• And The Winner Is …


    Friday, February 21, 2014 Beck's new album Morning Phase was released. Similar to many other artists and albums, Beck offered the album in three formats via his website, vinyl, CD, and MP3. In addition to Beck's site Apple offered the Mastered for iTunes AAC version and HDtracks offered the high resolution 24 bit / 96 kHz version. I downloaded the high resolution version from HDtracks. I really like the music. Beck is a great artist and it shows on Morning Phase. The sound quality of the high resolution 24/96 release is just OK. Considering the quality of the musical performance I can live with the underwhelming sound quality. I'd rather listen to this album on an old AM radio than listen to Scottish nose whistle recorded at 24/192 and played on the world's best audio system. I'll take content over quality any day, but as an audiophile I'd much rather have both good content and good quality. Thursday, February 27, 2014 I noticed the forum discussion heating up about a rumored better sounding MP3 version bundled with vinyl version of the album. Thus began my quest to find the best sounding version. In total I purchased Morning Phase six times and discovered five different digital versions of the album. Computer audiophiles may be surprised to read which version I prefer and highly recommend.

















    Versions


    I purchased the following six versions of Morning Phase.

    1. 24 bit / 96 kHz, FLAC, lossless, Downloaded from HDtracks.com
    2. 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, MP4 AAC, lossy 256 Kbps, Mastered for iTunes, Downloaded from Apple through iTunes
    3. 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, CBR MP3, lossy 256 Kbps, Downloaded from Amazon.com, purchased as MP3 album
    4. 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, CBR MP3, lossy 320 Kbps, Downloaded directly through Beck.com, purchased as "Digital Album" only
    5. 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, CBR MP3, lossy 320 Kbps, Downloaded directly through Beck.com, purchased as "Vinyl + Digital Album Bundle", I haven't received the physical vinyl yet. I assume it will contain a download card like the vinyl version I purchased locally.
    6. 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, VBR MP3, lossy 300-308 Kbps, Downloaded directly from morningphase.beck.com using code bundled with physical 180 gram vinyl album purchased at local record store. This digital version of the album is labeled as "Morning Phase [EQ The Vinyl Exp]" in the embedded metadata.




    Differences


    A few digital versions of the album should be different as they are advertised as being different. The HDtracks version is the only high resolution version of the album available. Apple has it's own Mastered for iTunes AAC version at 256 Kbps and Amazon has a regular MP3 version at 256 Kbps. In addition Beck offers a digital only MP3 download of the album at 320 Kbps. I assumed these four versions would be different because they were created differently for each retail outlet. I incorrectly assumed the MP3 version made available for immediate download after purchasing the "Vinyl + Digital Album Bundle" would be the rumored "Morning Phase [EQ The Vinyl Exp]" version. This assumption was incorrect. The download made available after purchasing the vinyl album through Beck.com is identical to the download in the MP3 "Digital Album" only. I emailed MyPlay Direct, the service Beck uses to sell his music, inquiring about the rumored "Vinyl Experience" version and to see if there was a mistake with the "Vinyl + Digital Album Bundle" download I purchased. The response I received was, "We regret to hear that you are not happy with what you ordered. The vinyl that we have has the same contents with the MP3 and does not say "The Vinyl Experience" MP3. If you decide to return the record, please let us know." Frustrated and unwilling to wait for the post office to deliver the album on March 4, 2014, I purchased another copy of the vinyl at a local record store. Inside the record sleeve was a card with a code to redeem for an MP3 download of the album. I downloaded this MP3 version of Morning Phase and was pleased to find it was the "EQ The Vinyl Exp" version. Confused? I was. Interested about the differences? I was.


    I analyzed the albums for dynamic range compression and imported a few tracks into Adobe Audition CC to look at the compression and spectral frequency display. This analysis would show me the objective information about each album but wouldn't necessarily tell me everything about subjective sound quality. To answer the subjective questions I listened to selected tracks on all six versions of the album.


    Now the news many audiophiles don't want to read. My favorite version of the album is the 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, VBR MP3, lossy 300-308 Kbps, "EQ The Vinyl Exp" available when using the download card included in the physical vinyl packaging. On some tracks the sound is very close to other versions, albeit much quieter on this version, but overall this version is a much more enjoyable listen. This version of the album features some surface noise similar to that heard during vinyl playback. I don't know whether this is an analog to digital conversion from vinyl to MP3 or if this surface noise was added as part of the "EQ The Vinyl Exp". Combining the objective and subjective information for Beck's Morning Phase it's easy to see that in this specific instance dynamic range is more important than any other variable including sample rate, bit depth, bit rate, and codec. However, dynamic range isn't everything. Even though the Mastered for iTunes version has slightly more dynamic range on a couple tracks than the high resolution version, I like the high resolution version more than the iTunes version. Other than the bit depth differences (16 v. 24 bit) and sample rate differences (44.1 v. 96 kHz) between the iTunes and high resolution versions another major difference is the use of lossy versus lossless encoding. HDtracks offers the 24/96 version in several lossless formats such as WAV, FLAC, and AIFF. No data has been removed to decrease the file size. The Mastered for iTunes version has been encoded using Apple's version of the lossy Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) compression format. AAC encoding processes remove a large percentage of the data within each track that can't be recovered by any decoding process. Thus, the name lossy. The two 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, CBR MP3, lossy 320 Kbps versions of the album directly from Beck.com and Amazon's lossy 256 Kbps version are the last versions I'd recommend to anyone.


    I listened to the aforementioned digital versions of this album through the following audio system. Aurender W20 > EMM Labs DAC2X > Pass Labs INT-30A (preamp mode) > Pass Labs XA160.5 mono amplifiers > TAD CR1 loudspeakers. Here is my ranking of Beck's Morning Phase versions from best sound to worst sound.


    1. 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, VBR MP3, lossy 300-308 Kbps, "Morning Phase [EQ The Vinyl Exp]"
    2. 24 bit / 96 kHz, FLAC, lossless, Downloaded from HDtracks.com
    3. 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, MP4 AAC, lossy 256 Kbps, Mastered for iTunes, Downloaded from Apple through iTunes
    4. 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, CBR MP3, lossy 320 Kbps, purchased as "Vinyl + Digital Album Bundle"
    5. 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, CBR MP3, lossy 320 Kbps, purchased as "Digital Album" only
    6. 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, CBR MP3, lossy 256 Kbps, Downloaded from Amazon.com, purchased as MP3 album




    Now What?


    These results are troubling for many computer audiophiles and frustrating for anyone trying to get the best sounding version of this album without purchasing a physical copy of the vinyl. The fact that four of the five versions of Morning Phase are majorly dynamically compressed is just one of those things we as consumers have to accept. Compression is an artistic decision made by artists, producers, mastering engineers and record labels. However, releasing a high resolution version much more compressed than the MP3 version bundled with the vinyl release makes no sense. The fact that Beck's site doesn't offer this MP3 version is ridiculous, but that's another issue. Some readers have already pointed fingers at retailers such as HDtracks for selling a high resolution album like Morning Phase with huge dynamic range compression. I see it differently. The fingers should be pointed at Beck and his record label. The decision to provide a better sounding version as an MP3 was great. The decision not to provide a better sounding lossless version for high resolution download was stupid. Granted I don't have all the information, if any, that was considered before Beck released these versions, but premium priced products like vinyl and high resolution downloads are purchased by discerning customers who care about quality. Would it be that hard to produce a good high resolution version at the same time the good MP3 version was produced? I can see the trouble or extra expense of creating another version of an album. Artists releasing a single version for all formats may not want the added time and expense of another version. I get that. But Beck has created a good sounding version of the album already, then removed much of the data through lossy compression and made it available only to vinyl customers. I think I would have been happier if Beck would've turned this good MP3 into a "lossless" 24/96 FLAC download and not told anyone. OK, maybe not but at least I would have enjoyed the sound quality until I found out someone has pulled this shenanigan.


    Maybe computer audiophiles who like to spend money on good music that sounds good can raise their voices and affect change. I think contacting Beck and his record label is a great first step. Who knows, maybe we'll see a high dynamic range high resolution version of Morning Phase if enough people voice their opinions. Please send a link to this article to anyone who will listen.



    Objective Data


    Those interested in the objective data for the Morning Phase digital versions may be interested in the following Dynamic Range information and screenshots from Adobe Audition CC.

    content/attachments/11021-04-say-goodbye-eq-vinyl-exp-.jpg/ content/attachments/11022-04-say-goodbye-hdtracks-high-resolution-.jpg/ content/attachments/11023-04-say-goodbye-mastered-itunes-.jpg/ content/attachments/11024-04-say-goodbye-mp3-beck.com-.jpg/ content/attachments/11025-04-say-goodbye-mp3-included-vinyl-beck.com-.jpg/ content/attachments/11026-04-say-goodbye-mp3-amazon.com-.jpg/






    Dynamic Range data by album sorted by track number.


    Morning Phase (MP3 The Vinyl Experience)
    DR Peak RMS Filename
    DR9 -5.89 dB -22.82 dB 01 Cycle.mp3
    DR10 -5.61 dB -18.67 dB 02 Morning.mp3
    DR11 -3.97 dB -16.27 dB 03 Heart Is A Drum.mp3
    DR10 -5.11 dB -16.73 dB 04 Say Goodbye.mp3
    DR9 -5.11 dB -16.30 dB 05 Blue Moon.mp3
    DR10 -4.84 dB -16.90 dB 06 Unforgiven.mp3
    DR7 -3.81 dB -17.49 dB 07 Waves.mp3
    DR9 -5.72 dB -17.00 dB 08 Don't Let It Go.mp3
    DR10 -5.18 dB -16.52 dB 09 Blackbird Chain.mp3
    DR10 -9.41 dB -22.24 dB 10 Phase.mp3
    DR7 -6.55 dB -15.80 dB 11 Turn Away.mp3
    DR9 -5.01 dB -15.76 dB 12 Country Down.mp3
    DR8 -4.93 dB -14.86 dB 13 Waking Light.mp3
    Number of files: 13
    Official DR value: DR9




    Morning Phase (24-96 HDtracks)
    DR Peak RMS Filename
    DR8 -1.68 dB -12.52 dB 01 Cycle.wav
    DR7 -0.07 dB -9.20 dB 02 Morning.wav
    DR6 -0.00 dB -7.09 dB 03 Heart Is A Drum.wav
    DR6 over -7.47 dB 04 Say Goodbye.wav
    DR5 -0.00 dB -6.95 dB 05 Blue Moon.wav
    DR5 -0.00 dB -6.25 dB 06 Unforgiven.wav
    DR5 -0.00 dB -7.72 dB 07 Wave.wav
    DR5 -0.00 dB -7.53 dB 08 Don't Let It Go.wav
    DR6 over -7.26 dB 09 Blackbird Chain.wav
    DR10 -0.12 dB -13.28 dB 10 Phase.wav
    DR5 -0.00 dB -6.49 dB 11 Turn Away.wav
    DR5 over -6.48 dB 12 Country Down.wav
    DR3 -0.00 dB -5.31 dB 13 Waking Light.wav
    Number of files: 13
    Official DR value: DR6




    Morning Phase (Mastered for iTunes)
    DR Peak RMS Filename
    DR8 -2.70 dB -13.79 dB 01 Cycle.m4a
    DR7 -0.95 dB -10.21 dB 02 Morning.m4a
    DR6 -0.73 dB -8.09 dB 03 Heart Is a Drum.m4a
    DR7 -0.68 dB -8.47 dB 04 Say Goodbye.m4a
    DR6 -0.48 dB -7.96 dB 05 Blue Moon.m4a
    DR5 -0.31 dB -7.25 dB 06 Unforgiven.m4a
    DR5 -0.78 dB -8.73 dB 07 Wave.m4a
    DR5 -0.65 dB -8.60 dB 08 Don't Let It Go.m4a
    DR6 -0.43 dB -8.26 dB 09 Blackbird Chain.m4a
    DR10 -1.15 dB -14.29 dB 10 Phase.m4a
    DR5 -0.71 dB -7.49 dB 11 Turn Away.m4a
    DR6 -0.44 dB -7.54 dB 12 Country Down.m4a
    DR4 over -6.36 dB 13 Waking Light.m4a
    Number of files: 13
    Official DR value: DR6




    Morning Phase (MP3 Direct - Vinyl)
    DR Peak RMS Filename
    DR8 -1.43 dB -12.78 dB 01 Cycle.mp3
    DR7 over -9.20 dB 02 Morning.mp3
    DR6 over -7.09 dB 03 Heart Is A Drum.mp3
    DR6 over -7.47 dB 04 Say Goodbye.mp3
    DR5 over -6.95 dB 05 Blue Moon.mp3
    DR5 over -6.24 dB 06 Unforgiven.mp3
    DR5 over -7.72 dB 07 Wave.mp3
    DR5 over -7.59 dB 08 Don't Let It Go.mp3
    DR6 over -7.25 dB 09 Blackbird Chain.mp3
    DR10 -0.19 dB -12.89 dB 10 Phase.mp3
    DR5 over -6.49 dB 11 Turn Away.mp3
    DR5 over -6.53 dB 12 Country Down.mp3
    DR3 over -5.35 dB 13 Waking Light.mp3
    Number of files: 13
    Official DR value: DR6




    Morning Phase (MP3 Direct)
    DR Peak RMS Filename
    DR8 -1.43 dB -12.78 dB 01 Cycle.mp3
    DR7 over -9.20 dB 02 Morning.mp3
    DR6 over -7.09 dB 03 Heart Is A Drum.mp3
    DR6 over -7.47 dB 04 Say Goodbye.mp3
    DR5 over -6.95 dB 05 Blue Moon.mp3
    DR5 over -6.24 dB 06 Unforgiven.mp3
    DR5 over -7.59 dB 08 Don't Let It Go.mp3
    DR5 over -7.72 dB 07 Wave.mp3
    DR6 over -7.25 dB 09 Blackbird Chain.mp3
    DR10 -0.19 dB -12.89 dB 10 Phase.mp3
    DR5 over -6.49 dB 11 Turn Away.mp3
    DR5 over -6.53 dB 12 Country Down.mp3
    DR3 over -5.35 dB 13 Waking Light.mp3
    Number of files: 13
    Official DR value: DR6




    Morning Phase (MP3 Amazon.com)
    DR Peak RMS Filename
    DR8 -1.71 dB -12.78 dB 01 Cycle.mp3
    DR7 over -9.21 dB 02 Morning.mp3
    DR6 over -7.09 dB 03 Heart Is A Drum.mp3
    DR6 over -7.47 dB 04 Say Goodbye.mp3
    DR5 over -6.95 dB 05 Blue Moon.mp3
    DR5 over -6.25 dB 06 Unforgiven.mp3
    DR5 over -7.72 dB 07 Wave.mp3
    DR5 over -7.60 dB 08 Dont Let It Go.mp3
    DR6 over -7.26 dB 09 Blackbird Chain.mp3
    DR10 -0.08 dB -13.29 dB 10 Phase.mp3
    DR5 over -6.49 dB 11 Turn Away.mp3
    DR5 over -6.53 dB 12 Country Down.mp3
    DR3 over -5.35 dB 13 Waking Light.mp3
    Number of files: 13
    Official DR value: DR6










    Dynamic Range data sorted by track number


    DR Peak RMS Filename Version
    8 -2.70 dB -13.79 dB 01 Cycle.m4a Morning Phase (Mastered for iTunes)
    8 -1.71 dB -12.78 dB 01 Cycle.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Amazon.com)
    8 -1.43 dB -12.78 dB 01 Cycle.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct - Vinyl)
    8 -1.43 dB -12.78 dB 01 Cycle.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct)
    9 -5.89 dB -22.82 dB 01 Cycle.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 The Vinyl Experience)
    8 -1.68 dB -12.52 dB 01 Cycle.wav Morning Phase (24-96 HDtracks)
    7 -0.95 dB -10.21 dB 02 Morning.m4a Morning Phase (Mastered for iTunes)
    7 over -9.21 dB 02 Morning.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Amazon.com)
    7 over -9.20 dB 02 Morning.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct - Vinyl)
    7 over -9.20 dB 02 Morning.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct)
    10 -5.61 dB -18.67 dB 02 Morning.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 The Vinyl Experience)
    7 -0.07 dB -9.20 dB 02 Morning.wav Morning Phase (24-96 HDtracks)
    6 -0.73 dB -8.09 dB 03 Heart Is a Drum.m4a Morning Phase (Mastered for iTunes)
    6 over -7.09 dB 03 Heart Is A Drum.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Amazon.com)
    6 over -7.09 dB 03 Heart Is A Drum.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct - Vinyl)
    6 over -7.09 dB 03 Heart Is A Drum.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct)
    11 -3.97 dB -16.27 dB 03 Heart Is A Drum.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 The Vinyl Experience)
    6 -0.00 dB -7.09 dB 03 Heart Is A Drum.wav Morning Phase (24-96 HDtracks)
    7 -0.68 dB -8.47 dB 04 Say Goodbye.m4a Morning Phase (Mastered for iTunes)
    6 over -7.47 dB 04 Say Goodbye.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Amazon.com)
    6 over -7.47 dB 04 Say Goodbye.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct - Vinyl)
    6 over -7.47 dB 04 Say Goodbye.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct)
    10 -5.11 dB -16.73 dB 04 Say Goodbye.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 The Vinyl Experience)
    6 over -7.47 dB 04 Say Goodbye.wav Morning Phase (24-96 HDtracks)
    6 -0.48 dB -7.96 dB 05 Blue Moon.m4a Morning Phase (Mastered for iTunes)
    5 over -6.95 dB 05 Blue Moon.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Amazon.com)
    5 over -6.95 dB 05 Blue Moon.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct - Vinyl)
    5 over -6.95 dB 05 Blue Moon.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct)
    9 -5.11 dB -16.30 dB 05 Blue Moon.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 The Vinyl Experience)
    5 -0.00 dB -6.95 dB 05 Blue Moon.wav Morning Phase (24-96 HDtracks)
    5 -0.31 dB -7.25 dB 06 Unforgiven.m4a Morning Phase (Mastered for iTunes)
    5 over -6.25 dB 06 Unforgiven.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Amazon.com)
    5 over -6.24 dB 06 Unforgiven.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct - Vinyl)
    5 over -6.24 dB 06 Unforgiven.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct)
    10 -4.84 dB -16.90 dB 06 Unforgiven.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 The Vinyl Experience)
    5 -0.00 dB -6.25 dB 06 Unforgiven.wav Morning Phase (24-96 HDtracks)
    5 -0.78 dB -8.73 dB 07 Wave.m4a Morning Phase (Mastered for iTunes)
    5 over -7.72 dB 07 Wave.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Amazon.com)
    5 over -7.72 dB 07 Wave.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct - Vinyl)
    5 over -7.72 dB 07 Wave.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct)
    5 -0.00 dB -7.72 dB 07 Wave.wav Morning Phase (24-96 HDtracks)
    7 -3.81 dB -17.49 dB 07 Waves.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 The Vinyl Experience)
    5 -0.65 dB -8.60 dB 08 Don't Let It Go.m4a Morning Phase (Mastered for iTunes)
    5 over -7.59 dB 08 Don't Let It Go.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct - Vinyl)
    5 over -7.59 dB 08 Don't Let It Go.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct)
    9 -5.72 dB -17.00 dB 08 Don't Let It Go.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 The Vinyl Experience)
    5 -0.00 dB -7.53 dB 08 Don't Let It Go.wav Morning Phase (24-96 HDtracks)
    5 over -7.60 dB 08 Dont Let It Go.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Amazon.com)
    6 -0.43 dB -8.26 dB 09 Blackbird Chain.m4a Morning Phase (Mastered for iTunes)
    6 over -7.26 dB 09 Blackbird Chain.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Amazon.com)
    6 over -7.25 dB 09 Blackbird Chain.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct - Vinyl)
    6 over -7.25 dB 09 Blackbird Chain.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct)
    10 -5.18 dB -16.52 dB 09 Blackbird Chain.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 The Vinyl Experience)
    6 over -7.26 dB 09 Blackbird Chain.wav Morning Phase (24-96 HDtracks)
    10 -1.15 dB -14.29 dB 10 Phase.m4a Morning Phase (Mastered for iTunes)
    10 -0.08 dB -13.29 dB 10 Phase.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Amazon.com)
    10 -0.19 dB -12.89 dB 10 Phase.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct - Vinyl)
    10 -0.19 dB -12.89 dB 10 Phase.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct)
    10 -9.41 dB -22.24 dB 10 Phase.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 The Vinyl Experience)
    10 -0.12 dB -13.28 dB 10 Phase.wav Morning Phase (24-96 HDtracks)
    5 -0.71 dB -7.49 dB 11 Turn Away.m4a Morning Phase (Mastered for iTunes)
    5 over -6.49 dB 11 Turn Away.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Amazon.com)
    5 over -6.49 dB 11 Turn Away.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct - Vinyl)
    5 over -6.49 dB 11 Turn Away.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct)
    7 -6.55 dB -15.80 dB 11 Turn Away.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 The Vinyl Experience)
    5 -0.00 dB -6.49 dB 11 Turn Away.wav Morning Phase (24-96 HDtracks)
    6 -0.44 dB -7.54 dB 12 Country Down.m4a Morning Phase (Mastered for iTunes)
    5 over -6.53 dB 12 Country Down.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Amazon.com)
    5 over -6.53 dB 12 Country Down.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct - Vinyl)
    5 over -6.53 dB 12 Country Down.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct)
    9 -5.01 dB -15.76 dB 12 Country Down.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 The Vinyl Experience)
    5 over -6.48 dB 12 Country Down.wav Morning Phase (24-96 HDtracks)
    4 over -6.36 dB 13 Waking Light.m4a Morning Phase (Mastered for iTunes)
    3 over -5.35 dB 13 Waking Light.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Amazon.com)
    3 over -5.35 dB 13 Waking Light.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct - Vinyl)
    3 over -5.35 dB 13 Waking Light.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 Direct)
    8 -4.93 dB -14.86 dB 13 Waking Light.mp3 Morning Phase (MP3 The Vinyl Experience)
    3 -0.00 dB -5.31 dB 13 Waking Light.wav Morning Phase (24-96 HDtracks)











    Comments 105 Comments
    1. mikeP's Avatar
      mikeP -
      I wonder where a quality FLAC rip of the CD would fall in the preference list? Gives me pause as I consider which version to purchase, what a mess!
    1. junker's Avatar
      junker -
      Great job Chris and thanks for getting this up so quickly...could save many CA users from making the wrong purchase here.

      Just curious but any idea why 18KHz L/R (and 14KHz R) are notched out on the frequency plot for The Vinyl Experience version?
    1. RubenV's Avatar
      RubenV -
      Awesome article Chris, thank you! This shows us that it is not always that easy to get the highest sound quality just by picking the highest bitrate. Although it is a shame that the 24bit version is more compressed. At least now I have learned a way how to check, with Adobe Audition CC.
    1. andrasszamek's Avatar
      andrasszamek -
      there is also a 16/44 lossless version on Qobuz.
      Morning Phase | Beck*– Télécharger et écouter l'album
    1. AdamK123's Avatar
      AdamK123 -
      If you listen to the interview on NPR New Beck Album, 'Morning Phase': All Songs Considered Interview : All Songs Considered : NPR there's an interesting exchange around the 8:46 mark (you have to listen, it's not in the edited transcript):

      Shortly after listening to an excerpt from "Wave"

      Beck: It's funny after listening to it, the vocal got so loud after mixing and mastering. The vocal was always tucked in this ... huge orchestra.
      Boilen: You actually like God.
      Beck: Yeah, it's supposed to be tucked in there. But I don't know... You don't want to get in the way of the orchestra.

      He sounded surprised/disappointed in how it sounded when played back to him. Sounds like the mastering wasn't something he was closely involved in.

      Give it a listen.
    1. woodford's Avatar
      woodford -
      there's also a lossless FLAC version at Qobuz, also available for streaming.
    1. maelob's Avatar
      maelob -
      I just bought the cd ripped to FLAC and I am enjoying it. ignorance is bliss LOL
    1. veindoc's Avatar
      veindoc -
      got the hd download Monday night and love love love it and the mood it creates. Glad I have no TT or time for the vinyl. Interesting how many different versions exist.
      Nick
    1. InfernoSTi's Avatar
      InfernoSTi -
      +1…why didn't the CD get into the mix? Now that would have made it the definitive collection!

      That said, thank you , Chris. This is good info. I really like my CD copy of the album. The music is really good.

      What really bothers me is the idea of adding "vinyl noise" to the best master. This is a gimmick that doesn't help. Perhaps they will release an SACD version without that noise for audiophiles? If they do, we expect you to pick it up, too, Chris! Hahaha….

      John
    1. Drtrey3's Avatar
      Drtrey3 -
      Thanks for your work on this! One of the things I enjoy about high res downloads is the absence of the slightly annoying vinyl artifacts like pops and tics and such. So I bet the HD Tracks download would work well for me, unless my home rip of the LP would be better. Trey
    1. Booster MPS's Avatar
      Booster MPS -
      Chris I certainly appreciate the analysis here. I think you have it right in that the consumer ultimately loses out when you are not able to make an informed decision on your purchase. I am ok with the artistic decision to use compression, however the label should be transparent on the product and what the consumer is purchasing. I would agree that HD Tracks is not to blame, but why are they not leading a more vocal charge through their channels with labels?

      I will be looking into corresponding with somebody at the label so if anybody here has an email address and contact info for them, I would appreciate it.
    1. Priaptor's Avatar
      Priaptor -
      Quote Originally Posted by Booster MPS View Post
      Chris I certainly appreciate the analysis here. I think you have it right in that the consumer ultimately loses out when you are not able to make an informed decision on your purchase. I am ok with the artistic decision to use compression, however the label should be transparent on the product and what the consumer is purchasing. I would agree that HD Tracks is not to blame, but why are they not leading a more vocal charge through their channels with labels?

      I will be looking into corresponding with somebody at the label so if anybody here has an email address and contact info for them, I would appreciate it.
      Booster,

      I too agree with you that this was a great review however, where I disagree is in the responsibility of the artist, especially someone like Beck who is so particular about his music and how much time he spends to get it right. While I am sure the audiophile is not the audience he is concerned about, having read much about this artist it is clear that he is concerned about he "quality" of the music. When he himself admits that he was surprised that his voice gets drowned out he must understand there is an issue with the mastering of this album.

      I really like the album but the mastering from the first note had me wondering WHY??? This could have been an amazing album both from a musical standpoint and technical standpoint but unfortunately, the latter, at least IMO, interferes with the enjoyment of the former. I don't blame HDT, I blame the artist in this case, no matter how much I enjoy the music.
    1. Blake's Avatar
      Blake -
      Thanks for the analysis Chris.

      I also agree with Booster MPS' comment above, that although this is not HDTracks fault, HDTracks are best positioned to apply pressure to the labels. Meantime, I am really enjoying my HDTracks version. Outstanding album.
    1. ted_b's Avatar
      ted_b -
      I love love love this album too. I have the cd and HDtracks versions so far. What is quite interesting to me, after this wonderful detective work by Chris and our posters earlier on, is that I am now realizing that the NPR stream from last week (they released it on my bday and I felt it was a great bday gift ) sounded better than either of the file folders I now own!! It was rich and clear and not overly compressed nor bloomy. Maybe it was from the EQVinyl? Or maybe simply my excitement to hear it the first fifteen times. Dunno...seems weird that it would be, but it was great. It's likely still up there...edit: damn, no its not.
    1. Booster MPS's Avatar
      Booster MPS -
      Quote Originally Posted by Priaptor View Post
      Booster,

      I too agree with you that this was a great review however, where I disagree is in the responsibility of the artist, especially someone like Beck who is so particular about his music and how much time he spends to get it right. While I am sure the audiophile is not the audience he is concerned about, having read much about this artist it is clear that he is concerned about he "quality" of the music. When he himself admits that he was surprised that his voice gets drowned out he must understand there is an issue with the mastering of this album.

      I really like the album but the mastering from the first note had me wondering WHY??? This could have been an amazing album both from a musical standpoint and technical standpoint but unfortunately, the latter, at least IMO, interferes with the enjoyment of the former. I don't blame HDT, I blame the artist in this case, no matter how much I enjoy the music.
      Priaptor, you are right. There is certainly enough blame to go around and the artist does share some of it. What we do not know is where the breakdown in quality occurs. We know that Beck (or any musician for that matter that is meticulous) is concerned about the sound of their work, but what we don't know is how involved they are in the mastering or even if they contractually can be involved and influence it. Who has the ball? You would think artists such as Beck would be very knowledgeable about the entire recording process but maybe my assumption is sadly incorrect. But set that aside, somebody in the chain at the label should have looked at the product offering for this major release and made sure the quality was consistent and made sense. The same guy who said "vinyl is big so we need a 180 gram vinyl product, oh and by the way make sure that customer can use a download code for their iPhone," should have also said "let's make sure we have a kick as 24/96 hi res product for audiophiles purchasing for HD Tracks." Again, I think HD Tracks should also be more of an advocate.

      To me the final product is like a dish that comes out of a chef driven restaurant. The recipe could come from the chef but he might or might not be on the line cooking that day BUT either way, somebody should be responsible for the Q/A of the food.
    1. phatoldsun's Avatar
      phatoldsun -
      Quote Originally Posted by ted_b View Post
      I love love love this album too. I have the cd and HDtracks versions so far. What is quite interesting to me, after this wonderful detective work by Chris and our posters earlier on, is that I am now realizing that the NPR stream from last week (they released it on my bday and I felt it was a great bday gift ) sounded better than either of the file folders I now own!! It was rich and clear and not overly compressed nor bloomy. Maybe it was from the EQVinyl? Or maybe simply my excitement to hear it the first fifteen times. Dunno...seems weird that it would be, but it was great. It's likely still up there...edit: damn, no its not.
      Happy belated birthday!
      The Vinyl EQ version has unmistakable record surface noise especially audible in the beginning of the first track. I listened to the NPR stream multiple times. I listened to the beginning more than I wanted too because I lost connection a few times and the stream would start over at the beginning :/ I don't recall hearing the surface noise in the stream.
      BTW, have you listened to it with PCM to DSD real time conversion through JRiver yet? I'm wondering how that sounds compared to straight PCM.
    1. Priaptor's Avatar
      Priaptor -
      Quote Originally Posted by Booster MPS View Post
      Priaptor, you are right. There is certainly enough blame to go around and the artist does share some of it. What we do not know is where the breakdown in quality occurs. We know that Beck (or any musician for that matter that is meticulous) is concerned about the sound of their work, but what we don't know is how involved they are in the mastering or even if they contractually can be involved and influence it. Who has the ball? You would think artists such as Beck would be very knowledgeable about the entire recording process but maybe my assumption is sadly incorrect. But set that aside, somebody in the chain at the label should have looked at the product offering for this major release and made sure the quality was consistent and made sense. The same guy who said "vinyl is big so we need a 180 gram vinyl product, oh and by the way make sure that customer can use a download code for their iPhone," should have also said "let's make sure we have a kick as 24/96 hi res product for audiophiles purchasing for HD Tracks." Again, I think HD Tracks should also be more of an advocate.

      To me the final product is like a dish that comes out of a chef driven restaurant. The recipe could come from the chef but he might or might not be on the line cooking that day BUT either way, somebody should be responsible for the Q/A of the food.
      I couldn't agree more. We lay people tend to immediately blame the artist/chef/doctor/lawyer/etc but you are right. We don't know the contractual issues, etc. It is just such a pity that such good music can get corrupted as this is an album I can listen to over and over again if it weren't such as strain.
    1. Gasper Weinholtz's Avatar
      Gasper Weinholtz -
      Several people, me included, look at releases this way on Steve Hoffman's forum. The goal being, to find the most listenable version of an album. Anyway, I thought it was curious in that track 10, Phase, seems to have the same mastering across all the formats. Too bad all the songs couldn't have been done that way. And ... I have mentioned a few times to the HDTracks folks, why not have a feedback system like Amazon has for products? In other words, if they put up a poor mastering, let people publicly comment on that, so others don't waste their money. And by the same token, if they put up an excellent mastering, people might want to know. Now, it's a real crapshoot buying high res downloads from them. Just based on this single review that my buddy sent to me, I will check out more of what's at this web site. :-) (And I do have a computer audio setup too!)
    1. matt123's Avatar
      matt123 -
      Just received the vinyl + "Vinyl Experience" download version in the mail today. Haven't had time to listen to either in detail. Will try to report back after I do.

      But, my main question now is which file was used to cut the vinyl!

      Thank you Chris for this report. I hope you get some answers, and if you do have the opportunity to speak with someone in the know, please do ask about the source used to cut the vinyl.
    1. JR_Audio's Avatar
      JR_Audio -
      And so many „overs“ in the tracks. Isn't this not a reason to send all this stuff back? It makes me really sad, that the dynamic range gets worse and worse over the years. Why do I even need a CD with 16 Bit for these typical DR6. (I am aware that these DR6 are not the maximum dynamic range in the track). I hate those compressions.

      PS: This month I made a high res recording in an opera house. The raw recording has had a Dynamic Range of DR21, so for the final product, I “re-wrote” the tutti fff parts manually a bit when mastering to get the dynamic a bit down for home listening to DR18. So this will be the final DR, when the product will be released.

      Juergen