What is with film soundtracks?

This maybe something Alex Lyndsay could comment on on MBW, but what the heck is up with film (and TV) soundtracks these days?

The speech is whisper quiet, and has me turning up the volume to 30-40 to be able to hear what the characters are saying to each other, then comes the music, so quickly down to 15, then back up to 30-40, because the characters are speaking again, then comes the action sequence, so down to 10, then quickly back up to 30-40, because the charcters are speaking again!

Why has the dialogue between the characters become so inconsequential, that the directors and editors think that the audience don’t want to listen to them, they are only there for the music and sound FX?


This has been discussed here before, although I will admit I haven’t followed the discussion because I haven’t suffered this problem… but I rarely watch a movie. I have a sound bar on my TV that seems to have the design to focus on centre channel sounds and less on special effects, so maybe I’ve just been lucky.

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I have a soundbar and it works for dubbed stuff, but I’ve been watching a few films and series in English lately and the music and effects just swamp actors lines. Having it low enough that the music & FX don’t wake the kids up stairs, the voices are so quiet, they are an unintelligable mumble. We generally watch with the subtitles turned on, for my native English!

But, as I said, the dubbed stuff is just fine, the voices are intelligable and aren’t totally swamped by the music. It is as if the German dubbers take pride in their work…

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Maybe a combination of things.

  • The engineers doing the mix aren’t considering the ‘mustn’t wake up the kids’ scenario. They assume everyone watches at cinema volumes. My soundbar has a night mode that helps a bit.

  • AV systems over emphasising lower frequencies, not great at voice frequencies. I often put my TV or soundbar into clarity/voice mode.

  • Our own hearing might be contributing. We usually lose voice frequencies first.

If you have a more recent TV with low-latency Bluetooth, headphones are a good solution for late-night movie watching or gaming I find.

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As long as the movie is encoded with surround sound and my AV amp recognises it as such then I’ve not suffered this problem.

I do notice it though when watching with stereo soundtrack that the speech can be lost sometimes, but if the speech is locked to only the centre channel then it’s perfectly audible.

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Generally listening in stereo, as we don’t have an AV system (the old one broke years ago (DD 5.1) and never replaced it). The sound bar works sometimes but depends on the streaming app.

Does your soundbar physically have centre plus left and right speakers in it? If so, have you checked if your sources are outputting Dolby Digital rather than stereo?

It does and we are using an Apple TV into the Sony Bravia outputing into the soundbar. It seems to be hit-and-miss, whether the Bravia outputs DD or stereo.

On mine, Terrestrial HD TV channels are DD 2.0, SD are PCM stereo, all the streaming apps and PlayStation are DD 5.1. I find DD does separate the voice better, so I use it, even though I have no surrounds or sub.

Also noticed DD 2.0 sounds better than PCM when I switch between SD and HD TV channels, not sure why, prob more to do with what my soundbar does with a PCM input.

I have noticed this in the cinema as well, I thought it was a post Covid forgetful attitude to channel balance.

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Yes, Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” film from a couple of years back had particularly challenging audio (a deliberate decision by the director apparently). I hope that dialogue will be easier to understand in his forthcoming film about Robert Oppenheimer!


Yeah I hate having to turn on subtitles to “watch” a show or movie now. So annoying that SFX is getting more db than dialogue

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Here’s one approach, by Amazon:

Agrée, I’m not that great in the hearing department but I thought ‘it must be getting worse’
Do hearing aids come in 100W versions?