Bowie – "Heroes": Blind listening test

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Tsomi, Oct 8, 2017.

  1. Tsomi

    Tsomi Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Lille, France
    David Bowie – "Heroes" (1977): Blind listening test

    With samples from the very much debated new Parlophone remaster!


    Previous threads: 1. Young Americans (votes are closed; see post #4 for a correct download link). 2. The Man Who Sold the World (still open to votes!).
    Next thread: Possibly Scary Monsters.

    tl;dr: FLAC samples below, please listen, vote on your own, and tell us why you made this choice.

    >> Goals

    You'll find below a link to a ZIP archive containing various FLAC samples of this album, from most of its existing digital masters. They are mostly around 30 seconds each (fair use), but they try to capture some “interesting” segments to help you make some fair-enough comparisons.

    To avoid bias, you don't know which masters are included, and you don't know which master you are listening to, apart from some letters (A, B, C...) which were randomly attributed. The samples come from straight EAC rips, and were only “hard” level-matched with foobar2000's ReplayGain tool. When there are enough votes, I'll tell you which sample is which.

    >> What to do

    Download the archive and extract it, concentrate and then listen to the various samples with your prefered setup. Listen track per track, or sample per sample – really, just use your favourite method. Then, chose your favourite master(s), vote, and please also tell us why you like it. The more precise (e.g., a particular instrument at a particular moment) the better.

    It may also be interesting to know how much better your favourite master is, compared to the others. Is the difference that big or is it quite subtle? This could help people in case your favourite master happens to be rare and $$. Your second favourite master might be 90% as good, and much cheaper.

    Please don't read the other replies before voting! Really. There's nothing “right” or “wrong” with your own particular choice, nothing to check, no need to vote like somebody else, nothing. We don't want bias, we want you to tell us what you really prefer. Please!

    >> Download

    The samples are hosted on Google Drive.

    You might need to move your cursor on the upper side of the web page to see a download button appear near its upper-right corner (look for an arrow). PM me if you still have troubles downloading this.

    Blind Test - (if this link is dead, please look for a newer post of mine below!)

    >> Spread the word!

    The more votes this gets, the better. The poll will remain open as long as it's necessary, in order to reach a meaningful number of votes. So please help me and spread the word! Thanks!

    I'd also like to thank karmaman for his help in setting up this test, and to everyone who participated in the previous ones.
    grandegi, LCM and The Zodiac like this.
  2. LCM

    LCM Member

    I didn't felt like voting (I finally clicked on F though)

    I joined a disclaimer to my vote for TMWSTW :

    (Just a disclaimer : while I took honestly the BD, I then played rapidly Five Years 24/192 and RCA JPN and none sounded like any track I heard in the BD though i guess they are in : either the context (sequential order) altered my judgement or processing in order to match dB level, resolution, what have you, altered the files : as much as I think I can trust EW's ears from this test, as much I'm not confident that the BD is actually trustworthy when it comes to identify the best mastering...) ;

    here a disclaimer would not be enough : I played very recently much too much much too many versions of Heroes in the context of the fierce Box 3 debate and everything here sounds plain awful and totally different from my Hard Drive ripped (or HD dowloaded) and stored versions, as if the poster was recording his speakers output with his phone (yes I read : "The samples come from straight EAC rips, and were only “hard” level-matched with foobar2000's ReplayGain tool" ; but this is to tell how bad and far remote from files I own everything sounds here).
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017
  3. sassi

    sassi Forum Resident

    What is wrong with the new remaster? Brickwalled? Or some other problems? Thanks!
  4. Tsomi

    Tsomi Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Lille, France
    And I don't care.

    I don't buy the usual hi-rez golden ears stuff. They're too often the most unscientific, most unmusical people, who hear a poster "recording his speakers output with his phone", because they just can't see their usual big magical numbers, so they feel bad. Blind tests would prove that they're just imagining something, but unfortunately they always have a good excuse to work around blind tests. And it's happening here.

    Still, I could include them if they weren't so overpriced, of if you offered me some samples (but you didn't). But then I'd need to upsample everything to 192/24 because otherwise these so-called audiophiles would complain (and then the set would be over a gigabyte, preventing some useful comparisons from people not having the bandwidth). Then, if their ears wouldn't chose their holy big-number master (and I guess it wouldn't), they would complain and tell me that I probably tweaked something else (as already implied here), or that I didn't use a $5,000 upsampler, or that I should have used SHM-CDs, or that I didn't rip them with some green marker on them or whatever. It never stops.

    Also, please read this, but I'm sure you'll have a workaround for this scientific approach as well:
    24/192 Music Downloads are Very Silly Indeed

    We're comparing (digital) masters and their respective EQ. I have absolutely no wish to add hi-rez audio to the equation, and I'm almost sure it's the very same mastering as the regular Parlophone CD, just in higher resolution. Let's compare masters, not different resolutions. If you prefer hi-rez, really, nice for you, but the point of this thread is absolutely not a 44.1/16 vs. 192/24 debate.

    If you're not interested in comparing 44.1/16 samples, that's fine and I can understand your point of view. But please just move on, because it's not going to happen here, sorry.

    (The Scary Monsters test will contain samples from the SACD master, though, but they're going to be in PCM, and downsampled. And I'll include it because it's a different master, not because it's hi-rez or DSD.)

    Thank you.
    L5730, Endymion, Coley and 9 others like this.
  5. Tsomi

    Tsomi Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Lille, France
    It has some big glitches (but I'm avoiding them in the samples to avoid bias once people would recognize the Parlophone samples — for the same reason I've been avoiding some parts which can easily tell you it's an RCA or Ryko when they have some known problems, like missing notes or wrong mixes), and it's been quite boosted. If the Parlophone master wins though, it will have a "disclaimer" so that people will be aware of that.
  6. karmaman

    karmaman Forum Resident

    and yet i managed to correctly identify every version in the TMWSTW blind test... so much for your disclaimer.
    BlueSpeedway likes this.
  7. Flaming Torch

    Flaming Torch Forum Resident

    Thanks for this thread Tsomi. I shall have a try later. No doubt I will end up choosing the much hated Virgin 1999 cd version as best.
  8. Tsomi

    Tsomi Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Lille, France
    Hey, if that's the one you prefer, that's fine, really! And it's probably the easiest and cheapest one to find.
  9. LCM

    LCM Member

    blah blah ; what would be of interest to me is how you export from Foobar. Something is wrong in the way you handle files. I can predict that the best to my ears SM version will be spoiled since you will convert it to PCM while you don't even seem to consider that your in house conversion will bias the test.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017
  10. LCM

    LCM Member

    I think I did to, based on rough sketches (thin/fat etc) ; nevertheless you fav RCA sounds much better as my rip than here
  11. karmaman

    karmaman Forum Resident

    i'm sure Tsomi is simply taking the mid level sample and then adjusting the volume level of the others to match it to make the comparison fair. that should not alter the character of the sound...
    on this current test, i had trouble distinguishing the two RCAs from each other (i guessed wrong), but the others were not so difficult to tell apart. it helped that three of them sounded like ass ;)
    d.s.l. likes this.
  12. swedgin

    swedgin Forum Resident

    Always been a bit wary of the blind tests, don't want to end up looking like the cloth eared charlatan my wife thinks I am.
    Anyway if I end up picking the 99's over the RCA's for example I've saved a load of cash.
    I'll vote later on both open tests.
  13. karmaman

    karmaman Forum Resident

    you can always share your verdict via PM and proceed depending on potential humiliation level?
    swedgin likes this.
  14. Isaac McHelicopter

    Isaac McHelicopter Forum Resident

    Cumbria, UK
    F was the best for me overall, but I liked D better on Blackout and "Heroes". C sounded too muffled on most excerpts. Interesting that the sound wasn't consistent across the tracks; A was pretty good on Beauty and the Beast, but congested and mid-heavy on "Heroes".
    Auditioned on Sennheiser HD800S headphones and Denon DA-300USB DAC/headphone amp (and 63-year-old-ears, so take what I say with a large pinch of salt!).
    Big thanks to Tsomi for arranging the blind test.
    aphexj, Tsomi and swedgin like this.
  15. Andreas

    Andreas Forum Resident

    Frankfurt, Germany
    C dark, balanced, most dynamics
    F somewhat bright, but overall good tonality
    A and E similar to each other, too much midrange, a bit shrill
    D compressed, sounds like from an inferior source
    B compressed with very strange eq
    Maffune, aphexj, thoutah and 3 others like this.
  16. fatwad666

    fatwad666 Forum Resident

    Fort Worth, TX
    First choice: C
    Second choice: F
    Dante Fontana likes this.
  17. swedgin

    swedgin Forum Resident

    Very interesting test, first time I've undertaken one, a bit overwhelmed about the amount of choices, in terms of favourites one doesn't stand as a clear winner across all tracks. Example C sounds really muffled on Beauty and the beast but really nice on Blackout and Heroes. Being next to B probably doesn't help with that overpowering bottom end and compression, if I was to guess B would be the new Parlophone.
    F probably has the better balance across all the samples so would be my choice, although I prefer C for at least Heroes and Blackout.
    A sounds a bit bass shy, E and D unpleasant.

    For what it's worth I'll go with C.
    Tsomi likes this.
  18. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    It's a bit hard to compare so many samples, so I'll start with what I liked the most and compare to that. I most closely compared the title track, although I did listen to the other tracks a bit.

    F - This felt the most balanced to me. Nice clarity without feeling too jacked up, nice low end without feeling too boosted. It doesn't feel like it's trying to be something it's not.

    A - Lacking in the low end, and a bit too forward in the midrange.
    B - A bit congested, not as open feeling as F.
    C - Similar to B, a bit too thick for my taste.
    D - A bit too "tightened up" for me. It feels like the upper bass and midrange was dialed back too far.
    E - Similar to F, but with the high end boosted in an attempt to add clarity.

    I wouldn't say I hate any of them, and I really couldn't rank them all, but F does come out on top for me. Not sure what I would pick for a second choice.
    Maffune, Bevok, aphexj and 3 others like this.
  19. Paul Rymer

    Paul Rymer Forum Resident

    E, D, C, F, A, B for me, in that order. One of them on Arabia seemed very imbalanced indeed like the volume was higher on one channel than the other.
    Bevok, aphexj and Tsomi like this.
  20. soka

    soka Forum Resident

    Listening on so-so headphones via my standard sound card laptop.

    C and F are the best. C is a tiny bit darker and gets my vote, but F could win on my rig.
    A and E.... If there is a difference at all, i can't hear it. Both too thin sounding.
    B and especially D are awful.
    Bevok, karmaman and Tsomi like this.
  21. drbryant

    drbryant Forum Resident

    We'll, at least you've made the purpose of these "objective" tests clear. You should include the drop out on "heroes" to be a fair test of preference.
  22. Tsomi

    Tsomi Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Lille, France
    I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to tell me (some quotes around "objective", is that sarcasm against me or am I just being paranoid?). I reject hi-rez samples because it's the same master as the regular CD, and this test is only about comparing different digital masters, not about comparing different resolutions, so I don't see the point. If the HDtracks (or whatever) samples were a completely different master, I'd include them, of course. But their only difference with the regular Parlophone CD is their resolution, AFAIK. If people want to compare the different resolutions of the Parlophone masters, fine, but you'd be comparing something else, so you'd better make your own dedicated threads for this.

    As for the Heroes drop-out, I've replied to this; I don't think it's a good idea, people could identify it easily, hence possible bias. If the Parlophone wins, we'll need to take its flaws into consideration -- that's exactly what I did when a particular master with some missing notes "won" the Young Americans test. Highlighting flaws from a particular master in the samples would also be some bias coming from me, and that's not what I'm looking for.

    Moreover, this test isn't made for or against any particular master at all. On the contrary, I'd rather like to be surprised by the results! I was fooled by my own YA/TMWSTW tests in that I didn't vote for the masters I thought I preferred, I'm not sure what my ears prefer for this current test, and there's a big surprise going in most of the TMWSTW votes.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017
    Maffune, Bevok, aphexj and 4 others like this.
  23. HE1NZ

    HE1NZ Well-Known Member

    This one's tough. It's between B and F for me. I'll go with F, it's a bit brighter than B but in a good way, not as bad as D and E and it has bass intact unlike A and C. I've no idea which master it's taken from, although I think B is from recent box.
    Devilscucumber and Tsomi like this.
  24. Electric Warrior

    Electric Warrior Forum Resident

    Here I liked B, C and F. I picked B, but F has a similar tonal balance. C can get quite muddy on some songs.
    Devilscucumber, rrowley and Tsomi like this.
  25. HE1NZ

    HE1NZ Well-Known Member

    I find 1999 version of Lodger to be the best by far. Tsomi should do listering test for it too :)
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017

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