5th Element DVD, disappointing

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  • Bob
    Senior Member
    • Jul 2000
    • 802

    5th Element DVD, disappointing

    This is probably old ground that has already been covered but, it is new for me.
    When DVD's first hit the market it was clear that they were intended to replace VHS but, not especially geared toward the "film buff" niche market that LD's had. The players took 3 generations of upgrades before they delivered what was originally promised and the early DVDs were no better quality than many VHS tapes. Quickly things improved with the DVD players and the quality of DVD discs, and LDs began to disappear. DVDs clearly had some great advantages over LDs, size, price, one sided.
    Although DVD titles were being churned out at a rate that few people anticipated, the titles were and still are questionable. They took almost the exact opposite tact than LDs. The releases were mostly very bad B movies that had only seen the light of day in Drive In Theaters and the Phillipines, or they were new releases. So, to make sure that I would always have access to the older black and white movies and pre-1960's color movies in my collection, I bought special sleeves and jackets for the LDs I feared would never be released in this new medium. Newer films could be replaced with DVDs if needed so, I didn't give them any special care.
    So, what does this have to do with the 5th Element DVD? Recently I bought this DVD since it was one of my favorite modern films on LD. I had read the articles in Widescreen Reveiw about how the sound on DVDs was inferior to LDs and quite frankly just thought they were crying sour grapes and never really cared. Brother, were they right. When the Diva began to sing on the DVD I can't tell you how disappointed I was. No amount of volume or tweaking my system bought back the magic of the scene I remembered from the Laser Disc. I dug out the LD and replayed the scene just to see if my memory was flawed. Nope, the sound on the LD is tactile, the DVD is flat and uninvolving by comparison. Now I am sending away for protective sleeves and jackets for all my LDs and will only replace LDs with DVDs if they ever come down with Laser rot.
    Meanwhile I wonder how much better many of my movies on DVD would sound if they were also available on LD.
  • Pat
    Super Senior Member
    • Aug 2000
    • 1637

    Bob, was this the original release or the Superbit version?
    Not that I think it will make a difference.

    Most audiophiles that have LD and DVD ususally prefer the sound of LD, you are not alone.

    The videophiles ususally can't stand all the noise on a LD and prefer the pristine color filmlike smoothness of a good anamorphic transfer.

    I guess we just have to choose between good sound and great video(DVD), or great sound and good video(LD).

    Pat's Page
    Pat's Page


    • Bob
      Senior Member
      • Jul 2000
      • 802

      It is not the superbit version. I have yet to veiw a superbit DVD, are they noticably better?
      You are right that the DVDs have better video, especially on a digital TV. I am not lamenting the end of the LDs, I like all the adavantages of DVD. Just wish the sound was better.


      • JonMarsh
        Mad Max Moderator
        • Aug 2000
        • 15209

        Hello Guys,

        Well, I'm not sure it's quite such an either/or situation, though I understand your feelings about the "sound" many DVD's exhibit through most systems.

        I presume you're using an external processor on the DVD player for sounce- receiver, or pre-pro, whatever. Are you going the same route with the LD, or using the stereo PCM output? This accounts for a significant sound quality difference- and don't forget that the digital interface you use counts a great deal. Optical cable, though convenient and for many components being the only connection available, doesn't cut it- too much jitter.

        Dolby Digital 5.1 *can* sound quite good, to say nothing of DTS, *but*, it requires more care in the selection of the digital interface, processor, etc. Unfortunately, it's true that there are variations in the DD encoding rate on DVD's, and this can seel the audio performance short.

        If you don't have an exceptional processor, one way to goose the audio performance is a Camelot Dragon de-jitter filer; this unit has been designed to work with 5.1 DD as well as standard PCM.

        BTW, the Superbit disks are reference quality, allocating more bandwidth to both video and audio by deleting the "extras". I like extras, but I'd prefer them on a separate disk, or perhaps have a "straight ahead" version of the movie, and an SE version packaged with the second disk.

        The Superbit disks do look and sound great, particularly on an HTPC setup where the scaling up of the fine detail to higher resolution (I run 1280X720) really benefits the picture quality. Also, the Superbit disks have much less artifacting, and appear quieter.

        Best regards,


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        • Pat
          Super Senior Member
          • Aug 2000
          • 1637

          I only have 2 Superbit discs Desparado and Dracula.
          I haven't had a chance to watch Dracula yet, but I have watched Desparado.
          When compared to the original release the Superbit version is much clearer, it is almost like someone wiped all the grime from the lens.

          After just having John Gannon calibrate my FPTV this past monday, I was asking him what his thoughts were on the superbits...he had't bought any yet but wondered why they weren't being made like that since the beginning.

          Needless to say after looking at the original and the superbit, I think he was at least going to pick up Desparado

          Jon, well you can put me in the catagory of NOT having an exceptional processor. Since getting my FPTV, I can barely even look at a LD...anamorphic DVD's have spoiled me.

          Pat's Page
          Pat's Page


          • Lex
            Moderator Emeritus
            • Apr 2001
            • 27461

            Welcome back Bob! Well, I have heard that the analog LD can sound better than DVD. But then, not ever being involved in LD, I had no real basis for comparison.

            I do think the DTS Superbit version is much nicer than the DD original disc.

            FYI, Jon, I think Bob still has a Casablanca, nice gear all around. But then, I haven't talked to him in a while, so not sure what he's using now...

            "I'm out there Jerry, and I'm loving every minute of it!" - Kramer


            • Bob
              Senior Member
              • Jul 2000
              • 802

              Hey Lex,
              You will be surprised to hear that I do still have Theta stuff. The last time we spoke I was thinking of starting over, putting the emphizes on 2 channel. Then Theta came out with the extreme DAC and I decided to keep the Casablanca and add the extreme DAC to the front 3 channels. Very sweet.

              Then came the search for new speakers for the front. I wanted to stay below $20,000 and did a lot of listening. I went to a very knowledgable audio dealer about one hour drive from my home to audition some Wilson Watt Puppies. I had heard that the new 6's had addressed many of the problems that made the 5's to analytical and wanted to give them a listen. Well to make a long story short he had a very good sounding room and convinced me that my Vandersteen 3A signatures were great speakers but, my room needed improveing. Can you beleive a audio dealer that is more interested in you getting good sound than selling you something?
              He quickly sketched out what was needed and I went home empty handed but, with new knowledge about how to make a square room work. I was already on the right track with putting my bookshelves on angles in the corners. What I now did was made them built in. I used the directions from the PS Audio website. The bookshelves now act as bass traps as well as change the room dimensions. I then further changed the dimensions of the room by putting built in bookshelves behind the sitting area about 6 feet in to the room. Now the HT/Music room is more of a rectangular octangle. The standing waves are no longer a problem. The approximate 6'x22'of space between the door to the outside and the wall of bookshelves is used as office space.

              I did end up changing speakers in front. But, after much listening I stuck with Vandersteen, just upgraded to the 5's. Everything else is pretty much the same, Theta Data III for LDs and sometimes CDs, couple of Theta Dreadnaughts, Theta Miles, got rid of the Theta DaViD and replaced it with the DaViD II. Stayed with the REL Storm III's but, with the 5's now in place I only use them for LFE on movies. Everything is hooked up with balanced cables and most everything is on Symposium Rollarblocks and I have lead shot bags sitting on everything. What the heck, gotta do some tweaking. Oh yeah, everything goes throgh a couple of Equi-Tech balanced power systems.

              Hope all is well with you. See you next time I am in the area.


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