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Looking for the best audio and video experience: top ten box sets of 2009

T2 Skull package box set of DVDs

As we ring in the New Year it is a tradition to look back over the last 12 months and talk about the things we liked the best. And as we enter a new decade, it is interesting to look at the speed of change over the years. One of the fastest changing areas is in audio and video technology. The last five years has seen the quality of compact discs (CD) and digital video discs (DVD) rapidly improving, and record labels as well as movie companies are finding a growing market for re-mastered movies and music. So with a nod of thanks to the companies who are bringing our old favourites back to life, here are my top (in no particular order) re-mastered and new audio and video releases for 2009 with a couple of oldies thrown in for fun.

Music:

Neil Young has certainly outdone himself with his release of Archives Vol. 1 (1963 – 1972). This amazing box set crosses over music and DVD releases as it is a series of video footage covering Young’s early career years. It has been released on Blu-ray and the audio is ultra-high-resolution 192-khz/24-bit PCM and the video is 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. The set includes a card to download the cuts to MP3. The package includes: 10 discs, an Archives poster, a hand-tooled, leather bound, 236 page Archives Book with a wealth of photos, lyrics, etc. which are also available on-screen. It’s a trip – 10 discs packed with hour upon hour of high definition audio and video pleasure.

One of the top rated by many music buffs is AC/DC’s Back Tracks, not solely for the music though, the Deluxe Collector’s Limited Edition comes complete with an actual working guitar amp! Contents (along with the amp) include: live and studio rarities on three CDs, two DVDs, and one vinyl record with a coffeetable book, lithos, reproductions of memorabilia and more.

For those more into the classical approach, the box set Yo-Yo Ma: 30 Years Outside the Box is the perfect collection of work – all 90 CDs. The set includes his entire catalog of original titles as well as first release works along with a hardbound book. Ma is a unique artist whose cello leads the melodic sounds of this collection.

Tom Petty said that the material for his Live Anthology was collected from three decades of live concerts with over 3,500 performances of 400 unique songs. The deluxe edition contains four discs in the standard edition, and include a fifth disc of live material, two previously unreleased DVDs, a vinyl re-mastering of the 1976 album Official Live 'Leg, and a Blu-ray disc featuring all 62 songs in the box set in 96K 24-bit audio. The packaging for this edition includes a concert poster, backstage pass reproductions, a deluxe booklet, a lithograph and reportedly more bonus materials.

And who would argue that the music sets of the year are the long-awaited Beatles collection re-mastered? The Beatles in Mono, the Beatles (in stereo), and The Beatles Box of Vision were released this year. Mono features every re-mastered album while the stereo version also includes a DVD of their mini-documentaries. The Box of Vision wasn’t part of the original release and features a 200-page book of all British and American album art along with sleeves for the CDs to store your precious music.

Movies:

Re-mastering the masters, director Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest was re-released this year in Blu-ray. While this classic is a masterpiece by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, the real attraction to the remake is the level of detail available from the 1080p quality DVD. Extras including an interview with the screenwriter the late Ernest Lehman, a documentary about Cary Grant’s life, and a making-of commentary are a part of this new release. It is definitely a must watch for film buffs!

The release of current television series’ in DVD format is gaining in popularity. This year’s release of Lost Season 5 is one of the most popular in sales. The Limited Edition DHARMA Orientation Kit gives you everything a new recruit would receive when arriving on the island to be part of the DHARMA initiative. Along with the five disc set you receive brochures, patches, and even an orientation video on VHS tape - good luck playing it!

For the kid in all of us, the new digital restoration of the original Wizard of Oz, is one for the collection. Along with the re-mastered feature with dolby audio and commentaries on the reproduction and original filming, the collection in the limited collectors edition includes: 70th anniversary watch with real crystals, a replica of the film’s original budget, 52-page hard cover book about the production, and a reproduction of the 1939 campaign book.

Who can resist the draw of a science fiction? If you’re looking for a unique collection look no further than the Limited Edition Skull PackageT2 Complete Collector’s Set. Set inside a T2 endoskull that plays sound effects from the Terminator 2: Judgment Day while its eyes light up, the six disc set holds every edition of the movies. Don’t worry, John Connor doesn’t die….

And lastly, just for a bit of fun, one of my favourite all-time movies – Airplane (Don’t Call Me Shirley) Edition. Although not released this year, this special edition keeps you rolling in the aisles in the true slapstick tradition of comedy. This amusing spoof of disaster films was re-released a couple of years ago with upgrades to sound and picture quality. But the real attraction is the Long Haul version that adds commentary to the movie viewing, and the free Otto (pilot) blow-up doll that you can send away for if you want. And who doesn’t remember the auto-pilot scene?

Happy sensory enjoyment in 2010!