TV speakers and closed captioning | What the Tech?

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (WHAT THE TECH?) — Baby boomers can blame listening to 80’s rock and roll through headphones for having trouble hearing the dialogue in movies and shows, but why are people in their 20s using closed captioning while watching something on television?

It isn’t because of hearing loss. It’s because of thin TVs and even thinner TV speakers.

A study last May found 70% of Gen Z’ers say they almost always use subtitles or closed captioning. That’s even more than baby boomers.

A big part of the problem is that today’s thin television sets have thin speakers. These speakers cannot differentiate between sound effects and music.

You’ve probably noticed it too.

A number of companies are now releasing external speakers. They increase the sound of the dialogue to help people enjoy their shows and movies.

An Asian company released the Mirai Home speaker at CES this year. The curved shape of the speaker pushes out a clearer or at least more amplified sound. A dial on the speaker adjusts the volume of dialogue so it is audible over sound effects and music. The dialogue straight from the TV speaker, even without a monster roaring, can be a little hard to hear. Using the Mirai speaker the difference is noticeable.

The Mirai Home is available on Amazon for about $200.

ZVOX has a number of sound bars and speakers with its own technology that works sort of like a hearing aid; reducing the sound of background noise and music while bringing dialogue to the front so to speak.

A clip was played from the movie, Warrior, when the main actor walked into a noisy gym. We could barely understand what the actors were saying. When the same scene was played with the ZVOX Accuvoice soundbar, every word was clearly understood while the noisy gym sounds of punches were brought down a few decibels.

The ZVOX soundbars allow you to increase the dialogue at different levels so you can still hear some music and sound effects. If you don’t need the adjustment, the ZVOX soundbars also have a surround sound setting. They start at around $100.

Today’s thin televisions make a soundbar an essential part of a home entertainment setup. If you’re having trouble understanding dialogue, a soundbar with hearing-aid-type technology will keep you from continually asking “What did he say?”