Ed Sheeran – – (Subtract) – Review (test : yellow vinyl, Qobuz Hi-Res and Tidal Dolby Atmos)

Ed Sheeran is back with his 5th studio album – (“Subtract”). Ed Sheeran is enjoying great success that began with his first album “+” (Plus), which included hit singles such as “The A Team” and “Lego House”.
Since then, Sheeran has become one of the most popular and successful artists in the world, selling millions of records and winning numerous awards, including several Grammy Awards. His musical style is a blend of pop, folk and hip-hop, and his songs often deal with personal experiences and relationships.
This new album contains 14 tracks in the standard version.

For this review, you will find 3 versions tested: vinyl, streaming Qobuz Hi-Res and Tidal Dolby Atmos.

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 18 tracks:

  1. Boat
  2. Salt Water
  3. Eyes Closed
  4. Life Goes On
  5. Dusty
  6. End Of Youth
  7. Colourblind
  8. Curtains
  9. Borderline
  10. Spark
  11. Vega
  12. Sycamore
  13. No Strings
  14. The Hills of Aberfeldy
  15. Wildflowers (Bonus Track)*
  16. Stoned (Bonus Track)*
  17. Toughest (Bonus Track)*
  18. Moving (Bonus Track)*

* only on Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res and Tidal Dolby Atmos

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: Yellow Vinyl – 2023

Here is the vinyl record presented on one LPs in 33 rpm in yellow color. The vinyl cutting level is almost 5 to 6 dB lower than the normal vinyl level. (ref : 5054197170577)

Ed 2: Qobuz Hi-Res – 2023

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

Qobuz Hi-Res – 2023
Ed 3: Tidal Dolby Atmos – 2023

This is the streaming Tidal Dolby Atmos.

Tidal Dolby Atmos – 2023

Part 2 : Waveform and dynamic comparaisons


The waveform represents tracks of this album.

The vinyl waveform is more dynamic than the digital stereo version, but still less dynamic than the Dolby Atmos Binaural version.

La courbe de la forme d’onde est caractéristique de l’utilisation d’un limiteur Brickwall, toutes les chansons ont le même niveau maximum sur toutes les chansons. Ceci est confirmé par la valeur DR, qui est DR7 pour la valeur moyenne.

The waveform of the Dolby Atmos Binaural version is the most dynmic of the 3 versions tested, as confirmed by the DR measurement.


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

Yellow Vinyl – 2023Qobuz Hi-Res – 2023Tidal Dolby Atmos – 2023
GlobalDR10DR7 DR12
MinDR9 DR5 DR10
MaxDR11DR9 DR14
BoatDR11DR9 DR13
Salt WaterDR11DR7 DR11
Eyes ClosedDR9 DR5 DR12
Life Goes OnDR11DR9 DR11
DustyDR10DR6 DR14
End Of YouthDR10DR6 DR12
ColourblindDR11DR7 DR13
CurtainsDR9 DR6 DR13
BorderlineDR10DR7 DR12
SparkDR10DR6 DR13
VegaDR9 DR5 DR10
SycamoreDR10DR6 DR11
No StringsDR10DR7 DR11
The Hills of AberfeldyDR10DR8 DR13
Wildflowers (Bonus Track)*DR7 DR12
Stoned (Bonus Track)*DR8 DR13
Toughest (Bonus Track)*DR5 DR12
Moving (Bonus Track)*DR7 DR11

We find here the hierarchy that is becoming classic on new productions, with a stereo version limited in dynamics DR7, followed by the vinyl with its DR10, which can imply the use of a master limited in dynamics (see the Depeche Mode review), and the Dolby Atmos mix which is the most dynamic with its DR12. These results are in line with what we find on the waveforms.

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 70 Hz and 7 kHz, below 70 Hz the white curve is above the blue curve (green area), showing the surface noise of the vinyl for this track. Above 7 kHz, the white curve is higher than the blue curve, with a difference of up to 3 dB (yellow area). The tonal balance is very similar, with slightly more treble in the vinyl version.

The spectrum of the Dolby Atmos version shows the higher level of the front channels (yellow arrow) compared to the surround. The centre channel is almost non-existent (green arrow).

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 goes up to 24 kHz (yellow arrow), with no signal above (white arrow). This is due to the 48 kHz sampling rate.

The spectrogram of the Dolby Atmos version does not exceed 20 kHz (yellow arrow) due to the Dolby Digital plus or Dolby AC-4 encoding, with no signal above (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.

Spatialization here exploits all the channels by expanding the sound rendering with the guitar which is often present on the side channels. There are marked effects with instruments or choirs in the surround channels. The centre and bass (LFE) channels are not exploited.

The spatialization varies between 6.3 and 8.7 depending on the track.

Spatialization : ●●●●●●●ooo (7.4)

Below the spatialization for the 18 tracks of Tidal Dolby Atmos version. Click on the images to zoom in.

Part 6 : Summary, scoring and Samples

Ed 1: Yellow Vinyl – 2023

The vinyl version is very pleasant to listen to, with a slightly warmer and clearer sound. We regret not to have found a 45 rpm edition which would have allowed a higher sound level. The quality of the pressing is not there with the first yellow vinyl record, there is a recurrent background noise towards the end of the A side. After an exchange, the new yellow vinyl record is very good, with reduced surface noise and a very nice reproduction of the voice and guitar.


  • Dynamic: ●●●oo (3)
  • Bandwidth: ●●●●● (5)
  • Surface noise: ●●●●o (4)
  • Restitution: ●●●●o (4)

Sample : ”Boat” 24 bits 96 kHz:

Sample 1 Ed 1: Yellow vinyl – 2023
Ed 2: Qobuz Hi-Res – 2023

The rendering of the Qobuz version varies according to the passages. On the passages with the lowest sound level, there is no effect of the limiter, we find all the quality of the digital rendering with finesse and detail. As soon as the sound level increases, the limiter comes into action, and we lose the dynamics present on the Dolby Atmos version, with also a little less finesse in the restitution of these sound passages.


  • Dynamic: ●●ooo (2)
  • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4)
  • Restitution: ●●●oo (3)

Sample : ”Boat” 24 bits 48 kHz:

Sample 1 Ed 2: Qobuz Hi-Res – 2023
Ed 3: Tidal Dolby Atmos – 2023

The Dolby Atmos version brings a version with more openness in 7.1.4 and a nice dynamic range that far exceeds the stereo version. The mix aims to expand and create a pleasant atmosphere for listening to this new album. All channels are used with moving sounds as in “Boat”.


  • Dynamic: ●●●●o (4)
  • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4)
  • Spatialization: ●●●●●●●ooo (7.3)
  • Restitution: ●●●●o (4)

Sample : ”Boat”:

The sample is in 5.1 wav format, if you can not play the sample in your navigator, you can save it, right button menu and “Save Audio As…” and play it with an external player.

Sample 1 Ed 3: Tidal Dolby Atmos decoded in 5.1- 2023

We regret the use of limiter on the Stereo version, which shows all its smoothness on the least loud passages, but loses these qualities on the loudest passages. The Dolby Atmos version brings a more emglobant and wider rendering to the recording, but also more dynamic. For the vinyl, after a quality problem on a first copy, no problem on the second, the yellow vinyl record brings the warmth of vinyl on the voice and guitar, very pleasant to listen.

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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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