround sound! A dude at the apartments gave it to me. It's used, but good as new. I just had to buy vcr wires with the red, yellow and white connections and figure it out with no instructions. Just got it playing, I'm certain I will be fine tuning it. I am in a room at the end of the hall, more than twenty feet away and I hear Dirty Harry loud and clear.
The same guy gave my lead maintenance man a big screen TV and the other guy a smaller TV.
Dolby Digital I'm assuming, not just Dolby Pro Logic? Not that isn't also great sound but the focus of the surround and the center dialogue center is a vast improvement in 5.1 Dolby or DTS Digital, especially if it's full PCM (that's a non-compressed full digital signal). Did they have a code or test for the phasing of the speakers? If any speakers are out-of-phase, you'll get a strange, out of focus sound and a lack of bass, although the voice center channel should be fine.
I don't remember if you had cable or satellite. In that case, it's better to feed the surround receiver sound directly from the cable or satellite box. You can get that brand and the model's manual online with Google.
My picture comes from an antenna.
I have not yet learned how to apply it to regular TV, but I had one hell of a time playing bits of DVDs, such as Born on the Fourth of July, last night. The bass can boom like a hip hop car on the street, at least. For my tiny living room, I did not spread the speakers enough to truly mimic theater sound, but my wife told me it did not need to be so loud. I got double sound only by leaving the original TV speakers turned up.
It's Sony built. At the top of the unit, I found the following:
Dolby Prologic II
What the heck is Dolby Pro Logic II?
Dolby Labs' Stunning New Circuit Extracts a Goldmine of Hidden Spatial Cues from Stereo Cds, Lps, and old Surround Movies
Those of you who've spent hard-earned dollars in the last couple of years on a killer new Dolby Digital/DTS A/V Receiver may think you have it all--discrete Dolby Digital 5.1-channel surround sound as well as further evolutions of it and DTS (THX Surround EX, DTS-ES, etc.). Make no mistake: Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS do deliver a home theater experience that often rivals and sometimes exceeds its theatrical equivalent.
Little Attention Paid
But somehow lost in the stream of promotion for DVD, Dolby Digital, DTS, and their offspring is a quiet little Dolby Labs processor that in many respects offers surprising and spectacular effects. And get this: you likely already own the software! It extracts these effects not from the latest Dolby Digital DVD release from Blockbuster but from your existing collection of stereo CDs and old Dolby Surround movies.
It's called Dolby Pro Logic II (DPL II for short); and if you haven't heard it yet, you're going to love it--and want it. Because when you switch on DPL II (included in many new up-market receivers and even a few entry-level models) and play just about any two-channel stereo CD, even vinyl or a laserdisc (remember those?), DPL II produces an utterly natural-sounding 5-channel surround experience that, in its precise directionality and spatial expansiveness, rivals that of Dolby Digital 5.1-channel discrete soundtracks!
But how much better can DPL II be than old-fashioned Dolby Pro Logic, now more than 10 years old? I'll tell you: a lot. Remember how disappointing Dolby Pro Logic was whenever you tried playing a CD or stereo album through it? Everything collapsed into the center channel. It sounded like mono with muffled ambience.
DPL II, however, is an entirely different experience. DPL II delivers two full-range stereo surround channels, 20 Hz to 20 kHz, not a rolled-off mono channel “band-limited“ at 7,000 Hz (nothing above 7 kHz, and in my quarters, that ain't hi-fi). Moreover, DPL II naturally extracts all the ambience and directionality that already exists in the stereo recording.
Revive Your CD Collection
Got an old copy of Dire Strait's Love Over Gold or Celine Dion's All the Way: A Decade of Song, kicking around in your CD rack? Check your receiver (you may already have DPL II and not know it) and switch it to DPL II, Music mode. If the receiver has DPL II control options--and most do--set Panorama to off, Dimension to 0, and Center Width to 3. Now play track 4, “Because You Loved Me,” from Celine's album, or track 1, “Telegraph Road” from Dire Straits. Or perhaps the first two tracks from Sting's Brand New Day or Alan Parsons' On Air. Don't have those discs? Doesn't matter. Take any classical or jazz stereo recording (DPL II works especially well with acoustic performances) and give it the DPL II treatment.
Are you convinced now? DPL II is almost as good as Dolby Digital 5.1!
Who's Got It?
Read the fine print. A quick (and by no means complete) survey of mainstream and upscale receiver brands reveals that all Harman/Kardon, Denon, and Onkyo (Integra, too) A/V models have it. JVC and NAD do not. Rotel has it. Kenwood's upmarket receivers have it. A few Marantz and Yamaha models have it; Sony does not. Note that not all receivers with DPL II's Movie mode have the Music mode (see below). So read the fine print!
Tech Notes--How It Works
DPL II is a dramatically improved matrix surround system based on the original Dolby Pro Logic system first introduced in 1987, which was already a major upgrade of the original Dolby Surround matrix. (Matrix surround decoding is the process of extracting several output channels from a 2-channel delivery system.) In the case of Pro Logic, there were four channels"front left, center, and front right, plus a mono surround channel that was usually split between two rear speakers. The surround channel was also "band-limited" at about 7 kHz, reducing the treble frequencies.
Compared to “old” Pro Logic, DPL II offers two full-range stereo surround channels, more sophisticated steering logic, high channel separation and an exceptionally stable sound field. Of course, in the past, different manufacturers tried to upgrade Pro Logic by adding complex detection and decorrelation circuits, the latter an attempt to create two stereo rear channels from a mono signal. These circuits not only produced unnatural effects, but also sullied sound quality by simply over-processing the audio signals. DPL II throws out most of this processing and replaces it with simple servo circuits used to derive the five channels. And, unlike the synthetic “jazz club,” “hall” and “stadium” modes found on many A/V receivers, DPL II introduces no phony delay-induced echoes, reverb, or tonal coloration.
Not all receivers with DPL II have the Music mode (it's optional) or the three sound field controls that let you tailor the sound field to your own taste: Center Width lets you gradually spread the center-channel sound into the front left and right speakers. At its widest setting, all the sound from the center is mixed into the left and right speakers. Panorama wraps the sound from the front left and right speakers around you for an exciting perspective. And a Dimension control adjusts the front/back balance to suit your taste.
Works With 2-Channel Surround Movies
Nor is DPL II limited to stereo music sources. DPL II's Movie mode works with thousands of older Dolby Surround VHS-HiFi videotapes and DVDs that weren‘t mastered for Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as for laserdiscs and satellite broadcasts. Need further convincing? Dolby Labs recommends the first chapters of Tomorrow Never Dies or The Abyss, or the second half of Chapter 3 from Star Trek: First Contact.
As for myself, I'm one of those “early adopters,” the type who must have the first available consumer Dolby Digital receiver offered for sale. You guessed it: my A/V receiver does NOT have DPL II! So I'm marching out, cash in hand. Time to upgrade, again!
If you enter "Sony surround receiver Model XXXX manual" in Google, you'll likely find the PDF file of the unit. It will explain how to adjust the sound. There's almost always an adjustment for "LFE" or low frequency enhancement -- that's the boost in movies that's reproduced on most DVD's in the 20 Hz to 120Hz sent to the subwoofer. It designed to bounce one around a bit with the low base in a movie theater -- like car crashes, explosions, et al. You should be able to adjust that down to a lower signal level in the configuration menu. If you have an extra video input to your TV, you can hook up the video output from the receiver which shows all the configurations on the screen -- it makes it easier than trying to see what's going on in the tiny LED or LCD display on the receiver itself. That hookup is just a single RCA connector but make sure it's the output from receiver for audio display. There is also a balanced audio signal in the configuration that can equalize all the distances and levels of all five speakers. One way to tone down the surround volume is to increase the level of the center speaker so you can hear voices clearer but all the sound effects including surround music will be a less intrusive. The manual will cover all of this. Should be easy to find it online and even print it out, or at least save it on your computer in My Documents.
If you're receiver says Dolby Digital, the Pro-Logic is already II. The most significant improvement is the focusing of the voice to a center channel without a discrete hook-up (a center channel output from the TV, a cable or satellite box or even a DVD player). You can tie in the TV by connection up it's audio through your SONY receiver, or even through the DVD player -- if it has surround hookups). That will be in the SONY receiver manual and in your DVD player manual. Your antenna will at least give you a stereo MTS (stereo) sound signal which the Dolby Digital II will process into surround. Many stations do broadcast 5.1 Dolby Digital but you have to check online (it usually states on the programs, "In Dolby Digital 5.1 where available").
Oh, you only received the speakers from your neighbor?
It's the unit, with subwoofer and five speakers.
This. With the speakers and subwoofer.
This may not be identical, but it's very close in appearance.
You've got all you need -- you only need to know the proper wiring and configuration of the surround. It's not that difficult, especially with the on-screen display. My Yamaha has a small microphone that's placed in the listening area, then I go through the "Auto Menu" which puts out white sounds and does all the adjusting. I have to the "presence" speakers as I have stated before that are in back of and in the corners of the room behind the two main left and right speakers. I don't think SONY offers the DSP (digital spacial presence), but you don't need it. It just gives aural space behind the speakers and you can lift the center speaking channel sound focus up-and-down to match the screen. You should have no problem finding the manual and the first thing to do if you do have an extra video input in your TV is to hook up the surround receiver display.
The surround speakers do not have to be placed all the way back into the room, left and right. They can be set up close to the front and "toed out" to angle towards the left, right and back wall. This will effect the adjustment of balancing the volume. To tell you the truth, after I do the auto configuration, I still do some manual tweaking. My Mom wears hearing aids, so I did crank up the center voice speaker.
I put the two front speakers touching the bottom of the TV, left and right corners.
I will turn the others as you suggested. They are not that far from the TV, but , high. It was quite spectacular last night. I plan to use it mostly when the wife is out visiting her mother and whatever else it is that women do. She is too critical of my settings.
I'm like a small child, working on stuff like this. I am finished with it until Saturday, when I can spend some uninterrupted hours with it if necessary.
I do the same thing being the incorrigible perfectionist I am (they invented OCD especially for me). You could also try aiming the rear surround speakers upwards about 30 deg. One of my avocations in the 70's was sound -- I worked with the sound engineer who was my roommate on the sound system at the Irvine Bowl (they were Altec Lansing speakers and we had set up to buy directly from the factory as engineers), where the Pageant of the Masters takes place, the the new Moulton Playhouse (one of the Moulton's was a personal friend) and Laguna Beach High School. We built the latter's speaker enclosures in my garage. I think I'm repeating myself here, but from years ago (hopefully, though I am getting old!)
Did you find the LFE and center channel volume configurations? Toning down the LFE in a small room is almost imperative as it bounces around off walls and becomes more noise than effect. I covered the center channel boost which will make your wife a lot happier (it effectively tones down the surround effect to a more appreciable sound while making the voices clearer). I also slightly boosted the treble with the equalizer control of the center channel (my Yamaha also automatically equalizes all the channels to the room acoustics with the microphone and white noise, although that audible signal sounds like a thump rather than the usual hissing sound of a white noise).
In a smaller room, the left and right speakers should be at least six feet apart.