Today’s Tom Sawyer

I’ve been listening to a lot of 5-channel music lately. Well, I’ve been picking up a lot of 5-channel music and getting around to listening when I can. Some of this stuff is hard to find, so I buy when I find it and listen when I’m good and ready.

But today, a disc jumped the queue. Not because it’s my favorite (hey, I’ve still got a bunch of Genesis to stroll through), but because I figured this was an excellent chance to spread the Good Word of multi-channel music.

I’m sure I’m not the only one (just check who’s been annoyed by the half-assed adoption of high-resolution audio formats. It’s particularly distressing when discs go out of print and become astronomically expensive. A few reissues would work wonders for sales of new music. So any time I get more people on board is a good day.

And today, my friends, we have a new weapon: Rush fans. I was going to say “Crazy Rush fans”, but that’s redundant. Rush fans are fervent beyond mere mortals, and I’m hoping that does the trick.

Today, Rush’s “Moving Pictures” was re-released. It’s sold in three formats: CD, CD/DVD-A, and CD/BD. The latter two have hi-res stereo and 5.1 mixes as well as videos of the band in the studio where and when (and maybe some as) they recorded the album with Jack Nance keeping an eye on them.

Most places don’t have the BD version yet, but Best Buy does, and it’s only $20 this week. I picked up the BD mostly because it has more audio options and because the menu system is probably friendlier to messing around while the music is playing (though most DVD-As do a pretty good job). Obviously the videos were shot on video in 1980 (didn’t clock the camera model, but you can see the videographer at work in the photos), and they aren’t HD, so that’s not a reason to go BD instead of DVD-A.

The audio bitrates on DVD-A are nothing to sneeze at either, but if your DVD player won’t play DVD-A tracks (most won’t), you’ll miss out on the really hi-res stuff when your player falls back to the more compressed DVD-V versions. May not make a difference depending on your system, but if you’ve got a BD player, why take the chance, right?

This is a great opportunity to vote with your wallet. You can support high-resolution audio formats and the reissue of classic albums. And Rush. (It’s also a lot cheaper than the $170 a ticket it costs to see them these days.)

Were you looking for a review of the album? I can’t say much about the music that hasn’t already been said. If there’s one Rush album beloved by fans and proles alike, it’s this one. It’s the Rush gateway drug. C’mon, you know you want some.

How’re the mixes? The little bit of the 2-channel I listened to was good. I haven’t pulled out my old CD to compare (think I have it on vinyl too), but I imagine the new version is much better.

But I doubt I’ll listen to it all the way through, at least in my big room. The 5.1 mixes give the music a lot more space. There’s no gaudy panning (well, that wasn’t in the stereo version) or other “surroundy” distractions. It just drops you smack in the middle of this mix so you can hear all of what’s going on. In other words, it works good like a 5.1 mix should.

Just switch from 2- to 5.1-channel and back a few times, or check out the opening of “The Camera Eye” if you’re not sold on this multi-channel stuff. You’ll really be able to hear all the details. You can show your friends that Rush’s music is really as intricate as you always say it is.

On the BD, I switched between the PCM and DTS-HD 5.1 mixes and the PCM sounded a little better (less harsh) sometimes, but I think they’re just at different levels (often are), and I didn’t run down to grab the dB meter to check. I quit messing around, turned it to DTS and lowered the volume a bit so I could just sit and listen to the rest of the album. It’s certainly the best I’ve ever heard the album sound.

But, hey, what do I know? I’m not a Rush fan. Yet.

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