Saturday, 2 January 2021

To Sleep with Anger (1990)

The OOP BFI DVD sounds dupey and undetailed. 

The iTunes version from 2018 (which opens with the MGM logo) sounds much, much better. Between it and the Criterion blu-ray, I prefer the iTunes. The Criterion sounds rolled off, though the difference isn't very big - but still, it's a movie from 1990; any such intervention was completely unnecessary.

Friday, 1 January 2021

Wagon Master (1950)

The Warner Archive blu-ray is an improvement over the the Warner DVD since its bass frequencies are more intact. Its high end is slightly less detailed, but only just. 

The IVC blu-ray sounds the best to me, and it's an anomaly as far as IVC releases go -- most are sourced from high-generation dupes, but this one is as detailed as the official Warner blu-ray, if not more so (listen to the end music, which is actually less distorted on the IVC).

And just to show how misleading a clipped waveform can be, after stretching the IVC track by a factor of 1.00051 (which brings it in nearly perfect sync with the Warner blu-ray), it looks like this:

Thursday, 31 December 2020

The Great Escape (1963)

The mono tracks on the MGM LaserDisc and the early non-anamorphic MGM DVD sound similar (I'm pleased to report that the LDDB entry for the former is incorrect - it's mono, not stereo! I've corrected it.), but the high end on the DVD is more rolled off.

There's no way to prove this, but the Criterion mono looks suspiciously like someone took the 192 kbps AC-3 file from the SE DVD and tried to roll off everything before 20 kHz to mask the hard lossy cut off. Either way, they sound basically the same -- more muffled with noise reduction compared to the two earlier editions.

This film apparently had a 4-track mix that's been lost and some online reviewers say the 5.1 is surely an attempt to recreate it. I think it sounds poor, as if it was made from a single mono dialogue/effects track and combined with a stereo music track, with some generic ambient sound added to some scenes. There's no real separation and it's as murky as the SE DVD and the Criterion mono.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Recall that the first MGM DVD sounds poor and that the 40th anniversary DVD is a big improvement.

The Criterion blu-ray sounds even better. The track sounds like the 40th anniversary one but with a bit less noise reduction during non-music segments and a lot less noise reduction during music segments. The easiest explanation would be that Criterion was given a version of the track just upstream of MGM's hiss reduction (which I think is likely given the similarity in the notch filters applied throughout) and then chose to apply a variable amount depending on each scene. 

(In retrospect, it was hyperbolic to call the 40th anniversary audio a reference track. I've since become more wary of claiming something is NR-free because so few tracks actually are.)

 You can see the level of hiss increase during any segment with music:

The fades are seamless, but it would be nice if the entire film sounded as clear as the parts with music.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

La notte (1961)

The Fox Lorber DVD sounds MUCH clearer than any later edition. It has the occasional tick and pop but is very clean overall. It's sourced from a PAL master and has PAL speedup, which as usual I've removed from the images and comparison clip below.

The audio track on the Masters of Cinema DVD is horrible due to extreme noise reduction. The same track was used for the MoC blu-ray with some minor EQ changes, where it's still pitched 0.7 semitones too high (which I haven't corrected for the images below).

The Criterion blu-ray, although better than the MoC, is still appallingly muffled:

Monday, 28 December 2020

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

The Warner LaserDisc, while thin and harsh (with distorted and sibilant dialogue) and already over-mastered (1998 is quite late for a LaserDisc!), sounds the most detailed and immediate.

The Warner R1 DVD sounds similar but with its high end attenuated slightly and its quiet moments more noticeably muffled. The Amazon download is similar.

The Lionsgate blu-ray is the most muffled -- much too warm and bassy. 

The new Warner Archive blu-ray is the more capably restored modern track, with nary a hint of distortion anywhere while being less dull sounding than the Lionsgate... but I prefer the DVD, and definitely the LaserDisc. It kinda sounds like the high frequencies were first sharply rolled off for the LaserDisc mastering and every subsequent edition has tried to gently mask the harshness of that move with a wider/gentler high shelf filter.