Prime Video Wants You to Actually Hear the Goddamn Dialogue

A screenshot of a TV displaying a Prime Video program with a pop-up overlay offering Dialogue Boost options, including "English, English [Audio Description], English Dialogue Boost: Medium, and English Dialogue Boost: High

Image: courtesy of Prime Video

If you can’t hear what’s going on when watching modern shows and movies on your TV, you’re not alone. It can be damn near impossible to understand what characters are saying these days, to the point that many of us to exclusively watch with subtitles on. There are a host of reasons we’re in the spot we are today, but you don’t need to suffer going forward. At least, not while watching some content on Prime Video.

Amazon has launched a new feature for the streaming service that might allow you to finally turn off subtitles, at least for the shows where you understand the language. It’s called Dialogue Boost, and it allows you to increase the volume of the dialogue in a show or movie while turning down the background music and sound effects.

Amazon announced the launch of Dialogue Boost in a blog post on Tuesday, highlighting how, at launch, it’s supported on select Amazon Originals across the globe, including Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Harlem, as well as movies like The Big Sick, Beautiful Boy, and Being the Ricardos. Not an extensive list, but Amazon apparently has plans to extend the feature in the near future. (Thank God.)

The company designed Dialogue Boost as an accessibility feature first and foremost, intended for use by those who are hard of hearing. However, like many accessibility features, Dialogue Boost can be a benefit to many (if not all) Prime Video viewers.

How to use Dialogue Boost on Amazon Prime Video

To find the new Dialogue Boost feature, check the details page of any given show or movie. Here, you can see if it supports Dialogue Boost. If it does, access the audio and subtitles drop down menu. Here, you’ll see two Dialogue Boost options: “English Dialogue Boost: Medium,” and “English Dialogue Boost: High.”

How to boost dialogue on your own

Of course, any time you want to watch something that isn’t compatible with Dialogue Boost, or isn’t on Prime Video in the first place, you’re back to basics. That said, there are some things you can try to make your listening experience better, whatever and wherever you’re streaming it.

If you use your TV’s built-in speakers, fire up the settings menu and tinker with the sound options. Many smart TVs these days have some type of “clear voice” setting, which can offer similar benefits to Dialogue Boost. It might not deliver the best overall sound quality, but perhaps you’ll be able to more easily hear what the characters are saying. If you use a streaming stick or box, like an Apple TV, they often have similar settings, like “Reduce Loud Sounds.”

You can also mess with the equalizer (EQ) to try to boost the dialogue yourself. Reducing the bass elements is an easy start, since that will give more prominence to higher frequency sounds like the human voice. According to The Home Cinema Guide, dialogue comes through clearest in 2kHz to 6kHz frequencies, so you can tune up those areas to see if speech comes through more clearly.

Your TV’s speakers are, unfortunately, often crummy to begin with, since they’re usually built into the rear of your flatscreen’s thin frame. Investing in an external sound options, like a sound bar or a full multi-speaker setup, can give you fuller, louder audio—and some of these speakers ship with dialogue-enhancing features of their own.

My own favorite step is to stream with headphones whenever possible. It’s so much easier to hear the dialogue through headphones than through a standard speaker, plus you have the benefit of not annoying anyone around you in the bargain. This is often impractical or easier said than done, but depending on your device, it can be pretty straightforward. Roku, for example, offers a “private listening” mode, while an Apple TV lets you connect a pair of Bluetooth headphones from the sound settings menu.