Patricia Barber – Clique Review (DXD 2.0, DXD 5.1, Qobuz, CD MQA, Tidal)

The last album of Patricia Barber Clique! was produced with an audiophile approach privileging the musical quality with the implementation of the latest technologies.

This album was produced in the best imaginable conditions, recorded by Jim Anderson in DXD ultra-high resolution (32bit/ 352.8 kHz) with Pyramix system and Horus audio interface, mixed in stereo and 5.1 by Anderson at Skywalker Sound and mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering. The microphones were also chosen to have the best possible rendering, like the Brauner VM1 for the voice.

After a review of the track “This Town”, here is the review of the complete album with its 9 tracks.

We will review 6 editions (DXD 2.0, DXD 5.1, Streaming Qobuz, CD, CD-MQA decoded, Streaming Tidal) of this album.

You can find the measurements of each edition in the different parts and listen to the samples of these albums here.

This album includes 9 tracks : 

  1. This Town
  2. Trouble Is A Man
  3. Mashup
  4. Samba De Uma Nota Só (One Note Samba)
  5. I Could Have Danced All Night
  6. The In Crowd
  7. Shall We Dance?
  8. Straight No Chaser
  9. All In Love Is Fair

First we will analyze each edition in detail (technical and qualitative analysis) then we will compare the successive editions with their dynamics and assign a final score and you will be able to listen some samples.

Review of the editions:

Part 1: Presentation of the editions

Part 2 : Waveform and dynamique comparaison

Parts 3 : Spectrum comparisons

Part 4 : Spectrogram comparaisons

Part 5 : Summary, scoring and Sample

Part 1: presentation of the editions

Ed1 : DXD 2.0 ref IMP7002DXD – 2021
Presentation

Ed1 is the 24-bit stereo FLAC digital version of the DXD format with a sampling rate of 352.8 kHz. This version is the nearest version to the master, without format conversion. The files are very big 2.6 GB, but the closest source to the master, in lossless quality, you can’t do better in terms of quality. The album is also available in DSD format (not tested), but this one is obtained by converting the DXD format which remains the original source.

LabelImpex record
ReferenceIMP7002DXD
Format (speed)FLAC 2.0 24 bits 352.8 kHz
TypeFLAC 2.0 24 bits 352.8 kHz
MasterDigital DXD 32 bits 352.8 kHz
Mastering/PressingBob Ludwig
Original recordingDigital DXD 32 bits 352.8 kHz
StateUS
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed2 : DXD 5.1 ref IMP7002DXD – 2021
Presentation

Ed2 is the 24-bit 5.1 FLAC digital version of the DXD format with a sampling rate of 352.8 kHz. This is an exceptional sampling rate for 5.1. This version is the nearest version to the master, without format conversion. The files are very big 6.5 GB, but the closest source to the master, in lossless quality, you can’t do better in terms of quality.

LabelImpex record
ReferenceIMP7002DXD
Format (speed)FLAC 5.1 24 bits 352.8 kHz
TypeFLAC 5.1 24 bits 352.8 kHz
MasterDigital DXD 32 bits 352.8 kHz
Mastering/PressingBob Ludwig
Original recordingDigital DXD 32 bits 352.8 kHz
StateUS
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed3 : Streaming Qobuz – 2021
Presentation

Ed3 is the streaming version from Qobuz in Hi-Res 24 bits 176.4 kHz.

LabelImpex record
ReferenceQobuz Streaming
Format (speed)24 bits 176.4 kHz
Type24 bits 176.4 kHz
MasterDigital DXD 32 bits 352.8 kHz
Mastering/PressingBob Ludwig
Original recordingDigital DXD 32 bits 352.8 kHz
StateUS
Year original2021
Year production2021
*The problem will certainly be solved by the time you read this review.
Ed4 : CD MQA in PCM ref IMP3303 – 2021
Presentation

Ed4 is CD MQA disk of this album tested in CD PCM mode without MQA decoding.

LabelImpex record
ReferenceQobuz Streaming (9/4/2021)
Format (speed)CD MQA in PCM 16 bits 44.1 kHz
TypeCD MQA in PCM 16 bits 44.1 kHz
MasterDigital DXD 32 bits 352.8 kHz
Mastering/PressingBob Ludwig
Original recordingDigital DXD 32 bits 352.8 kHz
StateUS
Year original2021
Year production2021
*The problem will certainly be solved by the time you read this review.
Ed5 : CD MQA with MQA decoded ref IMP3303 – 2021
Presentation

Ed4 is CD MQA disk of this album tested with MQA decoded in 24 bits 88.2kHz. The decoding was made with Audirvana, but remains limited in 24/88.2 in software, to be able to decode with a sampling frequency of 176.4kHz, it is necessary to have a DAC integrating a MQA decoder.

LabelImpex record
ReferenceQobuz Streaming (9/4/2021)
Format (speed)CD MQA decoded in 24 bits 88.2 kHz
TypeCD MQA decoded in 24 bits 88.2 kHz (24 bits 176.4 kHz encoded MQA)
MasterDigital DXD 32 bits 352.8 kHz
Mastering/PressingBob Ludwig
Original recordingDigital DXD 32 bits 352.8 kHz
StateUS
Year original2021
Year production2021
*The problem will certainly be solved by the time you read this review.
Ed6 : Streaming Tidal- 2021
Presentation

Ed6 is the streaming version from Tidal encoded in MQA 24 bits 352.8 kHz. The decoding was made with Audirvana, but remains limited in 24/88.2 in software, to be able to decode with a sampling frequency of 352.8 kHz, it is necessary to have a DAC integrating a MQA decoder.

LabelImpex record
ReferenceStreaming Tidal
Format (speed)MQA 24 bits 352.8 kHz (decoded in 24/88.2 by Audirvana)
TypeMQA encoded
MasterDigital DXD 32 bits 352.8 kHz
Mastering/PressingBob Ludwig
Original recordingDigital DXD 32 bits 352.8 kHz
StateUS
Year original2021
Year production2021
*The problem will certainly be solved by the time you read this review.

Part 2 : Waveform and dynamic comparaisons

Waveform

The waveform represents all the tracks of the album.

This edition Ed1 (DXD), Ed3 (Streaming Qobuz), Ed4 (CD), Ed5 (CD MQA decoded) and Ed6 Tidal MQA are very dynamic, we can see many attacks of the music that gives this dynamic rendering without any compression or saturation .

Waveform Ed1 : DXD 2.0 2021
Waveform Ed3 : Streaming Hi-Res Qobuz 2021
Waveform Ed4 : CD MQA in PCM Mode 2021
Waveform Ed5 : Cd MQA decoded 2021
Waveform Ed6 : Tidal 2021

Like the Ed 1 DXD stereo, this edition Ed2 in DXD 5.1 is very dynamic, we can see many attacks of the music that gives this dynamic rendering without any compression or saturation .

Waveform Ed2 : DXD 6.1 2021

Dynamic

We start this test by measuring the dynamic. Dynamic represents the ability to reproduce a wide range of sounds from the softest to the loudest. 


For our 6 editions we have obtained the following Dynamic Range (DR):

 Ed1: DXD 2.0Ed2:  DXD 5.1Ed3: Qobuz StreamingEd4: CD PCMEd5: CD MQAEd6: Tidal MQA
GLOBALDR14DR14DR13DR13DR13DR13
MinDR13DR13DR12DR12DR12DR12
MaxDR15DR17DR15DR15DR15DR15
This TownDR13DR15DR13DR13DR13DR13
Trouble Is A ManDR13DR14DR13DR13DR13DR13
MashupDR15DR17DR15DR15DR15DR15
Samba De Uma Nota Só (One Note Samba)DR13DR14DR13DR13DR13DR13
I Could Have Danced All NightDR13DR13DR12DR12DR12DR12
The In CrowdDR15DR14DR12DR12DR12DR12
Shall We Dance?DR13DR13DR13DR13DR13DR13
Straight No ChaserDR15DR16DR13DR13DR13DR13
All In Love Is FairDR13DR13DR13DR13DR13DR13

The DR is very good with DR14 for the two release Ed1 and Ed2 (with max DR15 for stereo and DR17 for 5.1 version).

The Ed3 to Ed6 (Qobuz Streaming) is a bit lower than the two other versions, but keeps a high dynamic with DR13 on average and a max at DR15

As a reminder, the scale goes from 0 to more 20, but the dynamics are considered good from 12, quite good between 10 and 11, and deteriorate below 10.

Part 3 : spectrum comparisons

Spectrum

The Spectrum allows to check the tonal balance of the music (balance between treble, medium and bass sounds) and to detect process that may have been carried out during the recording, the mixing, mastering or manufacturing phases. It is also possible to detect frequency interference issues.

The curve represents the average frequency distribution over the track “Shall We Dance”.

The interesting features on this curve Ed1 DXD stereo are the following:

  1. We can see that the signal goes up regularly to more than 40 kHz (yellow arrow).
  2. Some pics are present after 50 kHz (red arrows).
  3. In this graph, the horizontal scale goes up to more than 100 kHz
Spectrum Ed1 DXD 2.0 (channels Left and right)

For the Ed2 DXD 5.1, we find similar characteristics to the DXD stereo edition:

  1. The signal goes up regularly to more than 40 kHz (yellow arrow).
  2. Some pics are present after 50 kHz (red arrows).
  3. LFE channel with low frequency (green arrow)
  4. In this graph, the horizontal scale goes up to more than 100 kHz
Spectrum Ed2 DXD 5.1 (all channels )

The curve bellow represents the average frequency distribution over the sample “This Town”.

The graph below shows the difference between the streaming version (Ed3) Qobuz and the DXD stereo version (Ed1). As you can see, the two versions overlap, with only an attenuation of the streaming version above 80 kHz which is due to the lower sampling rate. The streaming version is therefore very similar to the reference version in DXD.

Spectrum Ed3 streaming Qobuz (white) vs Ed1 DXD (blue)

The graph below shows the difference between the CD MQA in PCM (Ed4) and the CD MQA decoded (Ed5). As you can see, the two versions overlap, with a treble rise above 18 kHz, and a drop at 22 kHz due to the CD limit, for the CD in PCM mode (Ed4). MQA decoding really enhances CD with a wider bandwidth up to 44.1 kHz.

Spectrum Ed4 CD MQA in PCM (white) vs Ed5 CD MQA decoded (blue)

The graph below shows the difference between the CD MQA decoded (Ed5) and DXD (Ed1). As you can see, the two versions overlap, with a treble rise above 18 kHz, and less detail above 22 kHz than the DXD version (there may have been a suppression of the small peaks present on the DXD). The spectrum analysis stops at 44.1 Khz, limit of QMA software decoding, the DXD version goes up to 176.4 kHz!

Spectrum Ed5 CD MQA decoded (white) vs Ed1 DXD (blue)

The graph below shows the difference between the Tidal (Ed6) and Qobuz (Ed3). The two curves are overlapping (the maximum frequency of the graph is 44.1 kHz, limit of the software MQA decoding, the Qobuz version goes up to 88.2 kHz, not shown here).

Spectrum Ed6 Tidal (white) vs Ed3 Qobuz (blue)

The graph below shows the difference between the Tidal (Ed6) and CD MQA decoded (Ed5). The two curves are overlapping up to 18 kHz. Above 18 kHz, the Ed5 CD MQA decoded curve is no longer accurate. This is the limit of the 16-bit/44.1 kHz MQA encoding used for the CD compared to the MQA streaming on Tidal which is encoded on 24-bit/44.1 kHz.

Spectrum Ed6 Tidal (white) vs Ed5 CD MQA decoded (blue)

Part 4 : Spectrogram comparaisons

Spectrogram

Spectrogram is another representation of frequency versus time of a track. For each channel (right and left), horizontal axis represents time, and the vertical axis represents frequency. The amplitude is represented by the intensity (brightness) of the color of each point in the image.

For the spectrogram of the Ed1 DXD stereo, the yellow arrow as for the spectrum reveals the more than 40 kHz with peaks at 80 kHz (blackarrow). In this graph, the vertical scale goes up to more than 100 kHz!

Spectrogram Ed1 : DXD 2.0 2021 (Scale up to 176.4 kHz)

As for the DXD version, the Ed3 Streaming Qobuz shows signals rising above 70 kHz (yellow arrow). We also find the interference frequency peaks (black arrow).
Update of the Qobuz streaming version (more details here).

Spectrogram Ed3 : Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res 2021 (Scale up to 88.2 kHz)

The Ed6 Streaming Tidal shows signals rising above 22kHz , the yellow arrow shows the 20 kHz frequency. We also find the interference frequency peaks (black arrow). The white arrow shows that there is no signal above 44.1 kHz which is due to the software decoding limit.

Spectrogram Ed6 : Tidal 2021 (Scale up to 88.2 kHz)

The Ed4 CD MQA in PCM has a classic CD representation with a cutoff at 22 kHz (yellow arrow) and no signal above 22 kHz (white arrow) due to the 44.1 kHz sampling rate. The green area shows the rise of the signal above 18 kHz as seen on the spectrum.

Spectrogram Ed4 : CD MQA in PCM 2021 (Scale up to 88.2 kHz)

As with the DXD version, the MQA decoded Ed5 CD shows signals up to 22 kHz (white arrow) with 44.1 kHz limit (purple arrow) due to MQA software decoding. Well above the limit of the PCM CD (yellow arrow at 20 kHz). There is also the rise in noise above 18 kHz (green area) which is specific to MQA encoding on 16 bit/44.1 kHz CDs.
Warning, the scale is not the same as for the DXD versions, here the maximum frequency is 44.1 kHz versus 176.4 kHz for the DXD graphics.

Spectrogram Ed5 : CD MQA decoded 2021 (Scale up to 88.2 kHz)

For the Ed2 DXD 5.1, Spectrogram have similar characteristics to the DXD stereo edition: the yellow arrow as for the spectrum reveals the more than 40 kHz with peaks at 80 kHz (blackarrow).

Spectrogram E2 : DXD 5.1 2021 (Scale up to 176.4 kHz)

Part 5 : Summary, scoring and Samples

Ed1 : DXD 2.0 ref IMP7002DXD – 2021

Very nice recording in DXD stereo, the tracks transcribe perfectly the voice and the instruments. The dynamics are present with a beautiful timbre. The technical choices are at the top of the technique today. This DXD version is technically the nearest version to the digital master.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●● (5/5)
  • Sample : “This Town” DXD stereo 24 bits 88.2 kHz :
Sample “This Town” DXD Stereo (24 bits / 88.2 kHz)
Ed2 : DXD 5.1 ref IMP7002DXD – 2021

While the mode is Dolby Atmos, the mix chosen here is in 5.1, but with the DXD 352.8 kHz format so as not to lose anything of the music. It must be said that the flow of DXD 5.1 is more than 20000 kbits/s compared to the 769kbits/s of Dolby Atmos in its most common musical format (streaming Atmos in 48 kHz).
We find a more enveloping rendering in 5.1 when stereo but by keeping all the delicacy of the restitution.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●● (5/5)
  • Sample : “This Town” stereo 24 bits 88.2 kHz :

The sample is in 5.1 wav format, if you can not play the sample in your navigator, you can save it, right button menu and “Save Audio As…” and play it with an external player.

Sample “This Town” 5.1 (24 bits / 88.2 kHz)
Ed3 : Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res – 2021

Very nice reproduction of the Streaming version which is very near to the DXD version. We find a similar dynamic and a very extended bandwidth.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●●● (4.5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●● (4.5/5)
  • Sample : “This Town” Streaming Qobuz stereo 24 bits 88.2 kHz :
Sample “This Town” Stereo Streaming Qobuz(24 bits / 88.2 kHz)
Ed4 : CD MQA in PCM ref IMP3303 – 2021

We find here a classic CD version with a part of the information which contains the MQA coding.
This one brings a less detailed, less open rendering than the DXD version.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●●o (4.5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (4/5)
  • Sample : “This Town” CD MQA in PCM 16 bits 44.1 kHz :
Sample “This Town” CD MQA in PCM(16 bits / 44.1 kHz)
Ed5 : CD MQA decoded ref IMP3303 – 2021

Between the PCM CD version and the decoded MQA version, the choice goes immediately to the decoded version which is more open. But it remains below the Qobuz, Tidal and DXD version in ultra high resolution lossless in terms of transparency, detail and depth.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●●o (4.5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4.5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (4/5)
  • Sample : “This Town” CD MQA decoded 24 bits 88.2 kHz :
Sample “This Town” CD MQA decoded (24 bits / 88.2 kHz)

Ed6 : Streaming Tidal- 2021

The Tidal version is similar to the Qobuz version, we remain close to the DXD version. But to fully exploit the MQA streaming it is necessary to have a DAC with an integrated MQA decoder.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●●o (4.5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (4.5/5)
  • Sample : “This Town” Tidal MQA decoded 24 bits 88.2 kHz :
Sample “This Town” CD MQA decoded (24 bits / 88.2 kHz)

Very beautiful album of Patricia Barber which was realized in a format allowing to capture all the possible details. The DXD version in 352.8 kHz 24 Bits is a first for an album of Patricia Barber. It is a reference version which is almost the master. It is the format to be preferred for this album in spite of the size of the files. The streaming version does not demerit, the Qobuz version which is easier to use without a MQA decoder to have the very high resolution. The MQA CD comes in third position with an MQA decoding which, even if it does not equal the other formats, gives the best possible result on a support like the CD. The 5.1 version, also in DXD, immerses us totally in the music. The vinyl and magnetic tape versions are announced without release date for the moment.

Detail of the ratings :

  • Dynamic :
    1. Significant dynamic compression, DR less than 7
    2. Compression of the present dynamics, DR between 7 and 9.
    3. Correct piece DR >=10
    4. No dynamic compression (DR >12), dynamic rendering
    5. No dynamic compression, high DR and very dynamic sound rendering
  • Spectrum :
    1. Spectrum cut and less than 15 khz
    2. Spectrum cut at 15 khz
    3. Spectrum not conforming to the original and cut (not HD) or original but limited bandwidth (but less than 20 kHz)
    4. Spectrum conforming to the original (but not HD)
    5. Spectrum conforming to the original with HD resolution (higher than 24kHz)
  • Surface noise (only for vinyl):
    1. Continuous audible noise
    2. Audible surface noise except on passages with a high level of noise
    3. Reduced surface noise, barely audible on low level crossings
    4. Low surface noise, very good quality
    5. Very low surface noise, no defects, almost inaudible on the quiet passages (exceptional disc)
  • Restitution :
    1. Low quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments.
    2. Average quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments.
    3. Quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments. Good record.
    4. High quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments. Very high level disc.
    5. Maximum quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments. Exceptional disc.

3 thoughts on “Patricia Barber – Clique Review (DXD 2.0, DXD 5.1, Qobuz, CD MQA, Tidal)

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