By Don Lindich
Week 41, 2018
Q. We’re part of the older generation that has trouble understanding what folks on TV are saying. We have a set of earphones which do make the voices clearer, but they’re not comfortable for more than an hour or two. We tried a sound bar which made the music better, but did not help much with the voices so we returned it to the store. I realize that many of your readers are interested in music and sound effects. For most of the shows we watch though, the words are more important. Can you recommend some speakers or soundbar that gives good voice quality?
A. You aren’t the only generation that has trouble understanding dialogue on TV. Poor sound mixing, combined with the poor sound quality of modern televisions, makes this a universal problem affecting every generation.
The best soundbar for voices remains the ZVOX AV200 series, which I have written about many times in the past. It is designed specifically for voices, and is in fact smaller than soundbars designed for music and sound effects because low bass notes can drown out the dialogue. You picked up on that already with your first soundbar purchase. The AV200’s small size and AccuVoice setting, which lifts the dialogue out of the soundtrack, is very effective and makes voices notably easier to understand.
Your timing is good as ZVOX just introduced the AV201 soundbar, an improved version of the AV200. It has two AccuVoice settings and a redesigned big button remote that is a huge improvement over the “credit card” remote of the AV200. Normally $199, The AV201 is currently on promotional sale for $179.
By the way, now that hearing aids can be purchased over-the-counter, ZVOX has entered that marketplace as well, drawing on their experience helping people to hear better. The $299 ZVOX VoiceBud VB20 has technology typically found only in hearing aids that sell for twice the price, and is constructed of high-grade components sourced from leading American manufacturers. See the AV201 and the VB20 at zvox.com.
Q. I have a Pioneer SA7500 II amp that is over 40 years old. Some of the toggle switches are affecting the sound quality. It is very temperamental and there is a crackling and a loss of sound in one of the channels. Sometimes a little jiggle is all it takes and it is working fine, then a rock music bassline will cause a crackle and I’ll lose the channel again. When it’s working it still sounds great. Where can I get it serviced, and is it worth it? I see eBay sellers asking $200 for this amplifier, so it must be good.
-D.H., Cherryland, CA
A. You can clean this yourself with electrical contact cleaner. Unplug the receiver overnight, then take off the top cover. Spray the contact cleaner into the toggle switches and work them back and forth to get out the grit and clean up the sound. The same technique works with volume knobs. Using canned air will help blow
If you still need help, I would check your local stereo shop. Most of them have connections to repair services, or even do them in-house. If you can’t find a stereo store near you, try United Radio at unitedradio.com. I have used them in the past to repair the drive in a prized DVD player, and 15 years later it is still working.