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Info Wanted: So how bad is the 2011 Star Wars sound mix really?

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I’ve read and even heard several examples of why the Star Wars DVD sound mix was pretty weak. That said, I’ve heard the 2011 mix in 6.1 and it seemed to sound OK, although I admittedly didn’t give it much scrutiny. That said, are there still any glaring issues with the most recent mix (swapped surround channels in scenes, bizarre mixing choices, weak or tinny audio) compared to the 1997 Special Edition mix? I’m really curious to find out what may have been made worse or still potentially needing fixing.

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I haven't heard the DVD mixes for many, MANY years but I remember the most distracting thing for me were the different takes. There were scenes, where literally each line of one man's monologue was taken from a different take! So each line was in differrent pitch, different speed, different sound quality, different tone ... For example when Tarkin speaks to Leia, or when Han talks to the gang on the Falcon during the holographic chess scene etc.

The 2011 mix is much better because Matt Wood who did it KNOWS what fans hate :-) And he intentionally fixed or "minimised" the stuff

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I hope Hairy Hen stops by. He put together a few great examples of why the DVD mix is so bad. But I don't recall anything like that for the Blu-ray mix.

You know of the rebellion against the Empire?

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The Blu-ray mix isn't really all that different from the 2004 DVD mix overall, AFAICT.

Badness depends on your reference.  So many of us have seen the films so many times that we have at least one of the pre-97 mixes permanently etched into our brains, so that's our reference whether we like it or not.  Maybe if you judge the Blu-rays without that mental reference, they sound okay, but for me it's impossible, because I also know how they could/should have sounded.

So here's what I remember not liking about the Blu-ray audio.  Please keep in mind I'm not really an audio guy, so my terminology or explanations might be completely wrong.  They had a weird combination of muddiness and harshness throughout, which I took to mean overzealous use of noise reduction (muddiness), combined with a hamfisted attempt to bring the reduced details back out (harshness).  Usually this was constant, so your ears could get used to it, I suppose, but occasionally they must have done some major adjustments, and the sound suddenly sounded more broken than normal.  I remember that happening with Vader dialogue occasionally.

Then there's the score, which was pushed way into the background in a few scenes--yeah, it's not like the score isn't the best part of the soundtrack, people--let's just minimize that John Williams garbage so people can hear our crap new sound effects for our crap new CGI.  Bleah.  Bad choices all around, even if you accept the bad choice of the Special Editions to begin with.

EDIT: hairy_hen may be your best bet for more detail. A lot of people who don't like the 2011 mix may have only heard it once quite a while ago, or be actively trying to forget it.  It's not something I hope to re-live.

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)

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Obi-Wan's krayt dragon call - shockingly bad.

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That and that they removed

I think we took a wrong turn 

                   I think we took a wrong turn

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I am an audio guy, and I'm curious as to Hairy Hen's opinion as well. 

I owned the blu ray and spent a little time with it in 2011 and 2012. I don't remember any drastic changes other than in pure quality. 

The audio on the DVDs is subtly irritating. I don't always hear something obviously wrong with it, but almost invariably I can only get through about 30 minutes without being on-edge and wanting to turn it off and do something else.

The Blu Ray audio, on the other hand, at least the DTS Master Audio, sounded expansive and completely free of  the glare-y harshness of the DVD.

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In general, the sound is just carelessly mixed and poor sounding compared to the original mix. It's severely lacking in treble, with a low droning bass noise, and a muffled compressed sound. There is no dynamic range.

To quote Hairy Hen, the mixes problems include,

hairy_hen said:

flattened dynamics, lack of high frequency response, poor balance between background and foreground elements, music cues too low in level or missing altogether, certain effects and dialogue being enormously distorted, incorrect placement of elements within the sound field relative to their position on screen, some effects even being out of synch to the image altogether

Here is a direct comparison of the 2004 mix (it's almost identical to the 2011 mix, outside of some small fixes) with Hairy_Hen's 70mm recreation (use headphones): http://www.mediafire.com/?avv1d8izol8hy3t

(Note that they did sort of "fix" the lack of music during the trench run in the 2011 mix, but the other examples should be the same between mixes.)

Notice how the 70mm has far more punch and dynamic range, while the DVD/Bluray mix has a sort of a droning bass noise. You can even hear clipping and distortion when the Death Star blows up in the DVD/Bluray mix.

Edit: found Hairy_Hen's detailed description of what is wrong on the 2004/2011 mixes: http://originaltrilogy.com/forum/topic.cfm/Star-Wars-1977-70mm-sound-mix-recreation-stereo-and-51-versions-now-available/post/548812/#TopicPost548812

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - Director’s Edition HD Recreation
Duel (1971) - The Hybrid Cut
The Phantom of the Opera - 1925 Version Reconstruction - Rare Scores Collection - Roy Budd Score

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TV's Frink said:

It kicked my dog.

I believe your dog said it kinda liked it ...... a little rough was good for the blood pressure or something.

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Supposedly most of the original sound stems were discovered for the '04 mix...most of.  That's why you hear a very clear difference in quality throughout the scenes mentioned...most notably in the Tarkin/Leia scene ("..a military target, then name the system!").  Here, the quality shifts mid sentence at times...from the (muddier) quality we are so used to, and the (newly discovered) bits with much greater dynamics.  Either many more sound elements were rediscovered, or Wood found a way to equalize them, minimizing the differences because in my opinion, the blue-ray is a far superior mix...with the exception of Obi-Wan's yell, etc. 

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ElectricTriangle said:

In general, the sound is just carelessly mixed and poor sounding compared to the original mix.

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Edit: found Hairy_Hen's detailed description of what is wrong on the 2004/2011 mixes: http://originaltrilogy.com/forum/topic.cfm/Star-Wars-1977-70mm-sound-mix-recreation-stereo-and-51-versions-now-available/post/548812/#TopicPost548812

 

What "original mix" are we comparing to? Isn't HH's is a reconstruction?

As CatBus mentioned above, I think we do tend to hold whatever we're used to as the standard of comparison. For me that'd be the first Widescreen LDs and the original, rental Beta Hi-Fi audio for Empire (no later digital release ever sounded that big and warm to me, but it had its own issues for sure).  

re: the comparison link
I feel that mp3 (and 2 channel at that) isn't the best format for comparison (imagine watching a 240-line youtube video to see the differences between blu-ray and another format). I assume the second of each pair of samples is HH's, but, probably because it's an mp3, it's not obviously superior to the DVD audio.