Queen - A Night at the Opera (DTS) Review
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After reviewing Queen's The Game in DTS , I was cautiously optimistic that this disc would be an improvement over the slightly disappointing The Game. Queens esoteric style I still believe could lend itself well to the 5.1 format and I was hoping that this disc be the one to do it. I'm sorry to report that this was not the case.
Discs are listened to a minimum of twice with at least a 24 hour separation between the listening sessions. During session one, notes are taken on the subjective experience of the implementation of the DTS 96/24 5.1 surround sound mix (in this case) along with notes on other features. During session two, the original notes are compared and expanded upon during the listening experience. Additional listening sessions are added as needed. Before each session, speaker calibration is checked using an SPL meter and the test-tones on the receiver, in this case the Denon AVR-3805 .
1) Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to...) - Upbeat Rock - Like The Game , this album starts off with a dramatic opening that immediately grabs your attention and pulls you into the music. Overall I found this track to be well done with (mostly) good use of the surrounds.
2) Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon - Ragtime - The backup singers and the bells are used to good effect in this track. The lead vocals were a bit recessed in this track, which I found to be a reoccurring trend in this album. Mostly, the lead vocals were OK, but occasionally they were overshadowed by the music or backup singers. I understand that they were emulating an old recording (fuzzy sounding, like a wind-up record player) with the sound of the lead vocals, but everything else was clear and subsequently overpowered the vocals.
3) I'm in Love with My Car - Rock - Once again, recessed lead vocals with overly loud backup singers.
4) You're My Best Friend - Pop - Probably the most misattributed song in the Queen library (you've heard it but you probably never guessed it's a Queen song). This song has a commercial jingle sound about it. The instrument detail is amazing in this track. It's very easy to pick out the individual instruments. There is a very good use of the surrounds in this track.
5) '39 - Folksey - The beginning of this track is like being surrounded by guitar players. This is the first instance where I noticed the bass being overdone. I'm not sure what the motivation was to bump up the bass that much in the song. It sounded like a car was driving by (you know the ones) during the song. Also, having strong bass during a Folksey sounding song? Bizarre.
6) Sweet Lady - Rock - Once again, the vocals are slightly recessed and the bass is accentuated (especially during the refrain). If you can look past these flaws, the song is really quite nice.
7) Seaside Rendezvous - Ragtime/March - I noticed during this song that the onscreen lyrics didn't match the vocalist at one point. Even though the lead vocals moved to the rear speakers, they still seemed recessed confirming that it wasn't my set up, it was the mix. This song makes very good use of the surrounds and the instruments are very clear and lifelike. Oh yeah, and the bass was too loud.
8) The Prophet's Song - Epic Rock song - This song starts off nice with a nice soft use of wind and guitar. Some good use of surrounds during this track. The bass was overdone at times (especially during the refrain). I liked the a cappella section at the end but it sounded like the voices were synthesized at some points. The lead vocals in this track were extremely clear and never had to compete with other parts of the track. The guitar at the end is fabulous.
9) Love of My Life - Ballad - This simple track is well executed with nice envelopment. The lead vocals get a little overshadowed by the back up vocals at times but not as bad as previous tracks.
10) Good Company - Ragtime/Bluegrass - There is some interesting use of the surrounds in this track. Overall, the sound is well executed.
11) Bohemian Rhapsody - Rock Ballad (mostly Ballad) - Mostly really clear vocals (though I still felt they would have benefited from being bumped up a notch). The bass got a little heavy at times - especially during the faster section at the end. The gong at the end had a nice clear sound that I found to be very life like. There was also a wind chime in the middle that made me turn around (and rewind the DVD to ensure it was the track and not something else). There is lots of "movement" in this track which works well given the number of peculiar sounds that are integral to this song. These sounds and how well they lend themselves to the 5.1 format is the exact reason I think that Queen's music should be a great match to the format.
12) God Save the Queen - Anthem - No recessed vocals (instrumental) + No overdone bass = Good.
Gee, you may have noticed a few patterns in the song descriptions above. I really wanted to like this album, but didn't. I spent a lot of time calibrating and recalibrating my system thinking that it was my system recessing the vocals or overdoing the bass. I probably would have enjoyed the album more had I turned down the sub and the rear surrounds a couple of notches but that would be adding my own adjustment to the mix. If my speakers are all level matched and there are sound level problems, that's the mix, thus my review reflected this.
For the most part, the audio quality was very high: Instruments were clear, no background noise, and very high quality recording transfer. I found that, aside from the bass and vocal problems, the album was quite well done.
To a great extent, I felt that the 5.1 was done better on this album than on The Game . Many of the surround elements were well implemented and tastefully executed. I would have liked to have spent more energy paying attention to them, but the problems with the audio overshadowed many of the good aspects of this album.
Extras on this DVD are few. During playback, the lyrics to each song are displayed synchronized with the music. There are notes describing the mixing staff and process, a short 11 picture gallery (one picture of each band member, five concert pictures, the album cover, and one group picture of the band), and the music video for Bohemian Rhapsody. This is only slightly more extras than The Game DTS release.
I really don't know what the point was to remixing this album in 5.1. I've read that this album was delayed a number of times before its release. One would assume that said delays were needed to improve the disc. I'm starting to think that this (and other) Queen albums are being remixed simply to cater to a small segment of long time fans that are looking for an excuse to purchase (and love) a "new" Queen release. I have a hard time believing that any sane fan of Queen would be able to sit down and enjoy this album.