How to fix voices hide behind music and SFX + way too quiet then too loud?

I’ve installed and minimally played with FxSound. Enough to know it doesn’t fix this for me out of the box, or with my minimal experiments (tried a few presets, then tried turning most off and trying the complex settings individually).

I was pointed here when I mentioned wanting to fix difficulty understanding the dialog in movies and TV. I’ve seen comments that recent material has a bias, that it’s not just me (but more on that later). Both that and going from so quiet I can barely understand them, to loud enough to worry me or hurt (after an explosion for example).

Night mode or dynamic range compression is the hope for the latter issue. Not sure if that might help the dialog clarity too. I’ve played with the automatic loudness equalization on my Realtek sound card in Windows 10, and a Normalizer setting in MPC-HC my current usual video player (has an audio renderer called SaneAR, and that’s one of it’s settings). Oh, and LAV Filters has a dynamic range compression feature, but it only works for some input types so I didn’t want to rely on it.

It would be best if I don’t need to tweak settings manually (even on/off when switching sources), and if it’s otherwise invisible. I like a range of music styles (EDM, pop, rock, rap, country, even instrumental) and coloring the output will bother me. Like I tend not to like any live version of songs when I really like the recorded version.

I’d go so far as to say my family has a condition (maybe mild on Autism spectrum?) that causes us to have trouble picking conversations out from competing noises. My mother identified the same issue, and testing + talking with an audiologist turned up no good solutions since it’s not just a volume issue for her. And we don’t have tons of money to buy things with cash if not “medically necessary”.

When in elementary school I remember claiming “I can’t hear it!” when told I was turning up the TV too loud. It happened so often and seemed bad enough to have them professionally test my hearing, but this was a long time ago (on HMO insurance so minimum possible treatments…they just shrugged).

It’s to the point I prefer going into public with active noise canceling headphones most of the time. Even if not playing anything, just to let me focus easily. Music playing in stores can really bug me too.

Anyway, the Clarity and/or Dynamic Boost settings seem like good options, but in the first tests they didn’t feel like slam dunk perfect choices. I thought someone who knew the tool better might be able to match my goals to the settings better than me blindly trying stuff.

And I don’t know how to start from “don’t mess with anything” to begin with (neutral). The included presets mostly did something, and the link to download more only listed music genres not what they did inside them.

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Same! (I actually wear them at home as well, so I don’t have to hear the neighbors.)
Sorry, but FxSound has no option to automatically limit audio levels.
I know the VLC, WinAmp and Neutron media players do, though.
The Clarity and Dynamic Boost sliders are indeed your best options for making dialogue more understandable, along with the Voice preset, about which the FxSound website mentions the following:
This preset is specially designed to enhance human voices, lower background noise, and smooth out recordings for those transcriptionists. It’s also great for voice and video calls for work, as well as podcasts.

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Forgot to mention;
All three of these players are available for Windows, Android, Macs and iPhones, but while VLC and WinAmp are free, Neutron will cost you around 9€ per device for lifetime access.
And also, I just realized that Neutron’s Automatic Gain Protection function probably isn’t exactly the thing you’re looking for.

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Yeah, VLC and WinAmp are familiar names. I’ve never managed to love the VLC interface for videos. And tend to play more music through streaming services so cannot pick a player like Foobar2000 (or I assume all of the 3 you mentioned). It’s why I’ve been hoping for a filter of some sort, or driver setting.

Neutron might work for videos though… I’ll have to compare it to the stuff I’ve poked already. I didn’t mention that I like/use SVP4 (Smooth Video Project) which needs to insert itself into the middle of playback. It’s a frame interpolater like the fancier TV’s can do.

For SVP playback there are a lot of choices, but I don’t remember seeing Neutron on their wikis (instructions to connect SVP). It needs to use either AviSynth+ (normally for transforming video frames one by one, like cropping or color changing) or VapourSynth in mplayer/mpv.

On Android “Neutralizer” is an interesting app, but I haven’t felt up to really using it. It’s supposed to help you shift output to make up for differences in playback hardware like headphones. I’d thought maybe it’d have some smarts like adapting volume levels too, but from what I recall it was more like a guided adjustment to an equalizer, with some presets built-in.

That’s the biggest annoyance I have for streaming stuff. That all the fancy players can’t touch them. Either their app, your OS, or hardware need to do the work. Feels like a waste of a programmable playback device!

I’ll continue to play around with stuff.

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