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Fully Immersed: Harry Potter Edition - 4K Ultra HD DTS:X Blu-ray Disc Reviews

By Greg Robinson

Fully Immersed, Volume 15

Wingardium Leviosa! That's right, Potter fans.  This is a special edition of Fully Immersed dedicated to the fantastic new 4K Ultra HD editions of Warner Bros' supremely entertaining Harry Potter films.  The final four films in the franchise were actually released on Ultra HD back in March, but Warner has now completed the set with last week's release of the first four films. All eight films feature all-new DTS:X soundtracks and they are, in a word, phenomenal.

Considering how many times my kids and I have watched them, one could say I've become somewhat burned out by the Harry Potter films. However, these new DTS:X soundtracks are truly magical and I can honestly say I've never heard the films sound better than they do now. From the perspective of the new soundtracks alone, these 4K Ultra HD editions are must-haves for any Potter fan who's set up for DTS:X audio. And if you're not set up already, these discs may be just the incentive you've been waiting for.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 4K
Warner | Buy Now | DTS:X available on 4K Ultra HD only

Re-watching the first Harry Potter film, it's striking just how much this powerhouse franchise owes to Chris Columbus and that first movie. With superb casting across the board and the brilliantly-realized world of Hogwarts, Columbus fashioned an incredibly strong foundation on which the rest of the series would rest. Beyond that, there isn't much to be said about these terrific films that hasn't already been said. Instead, let's focus on those incredible DTS:X soundtracks. Within the first 10 minutes of Sorcerer's Stone, the new immersive soundtrack makes quite an impression. First it's Hagrid's thunderous motorcycle landing on Privet Drive, soon followed by grown-up Harry waking in the cupboard under the stairs. When Dudley stomps on the stairs directly above Harry's head, dust shakes loose from the rafters falling all around the listener. Subtle touches like that abound; later, in the great hall, listen to the Sorting Hat's bellow and Dumbledore's words as they convincingly echo, befitting the large, stone-lined room. And in the underground chamber, when Harry, Hermione, and Ron are stuck in a room filled with flying keys, the sound of fluttering wings fills the overhead channels nicely. Great stuff.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 4K
Warner | Buy Now | DTS:X available on 4K Ultra HD only

Continuing to expand the world he brought to life in Sorcerer's Stone, Chris Columbus returned to helm The Chamber of Secrets before departing the series. Like the first film, Chamber's brand new DTS:X soundtrack wastes no time making itself known. Amusingly, Mr. Weasley's enchanted (read "flying") car is at the center of some of the film's best sonic moments. Early on, the car is used to bust Harry out of his "prison" on Privet Drive, ripping the bars off Harry's window. The overhead channels are used to great effect as the car drives off camera into the night sky, and then again when it comes back into frame, passing over the listener to land at the Weasley farm the next morning. Not long after, when Ron and Harry miss their train at Platform 9 3/4, they're forced to take the flying car to follow the Hogwarts Express to school. When the car spins upside down while passing under a bridge, Hedwig's cage and the boys' belongings fall and clatter within the car's cabin, again making great use of the new overhead channels. When the car finally makes its crash landing at Hogwarts, the Whomping Willow makes stellar use of every channel, including the overheads as well as the subwoofer, as it pulverizes the car with the sound of branches, leaves, and glass shards filling the sound field between every thunderous whomp.


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 4K
Warner | Buy Now | DTS:X available on 4K Ultra HD only

When Chris Columbus stepped away from the Potter-verse, Director Alfonso Cuarón stepped in to give us a decidedly different - but equally wonderful - installment in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. As you may recall, Cuarón is the mastermind behind Gravity, one of the greatest surround sound achievements in recent years.  Azkaban doesn't have a space station being torn apart by satellite shrapnel, but this DTS:X soundtrack has plenty to crow about. (Including crows - they're often squawking near and above Hagrid's hut and they're damned convincing!) Early in the film, the triple-decker Knight Bus offers an inspired burst of giddy fun and high energy sound as it weaves in and out of traffic before collapsing into itself to squeeze between two oncoming trucks.  Thunder and rain use the overhead channels to layer and expand the sound field higher up while the Dementors float ominously above Hogwarts.  The thunder and rain persist during a fog-filled Quidditch match, but they're quickly outdone by the players and an elusive Snitch zooming around, panning from speaker to speaker with impressive precision.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 4K
Warner | Buy Now | DTS:X available on 4K Ultra HD only

Arguably the best installment in the film franchise, Mike Newell's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is an absolute blast. Like J.K. Rowling's fantastic novel, the best thing about Goblet is its expansion of the "Wizarding World," showing us not only the Quidditch World Cup - where the finest players from all over the world compete - but also the Tri-Wizard Tournament, a competition between the three wizarding academies, this year hosted at Hogwarts. And beyond the story appeal provided by these major events, they both serve as the backdrop for the film's best moments, sonically speaking. At the Quidditch World Cup, players soar across the sound field while fireworks burst overhead and thousands of wizards cheer from the stadium stands. It's a grand scene, visually, and the DTS:X soundtrack does a superb job of creating an equally large sound stage. Later in the film, during the students' Tournament, Harry's battle against his Hungarian Horntail dragon offers tremendous range and a robust low end when the dragon spews fire and beats his enormous wings. The Tournament's second challenge, which takes place under the waters of Hogwarts' lake, features terrific immersion with the overhead channels filling in the space cutting the listener off from the world above. Underwater sounds are appropriately muffled and panning is excellent, with creepy grindylows and fierce merpeople rushing about, fighting to trap our fearless hero in their murky depths.

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If it's not obvious, I'm a huge fan of these new DTS:X soundtracks Warner has bestowed on the 4K Ultra HD editions of their Harry Potter films.  Each film manages to sound better than the last and it's hard to imagine them ever sounding better at home than they do here.  And don't forget: when you've finished the first four films, be sure to check out the final four as they're every bit as impressive. Or you can save a few bucks and buy the complete collection in a handy new box set.


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