Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 272

A couple of weeks ago, the “Sound Advice” column in the Merc mentioned a sale on a ZVOX Dialogue-Clarifying Sound Bar. This wasn’t the first time the column has touted a ZVOX speaker or headphone, but this was the first time we bit. The dialog in Ted Lasso was sufficiently muddy and accented to be hard to understand with our normal audio system – we actually resorted to subtitles for a couple of episodes – and there have been other programs where we’d have liked clearer voices.

The speaker is intended as a replacement for your existing audio, not an addition; it connects up to the TV through an optical cable, and the instructions tell you to turn off the TV speakers. We haven’t used our TV’s speakers in many years – all of our program sources go through our Denon AVR-2112CI receiver, with the audio coming from the receiver and the video going to the TV, and I didn’t want to lose that option.

It took a little while, but I eventually found the option on the Denon to tell it to send the audio on the HDMI cable to the TV, and then the ZVOX speaker picked up the signal – and indeed, voices are clearer. It seems like the ZVOX punches up the “voice range” (300-3000 Hz) and cuts the bass and treble. It probably does other processing, too – the audio sounds a bit funky, but it’s definitely easier to understand voices.

Switching between the two audio paths was a pain – I had to go into the menu on the receiver, then pick System Setup/HDMI Setup/HDMI Audio Out – many keystrokes required on the remote. Every time.

But then I realized I had a better solution; my home automation solution, Indigo, supports user-written plugins, and someone going by the handle of “Perry the Cynic” had written a plugin to support Denon receivers. And that plugin lets you send arbitrary commands to the receiver. A little more research led me to a document with all of the possible commands, which let me figure out how to tell the receiver to switch the audio output between the TV and the receiver. And I was even able to set things up so that I can tell my Amazon Echo to “turn ZVOX off” (or on) to switch the audio. And I didn’t have to write a single line of code to do it.

Now I want to see if I can get a similar effect to the one produced by the ZVOX by fiddling with the graphic equalizer on the receiver; it would be nice to have one fewer box around.