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Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells 50th anniversary, comparison of CD, SACD, vinyl, Bluray in Stereo, 4.0, 5.1, Dolby Atmos

Jean.Francois

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“Tubular Bells” is Mike Oldfield’s first studio album, released in 1973. This emblematic album is often considered a pioneering work of progressive music.

r/SurroundAudiophile - Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells 50th anniversary, comparison of CD, SACD, vinyl, Bluray in Stereo, 4.0, 5.1, Dolby Atmos
This is an opportunity to compare the new mixes produced for the 50th anniversary (stereo, 5.1 and Dolby Atmos) with original and other mastering. The emblematic track, “Tubular Bells Part One”, became famous thanks to its use in the film “The Exorcist”, which contributed to its worldwide popularity. “Tubular Bells” enjoyed significant commercial success, topping the charts in several countries.

For this review, you will find 14 versions tested: vinyl 1973, Vinyl quadraphonic, SACD stereo and 4.0, CD 1992 and HDCD, 50th anniversary : vinyl and Bluray , streaming Amazon and Tidal Dolby Atmos.

For those who want pure analogue versions, look no further than the original stereo vinyl from 1973 and quadraphonic from 1975.
Over the years, however, there has been an improvement in the mastering, resulting in an increasingly wider soundstage. As shown on the 1992 CD, then on the HDCD and SACD editions and finally on the 50th anniversary blu-ray and vinyl.

The SACD is slightly limited in dynamic range, with the DSD64 characteristic being the rise in noise above 20 kHz, as shown in the spectrum below:
r/SurroundAudiophile - Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells 50th anniversary, comparison of CD, SACD, vinyl, Bluray in Stereo, 4.0, 5.1, Dolby Atmos
SACD (white) vs CD HDCD (blue)

The Blu-ray and vinyl versions from 2023 are very successful and similar in terms of sound balance, as the spectrum below shows:
r/SurroundAudiophile - Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells 50th anniversary, comparison of CD, SACD, vinyl, Bluray in Stereo, 4.0, 5.1, Dolby Atmos
Vinyl 2023 (white vs blu-ray (blue) - The red arrow indicates a spurious frequency peak visible on both supports.

But we mustn't forget the multichannel versions, with the 4.0 version produced in 1975, the 5.1 version produced in 2009 and the new Dolby Atmos version which brings superb spatialization to this music by Mike Oldfield. The blu-ray Atmos version brings more detial and finesse to the reproduction than the Dolby Atmos streaming version.

You can listen to all the extracts from these versions to make your own comparisons and all the measurements HERE.

Enjoy listening
Jean-François
 

sarumbear

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“Tubular Bells” is Mike Oldfield’s first studio album, released in 1973. This emblematic album is often considered a pioneering work of progressive music.

r/SurroundAudiophile - Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells 50th anniversary, comparison of CD, SACD, vinyl, Bluray in Stereo, 4.0, 5.1, Dolby Atmos
This is an opportunity to compare the new mixes produced for the 50th anniversary (stereo, 5.1 and Dolby Atmos) with original and other mastering. The emblematic track, “Tubular Bells Part One”, became famous thanks to its use in the film “The Exorcist”, which contributed to its worldwide popularity. “Tubular Bells” enjoyed significant commercial success, topping the charts in several countries.

For this review, you will find 14 versions tested: vinyl 1973, Vinyl quadraphonic, SACD stereo and 4.0, CD 1992 and HDCD, 50th anniversary : vinyl and Bluray , streaming Amazon and Tidal Dolby Atmos.

For those who want pure analogue versions, look no further than the original stereo vinyl from 1973 and quadraphonic from 1975.
Over the years, however, there has been an improvement in the mastering, resulting in an increasingly wider soundstage. As shown on the 1992 CD, then on the HDCD and SACD editions and finally on the 50th anniversary blu-ray and vinyl.

The SACD is slightly limited in dynamic range, with the DSD64 characteristic being the rise in noise above 20 kHz, as shown in the spectrum below:
r/SurroundAudiophile - Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells 50th anniversary, comparison of CD, SACD, vinyl, Bluray in Stereo, 4.0, 5.1, Dolby Atmos
SACD (white) vs CD HDCD (blue)

The Blu-ray and vinyl versions from 2023 are very successful and similar in terms of sound balance, as the spectrum below shows:
r/SurroundAudiophile - Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells 50th anniversary, comparison of CD, SACD, vinyl, Bluray in Stereo, 4.0, 5.1, Dolby Atmos
Vinyl 2023 (white vs blu-ray (blue) - The red arrow indicates a spurious frequency peak visible on both supports.

But we mustn't forget the multichannel versions, with the 4.0 version produced in 1975, the 5.1 version produced in 2009 and the new Dolby Atmos version which brings superb spatialization to this music by Mike Oldfield. The blu-ray Atmos version brings more detial and finesse to the reproduction than the Dolby Atmos streaming version.

You can listen to all the extracts from these versions to make your own comparisons and all the measurements HERE.

Enjoy listening
Jean-François
Further reading below (paywall)

 
OP
J

Jean.Francois

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Further reading below (paywall)

Thanks for the link.
Indeed David Kosten encountered the same problem as I described when producing version 4.0 in 1975, with the loss of certain tracks including the track with the bells.
 

voodooless

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So they purposefully crippled the 2023 CD version to make the “high-res” versions sound better… what a crime!

Also curious is the center channel usage in the Atmos track. Seems to me as though it’s heavily underutilized. Fits in neatly with this:

 
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Jean.Francois

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So they purposefully crippled the 2023 CD version to make the “high-res” versions sound better… what a crime!

Also curious is the center channel usage in the Atmos track. Seems to me as though it’s heavily underutilized. Fits in neatly with this:

The centre channel is not used much in this Dolby Atmos album, as is often the case.
The centre channel was originally designed for cinemas in order to keep the voice at the centre, whatever the position of the viewer in the cinema.
For music, it's not an obligation, we don't have the constraints of a cinema. Even without the centre speaker, the voice can be heard in the centre of the room through the front stereo speakers.
Another advantage of not having a centre speaker is that you have almost one less channel to encode in Dolby Digital Plus, as the bit rate is already very low at 768 kbits/s for all the channels. This reduces the artefacts of Dolby Digital Plus encoding.

But when the centre speaker is used, it brings more energy to the front, as in certain classical music mixes, for example, and it also allows better frontal localisation in a very large room.
 

voodooless

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The centre channel is not used much in this Dolby Atmos album, as is often the case.
The centre channel was originally designed for cinemas in order to keep the voice at the centre, whatever the position of the viewer in the cinema.
For music, it's not an obligation, we don't have the constraints of a cinema. Even without the centre speaker, the voice can be heard in the centre of the room through the front stereo speakers.
Clearly, you disagree with Olive on this.
Another advantage of not having a centre speaker is that you have almost one less channel to encode in Dolby Digital Plus, as the bit rate is already very low at 768 kbits/s for all the channels. This reduces the artefacts of Dolby Digital Plus encoding.
That's not really true. Two principles at work here:
- Rematrixing: channels are not encoded individually, but rather channels with high correlation will be difference encoded.
- Channel Coupling: A further technique that couples high-frequency content of multiple channels into a single coupling channel, with some metadata on how to decode this into every individual channel.
This effectively makes it rather irrelevant if there is a center-channel or not. It only takes up very little space in the overall bitstream. It really doesn't suddenly make massive room for the other channels.
But when the centre speaker is used, it brings more energy to the front, as in certain classical music mixes, for example, and it also allows better frontal localisation in a very large room.
That is all left over to the mastering engineers. They can have as much energy as they want, with or without the center channel.
 
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Jean.Francois

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Clearly, you disagree with Olive on this.

That's not really true. Two principles at work here:
- Rematrixing: channels are not encoded individually, but rather channels with high correlation will be difference encoded.
- Channel Coupling: A further technique that couples high-frequency content of multiple channels into a single coupling channel, with some metadata on how to decode this into every individual channel.
This effectively makes it rather irrelevant if there is a center-channel or not. It only takes up very little space in the overall bitstream. It really doesn't suddenly make massive room for the other channels.

That is all left over to the mastering engineers. They can have as much energy as they want, with or without the center channel.
Dolby Digital Plus optimises as much as possible to be effective, and we can also add dynamic reduction of the high-frequency cut-off to the methods used. So even the slightest gain, such as one less channel, is important, especially if the channel is dedicated specifically to vocals.

It's not just a question of mastering to get the loudness level, it's a question of exploiting the channels in the multichannel mix to obtain maximum dynamics.
 

sergeauckland

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I have the CD as originally released, the stereo LP and the SQ encoded Quadraphonic LP. They sound different, not because of the medium or the mastering, but because they use different mixes, so the content is different. Viv Stanshall's commentary is different, as are some of the instruments. I don't know what mixes the other formats use, but on the limited evidence of my three versions, I can't see how they can be meaningfully compared.

S
 
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Jean.Francois

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I have the CD as originally released, the stereo LP and the SQ encoded Quadraphonic LP. They sound different, not because of the medium or the mastering, but because they use different mixes, so the content is different. Viv Stanshall's commentary is different, as are some of the instruments. I don't know what mixes the other formats use, but on the limited evidence of my three versions, I can't see how they can be meaningfully compared.

S
The goal of these tests is to compare different editions of the same album on different media (CD, Vinyl, SACD, cassette...) and with different mixes or mastering, depending on the album. To enable you to listen to the different versions, samples are available so that you can make up your own mind.
In addition to these extracts, to better understand the differences that can be heard, measurements (Waveform, spectrum, DR, spatialization...) provide information on the different versions.
Even if the versions are different, each one has its own specificities, with qualities and defects that will make you appreciate them or not, whether in stereo, 4.0 or atmos.
I try to use a variety of media to give as broad an overview as possible of how an album sounds.
 

Guermantes

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Thanks @Jean.Francois, this is a great comparison. I agree that the transfer on the SDE Blu-Ray is probably the best version of the 1973 mix but the 1990s CD reissue is not bad at all.

I also have the Japan SHM-SACD release of the 1973 mix which I think is actually very close to the SDE Blu-Ray, except that Part Two is a little quieter:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Analyzed: Mike Oldfield / Tubular Bells
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
DR13 -3.64 dB -21.07 dB 25:38 01-Part One
DR15 -4.48 dB -23.77 dB 23:21 02-Part Two
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Number of tracks: 2
Official DR value: DR14

Samplerate: 2822400 Hz / PCM Samplerate: 176400 Hz
Channels: 2
Bits per sample: 1
Bitrate: 5645 kbps
Codec: DSD64
================================================================================


1698279992701.png

Tubular Bells SHM-SACD Part One+Two.jpg

Tubular Bells SHM-SACD Part One+Two Spectrum.jpg
 
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Jean.Francois

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Thanks @Jean.Francois, this is a great comparison. I agree that the transfer on the SDE Blu-Ray is probably the best version of the 1973 mix but the 1990s CD reissue is not bad at all.

I also have the Japan SHM-SACD release of the 1973 mix which I think is actually very close to the SDE Blu-Ray, except that Part Two is a little quieter:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Analyzed: Mike Oldfield / Tubular Bells
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
DR13 -3.64 dB -21.07 dB 25:38 01-Part One
DR15 -4.48 dB -23.77 dB 23:21 02-Part Two
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Number of tracks: 2
Official DR value: DR14

Samplerate: 2822400 Hz / PCM Samplerate: 176400 Hz
Channels: 2
Bits per sample: 1
Bitrate: 5645 kbps
Codec: DSD64
================================================================================


View attachment 321215
View attachment 321217
View attachment 321218
Thanks for the SACD analysis
 
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