Sound Advice: Sound bar can fix poor TV audio

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 18, 2011 - 2:05 PM

Answers to your multimedia questions.

Q We're having trouble understanding the dialogue on our television. I'd like to buy a Sony HT-CT150 sound-bar system. Would this solve our problem and be a good addition to the next TV we buy?

A Difficult-to-understand TV dialogue has been the most common reader complaint since I started the column almost 10 years ago.

Back then, the problem was the dynamic range of DVDs, which makes dialogue too soft unless you play the movie at movie theater volume levels. Today, the problem is compounded by flat-screen televisions and their weak, tiny, downward-facing speakers. It adds up to a prescription for sonic disaster.

Most televisions have a setting that makes dialogue easier to understand. It's usually called Dynamic Range Control or DRC, Dialogue Enhancer or Midnight Mode. Your DVD player, Blu-ray player, or cable and satellite box might have this setting, as well. You're still limited by the speakers in the TV, though.

If you really want to solve the problem, a sound bar is a good idea. The Sony HT-CT150 is the best choice in the $225 price range.

Budget-minded viewers should check out the 2.1-channel sound bar from Monoprice (www. monoprice.com). It's only $115 and has HDMI, supports 3-D and includes a wireless subwoofer.

If you want the best sound quality and surround effects possible from a sound bar, check out the 5.1-channel surround bar speakers from Definitive Technology and Polk Audio. They work with an AV receiver and a subwoofer to provide much of the experience of a five-speaker system without running wires around the room.

Holiday camera pick

The Kodak EasyShare Max has proven to be an excellent ultrazoom camera with impressive specifications.

It has a clear, sharp 30-times optical zoom lens from top-tier lens manufacturer Schneider-Kreuznach of Germany, optical image stabilization, 1080p HD video, fast shooting speed, good low-light capability and a 28mm f/2.8 lens at the wide end of the zoom range.

Old-school photographers will appreciate the ability to select from various "film modes" to duplicate the look of Kodak films such as Kodachrome, Kodacolor, Ektachrome, Tri-X B&W and T-Max B&W, as well as sepia tones.

It offers great value and quality at its suggested retail price of $299. At the online price of $220, nothing comes close.

On the downside, shot-to-shot times are slow and the panorama mode is hit or miss. Battery life is just average.

Overall, though, the EasyShare Max is an easy-to-use camera that delivers a lot of creative potential and wonderful images without costing a lot.

Submit questions and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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