Home Technology : Audio / Surround Sound
How a Home Theater Can Help if You Are Hard of Hearing
If you have difficulties hearing, you may feel left out in the typical discussion about home theaters. After all, if you’re struggling just to hear the words coming from your TV screen, and find that turning up the volume only makes dialogue even more incomprehensible, the thought of adding even more speakers—not to mention all of the booming bass and surround sound effects for which home theater is known—may seem downright counterintuitive.
Would it help you to know that even those of us with impeccable hearing struggle to hear the sound coming out of today’s tiny, tinny TV speakers? As televisions have gotten bigger and better, they’ve also gotten a lot thinner, leaving little room for anything but the most diminutive sound systems. That clunky old 23-inch console TV that used to hog half your living room may pale in terms of picture quality compared to your new 40-, 50-, or 60-inch flat panel, but its sound system was positively hi-fi by comparison.
And as TV speakers have shrunk, TV sound has only gotten bigger. Even the most pedestrian television drama is mixed with a full 5.1-channel sound system in mind. Cram all of that big, dynamic sound into two itty-bitty five-watt speakers, and it’s no wonder that voices get lost in the mix. Give those denser mixes a little more room to breathe through a higher quality sound system, and you might find it’s just what the audiologist ordered.
Upgrading to a dedicated home theater system doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to fill your room with speakers and racks of sound gear, though. Paradigm’s discreet little Millenia CT and MilleniaOne CT (CT stands for Compact Theater) deliver an incredible upgrade over standard TV speakers, with a much richer sound, and up to 120 times the power. Don’t worry; that doesn’t mean they’re 120 times as loud, but with all of that extra juice, both the Millenia CT and MilleniaOne CT are capable of delivering vastly clearer, cleaner, more precise sound at any volume, with impeccable dialogue clarity, all from speakers small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Each system is also entirely self-contained, with a control box no bigger than an Apple TV.
If you’re not turned off by the idea of a full-blown surround sound system in your den, there are a number of speaker technologies that could go a long way toward delivering crisper, cleaner, more discernible sound to your ears. GoldenEar Technology’s speakers are a perfect example of the kind of speaker technology that can vastly improve the clarity of dialogue coming from your TV. Rather than relying on traditional dome-shaped drivers for higher frequency sounds, GoldenEar’s speakers employ a folded tweeter that squeezes air like an accordion. We won’t dig too much into the technological specifics, but the result is incredibly low-distortion sound that penetrates the air in the room much more efficiently, bringing the sounds from the speakers right to your ears.
If you want surround sound but don’t want speaker boxes taking up valuable space in your room, you might also want to give Niles Audio’s Directed Soundfield speakers a listen. Unlike many speakers that are designed to blend seamlessly into the ceiling, Nile’s Direct Soundfield line features pivoting woofers and tweeters designed to aim the sound directly at your favorite seat.
Whichever speaker technology you decide on, the most beneficial aspect of a surround sound system is the ability to adjust the relative levels of each speaker in the system. Most of the dialogue in today’s surround sound mixes resides in a dedicated center channel. In a typical home theater setup, each of the speakers in the system is calibrated to the same loudness level, to give listeners the full impact of cars and planes and bullets whizzing around the room. But if your ears aren’t what they used to be, and hearing dialogue is your primary concern, your local home technology specialist can work with you to find a balance that emphasizes voices above all else, by boosting the center channel and turning down the other speakers, which mostly serve deliver all of the background music, whizz-bang surround sound effects, and booming bass that may be distracting you from hearing what matters most—what’s being said.
Doing so may not be technically “right” by home theater calibration standards, but the right home theater system is the one that delivers the right sound for you.
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