I rolled on over to HMV this week to invest my birthday money in one of these new-fangled DualDiscs that everyone's been writing about. The selection is quickly becoming quite tasty with the likes of both new (Judas Priest and Velvet Revolver) and old titles like Miles Davis polluting front store bins. After a quick and close scrutiny, I settled on the DualDisc version of The Los Lonely Boys. For those of you stumbling on my blog for the first time, DualDisc is the format equivalent of the "taste of the day" that all the labels are banking on. One side of the disc is a cd...on the other side is a dvd with a mix of audio presentations and visual content.
It was a natural for mois to try out the new format. I've been an audiophile convert since 1979. My first Bruno's carwash-cheque-stub-highfidelity-investment was in a 3 lp set of the Rolling Stones. It was a Japanese pressing of "Rolled GoId"; which aside from the art, is identical to the Abkco "singles" collection. Anyhow; the set was pressed on thicker than normal virgin vinyl that seemed to make all the difference in the world...even through my second-hand Kenwood components and Goodman speakers. Then came half-speed mastering, white labels, ferrous cassettes etc. CDs seemed to be a huge leap around '82...but those early ones were too "digital" and not enough "musical". And now with the advent of SACD and DVD-Audio; music has become as rich, exciting and involving as having the bands over for an afternoon beer and jam session.
Anyways...I already own the regular cd, but decided to re-splurge on the Los Lonely Boys debut DualDisc because I rather enjoyed the instrumental "Onda"...eventhough its a direct point to point rip-off of Santana's "Jingo". It seemed to me, that a surround sound version of this Stevie Ray-Los Lobos-Lonely Boys would be soul satisfying in a sacrificial supernatural sort of way.
All right then...the damn packaging almost got the better of me. The entire thing is shrinkwrapped...and the cd case is enclosed in one of those annoying hard plastic sleeves. Once I've clawed through that its yet another security sticky strip across the seam...you know the one, the one with a tear-away strip tab that breaks off before it does its intention. After fumbling with all the plastic and adhesive for 10 minutes...you'd think that the case should just pop open right?
For those of you who don't know me, caution: surreptitious disability info ahead, I only have one arm and have been in a wheelchair since 1987. I abandoned lps soon after my injury cause the damn platters were so difficult to manage with one paw. And now the geniuses at Sony BMG have come up with yet another post-it note to remind me of my one-handedness...a special DualDisc only locking case that requires one to wheel their chair over the spine and pin it to the floor while leaning over precariously to try to pry open the fu#%^#%#%&^$#%* thing. I haven't been this annoyed since my first one-handed attempt to lift and separate a gold cd from its Mobile Fidelity case...
Onto the review..the DualDisc, despite Onkyo's advisory warning of incompatibility, loads up on both sides. This DualDisc has the entire album presented in surround sound as well as videos, an Austin City Limits acoustic performance and interviews. I'm going to get to the point real quick here....the surround sound mix is a truly unsatisfying experience. It's presented in Dolby Digital with a compression rate of 12-1. The result is somewhat garbled and claustrophobic....I swear the walls in our place have actually closed in like a Death Star trash compactor. I didn't expect a whole lot...but at least DTS would've been compressed at only 3-1 and may have allowed the overtones to breathe. Also; I thought surround sound meant that there would be some sort of discrete audio-information pouring out of my rear....errr, rears. Instead; there may have been a keyboard trickle that was sort of there at volume but could've just been my imagination running away with my stinking 24 bucks..
Yes, 24 bucks that could've been spent on cheap whiskey and a Montreal smoked meat sandwich. Instead; its gone into the pockets Andrew Lack and his chain of Label Executives who're laughing their ass off at me for buying the same album twice. The DVD side also has a LPCM 2 channel stereo version that is marginally better than the regular cd side...but hardly justifies the double purchase. As for the visual content...the wife digs looking at the tall lanky Garza's naughty bits...but for me, I buy music for the ears...if I wanted to watch videos I'd rather see some that other "DD" format on ppv...
In the end...this reviewer will not be buying anymore Dolby Digital DualDiscs. They are a step backwards and will not encourage anyone to invest in a decent surround sound system. I may reinvestigate DualDiscs but only if the label geniuses decide to further invest in high resolution DVD-Audio versions. Until then...no more DualDiscage for this disappointed audiophile.
Don't believe my review...send me 20 bucks canadian....and I'll send you my copy of the Los Lonely Boys..but be warned, the packaging has teeth marks in it and the case has been wheeled over....repeatedly....pfffttt...
Ron Wheeler Editor