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What Is Your Favorite Blu-ray To Demo Audio?

Last week, I asked which Blu-rays you think have the best video quality to demonstrate the capabilities of a home-theater display, and many great titles were cited. Thanks to all who posted a comment! However, out of over 140 people who clicked on "Here it is"—indicating that they had one or more titles to recommend—only 15 have left a comment so far, not including multiple entries and my responses. What's up with that?

Now, I'm asking the same question with regard to audio quality. What Blu-ray titles do you think provide the best audio—surround envelopment, dynamic range, frequency response, foundation-rattling bass, etc.—with which to demonstrate the capabilities of an audio system? As before, simply select "Here it is" below and leave a comment with your favorite title(s) and which audio qualities are particularly outstanding. I really hope more of you who click on "Here it is" also post a comment!

Vote to see the results and leave a comment with your favorite title(s); thanks for your input!

What Is Your Favorite Blu-ray To Demo Audio?
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Pepe's picture

To me the very finest in audio are John Mayer, were the light is. The first song with the trio is exeptional. In movies I would have to go with Kill Bill 1, the fight scene with the japanese girl in the dojo. I haven't found more sharpnes and detail in the full imersion of this scene anywere alse. Also, since I am a car guy, The opening scene in Quantum of Solace were the Aston Martin speeds through the hills is amazing!

cbono's picture

Sadly I'd have to say I'm just not sure there are any realistic sounding BDs / DVDs out there. Spectacular to be sure, just not completely realistic. I always choose analog recordings / vinyl for audio demos - it seems as close as I'll ever get to creating life in my living room. For the record, I've yet to sample SACDs, DVD-As, etc. - it's quite possible I could be missing something there. Perhaps if some ambitious audio engineer out there would reinvent the 7.1 equivalent of binaural recordings on a BD, realistic / live sound might emerge from the medium.

AUDIO1ST's picture

I agree with you Matthew. Nothing worse than having to rewind the movie to hear what was said or turning down because of dynamics. Problem is not with the recording, it's the set up. Either one of two things. Center channel is too low, turn up one, maybe two clicks or check you subwoofer crossover setting. If it's set too high it will interfere with the frequencies with center channel and hide subtle dialog.

A third insider secret, go into receiver menu in distance setting and add a foot of distance to center speaker and see what happens to dialog.

HDMan72's picture

TRON: Legacy 3D

The scene were we first enter The Grid and see the Recognizer.

Mikesaurus's picture

'Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds Live at Radio City' and 'Baraka' have been favourites for a while (both with 96khz options available). 'Tron: legacy' lately though.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
My favorite Blu-rays for audio are the music titles from AIX Records. The "stage perspective" puts the well-recorded instruments all around you in the surround soundfield. War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise isn't a great movie by any means, but the sound is spectacular, especially the incredible roar of the Martian tripods.
master films's picture

Since we are talking about audio, there is no need to be concerned with the video side of blu-ray. I have to recommend a concert on Blu-ray. Rick Wakeman's Six Wives of Henry VIII is a 1080i disc but the sound is DTS HD Master Audio. There are many great movie demos out there and it is really difficult to pick the best. The great thing about this is that he plays an actual pipe organ with a band and orchestra. I am emphasizing the low frequencies (since pipe organs produce the lowest,I believe). On the plus side; mix in all those instruments and you have great sub woofer demo material.

javanp's picture

I remember reading an article (I'm guessing from HT mag) about, er... somebody from Atlantic Technology saying that the best demos were scenes that got the audience involved and had a good ending (or something like that) in addition to having great audio or video. With that in mind, my favorite audio demo has been the plane scene from The Incredibles. Aside from having great audio (the sense of room acoustics and space changing from in the plane to the "torture room" or whatever and the explosive impact of the jet engines) it is a very emotional,intense, well-edited/directed, etc, etc scene--perhaps my all time favorite. Plus, it has an "end" (her catching the kids) so that the audience feels they have witnessed a full, complete and satisfying scene. Of course, one could argue that the "100 mile Dash" scene is even better (in terms of audio), but I prefer the former.

War of the Worlds, as you mentioned, is a huge favorite for sheer dynamics and bass. Back when I had my massive DIY sub, only WOTW and Titan I.E. could make my Crown amp clip. Master and Commander is another good, all around scene. We all know it... the bass of the cannons, the surround activity and the crew in the ship, all work together to really showcase a good home theater.

Another good one, especially for surround activity, that seems to not get much love (anti-foreign-film sentiment, no doubt) is The Orphanage. There's a great and spooky scene where things really go "bump" from every direction. (The film is in 7.1) It really shows how home theater can add to the film itself. This scene was the first I watched after jumping up to a 7.1 setup and it really creeped me out. Highly effective sound design.

uavK.Reid's picture

Rings, Robots and Helicopters equal reference quality sound.

1) The Lord of The Rings trilogy:

a) The often overlooked score of the films is wonderful in my opinion. The dialogue is also clear.
b) I also love to demo the section of the first film in which the fellowship encounters the Balrog. The frequency response and dynamics are awesome.
c) The assault on Helm's Deep in the "The Two Towers" is sensational in lossless audio.

2) Transformers Movies - One may not like the acting, but the bone crushing dynamics, deep bass that plummets to the Mariana Trench, and unique sounds of robots transforming are creative and show the prowess of the audio engineers that mastered the films.

3) BlackHawk Down - Uncompressed 7.1 audio makes for realistic sounding weapons fire. I also like the hyper aggressive surround channel use. Turn this up to reference level and one will run for cover.

These films will make a person appreciate the money spent on their amplification and speakers.

uavesappy's picture

I will have to go with this movie as my favorite surround demo. The first 15 minutes of this movie has just about everything you can imagine and alot more you never did imagine. As many already know, the scene with the crew members scrambling to get to "Quarters" is some of the most impressive sounds ever recorded. I still catch myself looking up expecting to see an army coming down the stairs sometimes. Why can't more movies do this? It is obviously possible. There are also some other great recommendations here. The Incredibles is another favorite around the house. I also fell in love with the sounds of Terminator Salvation. The "transformer" robot has some SERIOUSLY BRUTAL bass!

snorene's picture

I agree with eSappy that Master and Commander is an excellent choice. I also like the new Star Trek - the opening scene - the sound of the battle, the highs to lows, are excellent. Jurassic Park and the first T-Rex scene cranks out the bass, goes from whispers - the kids in the jeep - to his roar, is very dynamic. Lastly, Saving Private Ryan - opening battle is a cacophony of sounds, that just flat out rocks.

uavmatthewweflen's picture

Call me a bad a/v enthusiast, but I don't care about audio as much as video. I have an older receiver that I connect to via optical digital cable. It does DTS and DD, but only 5.1.

The two things I care about most in an audio track are:

1. Balance. I absolutely HATE having to crank the volume up to hear whispers of dialogue, only to have to scramble to lower the volume back down when some giant explosion threatens to blow out my speakers. The most balanced disc that sticks out in my mind is "Star Trek (2009)" Again, there are a lot of things I dislike about the movie -- but its visual splendiferousness and its fine, balanced audio are not among them.

2. Surround/LF content. I've got 6 speakers, I want all of them to get used (within reason of course). The best BD that sticks out for me in this is "Watchmen." It's loaded with fight scenes, explosions and gunshots, with lots of positional work. It's also got a good classic rock soundtrack that gives a lot of deep LF sound.

Another disc that stands out for this is "Rent: The Live Broadway Musical." As a broadway show, a realistic sound field with lots of positionality was obviously high on the priority list of the producers. Another disc with great music and balanced dialogue is "Boogie Nights."

Just for comparison's sake, a disc I hate the audio on is "Slumdog Millionaire." There is so much whispering dialogue that transitions DIRECTLY into booming music or trains or cars or whatever. It really pisses me off, and I didn't buy the disc because of it (that, and it being a trite Horatio Alger story).

All that said, I do expect the LOTR EE set and the Star Wars Saga set to be especially good audio presentations. As another reader mentioned, the asteroid chase scene in SWE2 promises to be great, as it was on the DVD.

But in the end, I don't think I'm evaluating these discs on the basis of what an "HD" audio format can do above and beyond an "SD" format. I don't have the equipment, nor do I care enough to try to discern the difference. I've never noticed "better" audio in a BD over a DVD. I'm just going by what I like and dislike in an audio track regardless of its HD or SD nature.

Jarod's picture

Here is a short list of my recent favorite Bluray movies to demo audio in my home theater, in no particular order. All these are either DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD.

1. The Pacific: there are dozens of battle-field scenes that will really test your sub as well as the lots of dynamic slam and tons of surround effects in those battle scenes.

2. Transformers: The opening 15 to 20 minutes has some very demo worthy audio. Lots of other demo scenes through-out the movie and at the end.

3. Fight Club: The whole movie has awesome ambience and tons of slamming bass. My favorite scene is when they crash the car on the highway.

4. Terminator Salvation: This one has tons of LFE info and even though it didn't get the best ratings I always have a blast watching it.

5. The Dark Knight: The opening 15 or 20 minutes, or the whole movie fro that matter, can really show what your system can do.

6. Star Wars Ep 2 on DVD: Even though its just Dolby Digital my friends love to watch the scene where Jango Fett and his son are chasing Obi-wan and they shoot off a percusion bomb towards Obi-Wan and the explosion really is epic!

Tons more to list like anything from Pixar, all the Pirates of the Carribean, as well as Iron Man 2. Wish I had more time to list my favs. Great Poll Scott!

rubenc's picture

Terminator Salvation is my choice when demonstrating my audio equipment, followed by scott pilgrim vs. the world, and last but not least star trek

groediger's picture

I loved the bass and surround effects from Tron Leagacy. My couch was vibrating and I also felt immersed in the surround sound. Star Trek is right there, too!

javanp's picture

Matthew, do you not have the option for dynamic range compression? If you dislike the dynamic swings so much, why not just enable DRC all the time? Most players have an option for this. I'm also thinking DynamicEQ helps out a lot in this regard because I find myself being able to listen at lower volumes without feeling like I'm missing anything. Of course this is only because I live in an apartment at the moment. Once I'm back in a house, I'll be cranking it up to reference level like it should be (IMO.) Frankly, I'm the opposite of you and love dynamic swings. Most of the time I'm thinking that either my system or the soundtrack isn't dynamic enough. When an explosion hits, I want to feel like I'm getting knocked around the room. So, personally, I'd be terribly upset if sound designers started limiting dynamics in future films. There are always options to limit the dynamic range; there are no ways to extend it beyond what the soundtrack can provide.

uavmatthewweflen's picture

I agree that mastering should not unduly limit dynamic range. But certain mixes just go way overboard for my tastes. I live in a condo building, and can't be blasting the neighbors out with regularity. Conversely, I want to hear the dialogue, which to me is by far the most important part of a movie (stuff like "Transformers" notwithstanding).

My rule of thumb is, if I have to crank it to 55 (out of 80 on my receiver) to hear dialogue, but down to 35 to prevent calls to the cops, it's the fault of the mix, not my own personal taste.

I want to be able to set it and forget it at 45, hear the dialogue clearly, and still get a rocking (within reason) experience from the surrounds and subwoofer. "Star Trek 2009" is like this.

Mister Leadfoot's picture

I always seem to enjoy Star Wars: A New Hope, so that's my vote!

bigdaddyspringking's picture


Just a thought, I to had dialog issues even in a well laid out room & a dedicated center channel spkr. After I treated the room with home made acoustical panels to decrease rt-60 time as well as reflected sound ...the first and most dramatic improvement was in clarity of dialog ! As you may know over 60-70% of a movie sound track is center dialog...the difference was "dramatic" I to use to always play with the volume...and the louder you pushed it, the worst it got ! I learned a lot re; Acoustical treatments from arthur noxon... I believe that was his first name...After finding the spots to treat the room really came to life...Try it, you'll be glad you did.Then re listen to your new audio collection, it will make that much of a difference !

Watermutt2's picture

l Trains: I enjoy the sound track of the train in "Polar Express" (an animation with Tom Hanks.) I live by a railroad track (w/in 100 ft) and when I turned the volume up, my friends thought an actual train was going by!

2. Bats: The "Dark Knight" is a fun film and the sound track really adds to the enjoyment. If I watch this film with a few "dark lights" on will it even sound better?

3. "Terminator Salvation" was excellent. The sound track makes me appreciate my system setup thought it isn't high end. When we watched this film, even my female friend thought the audio was amazing.

David Vaughn's picture

I second this thought. Dialog definitely improved after I treated my room. It balances out the entire audio spectrum and the dialog doesn't get washed out.

David Vaughn's picture

Good call on "The Incredibles." I'm reviewing an Onkyo AVR right now and I used the "airplane" scene (Chapter 17) on the Blu-ray to see how well Audyssey DSX and Dolby's Dynamic Volume performed.

loop7's picture

Master and Commander (not a fan of the movie but the 5.1 - wow)
Hunt for Red October
Star Trek (2009)

AUDIO1ST's picture

Love this. (duh Audio1st is the name).

Too many to name, but favorite would be Spiderman 3. It's a demo from start to finish. The most audio demos of any movie (Transformers has a lot as well, but not as many). From 1st fight with Green Goblin, to 2nd fight in Harry's penthouse. All the scenes with Sandman (turns into Sandman,subway scene, when Spidey turns into black suited Spiderman, The crane scene to the final battle. The lossless PCM (Rare now a days) is reference. Bass is tight and powerful, not boomy. Directional sound is also reference and detail from subtle to bombastic is splendid. One of the first Blu Ray releases, and one of, if not the finest video/audio demo yet. Movie itself is ok.

5 Honorable mentions, terrific demos not mentioned.
I Robot
Invasion (Kidman / Craig)
Twister (all speakers are used well)
Reign Of Fire

imwatchnut's picture

Transformers 1 or 2 works great for me.

FrakU's picture

Tron: Legacy is one giant demo(3D Blu-ray too!) and I really enjoy the tripod "introduction" sequence in War Of The Worlds. Then there's the airliner rescue scene from Surperman Returns! I cant for the life of me understand why so many people hated it. It's an epic movie. The last 3 to round out my favs are The incredibles, Star Trek, and Avatar.

DTS-DH Master Audio is the way to go! I dont know what's up with those Dolby folks. Do they even sit down and listen to the difference between what they do and their competitors? C'mon Dolby - step it up already!

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