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Advice on best HT Audio for film dialog

declans3

Standard Member
Hi Folks,

I'm looking for some guidance in completing my home theatre setup with a decent audio solution. The room is a 30 ft x 18 ft attic space and has a ceiling mounted projector. I have a PS3 (for Blu-Ray) and a mac mini running Plex for movies/pictures/music. Content is stored on a NAS disk (the room has cat5 cabling). Its a great setup apart from the sound. Audio is currently provided by a cheap Sony 5.1 system that I got in the states that does a really poor job of movie dialog (its often unintelligble).

So I'm looking for a new AV receiver and 5.1 speaker package. Budget is ~€2000 (or ~£1750). The key requirement, underlined by my other half (if I get this wrong that's the end of my toy purchases for a long time!), is that dialog is clear and the system is easy to use (alas Plex on the mac mini often fails here so I can't complicate the system further). There are no decent hi-fi shops locally so I dont really have an opportunity to demo so would like to go with proven receiver/speaker combos.

I'm pretty open to what to go for but really like the look of the Monitor Audio BX5 5.1 kit (probably paired with a Yamaha receiver). From reading the posts here I gather the center speaker can be a little quite (a concern for dialog). A bose lifestyle T20 system seems to tick the boxes but seems like poor value for money. I'd have a slight preference for floorstanders for the front L/R speakers.The front speakers will be quite/very close to the screen wall and the rear surrounds will be wall mounted. The B&W 685 Theatre speakers also get good press although I prefer the look of the MA. If anyone has these speakers or has experienced them in action I'd appreciate their thoughts.

Also any other helpful suggestions are most welcome.

Thanks,
Declan.
 

JonathanAV

Active Member
Hello Declan,

Welcome to the forums,

A good partnership is the Jamo THX Select 2 D500 5.1 speakers with an Onkyo 609 amplifier, both have won multiple awards. (just above your price range)
The Jamo's will give very clear detail, crystal clear, also the bonus of THX cinema mode as both are THX Select 2 certified (when set-up correctly)
I was surprised how good the Onkyo was for the money. The Jamo's would also sound better again if you ever changed to a 5 channel power Amp & separate processor further down the line :smashin:

Where roughly are you located at? Just enquiring as I see your € sign, if its Ireland I might know some places to demo different systems

Cheers,
Jonny
 
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declans3

Standard Member
Hi Jonny,

Firstly many thanks for taking the time to give me your opinion. It looks like an excellent recommendation and from the reviews I've read I wouldn't go far wrong with the Onkyo 609. The Jamos sound really good too but I'm slightly concerned that their music performance doesnt seem as strong as some other units. Yes, the room is primarily a home cinema (and I did stress dialog in my earlier post) but it will also be used for listening to a wide range of music. I appreciate you can't have everything (although for this money I like to think I'd be starting to get close!).

I am based in the west of Ireland so if you know if anywhere I could get demos then that would be fantastic.

The other question I have is about the THX Select 2 certification. I'm not that familiar with it but gather that it is optimised for medium sized rooms 2,000 - 2,500 cu. ft. The room I will be using is approx 3,700 cu. ft. (it's an attic space but the roof is 7' 7" in the centre - the roof is angled then flat then angled again if you follow me). The couch is ~16 ft from the screen. How well do you think the THX select 2 setup will work in this room?

Finally have you heard the Monitor Audio BX5 5.1 speakers? They look great and are going down well with she who must be swayed!

Cheers,
Declan.
 

JonathanAV

Active Member
I was surprised how good the 609 was, I have used Onkyo amps in the past but the sound was poor (at that price range)

I do want to get more detail/sound dialog myself out of the Jamo speakers so I was lucky enough to purchase a TAG McLaren AV32R dual processor but funds are tight at min so cant purchase a power amp just yet :(
The Tag Processor doesnt have True HD or DTS HD sound formats but its one of the best sound processors i've ever heard for Dolby Digital 5.1 (it has 7.1 DD EX as well)
Your right that the Jamo D500's arent the best for music. I also like playing a lot of music so will try to purchase Kef Reference 201's (2nd hand pair) when ive more funds just for music. I had Kef 205's & 204c a couple of years back, perfect sounding for both movies & films. You can pick up a 2nd hand pair of mkI 205's for just under £2000 (they are £6-£8000 new) but nothing comes close to them.

The Select 2's are for medium rooms but work well in large rooms. The only diference in Ultra 2 is they can handle more power.
I sit about 15ft from the screen with no issue. If the speakers are set-up correct & calibrated (any speakers) you shouldnt have any issue.
The Jamo rears are ment to be approx 6 ft on the walls(dipole's) & the front three at least 2 ft but I always place the L/R speakers higher.

I know places around Dublin area & plenty up north (im in Antrim) but unsure in the west of Ireland (but will try & find out)

Ive never heard the Monitor Audio BX5 5.1 speakers, a friend has smaller Monitor speakers which are good! Hopefully someone that knows the BX5's will come along.
Ive had plenty of fights with the Girlfriend about speakers :mad: especially when I use her credit card to purchase more equipment & dont tell her :facepalm:
 

declans3

Standard Member
Hi Jonny,

Dublin's a lot easier for me to get to than up north so if you could let me know some good demo places that'd be great.

Also you mention having the centre speaker 2ft high. I was hoping to have this pretty much on the floor as I use almost the entire wall for my screen & I'd hate too lose screen real estate. I can put teh l/R front speakers at anyheight. I checked out the manual for the D500 online and they also recommend having the surrounds on the side walls ~6 ft off the ground. This would be a problem as my roof angle (its an attic) starts ~5 ft from the ground. Would it be OK to but the surrounds on the back wall (this is also the way I currently have it wired) ?

Cheers,
Declan.
 

JonathanAV

Active Member
Hi,

I'm away a couple of days but I will find out when I'm back where to go in Dublin area (have a list of HiFi shops in house somewhere)

For the Jamo D500 surrounds its best to have them either side of you (on your left & right side walls) this is because they are Dipole surrounds. The midrange & tweeters are on both sides of each speaker, this gives a wide field of sound. Still can use them behind you on the back wall but its best doing this in a 7.1 set-up (4 surrounds)
The surrounds would be fine at 6 ft high, other surrounds can be placed lower, monopoles might be best for your set-up.
You could also have the option of Ceiling & in-wall speakers which saves room.
If you can, I would try & add extra speaker cable for a 7.1 set-up (so your future proof) even if its thin cable under skirting board etc.

Its best to have any center speaker raised up slightly, i'm always advising my clients of this as at least 75% of dialog is from the center speaker.
You always have the option of all in-wall speakers for Home Cinema & then two floor standing speakers for music!

Regards, Jonathan
 

declans3

Standard Member
Hi Jonathan,

I'd like to hear the Jamo D500's and also the Monitor Audio BX5's. Of course if the one place had both it'd be great but I'd be happy to hear either. Thanks again for your help.

Regards,
Declan.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Here are a couple of things to consider.

When I watch movies at home, during quiet dialog parts, I turn the volume up so I can hear it, but when loud action scenes come, I have to turn it down or it is overpowering.

Now many amps come with something generically called Audio Compression or volume limiting. Each manufacturer uses their own name for this feature. I think one brand name is "SRS True Sound" or something similar to that. Another way of describing it might be automatic volume control. In any case, it allows the average level to be higher so you can hear dialog, but clamps down on the loud peaks so they are not overpoweringly loud.

I used to have an old CRT television that had this feature and I really liked it.

The next thing is to get the best speakers your budget can afford. Better speaker are clearer speakers.

In 5.1 movies, a lot of dialog is channeled to the Center speaker, consequently, you do not want to skimp on the size of the Center. The bigger, the better.

On par with the Monitor Audio BX line is the new Diamond 10 series from Wharfedale. Though it would be up to you to decide which you prefer the sound of. But the Diamond series has three Center speakers, the largest of which is the Diamond 10.CM, which has twin 6.5" bass drivers, a 2" Dome Midrange, and the standard 1" dome tweeter. That is a lot of center speaker.

Google-UK - Shopping Search - Wharfedale Diamond 10.CM

On Page #9 of this thread, in post #245, you will see an attached photo of the Diamond 10.CM sitting in a normal living room. Click on the picture to see an enlarge copy.

http://www.avforums.com/forums/speakers/978096-new-wharfedale-diamond-10-series-9.html

Also, in the same thread, on Page #11 in post #305 you will see another picture of the same Center in a different room, that should give you some sense of the rather large size of this Center -

http://www.avforums.com/forums/speakers/978096-new-wharfedale-diamond-10-series-11.html

Though, the Monitor Audio BX center is not far behind the Diamond 10.CM. The MA-BX Center has twin 5.5" woofers in a 2-way configuration. That's still a pretty nice Center, and is about the equivalent of the Diamond 10.CS Center.

At a price very similar to the Monitor Audio BX5 is the Diamond 10.6 -

Google-UK - Shopping Search - Wharfedale Diamond 10.6

The Diamond 10.6 has twin 165mm (6.5") bass drivers in a low-bass, mid-bass configuration, and the standard 25mm (1") Dome tweeter.

Just beyond the price of the Monitor Audio BX5 is the Wharfedale Diamond 10.7, the largest in the Diamond 10 series. This is still close enough to your budget to be workable, though it is a pretty tall speaker -

Google-UK - Shopping Search - Wharfedale Diamond 10.7

The Diamond line is very versatile in that it has quite a range of available speakers, and that makes custom configurations very easy.

Again, it is up to you to decide if the Diamond series is better or worse than the MA-BX series. But the Diamond series is a bit more versatile due to having more speakers to choose from.

So, those two considerations are worth noting; get a good and big Center, and try to find equipment that has this audio compression or automatic level control feature. Both can help you emphasize voice.

Just a few thoughts.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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JonathanAV

Active Member
Good point, most recent Amps can have feature's to adjust dialog & using a separate audio processor/power Amp will sound even better.

The Diamond range are also great speakers........... as mentioned in another post there is that many good speakers to pick from (Kef, B&W etc)

A main fact is also the set-up of the speakers/equipment, Audio calibration, sound isolation, controlling sound waves etc
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Here is another thing to consider, since this is an Attic/Loft conversion, it probably has vaulted/sloped ceilings. How tall is the floor to ceiling space in the area where the speakers will need to be placed? If you have some vertical walls, say half-walls, plus the slope of the ceiling to contend with, then you may or may not have room for tall speakers, especially if you have an exceptionally wide projection screen.


Notice in this photo (on Page #11 in post #305) that the speakers are placed below the screen -

http://www.avforums.com/forums/speakers/978096-new-wharfedale-diamond-10-series-11.html

You do need to give some thought to screen size and available space at the sides of or just below the screen to make sure you actually have room for your speakers.

If this is a typical attic with NO vertical sides, that makes the space for speakers even more cramped.

Also, if dialog is important, once you run SetUp on the amp, you can go in and tweak the Center speaker just a bit louder than the other, again to emphasize dialog.

Given the size and quality of speakers you are looking at, you shouldn't have any problems with dialog, as long as you actually have room to place the speakers.

Again, there is a certain advantage to the Wharfedale Diamonds in that they make a wide range of speakers. If the speakers previously mentioned are too tall, then consider -

Diamond 10.4 (£320/pr) with twin 5" woofers -

Google-UK - Shopping Search - Wharfedale Diamond 10.4

Diamond 10.5 (£420/pr) with a single 6.5" woofer and an added 2" Dome Midrange -

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Wharfedale+Diamond+10.5&hl=en&tbm=shop&aq=f&oq=&aq=f

You'll have to check the actual dimension to see how they compare to the Monitor Audio BX5, which while being a floorstander is not exceptionally tall itself.

Steve/bluewizard
 

declans3

Standard Member
Many thanks Steve for your considered and detailed reply – I’ll have to look into the Wharfedales a bit more. The attic does indeed have half walls: the ceiling height is 7ft 8” and the half wall height is 4 ft 9”. I fear the half wall height is a little on the low side for surrounds but I hope it will be enough. My main concern is the centre – I project onto the back wall and the screen extends almost all the way to the floor (see pic below).

Can I put the centre speaker above rather than below the screen and still get really good sound quality (perhaps by angling it down slightly)?

Overall the room is 30ft by 18 ft and the space rocks – I just need to get good quality sound. I think Jonathan has given me a really good steer with the Jamo D500s & Onkyo 609 – from the reviews I’ve read they’re an excellent solution, albeit a bit over budget. One concern is that the Jamo centre is much taller than most centre speakers (including the Diamonds) and this is a problem especially if I need them under the screen. I’m also leaning away from floorstanders (even though I think they give the best sound) as the room will also be used by kids that could end up using them as goalposts! Another plus of the Jamos is that I can hang them off the walls without special brackets (not too big a deal I know). Movie performance is the number one criteria, followed by music.

I agree that I can use dialog normalisation or even tweak the level of the centre speaker but would rather only go there as a last resort. Any advice based on the room shape and other considerations would be most welcome.

Thanks,
Declan.
 

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BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Is there any chance you can redirect the project and aim it a little higher?

Overall, I would say the room looks pretty good, and I don't see any problem, other than kids, with floorstanding speakers.

I'm not familiar with the specific Jamo suggested, but a quick Google Image Search, and I get a good impression of them.

Google-UK - Image Search - Jamo THX Select2 D500

Though it is not what I would personally pick.

If the kids use the Speakers for goal posts, and they were my kids, they would literally be spending the night in the Dog House. Impress upon them that any damage they do, THEY are going to have to pay for, and impress upon them what the price of the speakers is, and remind them, that is their allowance until they are 40.

By the way, very SWEET room you've got there.

The main things is Quality speakers, clear detailed sound comes from quality.

Steve/bluewizard
 

declans3

Standard Member
With my current projector mount I could tighten it up and get only a few more inches in screen height. I'd really need to get a new projector mount to raise the height substantially. Even then I doubt I could get the centre speaker 2 ft high without shrinking the screen which I really don't want to do. Would having the centre speaker over the screen make a big difference?

Needless to say kids will be well warned but accidents do happen and I'd like to reduce the scope for damage if possible so the more resilient the design the better.


Thanks,
Declan.
 

JonathanAV

Active Member
Hi Guys,

Declan, as Steve suggested you would (if you can!) move the projection so its a bit higher.
It would be very poor audio if you placed the Center Speaker at the Top of the Projection, I would never do this :nono: You would need to place it on the floor but raise it as much as possible & also tilt it upwards. Some of my clients have there center speakers on a bottom TV unit shelf, when I raise it slightly higher the sound difference is far better.
The Jamo center speaker is: 26cms in height, 44cms in Length & only 13cms in depth. All front 3 speakers are the same to give a good Horizontal sound field. If you go for a smaller center speaker it would be poor sounding in a room that size.
These speakers are made for people like yourself & me for the Home Cinema experience (large plasma's, projectors etc)
Its only 13cms in depth so you can hide it behind a projection screen, if you purchased a screen in the future you can buy an "acoustically transparent screen" so the center speaker is hidden behind it.

As well (your concern about the shape of your room) the most important thing in Audio is "Room Acoustics" :lesson:
Even if you spent 10 times as much on speakers you wont get perfect sounding speakers unless you control the room's acoustics (sound waves etc more @ THX)
The Jamo's have small brackets already attactched to them (for wall hanging) at present ive just got my surrounds hung.

The Speakers are still good for music in Direct Audio mode with the Onkyo 609. They are made for Home Cinema but play music well.

"Munster Sounds" in Cork have the Monitor Audio BX5's on show, I will send you a PM of there number & what the guy to deal with :smashin:
Also "Home & Sound & Vision" in Dublin but I cant get there number!? So not sure if thet have them in stock at present

For the Jamo D500's I am the only Guy in Ireland that has them on display!!
"Zebra Distribution" in Bangor is the distributor all over Ireland for Jamo speakers, again I will send you there number so you know im not telling porkies :rolleyes: I will PM you of details :thumbsup:
 

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