Blu-ray Discs to Showcase Your New Sound System 
Home Theater Feature Articles Audio Related Articles
Written by Dick Ward   
Wednesday, 28 July 2010

You've picked out some new speakers, a new receiver, an amp, or even an entirely new sound system.  It's a great feeling, and it's something that you want to share.  If your Blu-ray collection isn't up to snuff, you'll have a hard time doing it.  Comedies and indie flicks are fine to watch, but they're not going to give your system the workout it needs.

With that in mind, we've compiled a list of some of the absolute best Blu-ray discs, and the best scenes from each, to use while showing off your new system.  These are not only top quality as far as accurate sound reproduction goes, but they've got those dynamic moments that really make an impression.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers 'Revenge of the Fallen' was by no stretch of the imagination a great movie.  It'd even be tough to make the case that the sequel to 'Transformers' was a good movie.  As an audio demo though, it's one of the best.

You'll get 5.1 channels of DTS-HD Master Audio from 'Revenge of the Fallen' with a heavy emphasis on the .1.  It's a Michael Bay film, and if there's one thing Michael Bay films are good for, it's showing off your subwoofer.  On the downside, this film isn't great when it comes to dialog – it just gets lost in the shuffle.  

 The first minute or so is a nice sampler that really gives your sub a workout, but to get the full effect you'll want to cue this up to a fight scene.  I'd suggest the one about a half hour in where Megatron and Optimus Prime fight in the woods.  It's a good robot only scene that's full of those wonderful metallic noises and loud, deep booms.

The Dark Knight

Dark Knight At CES 2009 this was the one Blu-ray used to demo nearly every television and audio system at the show.  It's not just because 'The Dark Knight' was ridiculously popular either.  It's one of those films that really lives up to the hype.

Audio for 'The Dark Knight' is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround.  It's got those huge jumps between loud and quiet moments that really make an audio track pop, those lows that make your subwoofer rumble, and plenty of great ambient sounds to show off the sensitivity of your surrounds.  

Another bonus for 'The Dark Knight' is that it's probably the single easiest Blu-ray on the list to demo.  Turn it on and let it play.  The opening bank robbery scene doesn't have much in the way of fun Joker moments, but from an audio standpoint it can't be beat.

Black Hawk Down

blackhawk War movies are all too common, but the really good ones are few and far between.  Ridley Scott's 'Blackhawk Down' is up near the top, combining a excellently written adaptation of a real story, prime acting from Ewan McGregor, Josh Hartnett and Eric Bana, and some of the best sound you'll hear on Blu-ray.

If you had a chance to see 'Blackhawk Down' in the theater then you got a taste of what sound mixing is all about.  You don't get much better than this, though plenty of movies try.  It's hugely different from the over the top audio of 'Revenge of the Fallen' in that the goal is realism in both sound effects and mixing.

For a demo you'll want to go with the titular scene of the Blackhawk helicopter crashing.  It's a gripping scene without a great system, but with your speakers playing loud, that final moment of impact will feel like it's happening for real.

Elton 60 - Live at Madison Square Garden

Elton John Just because you're showing off an audio system doesn't mean things need to be exploding.  There's more to sound than just your subwoofer, like the crystal clear reproduction of a live musical experience.

Whether or not you're a fan of his music, Elton John's 60th birthday concert makes for one impressive Blu-ray disc.  It's got a 5.1 PCM presentation and an audio transparency that's second to none.  To add to that, you've got some choices between songs utilizing the full band and those with just Elton at the piano.

'Levon' might just be the perfect choice of songs to demo your new system.  It starts out with Elton playing alone until cellos start to kick in during the first chorus.  By the time the song ends, there's a full band playing and a choir singing along.  You'll hear all the sounds at once, but each instrument and each voice remains clear.


Avatar This list would be horribly incomplete without the dealer's current demo disc of choice.  'Avatar' was an unbelievably popular movie that surprised everyone by sticking around far after most movies would have left the theaters.  It's doing well on Blu-ray too, and with good reason.

'Avatar' is strong both from a visual and audio standpoint, which makes it a great film to go to.  It's also one that most people have seen, so they'll be able to pay attention to the audio instead of trying to figure out what's going on.


Cameron's blockbuster film has all those booms and crashes you'll get from action movies, but that's not what makes this movie such a great demo.  Bring up the scene where Jake Sully, in his Na'vi body, tames and flies a banshee for the first time and enjoy everything your surround speakers bring into the mix.

Blade Runner

Blade Runner 'Blade Runner' was, and still is, one of the finest movies ever put to film.  As a science fiction movie, only '2001: A Space Odyssey' and a short list of others can really compete.  Ridley Scott's masterpiece was far before its time, as evidenced by a lackluster reception and less than impressive box office draws.  In time, it became a home video hit, even if it never really got the right treatment on VHS and DVD.

It's hard to believe that a movie made 28 years ago can still hold up today.  It's even harder to believe that it's still at the top of the line in terms of audio, but it really is.  The Blu-ray version of 'Blade Runner' features a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that brings the film to life.

When you're demoing 'Blade Runner' you don't need to go any farther than the first five minutes.  The opening flyby of Los Angeles complete with ships passing to each side, explosions happening blow and music by Vangelis is about all you need to make your ears thank you.


Chicago There aren't many musicals that find success these days, but 'Chicago' came right out of nowhere and into the hearts and minds of moviegoers.  It won Oscars and brought in more money that anyone ever expected it to.  It makes sense then that it got such a great release on Blu-ray.

Chicago features a 5.1 channel uncompressed PCM audio track that really brings the music to the foreground.  It's one of few musicals to really get a great Blu-ray treatment, but it's definitely worthy of the honor.

For a demo, go with the track "Cell Block Tango."  It's got great big choruses, intimate voiceovers, pounding drums and little sounds like feet tapping on the floor that bring the entire number to life.  You could also go with "All That Jazz" for more of a pure musical performance.

Sin City

Sin City Try as hard as you want, you're not going to find a movie quite like 'Sin City.'  It's a comic book adaptation, yes, but it's like nothing you've ever seen and – unless the sequels get made – like nothing you'll see again.  It's also one of the best Blu-rays around from a technical standpoint.

'Sin City' sports a 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that does absolutely wonderful things to the overall effect of the movie.  It highlights the thud of a well placed fist to the gut and makes the most of each gunshot, but also brings the voiceovers out in a really fantastic way.

As fun as it is to watch Marv do his thing, you can get a great sampling of the film's audio capabilities right near the beginning.  The first segment with Hartigan is short and has just about everything you could ask for.  Just listen to the thuds as he lays into Roark Junior.  It's not for the faint of heart though, and it's definitely not a piece to demo with kids in the room.

Star Trek

Star Trek 2009's 'Star Trek' was an astonishingly good reworking of the classic series.  It's a great flick that managed to escape the normal limits of the genre and reach a brand new audience.  It's dramatic, it's fun, it's intense and it's even humorous.  

The mix on the Blu-ray of 'Star Trek' is one of the best in terms of effects and music competing against dialog.  Voices get lost in a lot of films, but in 'Star Trek' they're always there and always audible.  This film also has the benefit of a tremendous score by Michael Giacchino.

'Star Trek' is extremely convenient from a demo perspective.  There's a short opening segment to the film that ends in ship to ship combat, a boisterous version of the main theme and a few orchestra stabs as the title is revealed.  It's like a mini movie just made for showing off your theater.

Terminator Salvation

Terminator We started with giant robots and it's only appropriate that we end with giant robots.  Opinions may be mixed on the artistic merit of the most recent installment in the 'Terminator' series, but there's no questioning the technical achievements from an audio perspective.

'Terminator Salvation' takes a fantastic approach to sound, as did 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day.'  Within Danny Elfman's score you'll find harsh and metallic sounds that blend with an otherwise very melodic music.  The sound effects are just as impressive, if not moreso.

The one scene most commonly shown when demoing 'Terminator Salvation' is the escape from the gas station and there's no reason to change that.  It's a high energy chase that brings all the elements of the film together for a quick, digestible sequence.


What discs do you use for showing off your home theater sound system?  

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