|Toy Matinee - Toy Matinee|
|Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio|
|Written by Richard Elen|
|Friday, 28 December 2001|
Toy Matinee is unquestionably my favorite rock surround demo. I already reviewed this album in its DTS CD incarnation. It’s just incredible, with truly wonderful playing, much deeper lyrics than you’ll find on even the above-average rock album, and great performances all round, especially from the late Kevin Gilbert on guitar and vocals, and Patrick Leonard (Madonna’s erstwhile producer) on keyboards. They’re joined by Brian McLeod on drums without a beat out of place, Tim Pierce on other guitars and Guy Pratt with a tremendously solid, tight bass sound. And then there’s Julian Lennon on backing vocals on a couple of tracks.
Toy Matinee boasts brilliant recording by Bill Bottrell, exquisitely mixed to 5.1 by Eliot Scheiner, mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway, and who could ask for more? This album, first released in 1990, is – regrettably - one of a kind.
Listening to Toy Matinee again, it just gets better and better. When I was first introduced to this album during our local Topanga Days music extravaganza last year, I just played the first two tracks, "Last Plane Out" and "Turn It On Salvador" over and over. Then I discovered "Things She Said," with its unique chorus that just keeps on going, sounding nothing like what its time signature suggests it should (each line is two measures of 4/4): "Things she said/Every other daystore promise/Things she said would leave me wanting/Run to her then run to other/Things she said/Broke me down and left me shattered/Hard as diamonds…It does not matter/Won’t remember the things she said." (Thanks for including the lyrics in the DVD – this one was missing in the DTS CD version.)
Each time I listen to the album, I get into numbers further down the disc. Musically, the only song I have yet to fully appreciate musically (the lyrics are great) is "Queen of Misery," and I’m sure I’ll get there too sooner or later.
As a piece of music I don’t care which version or versions of this album you own, just make sure that you own one of them.
In DVD-Audio, the work is even more impressive, if that’s possible. I went back to the DTS CD, and thanks to the five-disc capability of the Kenwood DV-4070 DVD player, I was able to switch fairly quickly between the two, comparing DTS CD with DTS DVD-Video and MLP DVD-Audio. I even checked out the regular stereo CD, but as you might expect, although this is a stunning album that would sound incredible being replayed down stereo phone lines from the Great Exhibition in Paris in 1881, surround just blows the stereo away. You GET a surround system to watch movies. You LISTEN to it with albums like this. This album is not only a stunning test or demo of your 5.1 system, but it is also the reason that 5.1 exists.
For me, the comparison goes like this (remember that I was using the same player and its own converters and decoders throughout): The stereo CD is better than the Dolby Digital stereo version on the DVD. The DTS CD and the DTS DVD-V 5.1 streams appear identical. The DVD might have a slight edge, but then again, this may well be psychological. Finally, the MLP DVD-A tracks outclass all the others.
You can’t tell what the sample rate or number of bits is on either a DTS CD or a DTS 5.1 stream on a DVD unless this information is provided, so I would not like to say whether the DTS CD uses 44.1 sampling or 48 kHz. My guess would be that the DTS DVD 5.1 stream is at 48 kHz. What I DO know, because the player tells me, is that the MLP stream is at 44.1, 24-bit. All the other DVD-A discs I’ve looked at from DTS in this group of four have been mastered at 48 kHz, so here is something of a surprise. I doubt that there were two surround mixes, so someone, somewhere has done some sample-rate conversion, not an easy task when the sample rates are not multiples of each other – 44.1 and 48 of course are not.
There is certainly a challenge here for someone who wants to do multiple formats. Ideally, you’ll master a DVD-Audio disc in 5.1 at 88.2 or 96 kHz sampling. If there is a DVD-Video release (or a DVD-A/V hybrid like the DTS discs), then it will probably pay for you to use 96 kHz for the DVD-A, and resample to 48 kHz (divide by two – simply take every other sample and refilter) for the DVD-V. However, if you want a CD at 44.1, you have a nastier sample rate conversion: possibly best to do 96 to 44.1. What I would NOT normally expect, though, is a DVD-Audio stream at 44.1. Perhaps someone at DTS could fill in the gaps here. What mixes were done? What sample rate was used on the DTS CD and the DVD-V stream?
The difference between the DTS and MLP streams on the DVD is not an insignificant one in my opinion, on this album in particular. To my ears, on my system, the HF end is cleaner and clearer on the MLP, and the bass better defined. Everything sounds very "real," with depth and in the room. There even appears to be a bit of inter-speaker imaging! The DTS stream sounds a bit flat by comparison. The difference is so marked, especially on things like acoustic guitars in the surrounds, and the delicious, nearly tactile bass sound, that it almost sounds like a different mix. Hey, perhaps it is. Or perhaps it is the call of the DVD-Audio beckoning me inexorably into the future. I dunno. What I said before about this album is still true: GET IT!