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Great job Chris and thanks for getting this up so quickly...could save many CA users from making the wrong purchase here.

 

Just curious but any idea why 18KHz L/R (and 14KHz R) are notched out on the frequency plot for The Vinyl Experience version?

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Awesome article Chris, thank you! This shows us that it is not always that easy to get the highest sound quality just by picking the highest bitrate. Although it is a shame that the 24bit version is more compressed. At least now I have learned a way how to check, with Adobe Audition CC.

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If you listen to the interview on NPR New Beck Album, 'Morning Phase': All Songs Considered Interview : All Songs Considered : NPR there's an interesting exchange around the 8:46 mark (you have to listen, it's not in the edited transcript):

 

Shortly after listening to an excerpt from "Wave"

 

Beck: It's funny after listening to it, the vocal got so loud after mixing and mastering. The vocal was always tucked in this ... huge orchestra.

Boilen: You actually like God.

Beck: Yeah, it's supposed to be tucked in there. But I don't know... You don't want to get in the way of the orchestra.

 

He sounded surprised/disappointed in how it sounded when played back to him. Sounds like the mastering wasn't something he was closely involved in.

 

Give it a listen.

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+1…why didn't the CD get into the mix? Now that would have made it the definitive collection!

 

That said, thank you , Chris. This is good info. I really like my CD copy of the album. The music is really good.

 

What really bothers me is the idea of adding "vinyl noise" to the best master. This is a gimmick that doesn't help. Perhaps they will release an SACD version without that noise for audiophiles? If they do, we expect you to pick it up, too, Chris! Hahaha….

 

John

Positive emotions enhance our musical experiences.

 

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Thanks for your work on this! One of the things I enjoy about high res downloads is the absence of the slightly annoying vinyl artifacts like pops and tics and such. So I bet the HD Tracks download would work well for me, unless my home rip of the LP would be better. Trey

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Chris I certainly appreciate the analysis here. I think you have it right in that the consumer ultimately loses out when you are not able to make an informed decision on your purchase. I am ok with the artistic decision to use compression, however the label should be transparent on the product and what the consumer is purchasing. I would agree that HD Tracks is not to blame, but why are they not leading a more vocal charge through their channels with labels?

 

I will be looking into corresponding with somebody at the label so if anybody here has an email address and contact info for them, I would appreciate it.

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Chris I certainly appreciate the analysis here. I think you have it right in that the consumer ultimately loses out when you are not able to make an informed decision on your purchase. I am ok with the artistic decision to use compression, however the label should be transparent on the product and what the consumer is purchasing. I would agree that HD Tracks is not to blame, but why are they not leading a more vocal charge through their channels with labels?

 

I will be looking into corresponding with somebody at the label so if anybody here has an email address and contact info for them, I would appreciate it.

 

Booster,

 

I too agree with you that this was a great review however, where I disagree is in the responsibility of the artist, especially someone like Beck who is so particular about his music and how much time he spends to get it right. While I am sure the audiophile is not the audience he is concerned about, having read much about this artist it is clear that he is concerned about he "quality" of the music. When he himself admits that he was surprised that his voice gets drowned out he must understand there is an issue with the mastering of this album.

 

I really like the album but the mastering from the first note had me wondering WHY??? This could have been an amazing album both from a musical standpoint and technical standpoint but unfortunately, the latter, at least IMO, interferes with the enjoyment of the former. I don't blame HDT, I blame the artist in this case, no matter how much I enjoy the music.

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Thanks for the analysis Chris.

 

I also agree with Booster MPS' comment above, that although this is not HDTracks fault, HDTracks are best positioned to apply pressure to the labels. Meantime, I am really enjoying my HDTracks version. Outstanding album.

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I love love love this album too. I have the cd and HDtracks versions so far. What is quite interesting to me, after this wonderful detective work by Chris and our posters earlier on, is that I am now realizing that the NPR stream from last week (they released it on my bday and I felt it was a great bday gift :)) sounded better than either of the file folders I now own!! It was rich and clear and not overly compressed nor bloomy. Maybe it was from the EQVinyl? Or maybe simply my excitement to hear it the first fifteen times. Dunno...seems weird that it would be, but it was great. It's likely still up there...edit: damn, no its not.

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Booster,

 

I too agree with you that this was a great review however, where I disagree is in the responsibility of the artist, especially someone like Beck who is so particular about his music and how much time he spends to get it right. While I am sure the audiophile is not the audience he is concerned about, having read much about this artist it is clear that he is concerned about he "quality" of the music. When he himself admits that he was surprised that his voice gets drowned out he must understand there is an issue with the mastering of this album.

 

I really like the album but the mastering from the first note had me wondering WHY??? This could have been an amazing album both from a musical standpoint and technical standpoint but unfortunately, the latter, at least IMO, interferes with the enjoyment of the former. I don't blame HDT, I blame the artist in this case, no matter how much I enjoy the music.

 

Priaptor, you are right. There is certainly enough blame to go around and the artist does share some of it. What we do not know is where the breakdown in quality occurs. We know that Beck (or any musician for that matter that is meticulous) is concerned about the sound of their work, but what we don't know is how involved they are in the mastering or even if they contractually can be involved and influence it. Who has the ball? You would think artists such as Beck would be very knowledgeable about the entire recording process but maybe my assumption is sadly incorrect. But set that aside, somebody in the chain at the label should have looked at the product offering for this major release and made sure the quality was consistent and made sense. The same guy who said "vinyl is big so we need a 180 gram vinyl product, oh and by the way make sure that customer can use a download code for their iPhone," should have also said "let's make sure we have a kick as 24/96 hi res product for audiophiles purchasing for HD Tracks." Again, I think HD Tracks should also be more of an advocate.

 

To me the final product is like a dish that comes out of a chef driven restaurant. The recipe could come from the chef but he might or might not be on the line cooking that day BUT either way, somebody should be responsible for the Q/A of the food.

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I love love love this album too. I have the cd and HDtracks versions so far. What is quite interesting to me, after this wonderful detective work by Chris and our posters earlier on, is that I am now realizing that the NPR stream from last week (they released it on my bday and I felt it was a great bday gift :)) sounded better than either of the file folders I now own!! It was rich and clear and not overly compressed nor bloomy. Maybe it was from the EQVinyl? Or maybe simply my excitement to hear it the first fifteen times. Dunno...seems weird that it would be, but it was great. It's likely still up there...edit: damn, no its not.

 

Happy belated birthday!

The Vinyl EQ version has unmistakable record surface noise especially audible in the beginning of the first track. I listened to the NPR stream multiple times. I listened to the beginning more than I wanted too because I lost connection a few times and the stream would start over at the beginning :/ I don't recall hearing the surface noise in the stream.

BTW, have you listened to it with PCM to DSD real time conversion through JRiver yet? I'm wondering how that sounds compared to straight PCM.

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Priaptor, you are right. There is certainly enough blame to go around and the artist does share some of it. What we do not know is where the breakdown in quality occurs. We know that Beck (or any musician for that matter that is meticulous) is concerned about the sound of their work, but what we don't know is how involved they are in the mastering or even if they contractually can be involved and influence it. Who has the ball? You would think artists such as Beck would be very knowledgeable about the entire recording process but maybe my assumption is sadly incorrect. But set that aside, somebody in the chain at the label should have looked at the product offering for this major release and made sure the quality was consistent and made sense. The same guy who said "vinyl is big so we need a 180 gram vinyl product, oh and by the way make sure that customer can use a download code for their iPhone," should have also said "let's make sure we have a kick as 24/96 hi res product for audiophiles purchasing for HD Tracks." Again, I think HD Tracks should also be more of an advocate.

 

To me the final product is like a dish that comes out of a chef driven restaurant. The recipe could come from the chef but he might or might not be on the line cooking that day BUT either way, somebody should be responsible for the Q/A of the food.

 

I couldn't agree more. We lay people tend to immediately blame the artist/chef/doctor/lawyer/etc but you are right. We don't know the contractual issues, etc. It is just such a pity that such good music can get corrupted as this is an album I can listen to over and over again if it weren't such as strain.

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Several people, me included, look at releases this way on Steve Hoffman's forum. The goal being, to find the most listenable version of an album. Anyway, I thought it was curious in that track 10, Phase, seems to have the same mastering across all the formats. Too bad all the songs couldn't have been done that way. And ... I have mentioned a few times to the HDTracks folks, why not have a feedback system like Amazon has for products? In other words, if they put up a poor mastering, let people publicly comment on that, so others don't waste their money. And by the same token, if they put up an excellent mastering, people might want to know. Now, it's a real crapshoot buying high res downloads from them. Just based on this single review that my buddy sent to me, I will check out more of what's at this web site. :-) (And I do have a computer audio setup too!)

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Just received the vinyl + "Vinyl Experience" download version in the mail today. Haven't had time to listen to either in detail. Will try to report back after I do.

 

But, my main question now is which file was used to cut the vinyl!

 

Thank you Chris for this report. I hope you get some answers, and if you do have the opportunity to speak with someone in the know, please do ask about the source used to cut the vinyl.

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And so many „overs“ in the tracks. Isn't this not a reason to send all this stuff back? It makes me really sad, that the dynamic range gets worse and worse over the years. Why do I even need a CD with 16 Bit for these typical DR6. (I am aware that these DR6 are not the maximum dynamic range in the track). I hate those compressions.

 

PS: This month I made a high res recording in an opera house. The raw recording has had a Dynamic Range of DR21, so for the final product, I “re-wrote” the tutti fff parts manually a bit when mastering to get the dynamic a bit down for home listening to DR18. So this will be the final DR, when the product will be released.

 

Juergen

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Thank you for the article Chris.

 

While I certainly agree that it is not HDtracks' fault that this is what they were provided by the label, I would prefer them to disclose this sort of information on the site. (dynamic range values)

 

Frankly, with there being clipping in the tracks, which is a technical fault and not something you could argue is an "artistic choice", and such low dynamic range values, I think they should have rejected it.

 

Even if they are not responsible for the quality of the files they were provided with, it reflects poorly on them as a brand.

 

Not that this is the first time it has happened, but I can no longer trust that buying from "HDtracks" is going to guarantee high quality releases, and I am unlikely to ever make a "blind" purchase from them - I will be researching any purchases from them in the future.

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Thanks for the analysis Chris. This release deserved the closer look. It is the best music I've heard in a while. It is a perfect example to run with in the loudness war. The problem is we don't know what it would sound like with a DR of 14. It quite possibly might just suck. But then again it might be really great on the right system. Maybe Beck is stacking the deck against digital. For anyone worrying about buying it based on DR. Just buy it and enjoy it. It is great music.

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