NCT — Astrophysical
Sound quality many bigger artists can learn from
Album score: 7
Audio score: 7.5
Source: Tidal HiFi
DAC: Topping D30 Pro
Amp: Topping A30 Pro
Cans: Audeze LCD — X
EQ: Small bass-boost, mid-bass boost and small boost around 4kHz
Finally time for some drum & bass! I personally am a huge fan of dark, deep and aggressive drum & bass. If that’s the type of sound you like too, tough luck, because NCT takes a very different approach: a combination of energy, vocals and happiness. I would describe it as liquid drum & bass, although it is not exactly what I would normally think of when using that label. Who cares about labels anyway? Let’s move on.
The overall vibe of this album is one I find it hard to put my finger on. It is this sub-genrish feeling, but I can’t really figure out what the context is. I do like it, simply because of this. A group of people completely absorbed by a very specific type of sound is exactly what to me music is all about: understanding each other through sound. Listening together and being able to agree without communicating. The vibe screams “festival” and “rave” to me. But not just any kind: raves with nothing but artists from the same sub-genre on the line-up. Imagining it puts a smile on my face.
The third track on the album is “Dancing In The Rain”. This song has a heavy industrial sound, matching quite well with my preference described above. It’s a real banger. It’s engaging and exciting. The sounds bring me back to the days that dubstep was big in my hometown. I have liked these types of sounds ever since. Following this is “The Feeling”. Here I feel a bit too much is going on. Different sounds are elbowing their way into the spotlight, instead of working together. A bit too busy to my liking.
Throughout the album there are a lot of vocals. They sound cheesy to me, but the shady raver in me who likes sweaty concrete more than sunlight easily feels that way. It is very clear a lot of effort was put into these vocals and all I can conclude is that this is a matter of personal taste where me and NCT don’t overlap. It makes it hard for me to objectively listen to the music though.
Luckily, towards the end of the album I am treated with some deliciousness that’s more to my taste. The end of “Before I Go” contains some very juicy breakbeats with some great vibes. But then …… Then we get to “Overcome”. This is by far my favorite track on the album. I don’t know how they got Noisia to produce a track with them, but you don’t hear me complaining. I’m kidding. Noisia wasn’t involved. I’m still a fan though.
The audio, ooh ho hooooo the audio. Talking about overperforming! From an audiophile perspective, electronic music rarely shines compared to genres with acoustic music like jazz or orchestras. It’s just really hard to compete with a well-recorded wind instrument if you are only armed with 1’s and 0’s. Some electronic musicians are able to crack the code though and it seems like NCT has done it. The sound is engaging, there is space, there is dynamics, it’s just really good. This came as a total surprise to me, given the fact that NCT isn’t some huge group with a 1 million dollar studio.
What’s even better, is that their sound isn’t just good, but it also has a character. I would describe the sound as smooth. It’s just very pleasant to listen to. The soundwaves glide into my ears. It’s never sharp, it’s never screamy. Even the vocals sound pleasant. It’s a relaxed sound. It’s not very detailed, which I think works out. The soundstage is wide enough, making it unnecessary to also have super high resolution. What you get in return is just pure pleasure. This sound signature matches so well with what the music is about.
One track I felt was lacking was “New Horizon”. Here the sound is too soft and pleasant, making it miss the punch it needs. Other than that I have nothing to complain about.
Lastly I would like to point out that NCT is in terms of scale a lot smaller than the artists of most other albums I have reviewed. The fact that they can keep up in this highly competitive market is impressive to say the least. They have deserved my respect and I happily recommend everyone to check them out. Especially what they achieved in sound quality is impressive. Literally better than a lot of world famous electronic music artists.
What album should I review next? Let me know at: