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View Poll Results: What audio option do you prefer when watching older films?
The original mono track 22 44.00%
An updated surround track 10 20.00%
No preference, just give me the movie. 18 36.00%
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Old 06-06-2014, 05:06 PM   #1
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Sound decisions: Mono or 5.1?

There's been a pretty interesting debate in the thread for the upcoming HALLOWEEN box set about what audio tracks viewers prefer on their discs. Do you like the original mono tracks whenever possible, or do you prefer to listen to updated surround tracks that make better use of that expensive home theater setup? Some cite changed audio cues and effects (like in JAWS) as a detriment to 5.1 remixes, while others champion the bigger sound in mixes like THE BEYOND, etc.

Where do you fall? What track do you typically chose when you pop in a new Blu-ray of a catalog title?
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Old 06-06-2014, 05:11 PM   #2
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If it's originally mono then I prefer it in mono, but I'm not very anal about it. I do find 5.1 remixes to be unnecessary and often distracting. The storm at the beginning of Halloween is particularly bad to me because the dialog sounds so muffled while the rain and thunder is crisp.
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Old 06-06-2014, 05:40 PM   #3
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For me it comes down to how well the updated surround track represents the original sound elements. When original sound stems are available there's absolutely no reason not to take advantage of updated technology. That type of restoration is consistent with the way audio releases have been handled for years. Effective remastering purifies the original recordings in ways that weren't possible when the original tracks were created. Anyone who's had the opportunity to listen to the SACD 5.1 remix of Dylan's Blonde On Blonde on a well calibrated system can speak to the magic of multi-channel audio. Sounds that were always there but buried in the mix are now audible. And the overall fidelity and spaciousness gives a magical feeling. Does it sound DIFFERENT than the original mono release or the later stereo releases? Damn right. But that's what happens when you faithfully transfer all of the competing sounds from 1 or 2 channels into 6.

In theory, faithful surround re-purposing can benefit films just as much. Yet I'll be the first to concede that it's rarely done right. Jaws is the ultimate case study since it represents the best and worst that new mixes have to offer. The lossless surround track adds an amazing level of immersiveness to the early scene where Brody walks through the parade--and others like it later in the film. And John Williams's score hits much harder in surround. Scenes with those elements are immensely improved in the new mix--without any changes to the original recorded stems. There's a "bigness" to the audio that mono could never deliver. For me it's as dramatic a leap forward as jumping from a 19" old school tube television to a modern 16:9 set. There's a presence to the audio that you don't get from unidirectional sound.

But then there's the dark side of sound restoration, front and center on the same disc. The rampant, disrespectful, and slipshod replacement of original effects in several key scenes is almost too ridiculous to believe. I'm sure there are technical factors that require the replacement of certain effects when the sounds in question have to pan dramatically through the sound field. I just don't understand why so little effort is devoted to faithfully replacing the antiquated effects. When Jaws crashes through the side of the Orca it should sound like a car careening through the hull--as it does in the original mono mix. But now it sounds like a champagne glass breaking. The loss of the creaking and groaning sounds as the boat starts to sink in the scenes that immediately precede Bruce's dramatic arrival is equally bewildering and unforgivable.

But that's not a failure of the technology. It's a failure of the humans who created the new mix. Ultimately the value of updating original mono mixes comes down to how carefully the expanded mixes are created. Were the original stems used whenever possible? Were replacement effects chosen for their resemblance to the original effects? Or were they chosen to make the film sound more modern? I'm generally against revisionism when it comes to older films. I hate the new gunfire sound at the climax of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It takes me out of the moment during a very critical scene that's way too familiar to me. But again, that's not the fault of technology. Faithful expansion of original sound elements is not any type of heresy. For me it's a matter of improving what has always been there.

I always start with the surround mix in these situations. If it proves to be distracting I go back to the original mono. And with many films, Jaws and OHMSS among them, I switch between the two depending upon the scene. I don't like giving up the immersiveness of surround sound. But there's a limit to the amount of tinkering I can overlook.

Sorry to be so expansive. My feelings definitely don't fall entirely into either camp.
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Old 06-06-2014, 05:52 PM   #4
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For me it depends on the movie or how well preserved the audio is. For an Italian horror or 80s action flick then yes maybe a stereo or 5.1 bump maybe preferable but for a classic old time western or a Hammer horror then I would much prefer the original mono. If the original audio stems are indeed dated or damaged then again original mono is also preferable so as not to stretch the already thin audio to breaking point. In the past many distributors such as Anchor Bay provided 5.1 bumps on nearly all their releases most of which were awful, artificial sounding and at times headache inducing. Nowadays stereo or 5.1 bumps tend to be alot truer to source (I know some still add extra effects) and can sound rather effective adding depth and subtle separations as well as updating music scores. In alot of cases many disks noe include the original mono as an option anyway. One big thing for me though is when it comes to Blu ray and whether its mono, stereo or multi channel I always want lossless audio.
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Old 06-06-2014, 06:56 PM   #5
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Whatever the original theatrical presentation audio was is preferable to me.

Now. Warner. Release The Exorcist with the original mono track (you know, the one which won an OSCAR!) and I'll be sated
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Old 06-06-2014, 07:14 PM   #6
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Yeah, I'm in the "5.1, but only if it's done right" camp too. Too many times they make it too "gimmicky".

But really, the only time I get angry about there only being a mono track is for movies with extensive music that had been originally recorded in stereo. Obviously, there's a legitimate debate over whether sound effects should be updated, but I think there's little argument that a stereo music track shouldn't be downmixed to mono, even if that's the original sound format of the film. There's nothing wrong with using the original stereo recording of the music, in my book.
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Old 06-07-2014, 01:34 AM   #7
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I stick to original. Most of the newer 5.1 mixes just sound odd to me. Maybe I don't have a good enough setup. Friday the 13th Part 6 was on a few months back when I mentioned here how it sounded different. Maybe you guys can list the new 5.1 tracks that actually improve the sound experience without sounding too modern.
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Old 06-07-2014, 04:34 AM   #8
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I'm ashamed to say, I usually just go with the default. Not because I don't care, but because I usually forget. When I watched the new Jaws BD, I deliberately chose the mono. But other than that, I can't remember any other times when I consciously chose one track over another.

Honestly though, I usually don't even notice any directional surround "effects". It's just nice to be enveloped by the sound. Kind of like 3D. You might notice it for the first 15 minutes or so, but if the movie gets your attention, eventually you forget that you're watching it in 3D at all, unless something comes whizzing by your face.
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Old 06-07-2014, 04:43 AM   #9
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I used to have a full surround system, but when I upgraded, I went for far better front speakers and ditched the woofer and rears. I can't say that I've missed them. Most of the time 5.1 is wasted anyways.
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Old 06-07-2014, 04:52 AM   #10
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I'm feeling original stereo the most. Man my demons discs in mono (used to be my preferred) is just dreadful on my sonos play bar. The intl stereo is the only way for me
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Old 06-07-2014, 04:54 AM   #11
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I went with 'mono' just because the original soundtrack should always be a priority, but I do like having a 5.1 track as an option.

Sometimes when I'm showing friends older films that I know they'll have a hard time warming up to (because it's... *gasp*... DATED), I'll throw on the 5.1 just to give it that extra oomph.
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Old 06-07-2014, 05:13 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Shlockjock81 View Post
I went with 'mono' just because the original soundtrack should always be a priority, but I do like having a 5.1 track as an option.

That said, I love the audio mix for Dressed to Kill. They did an outstanding job:

I would've settled for a lossless version of the film's original mono mix—I'm usually wary anytime a studio tinkers with mono audio sources in an attempt to reconfigure them for multi-channel output—but MGM has actually delivered a re-engineered DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that surprisingly effective. The rear channels are called upon often to add immersion; you'll hear water pounding and dripping in the shower, New York City traffic sounds, wind and rain during a heavy storm, the screech and groan of subway cars clanking along at full speed, and numerous other ambient effects. There are even some believable pans and crosses. One of my favorite audio moments is when Peter is listening in on a cop's conversation with Dr. Elliot using a bug and an earpiece; the voices—heard through the wall and carried into a tiny earbud—sounds appropriately tinny out of the front speakers, but we also hear full ambient police office noise all around us. It works really well. Pino Donaggio's score sound great too, with rich orchestral sounds that have crisp highs and bass-heavy, clear-timbered lows. Dialogue throughout is clear and easy to understand.
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Old 06-07-2014, 05:40 AM   #13
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the best remixes are 1999 5.1 tracks on the Nightmare on Elm Street series.
Sadly the blu ray of the first film's multichanel mix is a 7.1 remix of the 5.1 remix, and some stinger ques are lost.
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Old 06-07-2014, 09:26 AM   #14
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I don't know what the soundtrack version of Carpenter's Halloween score is supposed to sound like, but listening to "Laurie's Theme" on the 5.1 and stereo mixes on the DVD makes it sound like bells. It echoes and I really don't like that. I have the MP3 of the same track and it does not sound like that.

So, I do Mono on that DVD every time I watch the movie. Same with Carrie. The echo sounds phony as hell.
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Old 06-07-2014, 03:27 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Buechlers_beard View Post
Whatever the original theatrical presentation audio was is preferable to me.

Now. Warner. Release The Exorcist with the original mono track (you know, the one which won an OSCAR!) and I'll be sated

We have films which were sound edited by some of the best in the business, and yet people seem to prefer having some guy who can't get a steady job doing major motion pictures or even lucrative commercial work re-doing these from scratch for home video.

The original mono mix for Vertigo is still elusive for me, since it was taken off the UK boxset. I'm going to have to buy the domestic single release for that.
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