Q: I have an Integra DTR-30.7 receiver connected to a B-I-C brand surround-sound ensemble with five speakers and a subwoofer. The overall performance is excellent, but dialogue is difficult to understand. Would a different center speaker help?
A: It might, but if you are happy with the system's performance otherwise, it would be better — not to mention much more cost-effective — to tweak the settings than replace the center speaker. In fact, doing so will help just about everyone whether you have a surround system or not, because most TVs and set-top boxes have these adjustments.
Go into the audio setup menu of your receiver and look for the setting "dialogue control." You also can raise the center channel volume independently of the other speakers to bring the dialogue forward a bit. But try the dialogue control first to see if that alone is sufficient. If not, then you can raise the center channel volume.
Check the audio setup menus of your set-top box, TV and disc players for settings called "volume leveling," "late-night mode" or "dynamic range" (the terms vary from brand to brand). Adjusting these settings can bring the dialogue into better proportion with the rest of the TV audio so it is easier to hear.
No CD panic
Q: A couple of times — most recently just last week — your column has sounded a warning that CD players are becoming extinct. I have a very large collection of classical music on dicss (more than a thousand of them). Should I buy a couple of CD players and stick them in the closet for future use?
I also need to replace my stereo. You have recommended the Emotiva Airmotiv T-Zero speakers and the Cambridge Audio Topaz AM5 amplifier as a good foundation for a system. Is there an FM radio tuner I can add to the AM5 amplifier for another $250 or so? Plus, I need a turntable with cartridge. Any recommendations?
A: First, allow me to bring you some peace of mind. In last week's column, I was replying to a reader who was asking specifically about CD players in table radios. Yes, those are disappearing from the market. And a few months ago, I wrote about how CD players are becoming less common in cars because of music streaming services. Despite these developments, stand-alone CD players are still readily available and will be for decades, given the amount of music that exists on CD. What's more, any DVD or Blu-ray player also plays CDs.
Let's move on to your second issue. I would suggest buying a stereo receiver that includes FM instead of adding a tuner to the AM5 amplifier. If you want to stick with Cambridge Audio, the Topaz SR10 receiver has a lot more power than the AM5 (85 vs. 25 watts per channel) as well as an AM/FM tuner and a phono preamp. It sells for $399, about the same as adding a $250 tuner to the $169 AM5. (cambridgeaudio.com)
Onkyo's TX-8020 receiver has AM/FM and is a good buy for $175. It lacks the Cambridge's high-end chops, but still performs very well. (onkyousa.com)
As for a turntable, in December LP Gear offered the "Deck the Music Hall" holiday special, which was a Music Hall MMF-1.5 turntable with the wonderful the Vessel A3SE cartridge pre-mounted for $499. It was so successful they have made it a regular offering billed as the "The Vessel Special." You won't find a better turntable at that price, and it matches beautifully with the other equipment. (lpgear.com)
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.