Adele 30 – Review (Vinyl, Streaming Amazon Music, Qobuz, Youtube)

30 is the 4th album of Adele coming after 25.
It is a personal album of Adele in which Adele approaches her separation while also evoking her maternity. She also realizes the analysis of the celebrity.
Adele has already broken a record with this new album, having more than 500,000 vinyls produced for its launch.

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

This album includes 12 tracks : 

  1. Strangers By Nature
  2. Easy On Me
  3. My Little Love
  4. Cry Your Heart Out
  5. Oh My God
  6. Can I Get It
  7. I Drink Wine
  8. All Night Parking (Interlude)
  9. Woman Like Me
  10. Hold On
  11. To Be Loved
  12. Love Is A Game

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 : Vinyl ref 194399379714 – 2021
Presentation

It is a very nice vinyl proposed here in its double black LP version.

LabelColumbia
Reference194399379714
Format (speed)Double LP 33.3 RPM
TypeDouble LP 180g
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingMastered at Sterling Sound
Original recordingDigital 24-44.1kHz
StateEU
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed2 : Vinyl Clear ref 194399490716 – 2021
Presentation

It is a very nice vinyl proposed here in its double clear LP version.

LabelColumbia
Reference194399490716
Format (speed)Double LP Clear 33.3 RPM
TypeDouble LP Clear 180g
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingMastered at Sterling Sound
Original recordingDigital 24-44.1kHz
StateEU
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed3 : Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res – 2021
Presentation

This is the Streaming Amazon Music proposed in UltraHD (24 bits 44.1kHz).

LabelColumbia
ReferenceQobuz Hi-Res
Format (speed)Qobuz Hi-Res 24 bits 44.1 kHz
TypeStreaming 24 bits 44.1 kHz
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingMastered at Sterling Sound
Original recordingDigital 24-44.1kHz
StateEU
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed4 : Streaming Tidal Master – 2021
Presentation

This is the Streaming Tidal in Master Quality in MQA format (24 bits 44.1kHz).

LabelColumbia
ReferenceTidal Master
Format (speed)Tidal Master MQA 24 bits 44.1 kHz
TypeStreaming MQA 24 bits 44.1 kHz (décoded in PCM 24/88.2 kHz)*
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingMastered at Sterling Sound
Original recordingDigital 24-44.1kHz
StateEU
Year original2021
Year production2021
* see Part 3 : spectrum comparisons for more information
Ed5 : Easy On Me – Youtube – 2021
Presentation

This is the youtube Official Video of Easy On Me.

LabelColumbia
ReferenceYoutube
Format (speed)Youtube AAC 128 kbits/s 16 bits 44.1kHz
TypeStreaming AAC + video
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingMastered for Youtube
Original recordingDigital 24-44.1kHz
StateEU
Year original2021
Year production2021

Part 2 : Waveform and dynamic comparaisons

Waveform

The waveform represents all the tracks of the album.

The Ed1 and Ed2 vinyls are identical with a dynamic waveform without compression of the maximum levels, unlike the digital versions Ed3 and Ed4.

Waveform Ed1 : Vinyl 2021
Waveform Ed2 : Vinyl Clear 2021

The wafeforms of Ed3 Qobuz and Ed4 Tidal versions are here compressed with (as in the red zone) flat areas of maximum sound levels.

Waveform Ed3 : Qobuz 2021
Waveform Ed4 : Tidal 2021

The youtube version is less compressed than the streaming versions (Qobuz and Tidal), with DR10 vs DR6. Only the musical part of the video was used to calculate the DR (to compare with other releases). So there is a different master for the music of this video.

Waveform Ed5 : Easy On Me – Youtube 2021

Dynamic

Dynamic represents the ability to reproduce a wide range of sounds from the softest to the loudest.

For our 5 editions we have obtained the following Dynamic Range (DR):

 Ed1: VinylEd2: Vinyl ClearEd3: QobuzEd4: TidalEd5 : Youtube
GLOBALDR11DR11DR6DR6DR10
MinDR10DR10DR4DR4DR10
MaxDR13DR13DR9DR9DR10
Strangers By NatureDR10DR10DR4DR5 
Easy On MeDR12DR12DR7DR7DR10
My Little LoveDR12DR12DR6DR6 
Cry Your Heart OutDR13DR13DR7DR7 
Oh My GodDR10DR10DR4DR4 
Can I Get ItDR11DR11DR6DR6 
I Drink WineDR11DR11DR5DR6 
All Night Parking (Interlude)DR11DR11DR6DR7 
Woman Like MeDR12DR12DR9DR9 
Hold OnDR11DR11DR6DR6 
To Be LovedDR11DR11DR9DR9 
Love Is A GameDR11DR11DR5DR5 

The results are divided into 3 categories:
– The vinyl versions (Ed1 and Ed2) which have a DR11
– Followed by the youtube version with a DR10 (only one track compared)
– And finally, a DR6 for the Qobuz and Tidal streaming versions. The compression of the dynamics (loudness war) remains unfortunately a standard for the big production in digital edition.

The youtube version (which only takes the music from the clip for the DR calculation, not the sound effects before and after) shows that it is possible to release a digital version that is not compressed and that sounds very good.

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 “Easy On Me”.

The curves of vinyl Ed1 and vinyl clear Ed2 are perfectly identical, which confirms with the other measurements that it is the same master which is used for the two releases.

Spectrum Ed2 Vinyl Clear (white) vs Ed1 Vinyl (blue)

The comparison of the vinyl version (Ed1) and the Qobuz streaming version (Ed3) shows a superposition of the curves up to 5 kHz (yellow arrow), beyond 5 kHz, the level of the Ed1 vinyl is 1 to 3dB higher than the Ed3 streaming version. The green arrow shows the 22kHz cutoff of the Ed3 streaming version due to the 44.1 kHz sampling rate used. The higher level of vinyl above 22 kHz is due to harmonics generated by the vinyl playback principle and background noise.

Spectrum Ed1 vinyl (white) vs Ed3 Streaming Qobuz (blue)

The curves of Ed3 Qobuz and Ed4 Tidal are perfectly identical up to 22 kHz.
Beyond 22 kHz, we find a signal for the Tidal version (red zone). Indeed, the decoding of the MQA is done at least in 88.2 kHz, even for a signal in 44.1 kHz as here.
The result is a signal above 22 kHz which remains very small.

Spectrum Ed4 Tidal (white) vs Ed3 Streaming Qobuz (blue)

To understand this signal in the red area above, we will change the representation, using a linear scale for the frequencies and not a logarithmic scale. That is, we always have the same distance between two frequencies spaced of 1000 hz (eg 1000 Hz). The level has been increased to better see the phenomenon of spectrum folding.

To the right of the yellow vertical line is the same red area as the graph above. On the left, we find the signal of the music identical to what we find on the Ed3 Qobuz.
The spectrum folding is simply that the right part is the symmetry of the signal the left part with a lower level.
To better understand this, each colored arrow presents a point and its symmetrical, so we find on each side the same hollows and bumps of the symmetrical signal in relation to the yellow axis.

Concerning the listening, the impact of the signal of the red zone is minimal because it is very low in level and above 22 kHz.
The MQA format shows its limits with a 24 bits/44.1 kHz format. As they say, the simpler the better, Tidal should use 44.1 Flac encoding rather than MQA compression. The MQA format works for files with a sample rate higher than 48 kHz like in the album Nevermind .

The Youtube version (Ed5) is similar to the Qobuz Ed3, with a difference in the yellow zone due to the sound effects present in the music, and also a cut-off at 16 kHz due to the AAC 128 kbits/s format.

Spectrum Ed5 Youtube (white) vs Ed3 Streaming Qobuz (blue)

The surface noise between the two vinyls is quite similar, with an advantage for the Ed1 edition which has a few dB less below 200 Hz.

Surface noise Ed2 Vinyl Clear (white) vs Ed1 Vinyl (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 Ed1 vinyl and Ed2 vinyl clear spectrogram, the yellow arrow shows that the limit is below 22 kHz (the sampling rate of the master). The white arrow shows the harmonics created by the vinyl playback method.

Spectrogram Ed1 : Vinyl 2021
Spectrogram Ed2 : Vinyl Clear 2021

Ed3 Streaming Qobuz shows the frequency limit at 22 kHz (yellow arrow). The black area (white arrow) shows that there is no signal above 22 kHz, which is normal for a 44.1 kHz sampling rate.

Spectrogram Ed3 : Qobuz 2021

For Ed4 streaming Tidal, the yellow area shows the part of the spectrum due to decoding (spectrum folding) that should not be present, and should appear in black as for Ed3 Qobuz above.

Spectrogram Ed4 : Tidal 2021

For Ed5 Youtube, the yellow arrow shows the 16 kHz limit of the AAC format. The red arrow shows the signal-free zone between 16 kHz and 22 kHz. Above 22 kHz, there is the black area (white arrow) due to the use of a 44.1 kHz sampling rate.

Spectrogram Ed5 : Easy On Me – Youtube 2021

Part 5 : Summary, scoring and Samples

The samples are adjusted to the same level .

Ed1 : Vinyl ref 194399379714 – 2021

The vinyl pressing is good without too much surface noise.
The vinyl version is much more open and detailed than the comressed digital versions (Ed3 and Ed4). The voices are more natural and enveloping, especially in the second half where there is much more openness with voices.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●●o (3.5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Surface Noise: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (4/5)
  • Sample : “Easy On Me” vinyl 24 bits 88.2 kHz :
Sample “Easy On Me” vinyl
Ed2 : Vinyl Clear ref 194399490716 – 2021

The vinyl clear is similar with the Ed1 vinyl version. The difference in background noise is not very audible.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●oo (3.5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Surface Noise: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (4/5)
  • Sample : “Easy On Me” Vinyl Clear 24 bits 88.2 kHz :
Sample “WiEasy On Me” Vinyl Clear
Ed3 : Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res – 2021

For the Qobuz version, the dynamics are compressed, which raises the rendering of the instruments, but reduces the sound space of the voices. The few passages of music that are not compressed are clear with a beautiful rendering of voices. It’s a shame to use too much compression for this style of music. Adele’s album doesn’t need compression to be successful, the singer’s voice is superb.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●ooo (2/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (3/5)
  • Sample : “Easy On Me” Streaming Qobuz 24 bits 44.1 kHz :
Sample “Easy On Me” Streaming Qobuz
Ed4 : Streaming Tidal Master – 2021

The version is similar to the Ed3 Qobuz, the parasites above 22 kHz, are not audible during the reproduction.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●ooo (2/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (3/5)
  • Sample : “Easy On Me” Streaming Tidal 24 bits 88.2 kHz :
Sample “Easy On Me” Streaming Tidal
Ed5 : Easy On Me – Youtube – 2021

This is the surprise of this test, the dynamic brings more openness for this digital version despite the AAC encoding. The mix of this version gives a wider, more open sound scene. But, the sound effects added to the music do not allow to compare objectively with the other editions.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●oo (3/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●ooo (2.5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (3.5/5)
  • Sample : “Easy On Me” Youtube AAC :
Sample “Easy On Me” Youtube

Very beautiful album with a superb voice, which merits to be better treated. The vinyl version which is more lively and natural, compared to the compressed digital versions, It’s a pity, because with a digital recording and mixing, the digital version could have been great without compression (just listen to the quietest passages to realize it). We could also notice that the MQA format is not adapted for the 24/44.1, and remains less clean than the simple use of the flac format.

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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