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Home arrow Reviews arrow DVDs, Blurays, and Videos arrow Pink Floyd: The Division Bell 20th anniversary 5.1 surround mix/Blu-Ray
Pink Floyd: The Division Bell 20th anniversary 5.1 surround mix/Blu-Ray Print E-mail
Written by Matt   
Monday, 23 June 2014

Pink Floyd: The Division Bell 20th Anniversary box set Blu-ray coverThe 20th anniversary box set of Pink Floyd's The Division Bell has, since its announcement, caused a fair bit of debate amongst fans. Apart from the highly positive reaction to the news from the majority, we've also had a mixed reaction from a subset of fans - some love the whole package, others are only interested in the vinyl, some are slightly disappointed not to have any "new" songs or unreleased material (over and above the new 5.1 surround mix, and the high def audio included for the first time), and some are just interested in the surround mix but aren't bothered with the other aspects of the box set.

For those people, a DVD version of the blu-ray (which is a key element of the box set) is being offered exclusively through the official Floyd store. This will enable listeners to hear the 5.1 mix, although an email despatched last week warned purchasers that this DVD has been delayed. At this stage, we don't know if this is a direct port of the blu-ray in terms of all elements (albeit in standard definition visually) not least due to the smaller storage capacity of DVDs. Thus it might not give all audio options. But, it does give a cheaper route to the new surround mix for those who choose this. [UPDATE: this DVD now appears to be completely sold out]

Just to recap, the box set - appearing on or around June 30th, 2014 depending on country/region - contains the new, much-anticipated 2-LP vinyl edition of the album, remastered by Doug Sax at The Mastering Lab from the original analogue tapes, including all the full length tracks (originally edited to fit on a single LP) in a gatefold sleeve designed by Hipgnosis/StormStudios. Five other discs are included: a red 7" vinyl replica of single Take It Back, clear 7" vinyl replica of High Hopes, 12" blue vinyl replica of High Hopes with reverse laser etched design, the 2011 Discovery remaster of The Division Bell and the blu-ray.

OK - so let's take a look at the blu-ray which for many is the heart of this box set. On start-up of the disc, there's a surprisingly satisfying, short alternate Great Day For Freedom in surround sound, complete with seagulls, a distant soaring guitar chord, bells, a rolling tide, plaintive piano and eerily dissolving images as the background for the main menu. I actually found myself lurking on this a little longer than normal as I enjoyed it so much! Anyway, time to press on with a look at the meat of this disc...

The disc gives you three main audio options - 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (DTS-MA), 5.1 PCM, and stereo PCM, all of which are 96khz/24 bit. To my ears, the DTS-MA option gave the nicest, most detailed sound but as with anything like this, there's a degree of personal sonic preference, coupled with the abilities of your equipment. My equipment isn't what you'd call high end but this wasn't evident when playing the blu-ray, as Andy Jackson and Damon Iddins have done such a superb job with the mix and mastering.

The top-most menu option is the 2014 film of Marooned. Directed by long-time Hipgnosis co-lead Aubrey "Po" Powell, this new video ditches the original aquatic concept and instead looks first to the stars, with ISS footage, before returning down to (irradiated) earth in the ghost city of Pripyat, in Ukraine. The eerie nature of the abandoned buildings, and the puzzle of the fleeing man (and young girl) perfectly sitting with this award-winning instrumental. This video also gives the first proper taste of the 5.1 treatment given to The Division Bell...

To achieve this, Jackson and Iddins went back to the original multi-track recordings, and clearly painstakingly worked their way through them to create this truly absorbing new look at Pink Floyd's final album, now some 20 years old. It has paid dividends.

Each track sounds fresh and vibrant; every instrument is clear, detailed and occupying a suitable position in the immersive soundstage. As each track arrived, I was hearing detail (and sometimes whole instruments) lost in the previous stereo versions we've had since 1994. At no point did I feel any sense of "gimmick" to the mix and it lead to a greater appreciation of the craft behind an album such as this. The extra "headroom" afforded by the high quality/high bit-rate audio certainly is appreciated and it would be wonderful if some of the other albums could be remastered in a similar way.

All audio channels get a decent workout, although - and this came as a surprise to me when I analysed things - despite the expansive and immersive sound, the front centre channel is the least utilised, devoted mainly to quiet, distant sounds, echoes and general "atmosphere". The LFE channel has a nice workout, without ever becoming overbearing or too powerful.

Each song is presented with a dark grey, textured screen with the song title at the top. One does wonder if the inclusion of lyrics, particularly for those who don't count English as their first language, would have been helpful to many. With the broadly blank screen, various images could also have been included to give a bit of visual stimulus. Similarly, there have been comments we've seen where people have noted the lack of original promo videos. Whilst these would have been in standard definition, it would have completed the package nicely - although maybe there are other plans for these?

I think you can tell that I've thoroughly enjoyed hearing the album via the new mix. The album as a whole has been revitalised for me, and it is as if I'm hearing it as originally intended, for the first time. As part of this, I've given the original 1994 CD (with the Braille on the case) a comparative listen and it feels compressed, slightly muddy and indistinct. The 2011 remaster really improved things, but the high definition audio of the stereo mix, found on the blu-ray, takes it to a new level. Factor in the immersive 5.1 mix, and I know which version I'll be reaching for on the shelves now...

If you want to secure your copy of the box set, you can do so through these links (which give a small but vital contribution towards this site's ongoing running costs each time you buy something using them, without it costing you a penny/cent extra):

6-DISC BOXSET with Blu-Ray:  Canada  Amazon UK  Germany  France  Italy  Spain 

For those of you who just want the DVD with the 5.1 mix, head over to the Pink Floyd Store to place your order for despatch once they have got these ready (which will be after the box set is released on June 30th, 2014).

UPDATE, July 3rd: The European and US stores no longer list the DVD as available to purchase. Whilst it was a limited edition for those who didn't want the box set, or who couldn't play blu-rays, it seems to have been an extremely popular edition. With neither store listing it now, we presume it is fully subscribed. However, we would not be at all surprised if they started appearing on eBay soon so you should be able to pick one up there hopefully if still after one. 

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