QUEEN: A NIGHT AT THE OPERA a DVD-Audio review by David Tolsky

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jan 31, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    QUEEN
    A Night At The Opera


    DVD-AUDIO Review
    by David Tolsky
    When 5.1 channel surround sound music mixes first made their way onto the scene, there were several bands that came to mind that I felt could truly benefit from the extra discreet channels. Keep in mind that most of my radio listening and concert going occurred from the mid 70’s and through the 80’s. My personal short list of Pop/Rock groups that, to me, have real potential in the digital surround sound realm include (in no particular order) Pink Floyd, Yes, Electric Light Orchestra, pre-‘80’s Genesis and Queen. I’m sure there are others, but I know that the creative instrumentals and vocals of these bands would provide some unique listening experiences in 5.1
    After a delay, the much anticipated Queen title, A Night At The Opera, makes its way into music stores in April. Let me tell you, this disc is worth the wait. This is probably the best surround mix for music I’ve ever heard, and that includes Alan Parsons On Air DTS and the Steely Dan concert DVD.
    A Night At the Opera is a popular title from the 70’s and is responsible for such memorable hits as “You’re My Best Friend” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I couldn’t just sit down and pretend I’ve never heard it before. Instead, I approached this familiar album looking for a more enjoyable and much improved listening experience. I got more than I bargained for, and I’m not even set up for DVD-audio yet! I listened to the DTS 5.1 track that plays on any DVD player--in this case, my Pioneer DV-414.
    Don’t forget, this is DVD-Audio we’re talking about, so we’re treated to some visuals along with our audio. In this case, from the menu screen we get the following choices: TRACKS, VIDEO, GALLERY, LYRICS, CREDITS, DTS STORY, and AUDIO OPTIONS.
    After choosing the DTS 5.1 Digital Surround option from the AUDIO screen, the first thing I did was listen to the tracks. Automatically, I was shown the lyrics to the opening track, Death On Two Legs. The track began and almost immediately I felt the impact of a great 5.1 re-mix. Piano is heard from the rear surrounds and then Brian May’s screaming guitar blasted from the left main front. Lead singing came in from the center channel. Ah, but when I think of Queen, I think of the signature background vocals that set this band apart. When the music abruptly stopped and those vocals kicked in behind me, I knew that this was going to be a special listening experience. “Seaside Rendezvous,” track #7, is classic Queen: An upbeat, somewhat ragtime song with all the patented Queen staples; dueling piano playing (both standard and electric), great vocals by Freddy Mercury, and cool percussion effects coming from the rear surrounds. I believe the kazoo even makes an appearance from the front left main speaker. This is a fun tune to listen to and it makes very creative use of 5.1 discreet channels. Track #8, Prophets Song, features a voice-only segment that will have your head spinning trying to figure out which speakers the echos are coming from -- lots of fun!
    For you Bohemian Rhapsody fans, this disc gives you double the pleasure. Not only do you get the audio track but you also get the original music video as seen on MTV, totally re-mixed in 5.1. It’s a real treat for die-hard Queen fans or those younger kids that have just recently discovered the classic tune from “Wayne’s World.” By the time I got to the Bohemian Rhapsody audio track, I had already heard ten songs so I was anxious to hear what 5.1 DTS would do to this classic. “Easy come, easy go” (left and right mains), “A little high” (rear left surround), “little low” (rear right surround), and that brought a smile to my face. In short, the surround sound treatment for this classic song will not disappoint you.
    Accessing the GALLERY section from the main menu will give you ten photos that you can scroll through with your remote, including close-ups of the band members and concert action shots. Going to LYRICS, you can scroll down the title list and hear a couple of seconds worth of music from each song to jog your memory. Click on the title and up come your lyrics. CREDITS are self explanatory, listing everyone responsible from the original recording to the current re-mix. Finally, you also get a few paragraphs on the DTS STORY, a synopsis of the DTS role in 5.1 music.
    By the time it was all said and done, I wondered how we, as music enthusiasts, ever put up with a two channel mix for so long. Now if they can just go back and re-mix some classic Yes, Pink Floyd, and ELO…but that’s another issue entirely.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Stacey_V

    Stacey_V Stunt Coordinator

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    Excellent review David! Thank you for taking the time to write out your thoughts.

    One thing I'm curious about, is the ability to play DVD-Audio disc's in a regular DVD player.

    Is this particular disc an exception? Will most DVD-Audio disc contain some stuff that you would be able to play regularily?

    Is this disc worth a purchase if you do not presently have DVD-Audio?

    Where are these type of discs available? I live in Canada, and I have yet to see any DVD-A discs anywhere.

    Regards,

    Stacey
     
  3. John Tillman

    John Tillman Supporting Actor

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    Looks like April won't come fast enough. Did they also include an Advanced Resolution 2-channel mix?
     
  4. Ryan Spaight

    Ryan Spaight Supporting Actor

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    Is this review of the promo version that was sent out in December, or the final version with additional remixing by Brian May?

    The December version got a lot of negative reviews, and May was in the studio until mid-January doing more tweaking. Of course, that might just have been to the DVD-A tracks and not the DTS mix.

    And yes, most if not all DVD-A discs contain either a DD or DTS track (or both) playable on any DVD-Video deck.

    Ryan
     
  5. Michael St. Clair

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  6. John Berggren

    John Berggren Producer

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    If most discs will play a DTS or DD track through a standard DVD player, what is the specific benefit of a dedicated DVD-A Player?

    Knowing this, I'll likely pick up A Night at The Opera. This is one of Queen's best discs, and I look forward to many tracks (Particularly the Prophet's Song) in 5.1.

    Thanks for the review!
     
  7. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    David,
    Good review. When is the Super Audio CD out? [​IMG]
    One suggestion: Could you list your stereo equipment going forward. This is a common standard among audio reviewers that helps keep sound quality in perspective. Sound like you are getting great sound from the Pioneer. I also have a Pioneer DVD and love it.
    Thanks again!
    Lee
     
  8. John Tillman

    John Tillman Supporting Actor

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    John said:

     
  9. Ryan Spaight

    Ryan Spaight Supporting Actor

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  10. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    I don't even think it's a case of "warming up to the idea". Whether you like 5.1 or not you should still get at least a 96 stereo track. I thought that's was one of the biggest selling points of DVD-A, not surround mixes.

    I like many of the mixes I've heard, but I still expect the fundemental track to be ADVANCED RESOLUTION STEREO. To me the rest is extra.

    Anyway, I do have DVD-A going and I look forward to picking up any DVD-A from my favorite band of all time.
     
  11. RicP

    RicP Screenwriter

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    I'm going to be the bad guy here and say that I have issues with this review.
    They don't. If they do not have an uncompressed stereo mix they they probebly aren't playing the disc on the player it was intended to be played on. Taking a DVD-A disc that was created to be played on a DVD-A player, and playing it in a DVD-V only player and then complaining about things you cannot access is sort of silly. Buy the proper player, and then you can access the proper content.
    So what David actualy reviewed was Not a DVD-Audio disc, but essentially a DVD-V disc where he listened to the DTS "backup" track.
    I will try to pick up this disc as soon as I can so that we can get a review of the actual DVD-Audio tracks which according to sources do in fact include a 24/96 stereo mix in addition to a 24/96 5.1 channel mix -- neither of which were listened to for this review.
    Sorry to be the negative nancy here, but DVD-Audio is confusing enough to people without perpetuating the confusion in reviews.
    Let's just take a hypothetical and say that David listened to the DTS mix and hated it...just hated it, so he gives a poor review. Problem is, he never listened to the actual DVD-Audio tracks, which is what the entire disc was created for! The DTS track is an add-on for people who lack the proper equipment to play the disc as intended. So people would read David's review and possibly not buy the disc, but they'd never know that he didn't even listen to, or review the uncompressed 24/96 PCM tracks, which offer fidelity way over and above the compressed DTS mix.
    Well, that's the end of my rant. [​IMG]
     
  12. John-Miles

    John-Miles Screenwriter

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    Stacey, just to let you know I also live in Canada, and I have seen DVD-A in music world and a place called radio land, likely it will just be a matter of asking at a local music store. they usually wont have alot, but they will have a few.
     
  13. Ryan Spaight

    Ryan Spaight Supporting Actor

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    Agreed on all points, Ric. My response above was indicating that all DVD-As should have a dedicated stereo DVD-A mix, not a PCM track.

    This format is confusing as heck. You're never really sure if you're getting:

    DD 2.0

    DD 5.1 (384)

    DD 5.1 (448)

    DTS low bit

    DTS high bit

    DTS 24/96

    44/16 PCM Stereo

    96/24 PCM Stereo

    88.2 DVD-A Stereo

    88.2 DVD-A 5.1

    88.2 DVD-A 5.1 downmixed to stereo

    96 DVD-A Stereo

    96 DVD-A 5.1

    96 DVD-A 5.1 downmixed to stereo

    192 DVD-A Stereo

    or something completely different. Yike!

    Flexibility is good, but this is silly.

    Ryan
     
  14. Michael St. Clair

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    Ric,
    Why the hostility?
    Backwards compatibility is part of the DVD-A spec. That's why every disc you see will have at least:
    1) A DD5.1 track playable on normal players
    or
    2) A DTS5.1 track and a DD2.0 track playable on normal players.
    Many discs upgrade this to include a DD5.1 track and a PCM 2.0 track, both playable on normal players, and so on.
    All I am proposing is that be the norm always include a PCM stereo track (in addition to at least a stereo DVD-A track and usually a 5.1 DVD-A track). I recently spoke with Dennis Burger of DVD Angle, and he agrees...I don't think I am on some wacky fringe here trying to ruin the format.
    God forbid you be able to play a stereo track in your DVD-ROM at work or take your disc to a friends house to play on his regular DVD player in the original stereo mix.
    Why does it make sense to only include crap like DD2.0 for stereo when there is room? And why the hostility?
     
  15. John Tillman

    John Tillman Supporting Actor

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    Actually, they are rather smart. Wouldn't you want to buy a Hotel California SE @ 384kHz next year?
     
  16. RicP

    RicP Screenwriter

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    If the labels wish to add this feature, it is of course their prerogative, but it is not part of the specification and really is not DVD-Audio as the format was designed...that's all. Also you are running into space issues with an uncompressed PCM track in addition to any number of 5.1 compressed tracks, and video content. All of that of course is just superfluous content when compared to what the disc was created to carry, which is hi-resolution PCM tracks that are intended to be played on a DVD-A player.
    I understand your point, but in a way it's analagous to asking record labels to include MP3's of all the songs on every CD they release.
    As someone who appreciates and has the ability to play the hi-res tracks, I am loathe to dedicate any room on the disc to superfluous tracks when the space could be better utilized to improve the hi-res DVD-A tracks.
     
  17. Michael St. Clair

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    Ric,
    I have the ability to play the DVD-A tracks.
    Do you listen mostly to classical? I'm not at home right now, but I'm pretty sure that all of my AIX classical discs have PCM on the DVD-Video section. My Weather Report disc does, and I'm pretty sure that my Bjork disc does. I haven't scrutinized every disc for it because I don't usually use the 'regular DVD' section, but there have been times I wanted to take a disc out of the house and hear the stereo track without a DVD-A player.
    There is room and there is no reason that a disc like the Queen one or the excellent 'Toy Matinee' could not include a PCM stereo track instead of the DD2.0 track they already include. And it certainly would not make the releases any more confusing than they must be. As far as the other discs, they already have one or more tracks in each 'section' anyway.
    And I gave reasons why a regular PCM track is good, but I guess you don't seem to like them.
    I'm thinking your anger is related to the backwards compatible section on discs in general and not putting PCM on the 'regular DVD' area.
    Oh, and can you please name a DVD-A that is not backwards compatible?
    I also think it is ridiculous that some discs out there don't have any stereo track, but that is another story.
     
  18. RicP

    RicP Screenwriter

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  19. Michael St. Clair

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  20. GregK

    GregK Screenwriter

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    The reviewer ponders more than once on what Pink Floyd

    would sound like in surround sound. Well he might be

    interested to know that quadraphonic versions of "Dark

    Side of the Moon" and Wish You Were Here" were once

    available to consumers, and I can testify that you haven't

    heard PF's "Money" until you've heard it in quad!

    Quad versions of Billy Joel, ZZ Top, Areosmith, and a

    few hundred others were once available, and could easily

    be transfered to DVD-A or SACD.
     

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