Can't hear dialogue on movies, use a DAC with wired headphones ?


Novice Member
Dec 19, 2021
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Rotherham, England
Hi all,

New member here, sorry for the long post but I’m trying to give a clear explanation of my problem.

First a bit about myself, I’ll keep it relevant to my question re. having trouble hearing dialogue on movies at home.

I’ve spent 40 years in IT. I’m used to high levels of technical details, but also well aware that tech products can be very easy to sell but don’t always live up to the sales speak. I know they constantly want you to upgrade in the hope that things will improve :)

My hearing is good. My equipment is :
Samsung Q90T tv
Samsung HW-Q70T soundbar with sub woofer.

Dialogue on movies is very muffly, while the sound effects and music soundtrack are clear and too loud. It’s the same with or without the soundbar. If I turn up the volume to hear the dialogue clearly, the effects and music are deafening. I’ve done some research and can see this is a common problem. I’ve tried Standard / Surround and Adaptive modes, basically any combination of TV and Soundbar settings that I understand. I’ve drawn the line at having a home theatre room built to the correct dimensions and filling it with a full home theatre surround system :)

Here’s my current work around : I watch movies when I go to bed, on my old LG non-smart, non 4k tv which has 2 wonderful features, a Clear Voice setting and a 3.5mm headphones jack. I’m using a ROKU for streaming. I can clearly hear dialogue without the headphones, and if I want a good surround sound experience also with clear dialogue, I plug in the headphones. I can also control headphones volume easily with the tv remote.

How can I achieve clear dialogue with my Samsung setup ? I don’t mind removing the soundbar if I have to, or using headphones.

Using headphones is my current research. If the Samsung TV had a 3.5mm headphone jack, that would be problem solved. I don’t fancy Bluetooth headphones, I’ve never tried them due to lag / latency issues. I know “the internet” says lag has been improved with Bluetooth 5.0, but unless you can convince me, I’m gonna pass on that.

I’m thinking of trying a DAC using optical out from my Samsung tv, and my wired headphones.
Could anyone recommend one please ? I’m not sure why some DACs have a volume knob, surely if I set the sound output to optical on my tv, I can control the volume from my tv remote ?
Do some DACs have a volume control to fix signal to noise ratios, eg in the past I’ve had headphones with an in built volume control that were very hissy, to fix this I turned up the tv volume and turned down the volume on the headphones.


Firstly if you’re hearing muffled dialogue with clear effects either a setting is wrong, the soundbar is faulty or your hearing isn’t good. That’s not meant to be rude, just a possibility. I don’t know your equipment but it’s worth having a look at the settings on both.
Using wired headphones might help but doubt you need a DAC for that just a long extension lead or Bluetooth if your tv or soundbar support it.
Dacs with volume controls most likely have a headphone amp included. Definitely not for controlling s/n ratio. If they were hissy in the past then that’s bad equipment.
Thanks for the quick reply.

I should add I've recently had a hearing test at hospital and my hearing is fine. I started this thread as I'm finding a lot of information re dialogue quality on streamed movies. I can hear dialogue on tv programs and YouTube videos made on smart phones in sheds and other home environments, but not on multi million pound movies :)

Re not needing a DAC to connect wired headphones to my Samsung tv, what's the best way to do this if the tv doesn't have a headphones socket ? I already have a long extension wire.

Thanks again,

If I do try Bluetooth headphones, I can always return them if what I've read about latency is true.

The DAC I've seen is only a £10 piece of kit from Amazon UK, also an easy return.
If I do try Bluetooth headphones, I can always return them if what I've read about latency is true.

That's true. Not buying the cheapest can help but it can be a lottery.

The DAC I've seen is only a £10 piece of kit from Amazon UK, also an easy return.

Just a DAC won't help, make sure it has a headphone amp too.
Optical out from a TV is at a fixed level and is not controllable with the TV's volume control.
That's why some DACs have a built-in amp with volume control

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