Overall | The Street Fighter's Last Revenge (Gyakushū! Satsujin Ken) (1974) | The Bullet Train (Shinkansen Daibakuha) (1975) | Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment (Golgo 13: Kūron No Kubi) (1977)

The Sonny Chiba Collection-Volume 1 (1974)

The Sonny Chiba Collection-Volume 1 (1974)

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Released 7-Apr-2006

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Overall Package

    Sonny Chiba's origins became somewhat clouded when promoted as a new action star in the US in the 1970s. He was not, however, the son of an American GI, nor was he a street gang member. He was born Sadao Maeda in 1939 and seems to have had a middle class background. When entering the movies he changed his family name to Chiba, which was the prefecture in which he was raised, and took the given name Shinichi. Sometime in the late 1960s his involvement in a series of TV commercials for the Toyota Sunny led to him being given his nickname, by which he is generally known in the West.

    Like many of the Japanese action stars who came to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s he served a long apprenticeship before stardom (in a TV series) found him. Unlike many of those stars however, Chiba was trained in martial arts, after an initial career in gymnastics was cut short by injury. Proficient in karate, Chiba decided that he needed his co-stars to be similarly competent in order to make the action sequences in his films more realistic. So he formed the Japan Action Club, a martial arts school. Unfortunately he lost control of the school and a large part of his personal fortune in the late 1980s when a film he had personally financed was a financial failure.

    Chiba continues to act in movies to this day, and he is in the cast of the upcoming The Fast and the Furious sequel. Nowadays viewers are more likely to know of him through his role as the swordmaker in Kill Bill Vol. 1. In releasing this box set of some of his 1970s movies, Eastern Eye gives Region 4 viewers a chance to see him at his peak.

    Chiba's screen personality is that of a very intense and often violent character. While this intensity can be very effective in the right role, it can also lead to him being way over the top in comparison to other actors in the same film, particularly if the role he is playing is not suited to his style. It can also make him seem inflexible. The three films in this low-priced collection give a good idea of his acting range, from the unemotional villain Golgo to the earnest Bullet Train driver. Each of the films in this set is well mastered in PAL format in the original language and aspect ratio, and each comes from sources in good condition. The set is well worth the modest outlay. It appears to come from an arrangement Eastern Eye have with Optimum Releasing in the UK, and a second box set is scheduled for a July release in Region 4. There would be more forthcoming if Eastern Eye release all of the Chiba films that Optimum have brought out on DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | The Street Fighter's Last Revenge (Gyakushū! Satsujin Ken) (1974) | The Bullet Train (Shinkansen Daibakuha) (1975) | Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment (Golgo 13: Kūron No Kubi) (1977)

The Street Fighter's Last Revenge (Gyakushū! Satsujin Ken) (1974)

The Street Fighter's Last Revenge (Gyakushū! Satsujin Ken) (1974)

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Released 7-Apr-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Gallery-Poster
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Inner Senses, Zatoichi At Large, Godzilla-Final Wars
Biographies-Cast-Sonny Chiba
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 80:07
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Teruo Ishii
Studio
Distributor
Toei Company
Madman Entertainment
Starring Sonny Chiba
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Box Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The wealthy Owada hires Takuma Tsurugi (Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba) to rescue his brother and a black mah jong case from a siege in which the younger Owada is a hostage. Disguising himself as a policeman Tsurugi rescues the man but is soon double-crossed by the Owadas who take the case and the money that Tsurugi was to be paid. It turns out that the mah jong case conceals a tape that Owada is using to blackmail an even wealthier businessman for $1 billion yen. The tape records a conversation about how the businessman bribed public servants and politicians up to and including the Prime Minister.

    Tsurugi retaliates by stealing the tape, but he then comes up against a mysterious and powerful karate expert who also wants the tape.

    This is a silly finale to the Street Fighter series, which made Chiba internationally known in the mid-1970s. It has a weak and perfunctory plot which is dressed up with a few oddities. Not least of these oddities is Blackie, the Chicago hitman hired by the Owadas who has an Australian or Kiwi accent and whose weapon of choice is a laser beam. He also chooses to dress like The Cisco Kid, for reasons which remain mysterious.

    In real life Chiba is a karate and judo expert and he gets several opportunities to display his skills. He also does a reasonable Bruce Lee impersonation (or rip-off if you prefer). His acting skills are perhaps not quite up there with Lee but he is a personable hero. Director Teruo Ishii is known for his often bizarre films about torture and violence, and he does not make a very good fist of the action sequences in this often very violent thriller. Some of the karate sequences are surprisingly perfunctory.

    The original English dub of the film which has been available on VHS and DVD has the plot revolving around a recipe for cheap heroin which is on the tape. The movie makes more sense in the original version, and it is a credit to Eastern Eye for releasing this movie in such good condition in Australia, as part of a very cheap box set of Chiba films.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a very good video transfer. Apart from some occasional aliasing, for example at 12:48, there is little wrong with the transfer. It is a progressive PAL transfer, not an NTSC to PAL conversion, and so does not display the problems of some of Eastern Eye's earlier releases. The transfer is clean and reasonably sharp. Colour is on par with films of the era. Shadow detail is not the best, with dark suits and dark hair lacking in detail.

    There is some telecine wobble and the occasional fleck or faint scratch, but otherwise the source material looks to have been in immaculate condition.

    The optional English subtitles are in the ubiquitous yellow, and apart from one or two spelling errors are very good, well-timed and easy to read. They are positioned above the bottom of the frame, so anyone with a projector masking their screen to 2.35:1 will not miss anything.

    The disc is single-layered.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The original mono soundtrack is provided here in a Dolby Digital 2.0 format.

    Dialogue is clear and the effects and music are presented without congestion or that hollow, lifeless sound that mono soundtracks occasionally get. However there is considerable sibilance in the dialogue, which I sometimes found distracting.

    The music score is heavily influenced by blaxploitation movies of the 1970s, being quite funky and using those edgy guitar riffs, man.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

    A short series introduction with graphics and footage.

Menu Animation & Audio

    The main theme of the movie can be heard with some brief Chiba action.

Gallery-Poster

    3 posters and 9 stills.

Theatrical Trailer (2:56)

    A 16x9 enhanced original trailer with white subtitles that are different to those in the feature. It contains plenty of spoilers, so watch this afterwards.

Trailer-Inner Senses, Zatoichi At Large, Godzilla-Final Wars (5:41)

    Trailers for other Eastern Eye releases.

Biographies-Cast-Sonny Chiba

    3 pages of text about the star's career.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This appears to be a port of Optimum's UK Region 2 release. The Region 1 is not 16x9 enhanced and contains an English dub only.

Summary

    The third and least of the Street Fighter series, with as good a transfer and set of extras as could be expected. At the low price for the box set in which it appears it is a bargain, though whether it is worth watching more than once is a consideration.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, May 26, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES for surrounds, Elektra Reference power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | The Street Fighter's Last Revenge (Gyakushū! Satsujin Ken) (1974) | The Bullet Train (Shinkansen Daibakuha) (1975) | Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment (Golgo 13: Kūron No Kubi) (1977)

The Bullet Train (Shinkansen Daibakuha) (1975)

The Bullet Train (Shinkansen Daibakuha) (1975)

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Released 7-Apr-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Gallery-Poster
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Volcano High, Zatoichi 26, Kwaidan
Biographies-Cast-Sonny Chiba
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 152:13
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (76:47) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Junya Sato
Studio
Distributor
Toei Company
Madman Entertainment
Starring Ryunosuke Ono
Junya Sato
Sonny Chiba
Eiji Go
Kinya Kitaoji
Etsuko Shihomi
Takashi Shimura
Ken Takakura
Tetsuro Tamba
Kunie Tanaka
Ken Utsui
Fumio Watanabe
Kei Yamamoto
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Box Music Hachiro Aoyama


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Multinational electronics corporation logo
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    A group of extortionists have placed a bomb on board the Bullet Train that travels at 200km/h from Tokyo to Hakata carrying 1,500 passengers. The bomb is activated when the train reaches 80km/h and will be detonated if the speed drops below that. Does this sound familiar to you? Even with the train slowed down to 120km/h, the police and National Railways have only about 8 hours to pay the ransom or catch the criminals.

    This long thriller was the "inspiration" for the main plot device of Jan de Bont's 1994 action thriller Speed, as you might have gathered from the description of the plot. What the earlier film lacks is Keanu Reeves - is this a bad thing? - a crazed villain and over-the-top action sequences as well as the romantic subplot. While more intelligently plotted than Speed, with a storyline and situations that are realistic and believable apart from one Deus ex machina plot device near the end, it still manages to drag multiple clichés into the plot. There's a pregnant woman on the train, a passenger who loses control because of a missed business commitment, a captured member of the gang is being transported on the train, the gang leader has a broken marriage and so on. Even so the movie is engrossing from the start and despite the length never really loses that momentum.

    Inclusion of this title in Eastern Eye's first Sonny Chiba Collection would suggest that he has a prominent part to play in proceedings. Despite being billed second and playing the train's driver, Chiba is practically not in the film after the first thirty minutes. The star is Ken Takakura, who effectively plays the failed businessman turned extortionist. His world-weary expression is perfect for the role, though his motivations for engaging in this criminal activity are never clearly explained. The cast includes plenty of familiar faces in small roles, including Tetsuro Tamba as a police inspector and Takashi Shimura as the head of National Railways. Familiar bit part players also appear, like Kunie Tanaka as a former boss of one of the gang and Saburo Date at the head of the line of people trying to use the phone on the train.

    Overall this is a good and mostly realistic potential disaster movie, sort of like an Airport without the wings, and is the pick of the three films in the Sonny Chiba Collection Volume 1.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in a PAL transfer in an aspect ratio of 2.30:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a good transfer though perhaps not quite as good as that given to the other two movies in this set. The transfer is a little soft but still has sufficient detail for this not to be a distraction. Colour is slightly muted. Black levels could have been better, with shadow detail not very good either.

    Film to video artefacts are limited to some occasional edge enhancement and some less frequent low level noise. There are very few film artefacts, with some minor flecking and infrequent frame jumps.

    The disc has the usual yellow subtitles that Eastern Eye favour. Apart from one spelling mistake they are well done. They appear on screen long enough to be read comfortably and all of the dialogue is translated.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change well placed at 76:47.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole soundtrack is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, which reflects the original mono configuration.

    I did not notice any serious problems with the audio. There was enough clarity to make the dialogue easy to hear as well as to make the various effects (train noises, explosions and so on) sound adequate, or at least not sound inadequate.

    The score by Hachiro Aoyama is a pretty good one, emphasising the tenseness of the film without drawing excessive attention to itself. The one jarring moment, occurring late in the movie, was when a lengthy excerpt from the Prelude to Act I of Die Meistersinger was used for a critical emotional moment. This seemed quite out of place.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

    A brief introduction with graphics and some Chiba footage, the same as on the other discs in this series.

Menu Animation & Audio

    The music used here is from The Street Fighter's Last Revenge, which is quite catchy and was possibly the theme for that series.

Gallery-Poster

    A collection of posters for films featuring Sonny Chiba.

Theatrical Trailer (1:30)

    A slightly histrionic original Japanese trailer.

Trailer-Volcano High, Zatoichi 26, Kwaidan (8:26)

    Trailers for other Eastern Eye releases.

Biographies-Cast-Sonny Chiba

    The same 3 page biography of the star that appears on each disc in this set.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region 1 release can be ignored. While it is in the original aspect ratio, it is not 16x9 enhanced and the transfer was made from a well-worn print. If that does not deter you, then the only soundtrack option is an English dub. And if that still doesn't deter you, be warned that the Region 1 version is the cut 115 minute version.

    The UK Region 2 from Optimum seems to be the source for the Region 4, and appears to have the same extras.

Summary

    The second film in the Sonny Chiba Collection Volume 1 is the best in the set, though Chiba's role is little more than a glorified cameo.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio quality is good.

    A small selection of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, June 05, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES for surrounds, Elektra Reference power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | The Street Fighter's Last Revenge (Gyakushū! Satsujin Ken) (1974) | The Bullet Train (Shinkansen Daibakuha) (1975) | Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment (Golgo 13: Kūron No Kubi) (1977)

Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment (Golgo 13: Kūron No Kubi) (1977)

Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment (Golgo 13: Kūron No Kubi) (1977)

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Released 7-Apr-2006

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Gallery-Poster
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Infernal Affairs, Breaking News, Godzilla vs Mothra
Biographies-Cast-Sonny Chiba
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 88:47
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Yukio Noda
Studio
Distributor
Toei Company
Madman Entertainment
Starring Sonny Chiba
Callan Leung
Etsuko Shihomi
Emi Shindo
Elaine Sung
Danna
Nick Lam Wai Kei
Jerry Ito
Chi-Chung Lee
Yiu Lam Chan
Shu Tong Wong
Joana Tors
Fiona Humphrey
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Box Music Harumi Ibe


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.45:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Regarded as one of the more influential manga series, Golgo 13 or The Professional hit Japanese shelves in the 1960s. Takao Saito created the central character of an emotionless and highly professional hit man, an expert marksman fluent in 13 languages often hired by the world's intelligence agencies to carry out their dirty work. After an initial 1973 film version starring Ken Takakura the character was resurrected for a second feature in 1977, this time starring Sonny Chiba.

    The story has Chiba contracted by heroin smugglers to deal with a rogue member of their own organisation, Chou, who has decided to take over the Hong Kong distribution for himself. However his target is killed by someone else, and while dodging the police led by Sminny (Callan Leung) Golgo gets involved in a confrontation with a Poranian diplomat (Jerry Ito).

    It is somewhat apt that much of this film is set in Hong Kong, as it often feels like one of those empty action thrillers that were churned out in that country during the latter years of colonial rule. While there is plenty of action and the film is never boring, it does not really amount to much except a bit of escapist entertainment quickly forgotten once seen. There is a lot of violence, though not much in the way of gory detail, and it moves at a fast pace. The slightly wooden Chiba is a good choice for the emotionless assassin, and the rest of the cast range from fair to adequate.

    What is good about the film is the location shooting, with not too many obvious sets being used. And if you enjoy laughing at bad films, you will like this one as there are several times when the plot, dialogue or acting just go that extra yard.

    This is the third film in the Sonny Chiba Collection Volume 1, and probably the least of the three. However I am looking forward to Volume 2, which is scheduled for release in July and contains The Killing Machine and the two films in the Yakuza Deka series.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.45:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    I guess you could ask for a better transfer of this movie, but that would be looking a gift horse etcetera. The quality is pretty good considering the age of the film and the price being asked for it, as well as the lack of mainstream appeal for the contents. It is reasonably clean and sharp with a small amount of grain. Colour is good though it does tend to have overly brown flesh tones. Black levels are solid but shadow detail is again lacking, especially in revealing the detail in the black hair that most of the actors have.

    There are no serious film to video artefacts. Some minor aliasing is present at times and there is a little telecine wobble. Film artefacts take the form of small specks of dirt and minor flecking. There are occasional little frame jumps which I suspect are at splices. There is some grainy stock footage.

    The standard Eastern Eye yellow subtitles are included. These are in clear English and are displayed long enough to be easily read. There appeared to be no spelling or grammatical issues.

    The disc is single-layered, so there is no layer change to contend with.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The original Japanese soundtrack is provided in a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono configuration.

    This is not a bad presentation of the audio. While it is not of reference standard, the audio is clean and very clear, with the only flaws being present in the source. These include some effects on which the acoustic sounds unrealistic when compared with the rest of the soundtrack. Distortion is kept to a minimum with little of the sibilance of the first film in this set. Dialogue is clear. Some of the actors are obviously dubbed into Japanese, but this is generally not distracting.

    There is a quite funky-sounding soundtrack in keeping with the film's 1970s origins, complete with bongo drums. There are some "Poranian folk songs" in there as well.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

    The same animated introduction as on the other two discs in this set.

Menu Animation & Audio

    Some footage from the film but the music comes from The Street Fighter's Last Revenge.

Gallery-Poster

    The same set of posters as on the other discs in this set for various films starring Chiba.

Theatrical Trailer (3:05)

    Most of the action sequences appear in this trailer, which has white subtitles.

Trailer-Infernal Affairs, Breaking News, Godzilla vs Mothra (6:14)

    Trailers for other Eastern Eye releases.

Biographies-Cast-Sonny Chiba

    The same three-page biography that all the releases in this set have.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The information available on the Region 1 release is a little contradictory. There are apparently two prints of the film on the disc. One has the English language dubbed soundtrack and the other a Chinese dubbed version with burned in English and Japanese subtitles, according to one review. I wonder whether these are really Chinese subtitles, which would be standard for a Hong Kong release of the period. Another source suggests that the soundtrack is Japanese, not Chinese. In any case the source material was not in good condition and although the original aspect ratio is provided it is not 16x9 enhanced. There is also considerable hiss on the audio.

    The Region 2 version from Optimum Releasing appears to be the source for the Region 4, with much the same extras plus some additional trailers for their other Chiba releases.

Summary

    A fairly undemanding and violent action thriller which Chiba fans will lap up.

    The video and audio are both very good.

    Some repetition of the extras from other releases lessens their worth.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, June 12, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES for surrounds, Elektra Reference power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

Other Reviews NONE
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