Surround Receivers

Voices From Behind – Why Your Surround Speakers are Playing Dialogue

There are some problems in home theater that can absolutely blow your mind. Everything is working perfectly and then, BAM! You get voices from your surround speakers. Why? How? Everything was working perfectly for months and now your TV sounds weird. Was it a power spike? Some sort of gremlin or poltergeist? Let’s discuss!


Before we begin, don’t worry, we can almost surely fix this. We have some assumptions (which you can test):

  • This only happens with certain sources (input devices). Test by switching to a different device or input.
  • The dialogue isn’t only coming from the surround speakers, but also the front speakers.
  • It is likely that different content from that device may not have the problem.

Cause of Voices from Your Surround Speakers

The most common cause is a DSP mode called something along the lines of “All Channel Stereo.” There are other names out there depending on who made your AV receiver. With this DSP mode activated, your AV receiver takes a stereo input and plays all the left information out of any and all speakers designated as “Left” in your speaker setup menu. It does the same with the right information. People often use this DSP mode when listening to music as it makes it sound fuller (or louder) without adding any upmixing.

You may be wondering why you didn’t notice this before and why it only happens occasionally. Well, either you’ve never listened to a stereo source or, more likely, someone in your house engaged this DSP mode. They could have done it on purpose or by accident, but it is now engaged. With a 5.1 source, your receiver may have a different default decoding preference which is why the voices don’t always come from your surround speakers. This will only happen with that particular source and only with a stereo signal.

The Solution

We must remind you that most (if not all) AV receivers need to be told what to do with every different type of sound format on each input. There are defaults (check your manual), but you must change from those defaults on every input with each audio format. This is why it is possible that a stereo signal works properly from one source but has the voices coming out of the surround speakers with another.

As we describe in this article, you’ll want to change the upmixing default for the offending input. Find some content on the input that has the voices coming out of the surround speakers and engage the menu. Here, you can set it to whatever you want. If you are a purist, you’ll have it come out stereo (not Pure Direct as it disables your room correction and bass management). You can also select from a host of formats that will upmix your stereo content to your other speakers. Test them all out and see which you like the best!

Final Word

Having voices come from your surround speakers often feels like an insurmountable problem. Your AV receiver is doing something so strange that is must be broken. We most commonly see this problem associated with a cable TV box. They can put out a number of different audio formats (depending on the channel). This is why it may have problems on one channel but not another. It is also why you may not have noticed it at first. If you mostly watch channels in 5.1, you wouldn’t notice it until you hit a channel that was only putting out stereo. Fortunately, the fix is only a few button presses away.

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