Now available on the 'Spleen, and via the /r/Fanedits subreddit.
The 1997 Special Edition audio mixes of the original trilogy are, to my mind, the most recent mixes I can stomach for the most part, and were the first ‘modern’ mixes produced for these films. Changes aside, it is the best Star Wars has ever sounded, since the 2004 DVD and 2011 BluRay audio mixes are littered with various problems and were redone from the ground up.
This project syncs the 1997 Special Edition audio mixes to the GOUT. In the process, it had to be edited here and there to address audio differences that correspond to visual changes. The primary source is a preservation of the theatrical DTS audio for the 1997 Special Edition by CapableMetal (whose sources were in turn provided by Jetrell1969 and SilverWook), and the secondary source is Hairy_Hen’s GOUT-synced OOT audio. Special thanks to ChainsawAsh for encoding the lossless PCM output to DTS.
I have tried to stick as close as possible to the 1997 mixes, reverting to Hairy_Hen’s OOT audio as minimally as possible to meet the objective. In many places it was only necessary to use Hairy_Hen’s audio for the front channels, for example. Sometimes a visual alteration was able to be addressed without resorting to Hairy_Hen’s audio at all.
I have included a slightly editorialized version of The Empire Strikes Back’s audio which keeps Luke’s line, "You’re lucky you don’t taste very good,” and removes his scream as he falls through the Cloud City shaft. For many, these are the two elements of the 1997 mix of Empire that are not easily stomached.
This alternate version is labelled as “Custom Version” and the version without these editorial changes is labelled as “’97 Purist Version.” (Purist in the sense that it does not take the liberty of deviating from the 1997 mix in these two instances when nothing visual prompts it.)
Q. “What is GOUT?”
A. The GOUT refers to the 2006 bonus DVDs containing the original theatrical versions of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Though it was disappointingly sourced from an old LaserDisc master from 1993 and presented in non-anamorphic format, it remains the best official release to date of the original versions of these films.
Q. “What does it mean to be GOUT-synced?”
A. Fans have come a long way since 2006, with many preservation and fan edit projects, such as Harmy’s Despecialized Editions and Team NegativeOne’s 35mm restoration. There have been numerous audio preservations, and Project Threepio, which presents subtitles in a multitude of languages. By convention, most of these have maintained a standard of reference by being synced to the 2006 bonus DVD release. As a result, one can borrow a video stream from here and an audio stream from there, and mux them together. It is a standardized convention for these projects to ensure wide compatibility. Due to this, you could mux these audio tracks into whatever preservation project you prefer and enjoy them.
Q. “This is not a preservation.”
A. Correct. My introduction to Star Wars was during the time of the Special Edition, and that is the audio mix that was encoded into my brain and feels the most familiar. I like having the option to view the original version with this slightly alternate, and properly remastered audio track. But it is not preserving anything about the original theatrical versions, that’s right.
Q. “Didn’t someone already do this?”
A. Yes, I have seen one other user post a similar project, though I noticed some things I felt were off, and some visual tweak whose audio was still present in the audio despite it not matching what is onscreen. I did these so I can be confident in how they turned out, and no disrespect is intended to the one who had worked on a similar idea previously.
Q. “How much of Hairy_Hen’s audio was used?”
A. Hairy_Hen’s audio is a very respectable restoration of the original theatrical audio, mastered in 5.1 surround. However, being sourced largely from stereo elements, it is not mastered in the same way as the Special Edition mixes. I tried to dip into his audio only as necessary, and to mask the transitions by avoiding them taking place in the middle of dialogue, preferring to segue during a change in environment to keep a sense of consistency in a given scene. Quite frequently it was perfectly seamless to transition in and back out after only a few seconds, though it just depends on the scene. There are many instances in which the two rear surround channels could be left alone and only the front three needed to use Hairy_Hen’s audio. It is not perfect, given the source material available, but I hope that it is something one can enjoy without noticing any flaws. I erred on the side of having a smooth transition over keeping the sheer percentage down of using Hairy_Hen’s audio.