Room Acoustics

Will A Diffuser Help With Hearing Dialogue?

Dialogue intelligibility is a common problem. That’s a fancy way of saying that you can’t understand what people are saying on your TV. We’ve got a whole article about how to address this issue. One of the most effective solutions is to add absorption to your home theater or TV area. If you’ve done any research on acoustics, you’ve come across diffusers. Rather than absorbing sound, they reflect it in multiple directions. This works primarily at the highest frequencies which sounds pretty perfect for dialogue. Would adding a diffuser help you better hear dialogue? Let’s discuss.

Why It Seems a Diffuser Would Help

One of the main issues with hearing dialogue is that the sound bounces off the wall behind your couch and reflects back to your ears. This is like hearing an echo just ever so slightly behind the original sound. It makes it hard to hear the initial sound and make out what people are saying. It isn’t as noticeable for sound effects and music, but any sort of dialogue gets garbled.

The diffuser makes sense as it scatters the reflections of the dialogue in multiple directions making hearing the dialogue much easier. While there will still be some direct reflections, they will be much less loud. Suddenly, your dialogue should be clearer.

But Will a Diffuser Help?

A diffuser will likely make your dialogue easier to hear and understand. We can’t argue that it won’t do something and that it should be a positive effect. But diffusers aren’t really reducing the amount of sound in your home theater. Now, instead of having a direct and very strong reflection, you have multiple reflections that have to travel in different directions. Sure, it will reduce the overall level of the reflection in any one direction, but it hasn’t changed the amount of sound being reflected.

The Right Tool for the Job

If you were to ask the best way to get from New York to London, the answer would be an airplane. Sure, you could use a kayak, and it would certainly get you there, but it isn’t the most effective tool for the job. The same is true here. A diffuser does reduce the strength of the direct reflections, but an absorber does that far better.

When sound, especially in the dialogue range, hits an absorption panel, it is reduced to a much greater degree than when it hits a diffuser. Plus, it is not only reduced but it is also negated. There is less reflected sound in your room that can confuse your ear and make dialogue hard to understand. Plus, absorbers work on a much wider range of frequencies and can help your room sound better in many other ways.

To sum up, yes a diffuser can make dialogue easier to understand, but an absorber will do a much better job plus will have additional benefits. If you just really like the way diffusion panels look, check out GiK’s combo absorption/diffusion panels. They work great.

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