Listening to Pink Floyd: The Endless River in Dolby Surround - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 06:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Listening to Pink Floyd: The Endless River in Dolby Surround



Mark Henninger takes a listen to the album's hi-res 24/96 5.1-channel mix—as well as the 2-channel CD version—using Atmos' new Dolby Surround upmixing.

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Listening to Pink Floyd is practically synonymous with shopping for a stereo system. Over 40 years ago, Dark Side of the Moon cemented the group's reputation for quality music production. Thanks to its fidelity, that album continues to be a top choice for stereo-system demos, with "Money" and "Time" enjoying perpetual popularity as a result. So I was curious about The Endless River's Blu-ray release, which includes a mix in uncompressed 24/96 5.1 audio. When the album went on sale this past Tuesday, I went to my local Best Buy and bought it.

Before I get into the listening experience, I should mention that I recently set up an Atmos-capable surround system, which I plan to review in the near future. The Pioneer Elite SC-85 Atmos-enabled receiver includes a Dolby Surround mode that expands content—be it 2-channel or multi-channel—into an immersive-sound experience. I used that setting for my first listening session—using the 5.1 mix of The Endless River—and the result was sensational. The instrumental sounds appeared as distinct objects floating in 3D space. Ambient guitar drones swelled to immense proportions, and the bass was deep and tight. The immersive soundfield took stereo imaging to another level, and it was intoxicating.

As soon as I turned off the Atmos-powered Dolby Surround function, the 5.1 mix collapsed into two dimensions—the dome of sound turned into a disc. As a result, I lost the sensation of being in space, coexisting with the music. With Dolby Surround activated, the mix once again sounded fully enveloping, immersive, and spacey. At one point during the 5.1 listening session, my wife Danya started discussing astronomy and the recent comet probe landing. The association between Pink Floyd and outer space—reinforced by countless laser-light shows at planetariums—is a cliché that remains applicable to this day.

A switch to CD version provided another, equally impressive audio experience. In fact, I am convinced the stereo mix provides an even better experience than the 5.1 version. I immediately noticed the improved cohesiveness of the soundfield with the stereo mix—the 5.1 version actually sounds thin by comparison. The CD's sound was rich and full, and it filled the room despite the lower resolution and channel count.

As I listened to the CD, I toggled the Dolby Surround processing on and off, and quickly settled on leaving it activated—the result was my favorite rendition of the album. Simply put, the Atmos-expanded version of the 2-channel mix matched my expectation for how the album should sound. To my ears, it was as if the band was playing live in my own studio.

From a purely subjective standpoint, a switch back to the Blu-ray 5.1 mix did not result in better sound quality; instead, it provided a different perspective. Whereas the 5.1 version puts you in the middle of the soundfield, which is the musician's perspective, the stereo mix puts the band on a stage and you in the audience. Dolby Surround adds the element of room ambiance to the equation, and the result is sublime, if not groundbreaking—great production does not guarantee great art.

Ultimately, The Endless River is not as engaging from beginning to end as I would have wished. The album has four parts, which group the tracks into "sides" 1-4, reflecting the song arrangement on the vinyl double album. It does start off strong; the first three tracks—side 1—are my favorites. However, I did not write this article to criticize the music—my interest lies in the quality of the two mixes and the effectiveness of Dolby Surround upmixing. The experience cemented my impression that the new, Atmos-based iteration of Dolby Surround improves just about everything I play through it. In Pink Floyd's case, the improvement was such that it transformed the 2-channel CD mix into my favorite way to listen to the album, whereas the 5.1 mix sans Dolby Surround was my least favorite.

In my view, The Endless River is an impeccably produced demo disc for high-end surround-sound systems as well as 2-channel stereos. Depending on your taste in ambient instrumental space rock, it could qualify as good—or even great. Nevertheless, I suspect quite a few listeners who buy the Blu-ray version will listen to it once, take note of a favorite track or two, and put it on a shelf. Even though Pink Floyd's final effort is an imperfect album, thanks to The Endless River's excellent production values and the nostalgia I feel for the band, it will remain in my collection. I am grateful that Pink Floyd released its fifteenth album—this is a band that truly cares about audio fidelity, and it shows.


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post #2 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 06:46 AM
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Nicely written review and very encouraging for Atmos... nice job Mark!

I just love Pink Floyd!


...Glenn
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post #3 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 08:05 AM
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Thanks for the review, Atmos sounds like a great fun other than movies.


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post #4 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 08:10 AM
 
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Anyone know who did the 5.1 mix? Was Steven Wilson involved?
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post #5 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 08:11 AM
 
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Mark, any info about your Atmos speakers/placement details?
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post #6 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 08:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lovinthehd View Post
Mark, any info about your Atmos speakers/placement details?
Sure thing. I also plan to start a dedicated thread about adventures in Atmos.

I used a Pioneer SC-85 for Dolby Surround processing. I have a GoldenEar 3D array XL in my system, and I use the center channel on that as my actual center channel. My L/R speakers are Behringer B215XLs, and they are powered by a Crown XTi-2002. Side surrounds are a pair of GoldenEar SuperSats, and I also use a GoldenEar ForceField 5 subwoofer.

For Atmos channels, I used a set of Pioneer Elite Atmos-enabled speakers, but I only used the up-firing Atmos part. That's because I don\t have discrete Atmos modules at this time. For the front channels, I placed a pair of Elite towers right behind my own speakers. For the rear Atmos channels, I used a pair of Elite Atmos-enabled bookshelf speakers, on stands. They are where the rear surrounds would be in a 7.1 system.

Eventually I plan to review the Elite speaker system on its own. However, to get Atmos up and running, I chose this approach, which effectively converts the system I had in place into an Atmos-capable system, and even lets me see what it's like to hear Atmos through the GoldenEar system. Ultimately, the configuration will change as more Atmos gear shows up for review.

It's a 5.1.4 configuration. For the upmix to immersive sound, I used Dolby Surround with the Center Spread function turned on.
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post #7 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 09:12 AM
 
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Definitely buying this! Floyd was always one of my favorite bands growing up, and their social conscience has given me even more admiration for their work.

Really looking forward to hearing the Bluray version on my "lowly" 5.1 setup. And I'm definitely sold on Atmos, for next year.
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post #8 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 09:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post
Sure thing. I also plan to start a dedicated thread about adventures in Atmos.

I used a Pioneer SC-85 for Atmos processing. I have a GoldenEar 3D array XL in my system, and I use the center channel on that as my actual center channel. My L/R speakers are Behringer B215XLs, and they are powered by a Crown XTi-2002. Side surrounds are a pair of GoldenEar SuperSats, and I also use a GoldenEar ForceField 5 subwoofer.

For Atmos channels, I used a set of Pioneer Elite Atmos-enabled speakers, but I only used the up-firing Atmos part. That's because I don\t have discrete Atmos modules at this time. For the front channels, I placed a pair of Elite towers right behind my own speakers. For the rear Atmos channels, I used a pair of Elite Atmos-enabled bookshelf speakers, on stands. They are where the rear surrounds would be in a 7.1 system.

Eventually I plan to review the Elite speaker system on its own. However, to get Atmos up and running, I chose this approach, which effectively converts the system I had in place into an Atmos-capable system, and even lets me see what it's like to hear Atmos through the GoldenEar system. Ultimately, the configuration will change as more Atmos gear shows up for review.

It's a 5.1.4 configuration. For the upmix to immersive sound, I used Dolby Surround with the Center Spread function turned on.
Interesting. It had never occurred to me to use only the connections for the upfiring driver on the Pioneer Elite Atmos speakers, while using different speakers for the ear-level channels. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Andrew Jones say that these speakers have an internal crossover which can redirect some of the bass frequencies from the upfiring driver to the forward-firing woofers? Can you tell if you are getting any bass frequencies coming from the forward-firing woofers in this setup or do you have the crossover setting in the AVR for the "Top" channels high enough that the up-firing drivers can actually reproduce everything in the signal (i.e. anything it can't handle itself is going to the subs)?
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post #9 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 09:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by HockeyoAJB View Post
Interesting. It had never occurred to me to use only the connections for the upfiring driver on the Pioneer Elite Atmos speakers, while using different speakers for the ear-level channels. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Andrew Jones say that these speakers have an internal crossover which can redirect some of the bass frequencies from the upfiring driver to the forward-firing woofers? Can you tell if you are getting any bass frequencies coming from the forward-firing woofers in this setup or do you have the crossover setting in the AVR for the "Top" channels high enough that the up-firing drivers can actually reproduce everything in the signal (i.e. anything it can't handle itself is going to the subs)?
I'm going to talk to Dolby about all that before I comment. Truth be told, I am looking for the right approach to use speakers of my choice in a ceiling-reflecting configuration. I'm working on that right now.

I will check out the Elite speakers and see if there is any bass redirection. When Dolby-enabled speakers are chosen, there is no setting for the crossover.
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post #10 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 10:14 AM
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Gettin' excited here! Mark, way to fan the Dolby Atmos flame!
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post #11 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 10:35 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by HockeyoAJB View Post
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Andrew Jones say that these speakers have an internal crossover which can redirect some of the bass frequencies from the upfiring driver to the forward-firing woofers?
I checked. Yes, there is bass energy coming from the forward-firing woofer on the Elite Atmos-enabled speaker, even when you only use the Atmos terminals.

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post #12 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 11:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post
Sure thing. I also plan to start a dedicated thread about adventures in Atmos.

I used a Pioneer SC-85 for Dolby Surround processing. I have a GoldenEar 3D array XL in my system, and I use the center channel on that as my actual center channel. My L/R speakers are Behringer B215XLs, and they are powered by a Crown XTi-2002. Side surrounds are a pair of GoldenEar SuperSats, and I also use a GoldenEar ForceField 5 subwoofer.

For Atmos channels, I used a set of Pioneer Elite Atmos-enabled speakers, but I only used the up-firing Atmos part. That's because I don\t have discrete Atmos modules at this time. For the front channels, I placed a pair of Elite towers right behind my own speakers. For the rear Atmos channels, I used a pair of Elite Atmos-enabled bookshelf speakers, on stands. They are where the rear surrounds would be in a 7.1 system.

Eventually I plan to review the Elite speaker system on its own. However, to get Atmos up and running, I chose this approach, which effectively converts the system I had in place into an Atmos-capable system, and even lets me see what it's like to hear Atmos through the GoldenEar system. Ultimately, the configuration will change as more Atmos gear shows up for review.

It's a 5.1.4 configuration. For the upmix to immersive sound, I used Dolby Surround with the Center Spread function turned on.

It would be interesting to hear your opinion on how the upfiring speakers are compared to your future in-ceiling speakers.
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post #13 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 11:17 AM - Thread Starter
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It would be interesting to hear your opinion on how the upfiring speakers are compared to your future in-ceiling speakers.
Experimenting with configuration options is one of my primary short-term goals for Atmos exploration.
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post #14 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 11:26 AM
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I picked up the CD myself. I have listened once and me being a huge Pink Floyd fan, I am not sure I care for this much. I need to take another listen.

I have been watching David Gilmour's Royal Albert Hall Bluray and Roger Waters Berlin Wall show for the past week. Love them both, but the David Glimour Bluray is much better. I am now waiting for the bluray release of Roger Waters new 2013 wall tour. Hope to hear something about that real soon.
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post #15 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 11:34 AM
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atmos whatever, don't waste your money on Gilmore's noodling, these tapes should have stayed on the shelf. An LA time music critic began his review with something along the lines of "In the age of free streaming music can a band still rip off its fans?" and flames this embarrassing pablum from there on out
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atmos whatever, don't waste your money on Gilmore's noodling, these tapes should have stayed on the shelf. An LA time music critic began his review with something along the lines of "In the age of free streaming music can a band still rip off its fans?" and flames this embarrassing pablum from there on out
Cool story bro.

Did you sign up here just to drop this nugget on us?

Pink Floyd's one of the most enduring and influential bands of all time, meanwhile haters gonna hate.
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post #17 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by signaltransduction View Post
atmos whatever, don't waste your money on Gilmore's noodling, these tapes should have stayed on the shelf. An LA time music critic began his review with something along the lines of "In the age of free streaming music can a band still rip off its fans?" and flames this embarrassing pablum from there on out
So can we put you down as a 'no'? Must be one of the Gilmore Girls you're referencing, though I personally have never heard either of them noodle. David Gilmour's guitar playing, on the other hand, is beyond reproach
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post #18 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 12:18 PM
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yes, you can put me down as a no. and not from a hater. i was disappointed, it sucked enough to not even want to stream if for free again.
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intransitive verb
: to improvise on an instrument in an informal or desultory manner

See noodle defined for English-language learners »

Examples of NOODLE

  1. He was just noodling around on the guitar.
  2. It's a thought I've been noodling around with for some time.
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intransitive verb
: to improvise on an instrument in an informal or desultory manner

See noodle defined for English-language learners »

Examples of NOODLE

  1. He was just noodling around on the guitar.
  2. It's a thought I've been noodling around with for some time.
Love to eat some Udon noodles at home by the fire listening to The Endless River!
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post #21 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 12:51 PM
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Man, with all this talk about noodles, I am thinking of making some noodle kugel tonight. This dish is comprised of kosher wide ribbon egg noodles, cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, sugar, butter, cinnamon, and golden raisins. Its really good but definitely it will upset your cardiologist. I do add a dash of salt and use artificial sweetener instead of sugar.
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post #22 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 01:48 PM
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It is intuitive that music mastered in Atmos will sound better than stereo. This is essentially a certainty given the physics of sound.

I will likely buy this to check it out!

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post #23 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 02:01 PM - Thread Starter
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It is intuitive that music mastered in Atmos will sound better than stereo. This is essentially a certainty given the physics of sound.

I will likely buy this to check it out!
I have but one example of an all Atmos mix, "Bailando" by Enrique Iglesias. It is on a demo disc Dolby gave me at CEDIA. It is indeed better-sounding than any other music I have in my collection. I can't wait for Atmos releases from artists I listen to regularly. Hopefully that happens.

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post #24 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 02:03 PM
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It is intuitive that music mastered in Atmos will sound better than stereo. This is essentially a certainty given the physics of sound.

I will likely buy this to check it out!
A quibble: Atmos is not the same as the new Dolby Surround upmixing. Atmos is a type of encoding used when mixing a soundtrack. Dolby Surround upmixing is an in-home post-processing of a soundtrack. The latter is what's being discussed here.

It is not intuitive that Dolby Surround upmixing of a stereo soundtrack will sound better than a carefully-authored 5.1 surround soundtrack. But that seems to be what people are experiencing.

FWIW, I found the same: a DS upmixed CD of Powaqqatsi sounded better than the 5.1 Blu-ray version, whether DS upmixed or not. Of course, it's also a completely different musical experience
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I have but one example of an all Atmos mix, "Bailando" by Enrique Iglesias. It is on a demo disc Dolby gave me at CEDIA. It is indeed better-sounding than any other music I have in my collection. I can't wait for Atmos releases from artists I listen to regularly. Hopefully that happens.

And when that starts to happen I'll be up stairs at my neighbors apartment/flat cutting wholes through their floors ( Oh the joys of city living)


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Quote:
Originally Posted by signaltransduction View Post
atmos whatever, don't waste your money on Gilmore's noodling, these tapes should have stayed on the shelf. An LA time music critic began his review with something along the lines of "In the age of free streaming music can a band still rip off its fans?" and flames this embarrassing pablum from there on out
The album was a tribute to Rick Wright and also the final album. I read about it back in the summer and knew it was a musical piece. ONe thing you can say about Pink Floyd is that no two albums sounded a like and the Endless River no different. One thing I can say about Pink Floyd is all their stuff IMO is all A sides, I mean I don't think there is an Album out there that you cannot put on and listen to the whole thing. Still two of my favorites songs are Carful with that Ax Eugene and Arnold Lane which I believe was their first song.
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post #27 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 04:01 PM
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yes, you can put me down as a no. and not from a hater. i was disappointed, it sucked enough to not even want to stream if for free again.
Streaming probably does not due it justice. Blu-ray 5.1 PCM on a quality system is when this album shines.
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are you pulling my chain, sorry, but crappy music is still crappy music whether it is streamed or played live in my living room
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of course atmos will sound better than live
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post #30 of 104 Old 11-17-2014, 04:19 PM
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Mark,


Interesting that you liked the 2 channel sound mix the best, I too thought it had more fidelity, especially the 2.0 LPCM track. The 5.1 LPCM was slightly better (IMO) than the 5.1 HD Master Audio version, but neither compared to the 2.0 mix. I have not listened to the CD version yet.


Ed
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