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The Definitive Theatrical Audio Mix?

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So I’m curious, which variation of the 1977 audio mix would you guys consider to be the definitive version? I’d imagine it would either be the 70mm six-track mix or the 35mm stereo mix. What do you guys think?

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 (Edited)

Since I always watch the trilogy with either headphones or a soundbar, I’d choose the 35mm stereo mix. If you’re watching with just your TV’s internal speakers, the difference between the stereo and surround wouldn’t be very noticeable, so you can pick either one. The six-track audio is ideal, but without a surround system, it just downmixes the audio and isn’t any better than the stereo track. As for any content differences, the stereo and surround are basically the same. Only the channel mixing is different.

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There are more mixes for Star Wars than any other film in the Saga if you include the 4 Special Edition edits and all the revisions through the years in video releases. I’ve honestly lost count.

Is there a definitive mix?

What mix do you fancy is the real question.

I was most familiar with the 85 mix because pre 1993 that was the one on most versions on tv and video after 1985.

I used to say the 35mm was my favorite but it is quite limited i watched the 4K77 edition with it.

The best the film has ever sounded imho is the 1997 SDDS mix. for the Special Edition. I’ve never had the opportunity to see the 6 track mag 70mm print from 77 i wasn’t even born yet.

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I also think the 70mm mix is the best version sonically. In terms of content, though, I think the mono mix would be the definitive version - it’s the mix that had the most effort put into it since most theaters at the time were only equipped for mono, and that would be the mix most people would hear (kind of like how the Beatles put the most effort into the mono mixes of their albums for the same reason). Ben Burtt himself even considered it the definitive mix until SW came out on home video and the “inferior” stereo mix became the standard version…

I hate the Disney Channel Live Action Universe

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My personal favorite audio is probably the 1993 mix. It’s not the purest version, but it combines the elements of the original mixes in a way that I consider the most appealing, and the added effects are acceptable. The 93 and 97 mixes are the ones I grew up with, so 93 is my personal go-to if I’m watching pre-Special Edition (as usual).

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All the 1977 mixes are authentic-enough original mixes IMO. Although the six-channel mix is a reconstruction, is is very tastefully and expertly done using in-theater recordings as references, and the difference between the original 4.2 mix and the current 5.1 reconstruction should be pretty minor.

“Definitive” really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for what most 1977 theater-goers heard, that’s the mono mix. If you’re looking for a technology showcase/what the fanciest best-equipped theaters showed, that’s the six-channel mix. The stereo mix is sadly the odd man out – no matter what I consider “definitive”, it never ranks.

In a lot of ways, Star Wars fans fall into two camps – those who want to see the movies exactly as they were in the theater, and those who want to see the movies as if they’d gotten as respectful a Blu-ray release as any other classic film. The former camp tends to favor the 4Kxx releases and the mono mix. The latter camp tends to favor Despecialized and the six-channel mix. Full disclosure: I’m in the latter camp.

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)

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The 93 is pretty good sonically i just cannot stand it because of the smashing glass in the detention block shootout. I never listened to it again for that reason like nails on a chalkboard it is awful.

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JadedSkywalker said:

The 93 is pretty good sonically i just cannot stand it because of the smashing glass in the detention block shootout. I never listened to it again for that reason like nails on a chalkboard it is awful.

Agreed. In terms of sound quality, 93 is the best mix, but it’s one of the two pre-97 revisions containing distinctly non-theatrical elements, and I just can’t bring myself to listen to it.

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)

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Lucas the Barbarian said:

I also think the 70mm mix is the best version sonically. In terms of content, though, I think the mono mix would be the definitive version - it’s the mix that had the most effort put into it since most theaters at the time were only equipped for mono, and that would be the mix most people would hear (kind of like how the Beatles put the most effort into the mono mixes of their albums for the same reason). Ben Burtt himself even considered it the definitive mix until SW came out on home video and the “inferior” stereo mix became the standard version…

Now that last part about Burtt considering it the definitive mix is particularly interesting. I always forget what the main differences between the mono and stereo versions usually are. I know the siren aboard the Tantive IV in the beginning is different, but that’s about it.

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What would you say is the minimum level of hardware needed for the six track mix to be really worthwhile? Do you need a proper 5.1 surround system to have the quality difference be really noticeable? What about headphones that can use virtual surround?

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IMO the 6-channel reconstruction folds down to stereo just fine, so it’s quite listenable with two speakers – it’s just not terribly different from the stereo track at that point. So, you know, anything beyond two speakers will get you slightly more than the stereo mix, even if just a bit. But the more the merrier.

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)

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If I were going to watch the original version of ANH on a crappy setup or bad sound system, that’s when I’d go ahead and go for the mono mix.

Well done. I will disengage self-destruct initiative.

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I’d prefer the six-track mix with insertions from the mono mix (“Blast it Wedge, where are you?,” “Close the blast doors!,” tractor beam line, Cantina music outside, the other Beru voice, and “It’s secure, move onto the next one.”). If I can’t do that, then it’s mono all the way for me.

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I gave the mono track a listen, and honestly, I agree with Barbarian that the mono mix is definitely the best mix, and probably the definitive mix. Not only does it have all these extra sonic details that aren’t present in any other mix (at least afaik), but also the dialogue is SO much clearer, which was always something I’ve had a problem with since I was a little kid. Pretty much every other mix has a clarity issue, theatrical, VHS (haven’t listened to the laserdisc mix myself yet), any of the special editions, etc.

This also seems to be the case in other movies like The Terminator, where the mono mix is just better on a lot of fronts.

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Mono. Hands down no contest.
The irony is that everyone thought of Star Wars for the Dolby Stereo or the 70mm baby boom bass enhancement-but no officials ever thought that theaters would seriously implement Dolby systems across the board. The mono mix was done last and was intended as the keeper track for general wide release and was thus heard on most prints throughout the country for the rest of the long run.
You do find yourself missing some of the stereo mix identifiers and the stereo separation, the mono rear surround and more technically advanced experience…but then are confronted by what I think may be the pinnacle of single channel film mixing. I even think the score is better mixed in the mono in terms of levels and balance and of course it immediately makes a direct connection to adventure films and serials of old which were also mono.
Jaws had already shown an amazing mono mix for 1975 and then along comes SW which goes far beyond that-but of course now this mix is lost to time in the general populace and its fixes were implemented into the 1997SE mix which was then bastardized and ruined in 2004, 2011 and 2019.

The monos for ESB and ROTJ were more intended for 16mm and other editions but the mono ESB is another custom mix with differences stemming form the 70mm mix in places and some things turned up in the 1997 SE mix again. ROTJ is more of a folddown from the Dolby Stereo.

This carried over into Indy where Raiders also has a custom mono with line differences, Temple has a mono presumably designed for 16mm and I think was the last custom designed LFL produced mono track.

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Lucas was mixing the mono mix and the foreign releases right up until he left for Hawaii.

Or so i’ve read. The story of him going on vacation, building sand castles with Spielberg and telling him about Indiana Smith, a James Bond style serial.

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OpenRift412 said:

So I’m curious, which variation of the 1977 audio mix would you guys consider to be the definitive version? I’d imagine it would either be the 70mm six-track mix or the 35mm stereo mix. What do you guys think?

To me that kinxd of easy. It would most likely a 7.1 Dolby Multi-track sound system but if I remember correctly it might not have been available back then it was just play old Dolby 2 track Stereo Sound.

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