The Dark Side of the Moon has long been considered to be the audiophile benchmark. It’s been remastered and reissued a number of times over the years since it was initially released March 1, 1973 and proceeded to spend a record 741 weeks (that’s 14.25 years!) on the album charts. As our resident professor emeritus of engineering and music Ken C. Pohlmann observed, “It’s the band’s innovative peak. They were determined to push their boundaries and find originality in wherever their sonic experimentation carried them.”
The Immersion edition of Dark Side is the definitive audio statement of a storied career. I know because I’ve been spending most of my waking hours these past few months living and breathing the music, and the proof is in the amazing pudding. Audio benchmarks have been recarved. In fact, my sonic trajectory has exactly paralleled the three levels of the campaign itself: Discovery, Experience, and Immersion.
Discovery: On June 20, I was invited down to Electric Lady Studios in Greenwich Village to partake in the East Coast’s initial listening sessions — two had been scheduled, and I was the only one to attend both — before heading further downtown that afternoon to interview Mason. “So full, so clean” were my first scribbled impressions of the 2011 James Guthrie remaster of “Speak to Me / Breathe (in the Air),” the signature tracks that usher in The Dark Side. “Money,” from the aforementioned Live at Wembley 1974, aggressively commences its gallop in 7/8 time until David Gilmour calls out “C’mon Dick!” to saxophone soloist Dick Parry, and Dave’s main guitar solo settles into 4/4. Away, away. . . Could I have some more, please?
Experience: A month later, on July 20, I receive a watermarked disc via UPS at my home, with eight tracks that run a total of 57 minutes and 33 seconds. Five are in the Dark Side Immersion set that came out today; the other three are on the Wish You Were Here Experience and Immersion editions due November 8.
I am enthralled by “Raving & Drooling,” also from Live at Wembley 1974, as it’s a boisterous early live take on what would later emerge as “Sheep” on 1977’s Animals. But the true gem is the acoustic version of “Wish You Were Here,” featuring a solo by virtuoso violinist Stephane Grappelli. No wonder Gilmour shouts “Woo!” early on in the take; it’s that good.
Immersion: I arrive home close to midnight on September 15 to find a big box from EMI Music in my foyer. It contains Dark Side Immersion and the Discovery box. I clamber down into my home theater zone and instantly cue up Dark Side’s Disc 5, the Blu-ray with the 96-kHz/24-bit 2003 5.1 surround mix by James Guthrie and the 1973 4.0 Quad mix supervised by Alan Parsons and mastered by Peter Mew at Abbey Road Studios. First is the 5.1 mix, where the heartbeat opening “Speak to Me” pounds out of my subwoofer, and multiple glass frames on the walls in the room rattle. I breathe hard and heavy along with the man dashing through the rear channels in “On the Run.”
In the quad mix, the “Speak” heartbeat is more clinical, the initial whisper-to-a-scream almost sleepy, the “Run” runner not quite as winded. Still, I revisit it more than I do the original 1973 stereo mix.
The above sequence of auditory events has continued pretty much nightly ever since, plus most days in my NYC S+V office. Look, audio’s Holy Grail is worth as much attention as you can give it — and now it is indeed your turn to Immersify Thyself and Rock. It may be all your ears will ever need.
Mike Mettler has been Editor-In-Chief of Sound + Vision since January 2006, and has been on staff since (gulp) 1989. An unrepentant audiophile, he spends many a sleepless night trying to reconcile his undying love for vinyl records with his iPod and iPad obsessions. Someday, he hopes to own a turquoise 1967 Mustang fastback.
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