Daft Punk – Random Access Memories – Review (LP , Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon, CD)

Random Access Memories is the fourth and final album by Daft Punk, released in May 2013. This album received the Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year in 2014. It contains the famous track Get Lucky.

We will review 6 editions (Vinyl , Download Qobuz, Streaming Qobuz, Tidal and Amazon ) 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 13 tracks : 

  1. Give Life Back To Music
  2. The Game Of Love
  3. Giorgio By Moroder
  4. Within
  5. Instant Crush
  6. Lose Yourself To Dance
  7. Touch
  8. Get Lucky
  9. Beyond
  10. Motherboard
  11. Fragments Of Time
  12. Doin’ It Right
  13. Contact

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 88883716861- 2013
Presentation

This is the vinyl edition with two LPs in 33rpm with 13 tracks. We also find the inner sleeves with printed lyrics.

LabelColumbia
Reference88883716861
Format (speed)Vinyl 33 rpm 180g
TypeDouble Vinyl LP
MasterDigital 24 bits 88.2 kHz
Mastering/PressingMastered at Gateway Mastering and Translab
Original recordingDigital
StateEurope
Year original2013
Year production2013
Ed2 : Qobuz Hi-Res Download- 2013
Presentation

This is the download Qobuz presented in Hi-Res 24 bits 88.2 kHz.

LabelColumbia
ReferenceQobuz Hi-res
Format (speed)Digital 24 bits 88.2 kHz
TypeFiles downloaded
MasterDigital 24 bits 88.2 kHz
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital
StateEurope
Year original2013
Year production2013
Ed3 : Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res – 2013
Presentation

This is the streaming Qobuz presented in Hi-Res 24 bits 88.2 kHz.

LabelColumbia
ReferenceQobuz Streaming Hi-res
Format (speed)Digital 24 bits 88.2 kHz
TypeStreaming
MasterDigital 24 bits 88.2 kHz
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital
StateEurope
Year original2013
Year production2013
Ed4 : Streaming Tidal Master – 2013

Presentation

This is the streaming Tidal presented in Master MQA 24 bits 88.2 kHz.

LabelColumbia
ReferenceTidal Master
Format (speed)Digital 24 bits 88.2 kHz decoded by Audirvana in 24 bits 88.2 kHz
TypeStreaming
MasterDigital 24 bits 88.2 kHz
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital
StateEurope
Year original2013
Year production2013
Ed5 : Streaming Amazon UltraHD – 2013

Presentation

This is the streaming Amazon presented in Ultra HD 24 bits 48 kHz.

LabelColumbia
ReferenceAmazon UltraHD
Format (speed)Digital 24 bits 48 kHz
TypeStreaming
MasterDigital 24 bits 88.2 kHz
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital
StateEurope
Year original2013
Year production2013
Ed6 : CD ref 88883716862 – 2013

Presentation

This is the CD presented in 16 bits 44.1 kHz.

LabelColumbia
Reference88883716862
Format (speed)CD 16 bits 44.1 kHz
TypeStreaming
MasterDigital 24 bits 88.2 kHz
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital
StateEurope
Year original2013
Year production2013

Part 2 : Waveform and dynamic comparaisons

Waveform

The waveform represents all the 13 tracks of the album.

This edition Ed1 vinyl is dynamic, we can see many attacks of the music that gives this dynamic rendering. The graphic below shows the 13 tracks of the vinyl.

Waveform Ed1 : Vinyl

The five digital versions are similar, with the presence of signal compression that caps the peak level as shown by the yellow circles. The compression is done “cleanly” with no clipping effect.

Waveform Ed2 : Qobuz DL
Waveform Ed3 : Qobuz Streaming
Waveform Ed4 : Tidal
Waveform Ed5 : Amazon
Waveform Ed6 : CD

In the case of the CD, with a maximum level at 0dB, we find a true peak level at 0.74 dB, that is to say that we go above 0 dB. This happens only on some very narrow peaks, and depending on the capacity of the DAC to manage these peaks, it will produce a little distortion. The other digital supports are a little below 0dB, and will have a true peak level lower than 0.74 dB.

The Max True Peak value indicates the maximum level of the real recording after conversion by the DAC. In fact the Max True Peak can be higher than 0 dB, unlike the Max Peak which is the maximum level of the digital file values.
How is this possible? During the conversion, the converter interpolates between 2 samples to generate the analog signal. So even if a sample does not exceed 0dB, the conversion can exceed 0 dB and creates distortion.
The left diagram shows an example of interpolation.

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: VinylEd2: Qobuz DLEd3: Qobuz StreamingEd4: TidalEd5: AmazonEd6: CD
GLOBALDR13DR8DR8DR8DR8DR8
MinDR10DR5DR5DR6DR5DR6
MaxDR15DR9DR9DR9DR9DR9
Give Life Back To MusicDR15DR7DR7DR9DR9DR9
The Game Of LoveDR14DR6DR6DR9DR9DR9
Giorgio By MoroderDR12DR7DR7DR7DR7DR7
WithinDR13DR7DR7DR8DR8DR8
Instant CrushDR12DR8DR8DR7DR7DR7
Lose Yourself To DanceDR12DR8DR8DR7DR7DR7
TouchDR12DR9DR9DR7DR7DR7
Get LuckyDR14DR9DR9DR8DR8DR8
BeyondDR14DR7DR7DR9DR9DR9
MotherboardDR13DR8DR8DR9DR9DR9
Fragments Of TimeDR12DR8DR8DR8DR8DR8
Doin’ It RightDR12DR9DR9DR7DR7DR7
ContactDR10DR5DR5DR6DR5DR6

The Dynamic Range for the 5 digital versions is similar with a DR8 on average. This is in line with the waveforms. The vinyl gets a higher dynamic range DR13, not being able to be engraved with a high compression.

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 “Get Lucky”.

The interesting features on this curve Ed1 Vinyl (white) vs Ed2 Qobuz (blue) are the following:

  1. The two curves are superposed between 60 Hz and 15 kHz.
  2. The yellow area shows an attenuation of more than 5 dB of vinyl above 15 kHz compared to the digital version). The difference in level in the high frequencies will be audible.
  3. The yellow arrow shows that the noise floor of vinyl is higher than that of digital above 30 kHz, but the level remains very low.
  4. The green area shows an attenuation of the bass on the vinyl compared to the digital version below 50 Hz, with more than 3 dB at 30 Hz.
Spectrum Ed1 Vinyl (White) vs Ed2 Qobuz DL (Blue)

For the Ed2, Ed3 and Ed4, all three in 24 bits 88.2 kHz sample rate, we find a superposition of the frequency response.

Spectrum Ed3 Qobuz Streaming (White) vs Ed2 Qobuz DL (Blue)
Spectrum Ed4 Tidal (White) vs Ed2 Qobuz DL (Blue)

The Ed5 and Ed2 are superimposed up to 24 kHz (yellow arrow), limit frequency of the Amazon version (white) due to the sampling frequency of 48 kHz compared to 88.2 kHz for other digital versions.

Spectrum Ed5 Amazon (White) vs Ed2 Qobuz DL (Blue)

The Ed6 and Ed3 are superimposed up to 22 kHz (white arrow), limit frequency of the CD (white) due to the sampling frequency of 44.1kHz compared to 88.2 kHz for the Qobuz digital version.

Spectrum Ed6 CD (White) vs Ed3 Qobuz Streaming (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 Vinyl, shows that the frequencies rise above 20 kHz (yellow arrow). The white arrow represents a part of the signal mixed with distortion due to the functioning of the vinyl record..

Spectrogram Ed1 : Vinyl

The Ed2, Ed3 and Ed4 have a high bandwidth above 20 kHz (indicated by the yellow arrow). This is a true 88.2 kHz mix.
The black arrows indicate small parasitic frequency peaks present on all the tracks of the album at a frequency of 30 kHz.

Spectrogram Ed2 Qobuz DL
Spectrogram Ed3 Qobuz Streaming
Spectrogram Ed4 Tidal

As for the spectrum, the Ed5 has a limited bandwidth of 24 kHz (yellow arrow). The black area (white arrow) shows that there is no signal above 24 kHz.

Spectrogram Ed5 Amazon

As for the spectrum, the Ed6 CD has a limited bandwidth of 22 kHz (yellow arrow) due to the sampling frequency of the CD (44.1 kHz). The black area (white arrow) shows that there is no signal above 22 kHz.

Spectrogram Ed6 CD

Part 5 : Summary, scoring and Samples

Ed1 : Vinyl ref 60250742562- 2013

Very nice pressing of the vinyl. The vinyl version has a softer and more open feel than the digital versions. There is a little less extreme bass, a very dynamic listening despite the slight attenuation of the highs compared to the digital versions.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Surface noise: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (4/5)
  • Sample : “Get Lucky” 24 bits 88.2 kHz:
Sample Ed1 Vinyl
Ed2 : Qobuz Hi-Res Download- 2013

The digital version has a different balance than the vinyl version, with more bass and treble presence giving more clarity to this compressed version. The sound is heavier, and although “Get Lucky” is the least compressed track on the album (DR9), it is the best in terms of rendering.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic:  ●●ooo (2/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (3/5)
  • Sample : “Get Lucky” 24 bits 88.2kHz:
Sample Ed2 Qobyz DL
Ed3 : Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res – 2013

The Qobuz streaming version is identical to the Qobuz download version.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic:  ●●ooo (2/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (3/5)
  • Sample : “Get Lucky” 24 bits 88.2kHz:
Sample Ed3 Qobyz Streaming
Ed4 : Streaming Tidal Master – 2013

The Tidal version is very similar to the Qobuz version. We find more bass and treble than the vinyl version, but still with a compressed sound giving less opening to listening.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●ooo (2/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (3/5)
  • Sample : “Get Lucky” 24 bits 88.2kHz:
Sample Ed4 Tidal
Ed5 : Streaming Amazon UltraHD – 2013

The Amazon version is similar to the other digital versions, but with a little less finesse and smoothness in the treble. The 24-bit 96 kHz version was not available on Amazon (at the time of the review).

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●ooo (2/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (3/5)
  • Sample : “Get Lucky” 24 bits 48kHz:
Sample Ed5 Amazon
Ed6 : CD ref 88883716862 – 2013

The CD version is similar to the other digital versions, but with a little less finesse and smoothness in the treble than the sampling frequency 88.2 kHz release. The CD has a sample rate that is half (44.1 kHz) that of the 88.2 KHz master, it is a little more precise than the Amazon version.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●ooo (2/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (3/5)
  • Sample : “Get Lucky” 16 bits 44.1kHz:
Sample Ed6 CD

Between digital (CD, streaming and download) and vinyl, if you prefer a dynamic listening, drier bass and a more open warm sound, vinyl is for you, it is the most pleasant sound. If you prefer a heavier sound, more extreme bass, and more treble, it’s the digital version with its compression. It is a pity not to have this digital version with more dynamics.

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.

5 thoughts on “Daft Punk – Random Access Memories – Review (LP , Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon, CD)

  1. Hi I just found this web and this review and first of all thank you very much for doing this and find all this information and put it to test, I appreciate it a lot and enjoy so much reading it. I am in no way professional but an avid curious and recently I’ve read about the recording of this record. Anyway I have what could be an stupid question but I’ve read in many places that they recorded this record from the tape takes into pro tools at 96khz. My question is why offering the 88Khz master or hi-res to platforms when they had it at 96khz? I’ve seen for example the red hot chili peppers new album is at 96Khz.The difference between 88 and 96 for me is not a big deal but just curious about what may have caused that decision to downgrade in the mastering process. Thanks again for your work!

    Like

    1. Hello,
      Thanks for your feedback. It seems that the mixing was done on Protools in 24/96, then recorded on tape, and digitized in 24/88.2 because the mastering engineer preferred to work in this format. But I didn’t get any information confirming this point. Often 88.2 kHz is preferred to 96 kHz to go down to 44.1 for CD (88.2 being a multiple of 44.1).

      Like

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