Top critical review
47 people found this helpful
on 25 January 2014
So, here we are with yet another format release for A Night At The Opera... :)
Let's start with the 5.1 mix. As hinted at by the copyright years, this is the same mix that was released on the 30th Anniversary edition CD+DVD pack in 2005. That in turn was largely the same mix as the 2002 DVD-Audio release that was mixed by Elliot Scheiner with input from Roy Thomas Baker, the original producer in 1975, and Brian May. The 2005 mix included an updated version of God Save The Queen by Brian May (the 2002 version was an auto-generated surround mix from the stereo version.), but because this was until now released on normal DVD, it was only available on DTS 96/24 format which was not lossless like the 2002 DVD-Audio disc. So, this Blu-ray is the first time that God Save The Queen 2005 5.1 remix is available in lossless 24-bit 96KHz audio.
Unfortunately, the stereo mix on this Blu-ray release, whilst in 24-bit, 96KHz audio, is the over compressed 2011 Universal Music re-master.... I guess you can make your own mind up on the 2011 Queen remasters, but that is what you get here on the Stereo version.
For both the 5.1 mix and the Stereo mix, you have two choices of audio, LPCM and DTS-HD Master Audio. Both are lossless and 24-bit, 96KHz high resolution. The reason you get both LPCM and DTS-HD is because some systems will handle the DTS-HD better than LPCM. Much depends on your system here. For most there will little or no difference.
So for the Queen collector, this Blu-ray release offers the only full lossless version of the 30th Anniversary mix with the updated God Save The Queen track, and the only official release on disc at high resolution of the 2011 Universal remaster.
If however you prefer the dynamics of your stereo version left intact, then you should still track down a copy of the original DVD-Audio release. Even if you don't have a DVD-Audio player, the normal DVD stereo track is still 24/96, and can be ripped to something like FLAC for easier playback.
It seems that 5.1 vs. stereo mixes has become something of a marmite debate for many, so I'm not going to try and sway you one way or the other. If however you fancy giving 5.1 a try, then this is probably the version to get as the DVD-Audio is long out of print and therefore can attract some silly prices. Personally I think Queen's music was made for 5.1 and this mix really opens it out. This is also the only way to hear Bohemian Rhapsody without the interference/distortion that is on the stereo version as it was recreated from the original multi-track tapes.
Finally a quick note on quality. Do not be fooled into thinking that just because this album was not digitally recorded that it can't be top quality. Queen spent a small fortune recoding this album using 5 different studios to get the right sound for individual instruments. It's unlikely in todays age that any band would be allowed to be as extravagant on recording as Queen were for this record. It would probably be unaffordable. This album pushed multi-track recording to its limits and to my ears it sounds fantastic. If you want some interesting reading on the surround mixing for the original DVD Audio release, and effectively this Blu-ray re-release, then do a sear for Night At the Opera and Sound on sound...
So, in summary, it's good to have a full lossless mix of the 2005 Anniversary release, and Universal should also IMO be praised for giving both LPCM and DTS options. However, please, if you're going to release high end audio releases, don't use over compressed MP3/iTunes stereo masters. Do it properly. Hence only 3 stars as if you're looking for the best quality stereo version of this classic album, then the Blu-ray is not what you are looking for, the original DVD-Audio is...