Correcting hard-to-hear voices on DVDs, correcting lip-sync problems

Week of January 9, 2005

Q: My question regards DVD player sound. I have a DVD player connected directly to my TV, no surround sound system. The voices are much softer than the music and special effects so it is hard to hear what the people are saying. Is there anything I can do to fix this?

-Amerigo , Pittsburgh, PA

A: This question comes in several times per week. I reply personally to everyone who sends it, but like to post this answer at least once or twice per year as obviously a lot of people are in the dark about this.

DVD movie discs are mastered with theater-level volume in mind. When you play them at a volume so that the dialogue is easy to understand, the sound effects and music will be very loud in relation to the voices. This is great for movie buffs with fancy sound systems trying to exactly duplicate the theater experience at home. For the average TV watcher with a DVD player connected directly to the TV listening at moderate volumes, it is an annoyance.

The range of volume is referred to as “dynamic range”. DVDs are considered to have a wide dynamic range, as the volume can range from very high to very low.

If you go to your DVD player’s setup menu, you will find an audio submenu. Most DVD players will allow you to change the dynamic range so that the volume is much more constant. In most players it is called “dynamic range compression,” “dialogue enhancer,” “midnight mode,” or something similar to one of these. I am confident you will find the appropriate setting when you look in your audio setup menu.

Turning this setting to “on” ¬†will bring the voices and the rest of the soundtrack more into proportion with each other, making the voices much easier to hear.

I hope one day the manufacturers realize that most DVD players are connected directly to TVs and played at moderate volumes, not connected to expensive sound systems and played at theater listening levels. They would be doing the public a service if the default setting had the dynamic range compression at on, not off!

Q: DVDs played through my home theater system have a serious audio and video synch problem…that is the words do not match what the mouth is saying. For some DVDs it can be very noticeable, even new ones such as Elf.

Is this something you have experienced? Have you heard of a way to prevent or minimize this problem?

-Thurman Gardner, Pittsburgh, PA

A: Most receivers and audio/video preamplifiers have a delay or lip-sync setting to correct this. Check your owner’s manual.

Comments are closed.