Poll: The ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Blu-ray Soundtrack Controversy

Marvel’s summer superhero epic ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ just hit video on Friday (or two weeks earlier for those in Europe), and it’s already turning out to be one of the most controversial Blu-ray releases of the year. Not for the movie itself (though I think many viewers will agree that it’s a big disappointment), but for the audio quality of its soundtrack. Have you listened to the disc yet?

When our Blu-ray reviewer raved about the disc’s audio quality in his review, that generated a big debate in our site forum. Other viewers who’d watched it complained that the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack has very poor bass and little to no dynamic range. With this feedback in mind, he went back to rewatch portions of the disc, but still stands by his opinion. I’ve seen similar conversations happening on other home theater sites.

I watched the disc myself, and sadly I have to side with those who think it sounds poor. In fact, I’d go further and say that it sounded truly awful in my room. I can’t recall another big-budget movie of this caliber that has sounded so bad. The opening action scene is pretty representative of the rest of the movie. Although a few selected sound effects hit with big bass, the majority of other explosions and crashes and laser blasts and so forth are extremely weak. The musical score has no depth at all. In general, the soundtrack is very flat and dull and, in my opinion, sounds terrible.

Having said that, I will admit that I’ve been feeling lately that I need to upgrade at least one of the subwoofers in my home theater. However, I watched ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ immediately before this movie, and that one rocked my house at a much lower volume setting. In comparison, ‘Ultron’ is wimpy and bland. Even cranking up my master volume higher than my usual defaults did nothing to improve it.

In support of the review, this is not the only published article that has praised this disc. The very knowledgeable and respected Blu-ray critic over at AVSForum gave the disc’s audio a solid 86 out of 100. While he expressed some disappointment with the track’s dynamics, he didn’t feel that was a deal-breaker so long as you play the movie at a louder than normal volume.

A staff member at data-bass.com, a site devoted to an obsession with deep bass, measured the frequency response of this soundtrack and rated it 5 stars for dynamics. Extension only rated 3 stars, but still seems pretty respectable at 18 Hz. These results leave me perplexed, because they simply do not represent what I experienced when I watched the disc.

Since this controversy erupted, I’ve been conversing with two of my friends who are Blu-ray reviewers for other sites. Both of them are equipped with primo sound gear. One sides with me that the disc sounds awful. The other found it a little underwhelming but didn’t think it was terrible.

I find the wide range of opinions about this disc to be interesting. As someone who’s written a fair number of Blu-ray reviews, judging sound quality is perhaps the most subjective part of the process. Not only will each person have different ideas of what constitutes “good” or “bad” audio, but the experience of what you hear can be strongly affected by your speakers and sound equipment as well as the acoustics of the room in which you’re watching.

If you’re had a chance to watch the ‘Age of Ultron’ Blu-ray, what was your experience with it?

What Do You Think of the 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' Blu-ray Sountrack Quality?

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49 comments

  1. NJScorpio

    I blind bought this because it was a 3D Blu-Ray, and I’ve seen the other Marvel movies…I sold my copy last night on Amazon and shipped it out this morning. What a bland movie.

    Is it just me, or did anyone else just zone out during most of the fight scenes?

    As for the sound…typically I watch with a very loud 5.1 setup, but as it was late at night, I opted for headphones.

    I typically use for movies my Sony MDR-XD300 headphones. I’m no audio expert, but I find these to be have okay bass, but overall the sound isn’t very bight…it feels a little dull…but they are very comfortable. I’d say, average sound, above average comfort for $50 headphones. So they are my go-to for movie watching, with their extra long cord. The dullness of the sound isn’t ever an issue for movies, but the soundtrack sounded terrible. During the scene were Bruce and Tony are working on decoding the AI or whatever….with these headphones, I got one good bass effect from the soundtrack to that whole scene. It just didn’t sound right. So I had to swap out to my Skullcandy Hesh 2.0 headphones. These, instead of over the hear, are on the ear, and are colored to be bass heavy. Not the most comfortable to wear in combination with 3D glasses AND regular glasses (but comfortable enough on their own). These made the same scene’s background music have solid bass throughout.

    TL;DR – The soundtrack sounded terribly dull with my slightly-below average (but relatively neutral) headphones…and only sounded enjoyable with headphones skewed to trendy bass heavy music.

    • Deaditelord

      NJ what’s your experience been like with using headphones for home theater? I’m having to relocate for work and will unfortunately have to live in an apartment which means no more sub, no more loud movies. 🙁

      • NJScorpio

        I’d say, comfort is extremely important. Over the ear are, for me at least, the most comfortable. Not on the ear. I would suggest open or semi-open back headphones. While this would mean those near you could hear them, it also means you could hear some outside sounds. If you are just watching a movie at night, this shouldn’t be a problem, and would in fact be good if someone knocks on your door or the smoke alarm goes off. Mainly having an open back means there is some air circulating, so your ears won’t get sweaty. The Sony MDR-XD300 I mentioned before has a suspension bridge kind of headband. It looks weird when wearing it, like something out of Saw, but it makes them very comfortable with well distributed weight. I’d say, also look for headphones with nice, long wires. Headphones designed for home listening, like the Sony, tend to either have long cables or come packaged with extensions. So keep an eye on the purpose for the headphones..if they seem to be meant for bass-heads to use with iPods, or for DJing, they may not be the right fit or your need…and they may have the sound colored to be bass heavy. Keep in mind, they can look terrible, nobody is seeing you walk around with them. Find a deal on a purple pair of a great model? Grab that!

        As for the sound quality…that’s tough, because much of it is about how much you are willing to spend. I’d look for headphones that is described to have a neutral sound. Depending on what you are pulling the headphones into, a headphone amp might be worth picking up. This is an item I’m only a bit familiar with, so I’d defer to someone else on that topic.

        FYI, I’m currently waiting on a pair of Superlux HD668B Semi-opens. I’ve seen them rated in the same league as $200 headphones, for less than $50. The build quality may not be great, and I read that it might be too tight for my big head, but I want to see if I hear any real difference between these and my Sonys. If so, then in the near future, I may upgrade to some “audiophile” headphones ($200 – $299).

          • Deaditelord

            Thanks for the info NJ and Panic! The only headphones I’ve ever used were ones that came with a Sony Walkman back in the 80’s so this is all pretty much new territory. Since the headphones will be my primary listening method for listening to music or watching movies, I definitely don’t mind paying a little extra for something that sounds great and is comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. It’s funny that you mention the Sennheiser Panic because last night I was looking at the HD 600 as a possible option, but I’ll definitely try out HD 280 given the price. I’m assuming since I already have an AV receiver (a Marantz SR6005 which happens to have Dolby Headphone) I won’t need something else to drive them properly?

          • Panic66

            Deadlitelord, you will not need anything to power these. They even sound good just plugged into a cell phone with the 3.5mm jack. Like you, I had not purchased or used headphones since the late 70’s or early 80’s (crappy Walkman headphones). These headphones will blow you away with both music and movies. I have listened to a few soundboard recordings from live shows that I could not believe what I was hearing.

      • NJScorpio

        I came across this online headphone test, with files you can down load. Pretty interesting.

        http://www.audiocheck.net/soundtests_headphones.php

        I discovered a bit about the headphones I had out, and I’ll be digging up any I can find to run them through the gamut.

        Also, I’m glad I ordered the new headphones…because I noticed the cushions on my Sonys starting to leave bits of black on head.

          • Deaditelord

            Nice find! I’ll definitely use some of those patterns to test the headphones. I see the Sennheiser HD-600 is mentioned along with the HD668B too. I want to do a little more research, but right now I’m leaning towards using Amazon’s generous returns policy so that I can audition the HD668B and both Sennheisers and then return whichever two I decide not to keep.

      • William Henley

        I’m living in an apartment now and still use my surround and my sub. I can’t turn it up as loud as I did in the house, but I still set it at a pretty enjoyable level. Outside of my apartment and in my neighbor’s places, they can’t hear it at all. This is probably because my living room faces an outside wall, and there is good padding between me and the floor below me – and I have old people living below me. They say they can’t hear it and always thank me for being so quiet.

        • Deaditelord

          That would be nice William. I always figured I’d be able to use my surrounds at normal TV watching levels, but I had kind of given up on using the sub since every apartment I’ve ever lived in when I was a kid had really thin walls where you could hear people running around upstairs. Even if I am still able use my sub, I know there will be times when I’ll want to crank up the sound so I’m going to need a decent pair of headphones until I can find/afford a decent rental home. (It’s amazing how much more expensive rental homes are in the area I’m moving to.)

      • NJScorpio

        While Amazon does have a fantastic return policy, from what I’ve read in reviews many of these better-than-average headphones need some break-in time before they sound their best (like 40 hours or so), so first impression may not be the most accurate.

  2. Shannon Nutt

    I’m a 5.1 guy living in at Atmos world, so the sound isn’t that big of an issue to me – if anything, most of these “big” releases mix the action/ambient noise WAY louder than the spoken word, and it drives me crazy. I haven’t watched my AVENGERS disc yet, but I’m guessing it will bother me less than most.

  3. R Filfili

    I thought it was completely underwhelming except for the dialog reproduction, which I thought was above average. Typically, these types of movies have a few memorable audio parts. I don’t remember any standout moments on this, nor do I remember the score. The only time I remember feeling bass was when the city began rising.

    I’d love to hear Marvel/Disney comment on it.

  4. Hey Josh, you strongly disliked (‘hated’ may be a strong word) ‘Captain America – The First Avenger’. You are a ‘you only get one chance’ type of guy. So when and why did you decide to give the sequel a chance?

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I had heard that the sequel was a big improvement, and (at least at this point in time) am still enough of a sucker to be a completist for this franchise. I did a mini-marathon late last week of all the Marvel movies I hadn’t previously caught up with.

      Winter Soldier is easily the high water mark for this franchise. Nothing even comes close.

      I can’t decide whether Age of Ultron or Thor: The Dark World is the worst. Those two are running neck-and-neck for that position, with the first Captain America not far behind.

        • Josh Zyber
          Author

          I know that fans tend to gripe about Iron Man 3, but I enjoyed it. Yeah, it has a lot of really huge plot holes (if Tony could remote control all those Iron Man suits all along, why didn’t he just do that a lot sooner?), but I thought the banter was fun and the action scenes were well done. I don’t have any attachment to The Mandarin as a comic book character to care about what was done to him in the movie.

          It’s not my favorite Marvel movie, but it’s a step up from Iron Man 2.

          • Guy

            The House Party Protocol as Tony called the suit storm at the end couldn’t be enacted until the wreckage of the blown up mansion was cleared off the door to his suit vault. He talks to JARVIS about it just after the Air Force One rescue.

      • Shannon Nutt

        Captain America II is my favorite Marvel movie that ISN’T called “Guardians of the Galaxy”. In other words, it’s my favorite Avengers movies, including the two Avengers movies.

  5. Csm101

    I personally think it lacks a bit of the precision whiz bang surround activity. The bass is pretty decent throughout the movie. The Veronica scene has two good examples. What I’m going to try next is maybe listening to some of the heavy action scenes without my subwoofer just to make sure it isn’t drowning out some of the discrete effects. I did have to crank it about five decibels higher than my usual listening mode, but I own several movies like that. Had this topic not been brought up, I’m not sure if I’d of given it too much thought. I guess it’s a little bit like the movie itself. A bit underwhelming for being such a high profile release, but not a total catastrophe.

  6. agentalbert

    I wonder if the same thing that has happened to music mastering since the early to mid 90’s (the “loudness war”) is happening in the mastering of soundtracks for movies, or are we already way past that?

  7. Guy

    I’m a simple soundbar man when it comes to setup. It’s all that’s feasible in my viewing situation. I come around Blu-ray review sites primarily concerned with picture quality and bonus features, so I can’t get all technical with sound. While it’s not my usual Blu-ray focus, I began seeing this sound discussion in forums after the Euro release and it caught my interest.

    I distinctly remember sitting in the theater wondering if something was wrong at my local cinema during Age of Ultron. As soon as the trailers gave way to the film, the sound went weak and the film’s opening base assault didn’t have the oomph I expected. When I got my copy and watched the disc on Friday, the mix matched what I remember from my theatrical viewing. Kind of quiet, clear dialogue, most of the obvious sounds I expected, but not a lot of range or body to the soundscape. The two experiences matched in their passable mediocrity for me. That’s judging on the curve of my more meager setup.

    The dialogue was easily heard and I appreciated that, though. That’s not always the case with these blockbuster movies anymore.

  8. Wibbler

    I didn’t have a problem with it, certainly the [spoiler alert] scene with Hulkbuster smashing Hulk through the building and the building collapse shook my house and left me with a very big grin on my face…

    I’m not sure if I cranked it up more than normal, I don’t recall thinking “oh no, this is too quiet” or “this lacks something”.

  9. Andreas

    I think this was the most flat and dull sound I have heard in a long time from a big Hollywood blockbuster in a long time or even ever. They need to put their Things together and release a New disk With better sound an preferbly With Dolby Atmos.

  10. Csm101

    So I watched some of the battle highlights again and payed close attention. One time with no sub, the other with sub. The low end is very good and didnt drown out anything. My biggest gripe with the audio is that it seems not to have more surround activity. It’s a good soundtrack but not an amazing one. Maybe that makes it even more dissapointing as people were expecting a new demo disc and this falls short of that.

  11. Al

    I read a comment in the forum on the main site that hit the nail on the head. The better your equipment is, the worse this mix will sound. If you don’t have equipment that allows you to truly experience just how fantastic and utterly astonishing certain blu-ray soundtracks can be, you’ll never notice how dull this mix is. If your equipment is high-end enough to fully reproduce the experience that certain discs offer, this mix will sound genuinely lackluster and terrible. If your equipment is pretty standard, this mix won’t sound all that much different from many others.

  12. Jon

    If this soundtrack is truly as dull as people say, it may be another nail in the coffin of Chris Boyes. He used to be a bang up sound mixer who used and abused the LFE (Tron:Legacy, LOTR, Titan A.E.) but it seems like he’s really hit the skids in the last few years. First was the disappointing Avatar, then the Hobbit Trilogy, now this.

    • TJ Kats

      Its actually not the LFE that is dull. While it may not be a be all end all track as far as that is concerned it hits well when it needs to. The rest of the track is the problem. I haven’t watched in my theater yet but watched it in my living room last night and had to turn it up far louder than I would normally turn anything else up to and still felt that it under delivered. I am going to give at least a few scenes a run through today in my theater and see how that comes out but I don’t think it will make a huge difference.

      • Leon

        The LFE is not dull, but it is simply missing at points where it shouldn’t, next to the low dynamics of the soundtrack. Take for example the car crashing at about 2:47 after Captain America throws his bike at it. When the bike hits the car you feel the impact through the LFE, but when the car after that hits the ground it only goes ‘poof’, there is just no impact while you’re expecting a big crash. LFE missing in a lot of situations like this killed the whole atmosphere of the movie for me…

  13. Ted S

    I saw this Age of Ultron twice in a theater, once at the Dolby Atmos theater and the other at an IMAX. I thought it sounded spectacular, especially in Atmos, there were lots of active sound coming from the height and surround channels.

    I just bought the Bluray and sadly I’m also very disappointed with the sound on this disc, it didn’t sound bad just not as great as it should be considering it’s a brand new big budget movie.

  14. Aquatic

    I first watched this in the cinema and I had major problems with the sound overall.
    I thought the problem was with the cinema until I got the blu ray 3 d and watched it at home.
    One of the worst sound experiences I have had with a big budget movie.
    Dialogue very low and bland.
    I have NEVER seen any movie with the music score as far back in the mix as with this one – you have to listen hard just to hear what is happening musically with the score even at big moments!
    Unbelievably bad!
    Like I said, I had thought the problem was the cinema I watched it in – I thought there was something wrong with their sound – until I got the blu ray and realise the problem is with the source material!

    What a terrible mix.
    And as for the supposedly good sound reviews? A classic case of the emperor with no clothes!

  15. Paul Hurt

    I’m only just now getting around to watching the movie again on Blu Ray. I agree, it’s messed up. I’m not normally a fan of the insane dynamics of your typical modern soundtracks. These days it seems you have to strain to hear the dialog, then something blows up and takes your head off/has the neighbours calling the police/demolishes the wall of your house. But AoU on Blu Ray seems like completely the opposite. It’s not a lack of bass as such, everything is in there somewhere, but the “big” moments – effects, Lfe, etc – all seem very quiet relative to the dialog, with very little activity in the surrounds. It seems obvious that gunshots/explosions/etc ought to be louder than two characters talking to each other. And I agree that the score seems to have been mixed at a very low-level throughout. One thing that really stuck out to me was the scene in the quinjet when they’re first returning from Sokovia after the initial battle… Is the quinjet held up by string? Because even though they’re racing back to get Barton medical help, the aircraft seems to make no sound at all. It’s the quietest aircraft interior of all time. Almost, dare I say, as if they’re just standing around delivering their lines on a movie set… It’s almost as if the movie was mixed to be listened to on a tablet or phone… i.e. make sure the dialog is audible and make sure nothing else gets in the way. It doesn’t strike me like a technical issue so much as a genuine mistake. Unless someone in their wisdom decided to put the whole soundtrack through a big multichannel compressor which yanked down all the loud bits by 10dB. Though I’d class that as a mistake! Is there no quality control any more? Do they QC these discs by checking them on ear-buds? Disappointing.

  16. Antonio Marcheselli

    Hi there
    I’ve searched the internet on this topic because I had the same feeling about Age of Ultron: very flat and dull sountrack, lacking dynamic and depth. I feel subwoofer channel is ok but everything else is very flat – seems almost compressed to me, and/or some sound elements are not there or just too soft.

    Glad it’s not me/my system!

    Thanks for your page!
    Tony

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