On paper, there's no way that this package can be worth the asking price: two albums that most people will already own, a live DVD that has been available for years, a documentary that aired free on the BBC. Anyone could be forgiven for being somewhat cynical. So let's take a look in the box.
Oh my God but this packaging is impressive. The art print portfolio and book are securely encased in a great-looking slipcase printed with the original album cover: for those of us who bought the album originally on CD, even having the cover at this scale is a treat. The portfolio comes in a brown card sleeve embossed with the album's "face star car" logo. The sixteen art prints themselves are on heavy, high-quality card and enable you to assemble your own version of the album sleeve if you have sixteen square foot of wall nearby. Very good (and I don't even care about the prints!)
The hardback book is simply gorgeous: six CDs are housed securely in the front cover, four DVDs in the back cover. The book contains copious artwork and a number of essays in addition to lyrics and credits for the box set. Personally I prefer text to photos, but a good balance is struck between the two and the production is very good. Basically, the book on its own could fetch a substantial retail price.
Discs one and two are Achtung Baby and Zooropa. You don't need my opinion on how good these albums are (if you don't rate them at five stars you should seriously consider why you are reading about this set in the first place). I thought that these albums had been remastered, but if so, I can't hear it. They were always great-sounding albums and they still are, but - if they aren't remastered - there will be no reason for most U2 fans ever to take them out of the book.
Disc Three and Disc Four are CDs of remixes. You know what to expect.
Disc Five collects the B Sides and Bonus Tracks. Often discs like this are "all filler no killer", but in this case half of the tracks are from the Achtung Baby sessions and offer intriguing glimpses of a different path that the album could have taken.
Disc Six is a treat: the entire album in a so-called "Kindergarten" version, which seems to be mixed from the original album sessions in Berlin. I suspect that for most fans this is the disc that will be the most interesting: the versions are notably different in places and the sound quality excellent.
The overall running time for the CDs is six hours and while not everything on those six hours will interest all fans, there is enough here to please most listeners, whether you are a U2 obsessive or just a casual fan who likes these studio albums.
The DVD selection in this set is slightly dodgy. The new documentary is an entire DVD with only about an hour and a quarter on it. Because it's a new documentary, you get Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks but, to be honest, it's not as revealing as it thinks and it is a shame that this isn't a longer cut of the documentary than aired on television. It wouldn't have killed them to put some bonus performances on this disc.
The Videos DVD has a running time of a little short of one and a half hours, is in 4:3 ratio and only has a stereo soundtrack. It includes all the variants of each video, and includes all the videos for Zooropa as well as those for Achtung Baby, so it's certainly a disc that a collector would want.
The Zoo TV: Live in Sydney DVD is in 4:3 ratio and the video quality is not great. It's a shame that this wasn't remastered and given a commentary, but bear in mind that you are getting what amounts to nearly two and a half hours of the band live with a soundtrack in Dolby Digital and DTS. If you don't have it already, it's a very decent extra.
The Bonus Material DVD is actually pretty good, bringing together the Zoo TV documentary and other bits & pieces. Again, video quality is not great and the sound is only stereo, but it was definitely worth pulling together almost three hours of (mainly promotional) footage and fans will enjoy this.
This is a very decent package, even given the uber-deluxe pricepoint. If your wallet can bear it, get one before they're gone.