Audio: Listen to this article.
I got in the car this morning, put on The Dark Side of the Moon 50th Anniversary version, and headed to school with my 11 year old daughter. There are few things in life better than time in the car with one's daughter, listening to and talking about music.
"What's this album Dad?"
"Dark Side of the Moon, it's one of the most popular albums ever made, and this year is the 50th anniversary of its release. The Dolby Atmos version came out today, and I'll have it in lossless TrueHD Atmos when you get home from school."
That's how the conversation started. A couple miles from home I introduced the concept of gapless playback and the need for it when playing Dark Side. "That's cool Dad!" I was told, from the backseat. My daughter asked me to rewind the track, so she could here the transition from track to track, or in fact see the transition on my CarPlay screen rather than hear it, because there is nothing to hear when it's played gapless.
Questions about tracks without words or singers soon followed, but by the time we pulled into the school parking lot, Money was playing, and she was 100% focused on the music. The Dark Side of the Moon is a powerful album, 50 years later.
Lossless TrueHD Atmos
I picked up the Super Deluxe boxed set from Down in the Valley here in Minneapolis, solely for the Blu-ray containing the lossless TrueHD Atmos version. I ripped the Blu-ray as soon as I walked in the door, and started listening on my immersive system. I know the "Immersion" boxed set of Dark Side was released in 2010, but this 50th anniversary Atmos version delivers THE true immersive experience. From the opening heartbeat on Speak to Me to the closing heartbeat on Eclipse, the entire album sounds incredible. This is truly Dark Side of the Moon like I've never heard.
I believe James Guthrie mixed this Atmos version, and I have to say he nailed it. This immersive mix suits the music perfectly. It isn't too conservative and it's far from gimmicky. Guthrie uses every channel in my 7.1.4 system, at the right time. For example, at the opening of Time, the rear and height channels are used heavily, followed by a focus on the front, then a great mix of all the channels as the intro progresses. This is both easy to hear and enjoy, and easy to see by looking at the meters on my Merging Anubis. All 12 channels are used so elegantly, serving the music like no previous release, of this often-remastered rather than remixed, classic.
Guthrie's mix of Money opens with mainly the ear level speakers reproducing the cash register, and for the most part the height channels are use sparingly throughout this track. If anything, the rear height channels are used for some effects, but the main channels used are front and rears at ear level.
Backing up to track 2, Breathe (in the Air), one can hear more use of height channels in the opening minute of the track than the last minute, as Guthrie focuses main vocals and instruments in the ear level speakers. As this track gaplessly slides into track 3, On The Run, use of all 12 channels is really well done. It's chaotic as it should be, and completely immerses the listener in a sonic bubble that seems built for Dolby Atmos and Pink Floyd.
I love this style of mix for this music. Getting it just right couldn't have been easy, considering the temptations to go a bit crazy with the professional Dolby Atmos tools and capabilities. Knowledge of and respect for this music were critical in the creation of this 50th anniversary remix.
Some listeners may have previous versions of the traditional multichannel mixes or rare Mobile fidelity remasters, but given that the main versions available to most listeners today are stereo and Atmos via streaming services, I encourage everyone to give these two a listen. If the Atmos version is your style, then look for this boxed set (unavailable on Amazon currently) to obtain the lossless TrueHD Atmos version. It sounds much better than what's available via streaming services.
As someone who was born a few years after the release of Dark Side, and who didn't really get into it until after college, I don't have any previous version imprinted on my brain as the "right" or "best" version. I respect this album and absolutely love it for the music, musicianship, and sonic qualities, but don't have the audible baggage that someone who purchased the album on release day may have. I mean that in the best way, and perhaps could've used the term "experience" rather than baggage, but baggage applies as well because we often have a certain sound locked in, eschewing anything remixed or new.
Listening with fresh ears, this is unequivocally my favorite version of The Dark Side of the Moon. I will happily give up the artificial focus that the numerous stereo versions place in the front two channels, and give up higher resolution multichannel mixes, in favor of this totally immersive lossless 24 bit /48 kHz Atmos experience. And, it IS an experience. Now back to listening for the umpteenth time today :~)
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