Ed Sheeran = Review (Vinyl, Streaming Hi-Res, Dolby Atmos)

= pronounced “equals” is the 4th album of the artist released on October 29, 2021.

Ed Sheeran said it was his “favorite album” on twitter.

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

This album includes 14 tracks : 

  1. Tides
  2. Shivers
  3. First Times
  4. Bad Habits
  5. Overpass Graffiti
  6. The Joker And The Queen
  7. Leave Your Life
  8. Collide
  9. 2step
  10. Stop The Rain
  11. Love In Slow Motion
  12. Visiting Hours
  13. Sandman
  14. Be Right Now

We will review 3 editions (Vinyl, Streaming Amazon Music UltraHD and Dolby Atmos binaural ) of this album.

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.

The streaming versions may change, the streaming versions presented correspond to the version tested at the date of publication of the review, or of an update of the review.

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 : Vinyl ref 0190296657078- 2021
Presentation

It is a nice standard vinyl proposed here in its black version.

LabelWarner Music
Reference0190296657078
Format (speed)LP 33.3 RPM
TypeVinyl 33 rpm
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital 24-48kHz
StateEU
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed2 : Streaming Amazon Music UltraHD – 2021
Presentation

This is the Streaming Amazon Music proposed in UltraHD (24 bits 48 kHz).

LabelWarner Music
ReferenceAmazon Music Ultra HD
Format (speed)Streaming Ultra HD
Type24 bits 48 kHz
MasterDigital 24-48kHz
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital 24-48kHz
StateEU
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed3 : Streaming Amazon Music Dolby Atmos- 2021
Presentation

This is the Streaming Amazon Music proposed in Dolby Atmos. This is a specific version for headphone listening.

LabelWarner Music
ReferenceAmazon Music Dolby Atmos
Format (speed)Dolby Atmos binaural
TypeAudio binaural
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital
StateEU
Year original2021
Year production2021

Part 2 : Waveform and dynamic comparaisons

Waveform

The waveform represents all the tracks of the album.

We have a new hierarchy in the representation of waveforms.
The Ed1 vinyl version is the most dynamic stereo version compared to the Amazon Music Ultra HD (Ed2) digital versions.

Waveform Ed1 : Vinyl 2021

The most dynamic version, which presents the largest level differences on the curve is the Ed3 version in Dolby Atmos here in binaural version.

Waveform Ed3 : Amazon Music Dolby Atmos Binaural – 2021

The streaming versions Ed2 has compacted curves producing a very low average dynamic DR5!

Waveform Ed2 : Streaming Amazon Music 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 3 editions we have obtained the following Dynamic Range (DR):

 Ed1: Vinyl 2021Ed2: Amazon MusicEd3:  Amazon Dolby Atmos
GLOBALDR9DR5DR10
MinDR8DR4DR9
MaxDR10DR8DR11
TidesDR8DR5DR11
ShiversDR9DR5DR10
First TimesDR8DR6DR10
Bad HabitsDR8DR4DR9
Overpass GraffitiDR8DR4DR10
The Joker And The QueenDR10DR8DR11
Leave Your LifeDR9DR4DR9
CollideDR9DR5DR10
2stepDR10DR4DR9
Stop The RainDR9DR5DR9
Love In Slow MotionDR10DR6DR11
Visiting HoursDR9DR6DR11
SandmanDR9DR8DR12
Be Right NowDR8DR4DR10

My DR measurements confirm the waveforms analysis. The Amazon streaming versions are heavily compressed with an average DR of DR5, and tracks even with a DR4!
The vinyl with DR9 gives better results in terms of dynamics.
The Dolby Atmos version is here the most dynamic with DR10, but it is specific for headphone listening. We would have liked to have a DR10 on the Stereo releases.

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 sample “Shivers”.

The curves are similar from the bottom of the spectrum to 13 kHz. There is a faster high frequency attenuation on the Ed1 vinyl compared to the Ed Streaming Amazon Music, but overall staying at the same level. So we will have a similar sound balance on both sources.

Spectrum Ed1 Vinyl (white) vs Ed2 Streaming Amazon Music (blue)

The curve of the Ed3 Amazon Dolby Atmos version is very different from the curve of the stereo version of the Ed2 Amazon UltraHD. This is due to the different mix and the reduction of channels and sound objects in the binaural version of Dolby Atmos.

Spectrum Ed3 STreaming Amazon Music 3Dolby Atmos (white) vs Ed2 Streaming Amazon Music (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 vinyl, the yellow arrow shows the limit is below 20 kHz (the sampling frequency of the master). The white arrow shows the harmonics created by the vinyl playback method.

Spectrogram Ed1 : Vinyl 2021

The streaming Amazon Music, Amazon Music Dolby Atmos release show the frequency limit at 24kHz (yellow arrow) for Amazon Music UltraHD, and 20 kHz for Dolby Atmos Binaural . The black area (white arrow) shows that there is no signal above 24 kHz , which is normal for a 48 kHz sampling rate.

Spectrogram Ed2 : Amazon Music 2021
Spectrogram Ed3 : Amazon Music Dolby Atmos – 2021

Part 5 : Summary, scoring and Samples

Ed1 : Vinyl ref 0190296657078- 2021

The pressing of the vinyl is good with a reduced surface noise.
The rendering is more dynamic and precise than the streaming version (Ed2). It is the most pleasant stereo version to listen to. We find all the instruments play and the voice of Ed Sheeran is more natural.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●oo (2.5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Surface Noise: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (3.5/5)
  • Sample : “Shivers” vinyl 24 bits 96 kHz :
Sample “Shivers” vinyl
Ed2 : Streaming Amazon Music UltraHD – 2021

The streaming version here is heavily compressed, not surprisingly on listening which is missing dynamics and precision compared to the vinyl version.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●oooo (1/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (2.5/5)
  • Sample : “Shivers” Streaming Amazon Music 24 bits 48 kHz :
Sample “Shivers” Streaming Amazon Music
Ed3 : Streaming Amazon Music Dolby Atmos- 2021

The Dolby Atmos Binaural format brings a new 3D mix of the album that brings a different blend of music with a more pronounced separation of instrument and voice, and a wider spatial representation. The dynamics are the best of the 3 versions. This is a new approach to music on headphones, and also on 7.1.4 systems (not tested).

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●oo (3/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (4/5)
  • Sample : “Shivers” Streaming Amazon Dolby Atmos (only for Headphone listening) :
Sample “Shivers” Streaming Amazon Music Dolby Atmos

The choice here is quite simple, for a stereo listening, it is the LP version that gives the best results for the rendering, the details of the music and the naturalness of the voice. For headphone listening, the Dolby Atmos version brings a more precise, dynamic and spatial sound. The Dolby Atmos mix brings a new way of discovering music through headphones.

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.

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