Posted: 2 months ago Quote
There’s no need to have your finger constantly hovering over the volume buttons.

I love big movie explosions as much as anyone, but I have a bone to pick with movie studios: It feels like every time I watch an action movie, I have to turn the volume way up just to hear the characters speak, then quickly turn it down every time something explodes. And when I’m not quick enough on the draw, my sleeping wife gets very angry.

Why do movies do this?

It all has to do with dynamic range—the difference between the loudest and softest parts of a soundtrack. The wider the range, the larger the dramatic impact, explains Scott Wilkinson, audiovisual technology journalist and consultant (and the “Home Theater Geek” on In other words, they mix it that way so when that explosion finally happens, it kicks you in the gut and rocks your world.

The problem is, sometimes you don’t want your world rocked. Sometimes you just want to relax while watching superheroes punch each other in the face, without waking the neighbors through your paper-thin walls—and that dynamic range becomes a lot less desirable.

“This is generally not a problem in commercial cinemas, which have high-quality sound systems and good acoustics,” Wilkinson says. “So you can hear and understand quiet dialogue in one scene without lessening the impact of loud explosions in another scene.” Even if these movies get remastered for home viewing, most people are using weak TV speakers in a less-than-ideal room with the air conditioner running in the background. It’s a recipe for unintelligible dialogue and constant volume tweaking.

If you don’t have the cash to improve the acoustics of your room and create your own soundproof home theater (what am I, made of money?), you have other options.
Turn on “night mode”

You might not realize it, but there may already be a setting built into your TV, sound system, or streaming box designed to deal with this: it’s called “night mode,” and it does exactly what it sounds like.

“This compresses the dynamic range, reducing the difference between the loudest and softest parts of the soundtrack,” says Wilkinson. “Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find this setting in the device’s menu system, though some devices have a dedicated ‘night mode’ button on their remote.” Dig through the settings of your TV, speaker system (if you have one), and streaming box—this useful mode may also be called “dynamic compression” or something similar.