How to fix muffled surround sound
Muffled sound can be caused by several factors, including room construction, poor soundproofing, and cheap and damaged speaker cables. There are a few tricks you can try to get the best of your sound system's performance.
Have a friend or family member help you identify the source of the problem by standing in different areas of the room as you play a variety of music.
Switch to a different audio device. In some cases, the problem might be the sound source. If there are no apparent problems with a different stereo, then there is a good chance that it is the speakers.
Check the speaker cables and try switching them out for a different set. Check to see if there are any obvious problems like tears or corrosion. If you start to notice crackling noises or if the sound takes longer to reach the speakers, then the cables might be the problem.
Install a better quality soundbar. If the issue is that your speakers are not producing as much sound, a soundbar can provide an easier alternative to getting new speakers.
Why surround sound gets muffled
Surround sound is vastly different from stereo sound. The idea is that you hear the sounds from all 5 speakers in exactly the same level and clarity as you would hear them in the real world. The same goes for bass (low frequency) and treble (high frequency) sounds.
But, when it comes to your TV speakers, all is not perfect. The audio is run through numerous wires and components before it reaches the 5 speakers. As the sound is transmitted through each component, it’s affected by poorly designed and inadequate wiring. At the heart of the issue is the poorly designed speaker cable. As it’s part of the surround sound system, it has to be at least as high-quality as the other system components.
Because of how it’s connected, the speaker cable is probably the one component that’s most likely to suffer from more than one wiring issue. If you have more than one speaker set, you’re probably familiar with speaker wire splits. With the large speaker wire splits, the sound is affected by each of the splits. A single split can already cause noticeable differences in volume and clarity.
Obstructions to sound
When delivering sound in the living room, several factors can prevent the sound from reaching your ears, resulting in a muffled sound. In most cases, there's usually an obstruction blocking the path of the sound and preventing it from reaching your ears. So, if you're experiencing muffled sound in your living room, the first thing to do is to check what could be blocking the sound. Here are some of the possible obstructions.
If you can only hear sound in one speaker, the best thing to check is the wiring inside the speaker unit.
Try connecting a different speaker cable connector to that same speaker output until you hear sound on both speakers. If there was a fault in the wiring inside the speaker unit, then the speaker with the faulty wiring should now be producing sound. If it does not, then you may have another fault, such as a blown speaker driver, and need to take your speaker unit to an audio repair shop.
Having the wrong settings on your AV receiver
The wrong setting on your AV received can affect your surround sound system.
There might be some slight differences in your surround sound settings. I can’t tell you what works best for you because it depends on what type of speakers you have, what type of home theater system you have, and what you like more. So an option would be to do it by trial and error – try to change the setting on your AV receiver, test it and see what the difference sounds like.
Tips for getting the most out of your surround sound speakers
A home theater system is all about surround sound. When all the speakers are set up, the whole experience will be pleasing, with everyone able to hear content from all directions.
The trouble is that a lot of people find their home theater systems having a muffled sound. This inhibits the experience, detracts from its appeal, and ruins the fun. But there is a very simple way to increase the clarity of the sound and set everything right for you.
Do you get the right kind of surround sound? If you're not convinced that the problem is rooted in the surround sound, you may want to test it out in a different way by plugging in a different player or even your TV. This will help you decide if the problem is with the speakers or if something else is to blame.
Try to identify where the problem is coming from. Make sure that the correct speaker is active. Due to the confusion of speakers located at different endpoints, it can be a challenge to know which sound channel is coming from which part of the room.
A simple workaround is identifying which speaker should be turned off. If you are using multiple speakers and your test results are not showing the results that you desire, try turning OFF the speaker that is not producing any sound and see if that fixes the issue.
Make sure you’ve got good quality wiring
If you’re not using shielded speaker wires (or you’re using a cheap set), you may have noise interference occurring in your surround sound system. This happens when the speaker wires run parallel to power lines. In some instances, this can also happen when the wires run parallel to another speaker wire.
To test it, move the wires around until the noise goes away. If you do have to move the wires around, you’ll need to make sure that the speaker terminals are wired correctly.
Listen out for a hum
I think you'll agree that faulty or distorted sound is one of the most annoying issues you can come up with while watching a movie or listening to music.
If you've discovered a problem with your surround sound equipment, it's likely to be the wires or power supply, a faulty connector, or a damaged speaker. However, finding the source of the problem can be tricky, especially if you don't know what to look for.
There are plenty of things that can cause a hum – inbuilt mixing desks, record decks, electric motors, dimmers, transformers, televisions, computers, monitors, and of course, a host of AV equipment. Getting rid of the source of the noise can be almost impossible in some cases.
But before you try anything drastic – turn off everything. If you're still not able to fix the sound, it may be a general household or a service issue, and you'll need to talk to a professional about it.
I found out the problem on my computer by turning off the TV and listening out for the hum.
Most solutions will lie in the receiver
Despite the wide availability and continuous improvement in the overall quality of computer sound, this is still an area where manufacturers are lagging. Yes, the sound inside a computer is not as muffled as it used to be. However, if you are still experiencing sound quality that is not as good as you would like it to be, the most likely cause is a fault in the setup.
To understand what is the main cause of muffled sound on modern computers, we have to take a look back and see what's changed in the past few years.
In the past, computer sound was generated through the use of a soundcard that was attached to the motherboard. Soundcards were used by most manufacturers because they were easy to implement.
In the last few years, however, manufacturers have moved toward a chip-based solution, which is built into the motherboard. The main benefit of these chips is that they output more volume for the same amount of power while being much smaller than a sound card.
Now, while the quality of sound output has increased, the design and implementation of these devices are often what causes the quality problem. Some manufacturers only pay attention to volume level and do not spend time pinpointing the weak spots in their chip designs. A good receiver might be the solution for this.
Some final thoughts
Fixing muffled surround sound can be a strenuous task, but once you manage to get it done, the satisfaction of listening to high-quality sound on your home theater will be worth it.
As with any personal space, when you take care in making it, it becomes a place for you to want to spend time enjoying your sound and doing your work. You will not only be able to do your work more efficiently or enjoy high-quality sounds when watching a movie or so, but you will also create a room that is more functional and more welcoming.