Cine-EQ and other useful settings

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 8, 2007

Q: My receiver has a button on it called “Cinema EQ”.   I do not have the manual to look it up.   What does it do and should I be using it?

-Joe August, West Newton, PA

A: Many DVD movie soundtracks can sound a little bit harsh or bright when played back on home sound systems.   It happens is because they are mixed and equalized to sound their best in a movie theater.   Home environments have much different acoustics than a movie theater so they may not sound their best when played back without any sort of adjustment.   After a while it creates”listener fatigue”, a mild irritation that may ultimately make you want to turn off the system and take a break.

The Cinema EQ, or Cine EQ is a sort of preset tone control (an equalizer) designed to tame down the soundtrack a bit and make it sound its best when played in a home environment.   Whether it makes an improvement depends on your system, your room acoustics, and your tastes.   I tend to prefer movie watching from DVD using the Cinema EQ engaged and I find many others do, as well.   Give it a try and see.   If you have ever had that feeling of mild irritation when watching a DVD on your home theater, go right to your system try the Cinema EQ now!   There’s a good chance it will solve the problem.

There are some other obsure, but useful settings on your receiver and DVD player.

Virtual Surround Sound, or V.S.S. Is found on many DVD players.   It creates a modest surround effect when using only two speakers, such as the TV’s own speakers or a stereo system using a receiver and two speakers.   It changes the signal to the left and right speakers to fool your ears so they perceive a more spacious, convincing sound field.   A company called SRS, found at www.srslabs.com offers many similar technologies, which are found on televisions as well as other audio/video products.   Check your DVD player or TV’s controls to see if there is a simulated surround setting.

The control most appreciated by my readers is the Dynamic Range Control.   I often receive emails saying “Why are the voices so low when I watch a DVD at home?   If I turn up the sound so I can hear the voices better, the sound effects and music play much too loud when they kick in.”   Going back to the first answer, it is because the soundtrack is designed to play in a movie theater, where the sound effects and music do indeed play quite loud in relation to the voices.   That is why it is called dynamic range- there is a large range of volume within the soundtrack.

Turning on the dynamic range control reduces this range, bringing the voices and the rest of the soundtrack more in proportion to each other. It is useful for watching DVDs at normal or background levels, or late at night when you are likely to listen at a lower volume. (In fact, some DVD players call the dynamic range control “Midnight Mode”.)  

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