Amplifier buying advice

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soopytwist
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Amplifier buying advice

Postby soopytwist » Mon Mar 19, 2012 1:54 pm

I know nothing about amps and receivers and all that malarkey but I've been tasked with finding a solution for my mum and dad who find it hard to hear presenters and actors over the loud background music. This is a well known problem, so much so that the BBC launched a study into this very issue back in 2009. Apparently they receive a great many complaints about music drowning out presenters and actors dialogue in their programs, making it hard even for the young to hear what is being said clearly. I'm 35 and I have some trouble hearing dialogue clearly, which is why if I'm watching TV on my own I do it with headphones on. My folks have a Samsung UE40D6530 LED 3D TV and a Samsung BD-D5500 Blu-Ray player. They mainly watch telly through their V+ box however.

Would a 5.1 speaker set up actually alleviate the problem of the too quite dialogue, considering most programs are broadcast in ordinary stereo and not 5.1?
And can you recommend a system that has wireless speakers that won't break the bank?

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Re: Amplifier buying advice

Postby Ekona » Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:03 pm

If you get a decent enough amp that lets you play with the relative volumes of the speakers, then you could just crank the centre speaker up. Not exactly ideal for balanced sound, but it would solve the problem. On my system anything that's in stereo is toyed around with via the software to Dolby Surround which works very well, so you would really notice the difference. I couldn't go back to just two-channel audio on TV now.

I briefly looked at wireless speakers when doing my parent's setup, but in the end the cost wasn't worth it so just ran cables instead around the room.
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Re: Amplifier buying advice

Postby soopytwist » Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:27 pm

Right, what amp and speakers have you go then Ekona? Like I said I know zilch about them so wouldn't even know where to start plugging stuff in. Does everything go into the amp through HDMI or just optical cables? There would be four appliances to connect to it, the V+ box, Blu-Ray, a generic PVR/DVD and the TV.

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Re: Amplifier buying advice

Postby Ekona » Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:41 pm

In short, it works like this:

The V+ box, BD and PVR plugs into the AVR via HDMI if possible. If not, then via component & optical.
TV also plugs into the AVR on the output HDMI socket. You then use the AVR box as the switch between inputs, and the TV stays on one single channel.
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Re: Amplifier buying advice

Postby Tinlad » Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:44 pm

Perhaps look out for an amp with a decent level of EQ customisation? That way you could boost the vocal frequencies without having to have everything turned up to 11?

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Re: Amplifier buying advice

Postby soopytwist » Mon Mar 19, 2012 3:08 pm

Okay, sounds simple enough. Everything can go to the AVR via HDMI so that's not a problem, the ones I've looked at online all seem to have ample HDMI sockets. I think I'm probably going to have to take the old man to Richer Sounds and have a look at what they've got on sale. EQ customisation is exactly the sort of thing dad needs to boost the dialogue and fade the music, this would be ideal.

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Re: Amplifier buying advice

Postby Ekona » Mon Mar 19, 2012 3:13 pm

What's the budget? I assume cheaper the better?
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Re: Amplifier buying advice

Postby soopytwist » Mon Mar 19, 2012 5:08 pm

Well yes, but under £500 certainly. The thing is, dad retires on his pensions soon and he's already started spending, spending, spending. The LED 3D and Blu-ray was phase one (well you have to have priorities don't you), wooden flooring in the living room and dining room is next, new sofa and chairs, new coffee table, new wall paper, conservatory...the list goes on, surprisingly - if you thought that was all.

I just popped round to Richer Sounds...and there's me thinking these guys know what they're talking about. Apparently an amp won't make a difference to loud music in telly programs. In fact they seemed to think it would make it ten times worse as it would just "amplify" the sound, and no they didn't think EQ customisation would make a jot of difference. So, they talking out of their arses or what?

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Re: Amplifier buying advice

Postby Ekona » Mon Mar 19, 2012 5:19 pm

They're right if you don't take into account the fact you can set up each speaker individually. Really it's meant for taking into account different distances between speakers in an odd shaped room, but there's no reason you couldn't use the same thing to achieve the result you're after. I know there's a hell of a difference in mine if I whack one speaker up full and leave the others alone! You're not changing the EQ at all, just the volume from each speaker.

If £500 includes the speakers then you'd be better off spending the majority on the amp to make sure it'll do what you need it to do, but don't forget to allow for cabling as well. I'd stay away from the all-in-one solutions as you tend to find they're limited in options with regards to speaker setup and input/output.
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Re: Amplifier buying advice

Postby Tinlad » Tue Mar 20, 2012 5:38 pm

soopytwist wrote:I just popped round to Richer Sounds...and there's me thinking these guys know what they're talking about. Apparently an amp won't make a difference to loud music in telly programs. In fact they seemed to think it would make it ten times worse as it would just "amplify" the sound, and no they didn't think EQ customisation would make a jot of difference. So, they talking out of their arses or what?

I'd argue that the better frequency response of an amp+speakers (vs. the telly's built in set) will make speech clearer and easier to distinguish from background noise. I'd be very suprised also if tweaking the EQ didn't make a difference. You could try it for yourself using the EQ in iTunes/WMP/WinAmp/whatever - IIRC, the human voice typically falls somewhere in the 1 - 3 kHz range. Try boosting it and seeing if you can hear the difference.

I would question the need for a full 5.1 system though. I'm sure that a decent stereo setup could provide the desired effect.

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Re: Amplifier buying advice

Postby soopytwist » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:06 pm

You know. It would simpler if there was such a device to plug everything in (including the telly) via optical cables, or coaxial only, instead of HDMI. Then 5.1 speakers into this box, unit thing...an AR instead of an AVR I guess. Rather than a huge, expensive amp. Dad's not so keen on the idea now after viewing the size of the bloody things. Does such a device exist? Told you I know nothing about this sort of thing.

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Re: Amplifier buying advice

Postby Tinlad » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:09 pm


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Re: Amplifier buying advice

Postby Ekona » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:30 pm

Mine's a Pioneer, good gear. MCACC speaker setup is a doodle and works really well.
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Re: Amplifier buying advice

Postby soopytwist » Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:12 pm

Mmm, me likey! That's an awesome bit of kit. Might get one for myself.

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Re: Amplifier buying advice

Postby soopytwist » Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:35 pm

Right then Ekona...got a problem. Dad bought the VSXS300 and a set of decent Pioneer speakers. Today I set it up for him but there's a snag. We can't see the OSD on the telly. Now the manual says the OSD is not output through the HDMI cable and to plug in a phono plug from "monitor out" on the AVR to composite IN on the TV. We've done this and put the TV on AV as the source but there is no OSD, the screen just says No Signal.

The TV is a Samsung Series 6 LED 3D. For any composite connections it uses a weird looking AV/Component Adapter, the end that plugs into the TV has two headphone like plugs, one small and one large. The other end is audio left and right, RGB and Composite (yellow), the yellow composite shares the same plug as the green from the RGB.

The amp is running through it's demo phase, we need to run the MCACC set up but need to see the OSD to do that. The manual (on a fucking disc) mentions on several pages that the OSD will only output through the composite (monitor out) and this is plugged into the TV via that odd looking converter and the TV is on the right channel but there's no OSD from the amp.

Meanwhile we tested a blu-ray and that works fine, great picture, great sound comming out of all the speakers, though the centre speaker is a little too quite but we're hoping the MCACC will sort that out. Then there's always the other audio settings to play around with. We need the OSD to do that though.

EDIT

Hold fire! I assumed the OSD would be on the screen straight away after turning the AVR on for the first time. Not so apparently you have to press the RECEIVER button then HOME to get the OSD on screen!
Well that allowed us to run the MCACC set up. Afterwards though we couldn't get ANY HDMI sources on screen apart from sound.

First tried the blu-ray again, pressed BD on the AVR remote and we can hear what's playing but can't see it. If we press the source button on the TV's remote HDMI 2 is greyed out and if you select it it says there is no signal. Next tried the V+ box, same thing can't select HDMI 2 on the TV which is the port the AVR is plugged into (from HDMI OUT on the back of the AVR). Lastly tried the DVD/DVR and the same there, there is sound on all three appliances but no signal. So tried a different HDMI cable from the AVR to the TV, no change.

It worked fine before running the MCACC set up and no we can't get a picture from anything! HELP!
Last edited by soopytwist on Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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