Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio – Misty for Direct Cutting Review (LP Analog and from DSD, MQA-CD, Streaming Amazon)

“MISTY for Direct Cutting” was recorded in May 2021 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Errol Garner’s birth. For this album of Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio, direct cutting was used for both analog and digital. For Direct Cutting in analogic, the recorded sound is engraved on a lacquer board in real time. For the digital, the recorded sound is recorded in DSD 11.2 MHz. The both records are realised without the editing, mixing and mastering steps. The goal is to go directly from the music to the recording without any intermediate processing.

We will review 5 editions (Vinyl analog Direct cutting, Vinyl from DSD , MQA-CD in PCM mode, MQA-CD with MQA decoded, Streaming Amazon UltraHD) of this album.
Below you will find the description of the different editions, as well as the measures of each edition in the different chapters and the samples of them here.

This album includes 6 tracks : 

  1. Misty
  2. Midnight Sugar
  3. The In Crowd
  4. Girl Talk
  5. The Folks Who Live On The Hill (only on Digital releases)
  6. Yesterday (only on Digital releases)

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 SCLP-1055- 2021
Presentation

This is the superb vinyl edition with one LP in 45 rpm with only 4 tracks, 2 tracks by side (with title in green).

This is a direct cutting made with the cutting machine that King Sekiguchidai Studio relaunched in 2019. It’s a pure analog production, no analog/digital or digital/analog conversion, without any post production with mastering.

LabelSomethin’ Cool
ReferenceSCLP-1055
Format (speed)Vinyl 45 rpm 180g
TypeSingle Vinyl LP
MasterAnalog Direct Cut
Mastering/PressingAnalog Direct Cut
Original recordingAnalog
StateJapan
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed2 : CD (mode PCM) ref SCOL 1056 – 2021
Presentation

This is a MQA-CD made from the master recorded live in DSD 11.2 MHz. This test use the PCM CD in 16 bits 44.1 kHz. MQA-CD is a CD encoded with MQA information. 13 bits is used for the PCM informations and 3 bits for the MQA extension of the informations.

Label Somethin’ Cool
ReferenceSCOL-1056
Format (speed)MQA-CD
TypePCM 16 bits 44.1 kHz reading
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingJapan
Original recordingDigital DSD 11.2 MHz
StateJapan
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed3 : CD (mode MQA) ref SCOL 1056 – 2021

Presentation

This is a MQA-CD made from the master recorded live in DSD 11.2 MHz. This test use the decoded MQA in 24 bits 88.2 kHz.

Label Somethin’ Cool
ReferenceSCOL-1056
Format (speed)MQA-CD
TypeMQA encoded 24 bits 176.4 kHz (decoded in 88.2kHz by Audirvana)
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingJapan
Original recordingDigital DSD 11.2 MHz
StateJapan
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed4 : Streaming Amazon UltraHD – 2021

Presentation

This is the streaming Amazon presented in Ultra HD 24 bits 96 kHz. At the time of this test, the album was available on Apple Music but not on other platforms such as Tidal or Qobuz.

Label Somethin’ Cool
ReferenceAmazon UltraHD
Format (speed)UltraHD
TypeUltraHD 24 bits 96 kHz
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingJapan
Original recordingDigital DSD 11.2 MHz
StateUS
Year original2021
Year production2021

Ed5 : Vinyl from DSD ref SCLP-1056- 2021
Presentation

This is another superb vinyl edition with one LP in 45 rpm with only 4 tracks, 2 tracks by side, cutting directly from the digital record in DSD 11.2 MHz (with title in yellow). The 11.2 MHz DSD recording has been converted to analog in order to proceed with the recording of the lacquer. There is a digital step that keeps the direct recording of the DSD.

LabelSomethin’ Cool
ReferenceSCLP-1056
Format (speed)Vinyl 45 rpm 180g
TypeSingle Vinyl LP
MasterCut from Direct DSD
Mastering/PressingDirect Cut from Direct DSD
Original recordingDSD 11.2 MHz
StateJapan
Year original2021
Year production2021

Part 2 : Waveform and dynamic comparaisons

Waveform

The waveform represents all the tracks of the album. (4 for the vinyls and 6 for the digital)

This edition Ed1 and Ed5 vinyl is dynamic, we can see many attacks of the music that gives this dynamic rendering. This is similar to the digital releases, the MQA-CD in PCM mode, MQA-CD in MQA decoded mode and Amazon Streaming. The DR14 confirms the dynamics of this album.

Waveform Ed1 : Vinyl 2021
Waveform Ed5 : Vinyl from DSD 2021

The waveform of Ed2 PCM mode, Ed3 MQA decoded mode and Ed4 Streaming Amazon UltraHD are similar, with the same DR14.

Waveform Ed2 CD (mode PCM) 2021
Waveform Ed3 CD (mode MQA) 2021
Waveform Ed4 Amazon Streaming 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 4 editions we have obtained the following Dynamic Range (DR):

 Ed1: VinylEd2:  CD PCMEd3:  CD MQAEd4:  AmazonEd5: Vinyl from DSD
GLOBALDR14DR14DR14DR14DR14
MinDR13DR13DR13DR13DR13
MaxDR15DR16DR16DR16DR15
MistyDR13DR13DR13DR13DR14
Midnight SugarDR15DR14DR14DR14DR15
The In CrowdDR14DR13DR13DR13DR14
Girl TalkDR15DR15DR15DR15DR15
The Folks Who Live On The Hill DR16DR16DR16 
Yesterday DR14DR13DR14 

The DR is very good with DR14 for the 5 releases. With direct cutting, no processing is done between recording and mastering, so the original dynamics of the recording are recovered. No DR difference between CD PCM, CD MQA and streaming.

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 “Misty”.

The interesting features on this curve Ed1 Vinyl (White) vs Ed3 CD MQA are the following:

  1. The two curves are superposed between 100 Hz to 20 kHz.
  2. The treble level (Ed1 Vinyl ) above 20 kHz is louder (yellow arrow) than on the Ed3 CD MQA. This is du of the noise of the vinyl, but the level is very low without impact when reading.
  3. The bass level (Ed1 Vinyl ) below 100Hz is little louder (green arrow) than on the Ed3 CD MQA, with a maxumum difference of 1 dB around 80 Hz
Spectrum Ed1 Vinyl (White) vs Ed3 CD MQA (Blue)

The spectrum of the two vinyl editions is almost superposable, with a little more treble above 6 kHz (1 dB) and less bass at 80 hz (1 dB) for the vinyl DSD version (Ed5). Above 20 kHz, the Ed5 is 5 dB lower than the Ed1, with no impact on the rendering but showing less background noise.

Spectrum Ed5 Vinyl from DSD (White) vs Ed1 Vinyl (Blue)

The comparison between the DSD vinyl (Ed5) and the Amazon digital version (Ed4) shows a great similarity of the two curves, with slight deviations above 10 kHz and around 80 hz. We are thus very similar to the digital version, which is normal because of the use of the same DSD source. Above 20 kHz, the background noise of the digital version is lower than the vinyl.

Spectrum Ed5 Vinyl from DSD (White) vs Ed4 Amazon (Blue)

Below, the curves of surface noise of the vinyl versions show that we have a similar surface noise between the two editions below 300/400 Hz, the most noisy zone of the vinyl. So we have a similar surface noise between the two versions.

Surface Noise Ed5 Vinyl (White) vs Ed1 Vinyl from DSD (Blue)

The interesting feature on this curve (below) Ed2 CD PCM (White) vs Ed3 CD MQA is the MQA decoding information above 22 kHz. In white, PCM playback has a limit at 22 kHz due to the CD sampling rate of 44.1 kHz. The yellow arrow shows an increase in high frequencies (20 kHz) due to the MQA encoding. On the other hand, with MQA decoding, we find frequencies above 22kHz, which are present on the digital master, this one being in DSD 11.2 MHz.

Spectrum Ed2 CD PCM (White) vs Ed3 CD MQA (Blue)

On the graph below (Spectrum Ed3 CD MQA (Blue)) the white arrow shows the presence of signalswith noises above 25 kHz, this is also reflected in the spectrogram (green arrow).

Spectrum Ed3 CD MQA (Blue)

Comparison of the spectra between the Amazon Ed4 and the Ed3 CD-MQA decoded shows the following differences:

  • The yellow area shows that the CD-MQA decoded version is slightly higher than the Ed4 Amazon, confirming the noise generated by the MQA encoding around 20 kHz. This point is confirmed in the spectrogram analysis.
  • The red arrow shows a drop in the level of the Ed3 CQ-MQA decoded from 31 kHz onwards compared to the Ed4 Amazon.
  • The green area shows the higher level in the high frequencies of the Amazon version with also some small spikes from the master (without impact on the listening experience)
Spectrum Ed4 Amazon (White) vs Ed3 CD MQA (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.

The spectrograms of the Ed1 and Ed5 Vinyl, shows that the signal rises above 20 kHz (yellow arrow). Above 20 KHz, the signal is also mixed with distortion due to the functioning of the vinyl.

Spectrogram Ed1 : Vinyl 2021
Spectrogram Ed5 : Vinyl from DSD 2021

The ED2 cd in PCM is characteristic of the CD format, with a limit at 22kHz due to the sampling frequency of 44.1 kHz (yellow arrow) and the absence of signal above 22 kHz (white arrow). The green arrow shows a noise increase towards 20 kHz which is not present on the vinyl and which is certainly due to the bits used for the MQA encoding.

Spectrogram Ed2 CD (mode PCM) 2021

The Ed3 CD MQA clearly shows the extension of the frequencies above 22kHz (yellow arrow). The white arrow shows that there is little signal above 35 kHz which is much better than the PCM CD version.The green arrow shows the very small rise in noise around 20 kHz (due to the MQA decoding). The contribution of MQA decoding compared to a CD is clearly visible on these curves.

Spectrogram Ed3 Cd (mode MQA) 2021

The spectrogram of the Amazon edition below shows that the signal is well in high resolution (white arrow) with a signal above 20 kHz (yellow arrow). In this version, there is no noise in the 20 kHz range present on the MQA CD.

Spectrogram Ed4 Streaming Amazon 2021

Part 5 : Summary, scoring and Samples

Ed1 : Vinyl ref SCLP-1055- 2021

This is a pure analogique vinyl. The quality of pressing is good without problem of surface noise. The rendering seems more natural and warmer than the digital version, with a good dynamic range.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Surface noise: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●● (4.5/5)
  • Sample : “Misty” 24 bits 88.2 kHz:
Sample Ed1 Vinyl 2021
Ed2 : CD (mode PCM) ref SCOL 1056 – 2021

The CD offers a good dynamic range, but does not have the finesse of the vinyl, the streamin or the MQA decoded version.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic:  ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (4/5)
  • Sample : “Misty” 16 bits 44.1 kHz:
Sample Ed2 CD PCM 2021
Ed3 : CD (mode MQA) ref SCOL 1056 – 2021

Here is the CD version decoded in MQA, we find good results in measurements. The result is good, with a more natural, smoother and more accurate treble than the CD.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●● (4.5/5)
  • Sample : “Mysty” 24 bits 88.2 kHz:
Sample Ed3 CD MQA
Ed4 : Streaming Amazon UltraHD – 2021

The Amazon version is derived from the 11.2 MHz DSD master, it is available in lossless format which is more accurate across the spectrum than the MQA CD version. The sound rendering is very good with a naturalness and a very nice dynamic range that places it ahead of the CD version. It is a pity that the sampling frequency used (96 kHz) is not a multiple of 44.1 kHz (DSD 11.2 MHz = 256 x 44.1 kHz).

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●● (4.5/5)
  • Sample : “Mysty” 24 bits 96 kHz:
Sample Ed4 Amazon
Ed5 : Vinyl from DSD ref SCLP-1056- 2021

The vinyl has a pressing with a good dynamic range. The quality of pressing is good without problem of surface noise. This vinyl (made from the DSD recording) is an intermediate version between the pure analog vinyl and the digital version in terms of sound rendering.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Surface noise: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●● (4.5/5)
  • Sample : “Misty” 24 bits 88.2 kHz:
Sample Ed5 Vinyl from DSD 2021

It is rare to be able to compare a direct recording in pure analog and in high resolution digital version (DSD256). For those who want a pure analog version, the vinyl (Ed1) meets this expectation. The digital version is declined according to several formats, I think that it is necessary to privilege the formats having less modification of the signal, like the streaming in FLAC or the original version DSD 11.2 MHz which is only available in Japan. The vinyl re-release from the digital master DSD is closer to the digital version but with the warmth of vinyl. Each version has its own specificity, everyone will be able to choose the version they prefer according to their own taste.

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: