Michael Jackson – Thriller 40th anniversary – Review (vinyl, CD, Qobuz, Tidal Sony 360 Reality Audio (360RA), Dolby Atmos)

Released on November 30, 1982, Michael Jackson’s album Thriller celebrates its 40th anniversary. For this occasion, an anniversary edition is released on vinyl, CD, Streaming and also in Sony 360 Reality Audio (360RA) and Dolby Atmos on Apple Music. While waiting for a comparison with the previous edition of this famous album, here is the review of these anniversary versions to know if the 40 years edition is a good one.

We will review 4 versions including vinyl, CD, Qobuz Hi-Res and Tidal Sony 360 RA Reality Audio.

Below you will find the description of the different editions, as well as the measurements of each edition in the following chapters.
The synthesis of the review and the samples are available here

The album is composed of 9 tracks:

  1. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
  2. Baby Be Mine
  3. The Girl Is Mine
  4. Thriller
  5. Beat It
  6. Billie Jean
  7. Human Nature
  8. P,Y,T, (Pretty Young Thing)
  9. The Lady in My Life

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 : Spatialization

Part 6 : Summary, scoring and Sample

Part 1: presentation of the editions

Ed 1: Vinyl 40 years – 2022
Presentation

The 40th anniversary vinyl reissue features the 9 tracks of the original album (ref: 196587145118), but no bonus tracks present on the CD and Streaming version.

Ed 2: CD 40 years – 2022
Presentation

The 40th anniversary CD reissue is a double CD (ref : 196587345624). The first CD contains the 9 tracks of the original album and the second CD contains 10 bonus tracks. The content of this CD edition is less rich than the streaming version with its 26 bonus tracks!

Bonus Tracks :

  1. Starlight
  2. Got the Hots (Demo)
  3. Who Do You Know (Demo)
  4. Carousel
  5. Behind The Mask (Mike’s Mix (Demo))
  6. Can’t Get Outta The Rain
  7. The Toy (Demo)
  8. Sunset Driver (Demo)
  9. What A Lovely Way To Go (Demo)
  10. She’s Trouble (Demo)
Ed 3: Qobuz 40 years – 2008
Presentation

The Qobuz streaming version includes the 9 tracks of the original version and 26 bonus tracks. This is the most complete edition. This edition is presented in Hi6res 24 bits 44.1 kHz, unlike the previous editions at least available in 96 kHz for the 25 years anniversary version.

Bonus tracks:

  1. Starlight
  2. Got the Hots (Demo)
  3. Who Do You Know (Demo)
  4. Carousel
  5. Behind The Mask (Mike’s Mix (Demo))
  6. Can’t Get Outta The Rain
  7. The Toy (Demo)
  8. Sunset Driver (Demo)
  9. What A Lovely Way To Go (Demo)
  10. She’s Trouble (Demo)
  11. Billie Jean (1981 Home Demo)
  12. Billie Jean (Long Version)
  13. Billie Jean (2008 Kanye West Mix) (Thriller 25th Anniversary Remix)
  14. Beat It (Demo)
  15. Beat It (2008 with Fergie Remix) (Thriller 25th Anniversary Remix)
  16. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (Demo)
  17. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (Tommy D’s Main Mix)
  18. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (2008 with Akon) (Thriller 25th Anniversary Remix)
  19. Human Nature 7″
  20. P,Y,T, (Pretty Young Thing) (Demo Version)
  21. P,Y,T, (Pretty Young Thing) (2008 with will,i,am) (Thriller 25th Anniversary Remix)
  22. The Girl Is Mine (2008 with will,i,am) (Thriller 25th Anniversary Remix)
  23. Thriller 7″ (Special Edit)
  24. Thriller (Def Thrill Mix)
  25. Thriller (Megamix)
Qobuz 40 years – 2008
Ed 4: Tidal 360 RA – 2022
Presentation

Available for the first time in the Sony 360 RA (Reality Audio) format, this remixed version concerns the 9 original tracks of the album Thriller. It is available in 360RA on Tidal and in Dolby Atmos on Apple Music.

Tidal 360 RA – 2022

Part 2 : Waveform and dynamic comparaisons

Waveform

The waveform represents the 9 tracks of the original album.

The graph below represents the waveform of the vinyl version (Ed1). These versions are dynamic without any trace of dynamic range limitation as for the CD and Qobuz versions.

The CD and Qobuz Hi-Res below turns up the level to the maximum and with the use of a Brickwall limiter that caps the levels as shown in the white zone. We thus find a digital version of the 40 years which remains in the continuity of the version Thriller25, victim of the loudness war.

The 360 RA binaural version is more dynamic than the CD and Qobuz versions, the graphic is closer to the vinyl version, which will result in a more dynamic listening experience.

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 4 editions reviewed have obtained the following Dynamic Range (DR) :

Vinyl 40 years – 2022CD 40 years – 2022Qobuz 40 years – 2008Tidal 360 RA – 2022
GlobalDR12DR8 DR8 DR13
MinDR11DR7 DR7 DR12
MaxDR13DR8 DR8 DR15
Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’DR12DR7 DR7 DR15
Baby Be MineDR13DR8 DR8 DR14
The Girl Is MineDR11DR8 DR8 DR13
ThrillerDR13DR8 DR8 DR12
Beat ItDR12DR7 DR7 DR13
Billie JeanDR12DR8 DR8 DR13
Human NatureDR12DR8 DR8 DR12
P,Y,T, (Pretty Young Thing)DR12DR8 DR6 DR14
The Lady in My LifeDR13DR8 DR8 DR13

The result of the DR measurements is consistent with the waveform analysis, i.e., a DR8 for the CD and streaming digital stereo versions (with dynamic range limitation), a DR12 for the vinyl and a DR13 for the Tidal 360 RA version. To have dynamic range, you have to listen to the vinyl or the Tidal 360 RA version.

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 spectrum of the vinyl version Thriller 40 (white) is superimposed with the Qobuz version Thriller 40 (blue) up to 22 kHz (yellow arrow), frequency limit of the Qobuz version due to its sampling frequency of 44.1 kHz.

The spectrum of the Qobuz Thriller 40 (white) and CD Thriller 40 (blue) versions overlap perfectly. We find the same limitation at 22 kHz due to its sampling frequency of 44.1 kHz.

The spectrum of the Tidal 360 RA binaural version and the Thriller 40 CD are very different (green and yellow zone), this is due to the different mixing between the two versions and the use of the binaural conversion. The Tidal 360 RA binaural version has a maximum frequency that is limited to 18 kHz (yellow arrow) compared to the CD version limited to 22 kHz. This is due to the MPEG-H encoding used for the 360RA with a bit rate of about 667 kbps.

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 spectrogram of the vinyl (Ed1) shows that the frequencies rise above 20 kHz (yellow arrow). Above this frequency (white arrow), we find a signal which is composed by the music and the distortion generated by the vinyl playback principle.

The Thriller40 and Qobuz Thriller40 CD spectrograms show a frequency limitation at 22 kHz (yellow arrow) due to the 44.1 kHz sampling rate. There is no signal above this frequency (white arrow).

The spectrogram of the Tidal 360RA Binaural version shows a frequency limitation at 18 kHz (yellow arrow) due to the MPEG-H compression algorithm. There is no signal above this frequency (white arrow).

Part 5 : Spatialization

Spatialization allows you to define the sound distribution of the music on all the channels. The spatialization indicator and the description of the graph are described here.

The Tidal version using Sony 360 Reality Audio (RA) is a real surprise for this 40th anniversary edition of the Thriller album. The mix of the 360RA version brings a very successful spatialization that exploits all the channels to take full advantage of the spatialization while keeping a sound balance consistent with the original version. Listening to the track Thriller, one would think that it was designed for a spatial mix. The richness of the music and the original sounds allow a very rich remixing that brings a new way to listen to this album, a real success.

The distribution is uniform over all channels, an example of spatial mixing

Spatialization : ●●●●●●●●oo (7.9)

Part 6 : Summary, scoring and Samples

Ed 1: Vinyl 40th – 2022

The vinyl brings a dynamic with more fineness and precision compared to the digital stereo versions. The rendering of the sound space is also a little wider. This is the best stereo version for this 40 years anniversary edition.

Rating:

  • Dynamic: ●●●oo (3.5)
  • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4)
  • Surface noise: ●●●●o (4)
  • Restitution: ●●●oo (3.5)

Sample : ”Beat It” 24 bits 88.2 kHz:

Ed 2: CD 40th- 2022

The CD of the Thriller 40 version is in the continuity of the CD of the Thriller 25 version, we find a version reduced in dynamics with a DR8, thus far from the rendering of the original. Moreover, this double CD does not contain all the tracks present in the streaming version. Too bad for an anniversary version.

Rating:

  • Dynamic: ●●ooo (2)
  • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4)
  • Restitution: ●●ooo (2.5)

Sample : ”Beat It” 16 bits 44.1 kHz:

Sample 1 Ed 2: CD 40 years – 2022
Ed 3: Qobuz 40th – 2008

The Qobuz version of Thriller 40 is similar to the Thriller 40 CD edition, with a dynamic range reduced to a DR8, so far from the rendering of the original. We regret the use of a sampling frequency limited to 44.1 kHz, whereas it was 96 kHz for the Thriller 25 edition. What saves this version is the presence of 25 bonus tracks.

Rating:

  • Dynamic: ●●ooo (2)
  • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4)
  • Restitution: ●●ooo (2.5)

Sample : ”Beat It” 24 bits 44.1 kHz:

Sample 1 Ed 3: Qobuz 40 years – 2008
Ed 4: Tidal 360 RA – 2022

The Sony 360 Reality Audio (RA) version is the real good surprise of this 40 years anniversary edition by proposing us a very rich spatial mix which suits perfectly this album. We find here one of the best remixes in 360RA of an album dating from 1982. It is necessary to say that the richness and the quality of the original multi-track recording allows a dynamic and very spatial rendering of the music. It is a true success for a listening in 7.1.4 or in binaural. Too bad that this version is limited to the 9 tracks of the original album.

Rating:

  • Dynamic: ●●●●o (4)
  • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4)
  • Restitution: ●●●●o (4.5)

Sample : ”Beat It” 360RA Binaural for headphone listening:

Sample 1 Ed 4: Tidal 360 RA Binaural – 2022

The 40th anniversary version of the Thriller album does not live up to the event for the stereo versions, especially for the hardware versions on CD and Vinyl which only include a part of the bonus tracks of the version available in streaming, with in addition a limitation of the dynamic range that affects the CD and Streaming versions. Fortunately, the 360 Reality Audio (RA) version is a real success and allows to forget the other versions. It is the version to listen to with headphones or on a 7.1.4 system to fully enjoy the success of this spatial mix.

Subscribe to MagicVinylDigital

Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.

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.

4 thoughts on “Michael Jackson – Thriller 40th anniversary – Review (vinyl, CD, Qobuz, Tidal Sony 360 Reality Audio (360RA), Dolby Atmos)

  1. Thank you for doing this comparison. I have also found that the standard stereo versions of Thriller 40 are horribly brick-walled to death with very little dynamic range but was really pleasantly surprised with the Dolby Atmos version on Apple Music, in fact it was the best instance of Dolby Atmos I have ever heard, which up to that point I wasn’t impressed with Dolby Atmos. I know it may be a big undertaking but I’d love it if you did comparisons of the original CD’s and the old SACDs and new MOFI versions also vinyl. Up to this point from what I’ve heard the old SACDs were said to be the better versions. Although I haven’t heard MOFI’s versions yet they may have more dynamics but is done in such away that strays from the original artists intent.

    Like

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: