Sunday, July 01, 2007

Snakes & Arrows MVI, a Review

Snakes & ArrowsThe introduction of a new music format deserves a review, even when it isn't really a new format, and the H-Man's here to tell you all about it (if you're looking for comments on the music itself, please feel free to read my album review first).

The Music Video Interactive disc, formerly known as a DVD Album, is Warner Music's new way of hyping certain new albums of their choosing. It's a DVD which contains the album's music in a number of forms (note: it's a DVD, not a CD, so it won't play in a CD player) plus extra multimedia features. To date there are only two available, this release, and Linkin Park's Minutes to Midnight (which is bundled as a 2-pack with the CD).

The three main features of the Rush MVI are:
  • The album in 96kHz/24 bit stereo (a large step up quality-wise from a CD's 44.1/16).
  • The album in Dolby Digital surround sound.
  • A 40 minute documentary detailing the making of the album.
In order to take full advantage of the 96/24 mix you need to hook your DVD player up to a receiver using the analog out jacks on your player. Copy protection on the disc will step the mix down to 48/16 if you use the digital out.

I spent a lot of time comparing the 96/24 mix to the original CD one, and, to my disappointment, I could find no discernible difference between the two. I didn't expect the 96/24 to be any less compressed (I already learned my lesson by buying the Vapor Trails vinyl, and finding it was just as bad as the CD), but I expected it to sound different in some fashion. Alas, regardless of what some people on the various Rush forums may say, it does not (I think they mostly compare to the surround mix; see below). Perhaps if you have thousands of dollars worth of equipment you can get something more, but with my Technics receiver, Vandersteen speakers, and Grado headphones, I could not coax any extra goodness from it. This isn't to say it sounds bad, because it doesn't (although they did cut off the last cymbal crash on "We Hold On"; who the hell is responsible for QC over there?), but don't look here for your extra value if you already bought the CD.

The surround mix, however, definitely sounds different. Fortunately it's not gimmicky at all: Alex Lifeson and engineer Richard Chycki enhanced the feel of the stereo mix without making it a constant barrage of surround trickery. The most obvious difference to me is that the drums have been pulled away from the rest of the mix and punched up in spots. They've even "Special Edition"-ized it in parts, such as added flanger to the last drum fill in "Malignant Narcissism". It's a shame that this isn't a high resolution mix, but to carry that off this would have to be a DVD-Audio, and considering how they're failing in the marketplace, I can understand (although not agree) with the suits' decision here.

The documentary is a decent look into the record's writing process, highlighting specifics for about half the songs on the record. I personally would've liked it to be a bit more technical, but the average fan of the band will appreciate the attention on the songs themselves and Neil's inspiration for the lyrics.

The MVI also contains:
  • MP3 files at a fixed rate of 192 khz. This is a nice feature if you decided not to buy the CD, and don't care too much about the technical specification of your MP3 files.

  • An application which allows you to create phone ring tones from any part of any song. You need to pay for the privilege after you have made your masterwork, which many people have complained about. I find this absurd, because you can always do this yourself with the CD, a sound editing program, and some know-how.

  • Wallpapers, AIM icons, and pdfs of a) the printed booklet, and b) an essay by Neil on the making of the album.
The whole thing comes housed in a CD sized box. The lid lifts off shoebox-style to reveal a stapled CD type booklet (with most excellent art by Hugh Syme). The DVD is affixed to the bottom of the box by a standard CD holding nub.

It's a nice little package, and probably worth the sale price of $15.99, especially if you don't own the original CD. The value for me would've gone up a bit more if the high resolution stereo mix was noticeably different, or the documentary was twice as long, but it's not bad for a first stab at trying to appeal to both Joe Consumer and the fanboys.


Post a Comment

<< Home