PLACEBO – Never Let Me Go – Review (LP , Qobuz, Amazon, Tidal Master and Hifi)

It will have been necessary to wait 9 years after the release of their last album ‘Loud Like Love’, to have the return of the group Placebo its 8th studio album Never Let Me Go.

The review includes 5 editions (Vinyl , Streaming Qobuz, Amazon , Tidal Master and Tidal Hifi) 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 reviewed: 

  1. Forever Chemicals
  2. Beautiful James
  3. Hugz
  4. Happy Birthday In The Sky
  5. The Prodigal
  6. Surrounded By Spies
  7. Try Better Next Time
  8. Sad White Reggae
  9. Twin Demons
  10. Chemtrails
  11. This Is What You Wanted
  12. Went Missing
  13. Fix Yourself

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 evolve over time, those presented here correspond to the version tested at the date of publication, or 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 transparent green ref SOAKLP263 – 2022
Presentation

This is the transparent green vinyl of this album in a gatefold sleeve.

LabelSo Recordings
ReferenceSOAKLP263
Format (speed)Vinyl lp 33rpm
TypeDouble transparent green LP 180g
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingMixed by Adam Noble
Mastered by Robin Schmidt
Original recordingDigital
StateEurope
Year original2022
Year production2022
Ed2 : Qobuz Hi-Res – 2022
Presentation

This is the streaming Qobuz presented in Hi-Res 24 bits 48 kHz

LabelSo Recordings
ReferenceQobuz Hi-Res
Format (speed)Streaming 24 bits 48 kHz
Typelossless 24 bits 48 kHz
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingMixed by Adam Noble
Mastered by Robin Schmidt
Original recordingDigital
StateEurope
Year original2022
Year production2022
Ed3 : Amazon Ultra HD – 2022
Presentation

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

LabelSo Recordings
ReferenceAmazon UltraHD
Format (speed)Streaming 24 bits 48 kHz
Typelossless 24 bits 48 kHz
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingMixed by Adam Noble
Mastered by Robin Schmidt
Original recordingDigital
StateEurope
Year original2022
Year production2022
Ed4 : Tidal Master – 2022
Presentation

This is the streaming Tidal presented encoded in Master MQA 24 bits 48 kHz.

LabelSo Recordings
ReferenceTidal Master
Format (speed)Streaming MQA 24 bits 48 kHz
TypeMQA 24 bits 48 kHz decoded by Audirvana in 24 bits 96 kHz
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingMixed by Adam Noble
Mastered by Robin Schmidt
Original recordingDigital
StateEurope
Year original2022
Year production2022
Ed5 : Tidal Hifi – 2022
Presentation

This is the streaming Tidal presented encoded in Hifi lossless 16 bits 44.1 kHz.

LabelSo Recordings
ReferenceTidal Hifi
Format (speed)Streaming 16 bits 44.1 kHz, CD quality
Type16 bits 44.1 kHz
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingMixed by Adam Noble
Mastered by Robin Schmidt
Original recordingDigital
StateEurope
Year original2022
Year production2022

Part 2 : Waveform and dynamic comparaisons

Waveform

The waveform represents all the 13 tracks of the album.

For the stereo versions, we can classify the editions in 2 categories:

  • The vinyl version (Ed1) shows no signs of limiting and has a nice dynamic (Ed1).
  • The digital stereo version show compression in the yellow area, with a limited level of music.

The graphics below represent the album in vinyl version.

Waveform Ed1 : Vinyl

The 4 graphics below represent the album in stereo version (Qobuz, Amazon, Tidal Master and Tidal Hifi).

Waveform Ed2 : Qobuz Hi-Res
Ed3 : Amazon UltraHD
Ed4 : Tidal Master
Ed5 : Tidal Hifi

Dynamic

Dynamic represents the ability to reproduce a wide range of sounds from the softest to the loudest. The target is to compare the dynamics of the music and not of the media (CD, digital files or vinyl).

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

 Ed1: VinylEd2: QobuzEd3: AmazonEd4: Tidal MasterEd5: Tidal Hifi
GLOBALDR11DR6DR6DR6DR6
MinDR9DR5DR5DR5DR5
MaxDR12DR8DR8DR8DR8
Forever ChemicalsDR11DR5DR5DR6DR6
Beautiful JamesDR10DR6DR6DR6DR6
HugzDR10DR5DR5DR5DR5
Happy Birthday In The SkyDR11DR5DR5DR5DR5
The ProdigalDR11DR7DR7DR7DR7
Surrounded By SpiesDR11DR5DR5DR6DR6
Try Better Next TimeDR10DR5DR5DR6DR6
Sad White ReggaeDR10DR5DR5DR6DR6
Twin DemonsDR10DR5DR5DR5DR5
ChemtrailsDR11DR6DR6DR6DR6
This Is What You WantedDR10DR6DR6DR7DR6
Went MissingDR9DR5DR5DR6DR6
Fix YourselfDR12DR8DR8DR8DR8

As the waveform curves show, we have two categories for the stereo versions. The vinyl with a DR11 and the other stereo version with a DR6 (Qobuz, Amazon, Tidal Master and Hifi) indicating a significant compression of the dynamics.

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 “This Is What You Wanted”.

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

  1. The two curves are superimposed up to 15 kHz.
  2. The yellow area shows a slight decrease in the highs of the vinyl compared to the Qobuz version above 15 kHz.
  3. The yellow arrow shows the 24 kHz master limit of the qobuz version which is due to the 48 kHz sampling rate of the master.
  4. The green area shows the noise and distortion of the vinyl compared to the digital version
Spectrum Ed1 Vinyl (White) vs Ed2 Qobuz Hi-Res (Blue)

The curves of the digital versions are identical up to 20 kHz.

Spectrum Ed3 Amazon UltraHD (White) vs Ed2 Qobuz Hi-Res (Blue)

The frequency response curve of the Ed4 Tidal Master and Ed3 Qobuz editions is perfectly smooth up to 24 kHz, which is the limit of the 48 kHz sampling frequency. However, for the Tidal Master version, the red zone shows the phenomenon of spectrum folding due to the MQA format which imposes decoding in 96 kHz, for more details on this phenomenon, you will find all the details here.

Spectrum Ed4 TIdal Master (White) vs Ed2 Qobuz Hires (Blue)

The frequency response curve of the Ed5 Tidal Hifi and Ed4 Tidal Master editions is perfectly smooth up to 22 kHz. The red zone shows the phenomenon of spectrum folding due to the MQA format in the Tidal Master.

Spectrum Ed5 TIdal Hifi (White) vs Ed4 Tidal Master (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 spectrum beloow représente the vinyl version (Ed1). the signal rises above 24kHz (yellow arrow), with the distorsion above 24 kHz (white arrow) due to the reading principle of vinyl.

Spectrogram Ed1 : Vinyl

For Qobuz (Ed2), Amazon(Ed3) and Tidal Hifi (Ed4), we find the same representation with a maximum frequency of 24 kHz for Qobuz and Amazon, or 22kHz for Tidal Hifi (yellow arrow), above this frequency, there is a black area (white arrow) showing that there is no signal.

Spectrogram Ed2 : Qobuz Hi-Res
Spectrogram Ed3 : Amazon UltraHD
Spectrogram Ed5 : Tidal Hifi

As with the vinyl, the Ed5 Tidal Master shows an extension of the spectrum above 24 kHz (red rectangle) which is due to the MQA sampling rate at 96 kHz which generate aliasing. You can find all the details here.

Spectrogram Ed4 : Tidal Master

Part 5 : Summary, scoring and Samples

Ed1 : Vinyl transparent green ref SOAKLP263 – 2022

Very nice vinyl album with two transparent green discs and the pressing is clean. The vinyl is brings its softer rendering while being detailed and dynamic compared to the digital versions, we feel this difference in the rendering of the bass. With a song like “Try Better Next Time”, on the strongest parts, the vinyl brings more openness and clarity compared to the digital versions

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●oo (3.5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Surface noise: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (4/5)
  • Sample : “This Is What You Wanted” 24 bits 88.2 kHz:
Sample Ed1 Vinyl
Ed2 : Qobuz Hi-Res – 2022

We find here an album with an important compression (DR6), but on the parts with a less strong sound level, the compression has acted little and proposes a clean and detailed sound, otherwise, we lose details and space. It’s a pity that the album is not available in an uncompressed version.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●oooo (1/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (3/5)
  • Sample : “This Is What You Wanted” 24 bits 48kHz:
Sample Ed2 Qobuz Hi-Res
Ed3 : Amazon Ultra HD – 2022

The Amazonrendering is very similar to that of Qobuz.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic:  ●oooo (1/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (3/5)
  • Sample : “This Is What You Wanted” 24 bits 48kHz:
Sample Ed3 Amazon UltraHD
Ed4 : Tidal Master – 2022

The Tidal Master version is similar to the Qobuz and Amazon versions, but with a slight difference that gives the perception of having a little more openness and precision on the highest sound levels. This may be due to the 24 bits and/or the upsampling that is done during MQA decoding.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic:  ●oooo (1/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (3/5)
  • Sample : “This Is What You Wanted” 24 bits 96kHz:
Sample Ed4 Tidal Master
Ed5 : Tidal Hifi – 2022

The Tidal Hifi version is just below the previous digital versions, with a little less precision and openness, but remains in the same overall spirit, it is especially noticeable on the highest levels with the more saturated passages.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic:  ●oooo (1/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (2.5/5)
  • Sample : “This Is What You Wanted” 16 bits 44.1kHz:
Sample Ed5 Tidal Hifi

The new album of Placebo is rich in saturation effect which complicates the rendering of the music. On the low level passages, where the compression is not very sensitive, the digital version brings a lot of precision, but this one disappears on the highest passages due to compression. We’ve said it before, but an uncompressed digital version would be the most faithful and enjoyable edition. The vinyl comes out well, it is more dynamic with a more open rendering, but a little softened, with a less incisive sound than the digital versions.

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)
  • Spatialization :
    • Between 0 and 5 for 5.1 or 7.1 channels configuration
    • Between 0 and 10 for Atmos configuration (7.1.4)
    • For more information on spatialization, you can read the article describing this parameter here.
  • 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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