Depeche Mode – Memento Mori – Review (test : vinyl and Qobuz Hi-Res) – What is the quality of the vinyl master?

It’s a pleasure to see the electronic music group formed in 1980 again. The band enjoyed great success during the 1980s and 1990s, with singles such as ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, ‘People Are People’, ‘Personal Jesus’ and ‘Enjoy the Silence’. They have sold over 100 million records worldwide. Depeche Mode is back with their 15th studio album “Memento Mori” released on March 24th.

For this review, you will find 2 versions tested: vinyl and streaming Qobuz Hi-Res.

And we will question the quality of the master used for the vinyl record, which is not what one would expect.

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 12 tracks:

  1. My Cosmos Is Mine
  2. Wagging Tongue
  3. Ghosts Again
  4. Don’t Say You Love Me
  5. My Favourite Stranger
  6. Soul With Me
  7. Caroline’s Monkey
  8. Before We Drown
  9. People Are Good
  10. Always You
  11. Never Let Me Go
  12. Speak To Me

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

Ed 1: Clear Vinyl – 2023

Here is the vinyl record presented on 2 LPs in 33 rpm with only one side used on the second LP (ref : 196587898014)

Ed 2: Qobuz Hi-Res – 2023

This is the streaming Qobuz presented in Hi-Res 24 bits 96 kHz.

Qobuz Hi-Res – 2023

Part 2 : Waveform and dynamic comparaisons


The waveform represents tracks of this album.

The curve of the waveform is characteristic of the use of a Brickwall limiter, all the songs have the same maximum level on all the songs. This is confirmed by the DR value, which is DR4 for the average value, with songs between DR3 and DR5, which is almost a record in terms of limiting dynamics, but a bad record!

The waveform is more dynamic than the digital version, but remains with levels that are capped indicating reduced dynamics as confirmed by the DR measurement with values between DR8 and DR11 depending on the tracks.

Following the article on the fact that analogue media can increase the dynamic range if its characteristics are not respected, here is a complementary analysis for the test of this album. In that technical article, we saw that the behaviour of a vinyl cut is similar to a tape recording. So I recorded the album on tape.

The graph below represents the comparison of the waveforms of the Qobuz digital version, the vinyl and the tape for the first 4 tracks. The result for the tape is similar to the vinyl with almost the same DR (Dynamic Range). We can therefore have a doubt on the use of a specific master with little compression for the vinyl cut. So we are certainly entering a downward spiral, where we no longer respect the characteristics of vinyl to get the best possible quality! There is a lack of real transparency on the masters used for vinyl. And for this album, there are no Dolby Atmos or Sony 360RA versions to offer a dynamic version.


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

Clear Vinyl – 2023Qobuz Hi-Res – 2023
GlobalDR9 DR4
MinDR8 DR3
My Cosmos Is MineDR8 DR3
Wagging TongueDR9 DR4
Ghosts AgainDR10DR4
Don’t Say You Love MeDR10DR5
My Favourite StrangerDR10DR4
Soul With MeDR9 DR4
Caroline’s MonkeyDR9 DR4
Before We DrownDR8 DR4
People Are GoodDR9 DR4
Always YouDR10DR5
Never Let Me GoDR9 DR4
Speak To MeDR9 DR3

The digital editing is an example of the worst that can be done with a DR4 on average, and a DR3 for some tracks. It’s going to be hard to do better in terms of dynamic range reduction! Vinyl is better, with a DR9, but, with tracks with a DR8 one wonders what is the origin of the master (see explanation of the waveform).

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


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 graph below compares the vinyl spectrum (white curve) to the Qobuz Hi-Res spectrum (blue curve). The curves overlap completely between 300 Hz and 10 kHz, below 300Hz, the white curve is very slightly above the blue curve (green area), which will give a little more bass to the vinyl (about 1dB below 150 Hz). Above 15 kHz the white curve is below the blue curve, with the difference increasing up to 20 kHz to 5 dB (yellow zone). The tonal balance is very similar with a little more bass in the vinyl version.

Part 4 : Spectrogram comparaisons


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 version rises above 20kHz (yellow arrow), with frequency peaks above 30kHz (white arrow) which are due to the music, but mostly to the distortion generated by the vinyl playback technique.

The spectrogram of the Qobuz version rises above 20kHz (yellow arrow), with some frequency peaks above 30kHz (white arrow).

Part 5 : Summary, scoring and Samples

Ed 1: Clear Vinyl – 2023

The listening of the vinyl is here a little more open and dynamic than the digital version, but without offering a dynamic worthy of a very good vinyl. As explained in the waveform analyse, there is a strong probability that this vinyl is cut from a master compressed in dynamics, so the vinyl has transformed this signal according to its technical characteristics, giving a more pleasant signal to listen to, that’s the magic of vinyl, because it has generated a deformation (therefore distortion) which is more pleasant to the ear than the digital version!


  • Dynamic: ●●ooo (2)
  • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5)
  • Surface noise: ●●●●o (4)
  • Restitution: ●●●oo (3.5)

Sample : ”Ghosts Again” 24 bits 96 kHz:

Sample Ed 1: Clear Vinyl – 2023
Ed 2: Qobuz Hi-Res – 2023

Here we have a new record, not for quality, but for the reduction of dynamics with an average DR4. But, why denounce this practice? If you listen to this piece at low level, or in a very noisy environment, it’s fine, you can hear the music. But as soon as you turn up the volume, the music doesn’t breathe anymore, everything is at the same level, everything seems packed, lacking dynamics. Do the experiment with another dynamic album, like xxx from dépêche Mode, and you’ll see that if you turn up the volume, the more energy the song will have, the dynamics will give life to the song.


  • Dynamic: ●oooo (1)
  • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5)
  • Restitution: ●●ooo (2)

Sample : ”Ghosts Again” 24 bits 96 kHz:

Sample Ed 2: Qobuz Hi-Res – 2023

With a DR4, we are very low in dynamics and far from the quality we could expect from a band from the 80s. Moreover, the suspicion of using such a limited dynamic master for the vinyl recording means that technically, it is not a technical success. It is necessary to have more transparency on the masters used for the manufacturing of vinyls in order to know the real quality of it. However, despite this problem, the magic of vinyl works by offering a more pleasant listening experience than the digital limited in dynamic release, but which raises the question of the fidelity of the original mix before a destructive mastering.

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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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